Artists in the Anthropocene

How are artists responding to the challenges of our time?

Creativity in the “Anthropocene”.

Creative Practice and the Anthropocene

I would like to explore how artists have responded to the challenges of our age. Why the Anthropocene? Well, people have felt the need to come up with a word to describe the massive changes we are helping to bring about in the Earth system which we rely on for life. The word seems to hold the menace of the end of mankind as it implies an age which will come to an end. I want to see how artists face the possible demise of our own race which the term Anthropocene hints at.

The term ‘anthropocene’ merits careful deconstruction since it is highly contested and subject to multiple criticisms. For example from a gender perspective, the root word anthropos can be translated as referring to a man, or mankind as a whole, but not to a specific woman. Ref. There are many examples where the word refers to specific males. There is also a need for careful justification for using a term which refers to a few decades to define a geological epoch. The term has not been adopted by international geological bodies but is in informal use in other academic spheres. Ref.

There are other candidate terms which critically describe the significant global changes brought about by humans such as capitalocene, homogenocene, gynocene and so on. There are of course other ideological factors which need to be unpacked when considering which term to use. For example the changes to the sphere of life on the planet surface have not been brought about by all human beings, but by select groups of people. So, the term anthropocene could be seen to be distributing causality uniformly where it should be proportionate to the impact of particular groups and practices.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for artists is to challenge our ability to define the age in which we live in a way which allow us to change sufficiently to survive.

Can artistic practice even be expected to face the challenge of rethinking our whole way of life, of rethinking our relationship with the rest of the natural world, of putting human kind firmly back within the natural networks. We are being forced to admit that we do not control nature, we are not apart from nature and what we have defined as growth is not in fact growth in any real sense, but a way of describing the road to our own destruction.

Artists can be seen as elitist and are not always able to communicate in meaningful ways with the man on the Clapham omnibus. Just as our business practices will have to radically change if we are to move towards positive and possible futures, creative practice will also have to move evolve fast to face the challenges of our age.

Many artists focus on performance as a way of challenging people to rethink who we are and what our place in the world is. Performance art can force the viewer to rethink what it means to be human. We will see how these four artists try to rise to this challenge.

Some of the keys to a more creative attitude towards change are in the stories we tell ourselves. These need to be creatively rethought to enable the changes we all need need to make as co-creators of the the Anthropocene.

Another vital creative act is to ensure that non-human actors are represented in new ways.

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