Session 6

Thursday, June 3

15:00–16:00 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3), Congress Room 2

Chair: Matthew Rowe

Jaime Vindel & Alejandro Pedregal (Institute of History, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain):

Fossil Aesthetics: Eco-Marxism and Ecological Aesthetics in the Face of the Dispute of Modernity

Throughout the last century and a half, modernity has been approached and defined in various ways, defended and disputed from different angles, often creating contradictory alliances. The dominant link of modernity with the notion of progress has often transferred a teleological vision of technology to the field of aesthetics and cultural imaginaries. For this reason, this perspective of progress has been charged with an emphasis on the energy potentialities and demands —particularly fossil ones— that have served as its driving force, and thus has marked the artistic discourses (both in favor and against this vision) from the long 20th century to the present day. However, these positions have often overlooked the critical possibilities of the idea of modernity itself, as well as the materialisation that these possibilities offer in the relationship between energy and aesthetics.

In the context of the accumulation of capitalist crises and the limits of growth fetishism that we face in every ecosocial field, this presentation offers an overview of Eco-Marxist theory to rethink the critical potential within the aesthetic field. This is especially relevant if we consider that the very international dimension that the art system has taken on since the Second World War is inseparable from the infrastructural extension of fossil modernity through factors such as the revolution in transports (particularly, air travel) or the creation of all kinds of cultural facilities, equipments and events (such as the phenomenon of biennialisation).

In contrast, with this configuration of the global system, different artistic practices are currently presenting reflections and discourses of great importance when it comes to confronting some of the central ingredients of this fossil logic of progress (extractive activities, degradation and dispossession of the soil, water and air, degeneration of health and care, among others). By means of a panoramic exhibition of the Eco-Marxist approaches and their reading in different artistic proposals, this presentation outlines a critical redefinition of modernity linked to aesthetic projects associated with genuinely sustainable experiences of communal coexistence.

Thomas Heyd (University of Victoria, Canada):

Aesthetics, Climate Change and Prehistoric Art

Please, note that the speaker is in attendance in the 18:30-19:00 (Helsinki, EEST, UTC +3) Free Discussion’ slot.

Present global environmental changes, in particular such as accompany climate change, are due to significantly change living conditions for humans and other species on this planet. This paper takes note of the fact that, although present changes are very rapid and anthropogenic, relatively rapid global environmental changes and variations due to climate change have repeatedly occurred during the Pleistocene, in which are encompassed most of the approx. 200,000 years during which our species Homo sapiens sapiens has existed. While it is difficult to know how exactly people reacted to the transformations of their environments in prehistory, we do have an eloquent record of images (rock art) and objects (portable art) that testify to people’s aesthetic engagement during at least some parts of that long period. In this paper it is argued that important changes in styles, location and content, occurring at points in time when climate was changing, suggest that the record of prehistoric visual cultures may be a valuable resource for understanding the role of aesthetic perception and artistic expression in times of environmental change. Examples of notable changes in prehistoric art manifestations associated with climatic changes are provided.