Framework Outline: Art for a New Epoch

The process of condensing my abstract collection of theories and thoughts into a grounded, doable outline took me in directions I was not planning to go. Careful research about Eco-Art, Activism, and “New” Materialism, as well as their critiques, all while considering how/why artists create worlds, lead me to many discussions of the controversial Anthropocene.

During my research process, I resonated strongly with scholars writing critiques of new materialism, in some cases in conjunction with critiques of the Anthropocene. I picked up new materialism in an effort to find a language to analyze how contemporary artists incorporate the temporal complexities of matter into their work. After in-depth consideration, it became apparent to me that the new materialist discussion of vibrancy, agency, and liveliness of matter is not new, nor do I need complex language to communicate about matter in contemporary art. The materialism discussed is an important part of many indigenous ways of knowing as well as others throughout human history. TJ Demos provides a valuable critique of these authors, their failure to credit indigenous scholars in their materialist discussions and their assertion that they have ownership over these ideas.

As am now shifting my focus from new materialism, using my research on it mainly as a mode of critique. While considering how artists create worlds as symbolic acts, and discussing utopias/dystopias in ENVS 350, interesting readings about the Anthropocene and other proposed names for a new epoch caught my eye. Reading through them, I found that the conversations surrounding the new epoch, especially those incorporating eco-art, were a rich field in which to ground my interests in art, ecology, activism, curiosity about worlds that artists create, and critique of new materialism.

After a few days feeling aimless and lost in my research process and many fruitful conversations with insightful friends and mentors, I pieced together the framework and outline that best places my interests in conversation with one another. I intend to write my thesis about how artists work and the worlds they create within it, can be used as a tool to visualize and critically engaged with various proposed names and philosophies surrounding the New Epoch most commonly referred to as the Anthropocene. Alternative names for include the Capitalocene, Chthulucene, Plantationocene, Anglocene, and Gynocene. I plan to focus on the Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene, and Plantationocene, focusing primarily on indigenous artist’s work critiquing the Anthropocene and visualization of alternative Epoch names.

My main roadblock now is supplementing my research so it supports my topic. I also need to do more concept mapping and rewrite portions of my annotated bibliography with new sources. As I collect new sources, I am also beginning to collect names of artists whose work I could reference. Additionally, many aspects of my topic are not areas of focus in either my ENVS or Studio Art major departments. In the near future, I plan to connect with faculty in the sociology, philosophy, and history departments to help me think through the humanities-based parts of my research.

I like the new direction I am going in and I still have time to rework my topics, do the necessary research, and find helpful resources. Many pieces of the research I have yet to do I find important, engaging, and I am enthusiastic about following this new framework .