Autonomous aesthetic practice in the Anthropocene

Dr. Elizabeth Bevan-Parrella (University of South Australia)
2016 Conference

The concept of the Anthropocene brings with it an impression of present day reality that has been described by French philosopher Felix Guattari as ‘the great ecological fear’. Responding to this interpretation I ask: is art practice, per se, relevant to this age of the Anthropocene? If so, in what ways is an autonomous aesthetic practice relevant and justified amidst an era of complexity and uncertainty?

This presentation is a culmination of a recently completed practice-led, doctoral research project entitled ‘Follow any Path from A until B : “Useless” gardens, gifted ecologies’. The aim of this research was to show what my visual art practice could do to expand the relationship between art and an ecological sensibility. Reflecting on my thesis as informed by the writings of Guattari, Gilles Deleuze, Jane Bennett and Jacques Rancière, I look at Lewis Hyde’s The Gift as complementary to Guattari’s unequivocal concept of the Anthropocene.

The corresponding art works of installation and assemblage will be featured as a nomadic narrative of images that reference painting, drawing, sculpture and photography. Otherwise described as ‘attention intensifiers’ these art works are made from often dispersed and overlooked fragments, detritions transformed and reappearing as patterns of dialogue that take on an unbecoming character synonymous with the event of disintegration. This research follows an ethoecological strategy that detaches art from its status as commodifiable object to proffer a fresh way to recast our thinking in relation to climate change within the context of the Anthropocene.

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About the author


Elizabeth Bevan-Parrella completed a PhD by Research Major Studio Project (MPHD) at the University of South Australia in 2015. Elizabeth’s background is in interior architecture and painting with an honours degree in visual art theory. She has tutored in art, architecture and design theory at the University of South Australia and is currently tutoring first year architecture and design theory. Her art practice of installation and painting continues to reflect and extend the thesis of her previous research with a view to discovering further forums for exhibition. Gift exchange as analogous to arts function is a current site of interest.