Biopolitics of the Plasticene

24 Jan 2020

Regular hours

Fri, 24 Jan
10:00 – 18:00

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University College London

London, United Kingdom


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  • Euston, Euston Square, Warren Street, Russell Square
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Panel discussion exploring artistic interventions in a plasticised world with Amanda Boetzkes, Diana Lelonek, Wood Roberdeau, Maja and Reuben Fowkes


The proliferation of plastics in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments is not only transforming the ecology of the planet, but also altering the biochemical makeup of living organisms through food consumption, drinking water and microparticles in the air. In the age of plastic, the dispersal and infiltration of synthetic components raises environmental as well as chronic biopolitical questions that are entangled with the terminal infrastructures of carbon capitalism, with its cycle of resource extraction, mass production, inbuilt obsolescence and disposal. How have artists utilised the materiality of plastics to investigate the breakdown of the division between the synthetic and the natural, the emergence of hybrid forms and the extent of the adaptability of living organisms to plasticised environments? In what ways has contemporary art disclosed the centrality of plastic to consumerism-driven economic systems since the mid-twentieth century and contested the culture of overproduction and waste that it represents? What are the most viable options in meeting the ecological and biopolitical challenges of life in the plastisphere?

Following the panel discussion, attendees are invited to join the speakers for a Post Waste Party at Arts Catalyst with a catastrophic menu designed by Diana Lelonek featuring Melting Glacier Drinks and Anti-Coal Shots.

Diana Lelonek (born 1988), graduated from the Department of Photography in the Faculty of Multimedia Communication at the University of Art in Poznań, where she is working on a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. Diana Lelonek explores relationships between humans and other species. Her projects are critical responses to the processes of over-production, unlimited growth, and our approach to the environment. She uses photography, living matter, and found objects, creating work that is interdisciplinary and often appears at the interface of art and science. She has exhibited widely in Poland and internationally, including at the Riga International Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2018 and was awarded the Paszport Polityki prize for visual art in 2019. www.dianalelonek.com

Amanda Boetzkes is Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Guelph. Her research focuses on the aesthetics and ethics of art as these intersect with ecology and visual technologies of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. She is the author of Plastic Capitalism: Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste (MIT Press, 2019),  The Ethics of Earth Art (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), and co-editor of Heidegger and the Work of Art History (Ashgate, 2014). Her current project, Ecologicity, Vision and Art for a World to Come considers modes of visualizing environments with a special focus on Arctic landscapes. https://amandaboetzkes.com/

Wood Roberdeau is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work focuses on contemporary art within the wider environmental humanities and is informed by the spatial theme of dwelling, twentieth-century philosophy, and new forms of political eco-theory. Wood co-leads the Critical Ecologies research stream, as part of Technologies, Worlds, Politics at Goldsmiths. He has contributed numerous papers to conferences and has published on topics such as local experimentations in rurality, colony collapse disorder, and the scalar effects of the Anthropocene. https://conceptualecologies.org/

Maja and Reuben Fowkes are co-directors of the Postsocialist Art Centre (PACT) at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London and founders of the Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art, focussing on the art history of Central Europe and contemporary ecological practices. Their curatorial projects include the Anthropocene Experimental Reading Room, the Danube River School and the exhibition Walking without Footprints. Their publications include Maja Fowkes’s The Green Bloc: Neo-Avant-Garde and Ecology under Socialism, contributions to The Post-Human Glossary (2018), Creative Time: Making Another World Possible (2019), and a chapter on ‘Facing the Unprotectable: Emergency Democracy for Post-Glacial Landscapes,’ in Along Ecological Lines Contemporary Art and Climate Crisis (2019). They are co-founders of the Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative at Central European University. www.translocal.org


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