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New Ecological Sympathies: Thinking about Contemporary Art in the Age of Extinction

Journal Article


Abstract


  • At the turn of the previous century Henri Bergson suggested that sympathy offered

    a way to understand interspecies relationships. Samuel Butler took Bergson’s ideas to

    an absurd extent by mixing them with readings of Charles Darwin and claiming a vital impulse

    for machines. By interspersing a story of humans and machines with insect life, Butler

    pointed to a broad imaginative web of interspecies and machinic relationships. Contemporary

    artists Pierre Huyghe, Ann Lislegaard, and Hayden Fowler use video and installation art

    to explore interspecies relationships in time and space. In very different ways Huyghe, Lislegaard,

    and Fowler use the art gallery to demonstrate how humans might sympathetically engage

    with ecological transformation, and thus the confronting possibility of our own extinction.

    In looking back at Bergson and Butler through contemporary art, I suggest that the art

    gallery gives us a sympathetic space in which we can encounter the knowledges of Bergson and

    Darwin, temper them with the imaginings of Butler, and ground them with the transformative

    living machines created by Huyghe, Lislegaard, and Fowler. By entering the spaces of the art

    gallery and locating ourselves in the place of others, sympathy read alongside machinic evolution

    suggests a new approach to the ecological disaster of species extinction.

Authors


  •   Ballard, Susan (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2017

Citation


  • Ballard, S. "New Ecological Sympathies: Thinking about Contemporary Art in the Age of Extinction." Environmental Humanities 9 .2 (2017): 255-279.

Number Of Pages


  • 24

Start Page


  • 255

End Page


  • 279

Volume


  • 9

Issue


  • 2

Place Of Publication


  • United States

Abstract


  • At the turn of the previous century Henri Bergson suggested that sympathy offered

    a way to understand interspecies relationships. Samuel Butler took Bergson’s ideas to

    an absurd extent by mixing them with readings of Charles Darwin and claiming a vital impulse

    for machines. By interspersing a story of humans and machines with insect life, Butler

    pointed to a broad imaginative web of interspecies and machinic relationships. Contemporary

    artists Pierre Huyghe, Ann Lislegaard, and Hayden Fowler use video and installation art

    to explore interspecies relationships in time and space. In very different ways Huyghe, Lislegaard,

    and Fowler use the art gallery to demonstrate how humans might sympathetically engage

    with ecological transformation, and thus the confronting possibility of our own extinction.

    In looking back at Bergson and Butler through contemporary art, I suggest that the art

    gallery gives us a sympathetic space in which we can encounter the knowledges of Bergson and

    Darwin, temper them with the imaginings of Butler, and ground them with the transformative

    living machines created by Huyghe, Lislegaard, and Fowler. By entering the spaces of the art

    gallery and locating ourselves in the place of others, sympathy read alongside machinic evolution

    suggests a new approach to the ecological disaster of species extinction.

Authors


  •   Ballard, Susan (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2017

Citation


  • Ballard, S. "New Ecological Sympathies: Thinking about Contemporary Art in the Age of Extinction." Environmental Humanities 9 .2 (2017): 255-279.

Number Of Pages


  • 24

Start Page


  • 255

End Page


  • 279

Volume


  • 9

Issue


  • 2

Place Of Publication


  • United States