The curatorial as ecological: rethinking the collective through a new ecological practice
I am addressing ethico-aesthetic and political problems arising in artistic and curatorial practices that engage critically with questions of ecology, the environment and the political split between the human and non-human.
Two problems prevail. First, the conjugation of art and ecology is obfuscated by varied definitions of ecology. These relate to environmental issues, approaches to living, dynamic relationships between entities and environments, but have also evolved to include globalised networks of neoliberal capitalism. What is largely ignored however is that the concept of ecology is founded on de-centredness, where worlds exist concurrently with no one sovereign viewpoint prevailing. This results in ecology often being taken as an apolitical baseline, rather than a critical position.
The second problem concerns a conflicting ontology between the artwork and ecology. As a sovereign exhibited reality, the artwork’s wider ecology is disavowed. Art is therefore effectively anti-ecological. Given this, how can we think of art and ecology working together?
I begin with an excavation of the term ecology, related art and curatorial practices, and theories of Latour, Guattari and Ranciere. This aims to show ecology's ideological construction, and will suggest that a critical practice needs to address the ecological in itself.
To do this I propose a new conception of ecology—a 'realist ecology'—predicated on 'pre-knowledge'—a state where entities exist independent of the human subject and inaccessible to human knowledge. Through Meillassoux's concept of the arche-fossil, Bhaskar's realist theory of science, Bergson's work on perception, and Agamben's 'letting be of being', this ecology will be shown as inherently unstable and necessarily porous—a collective state of absolute contingency.
If ecology cannot be exhibited, perhaps the ecological can be critically addressed by moving beyond the artwork towards a collective curatorial practice. So the question becomes: how might a realist ecology work with a collective curatorial practice to rethink the relationship between humans and non humans? What kind of curatorial practice can produce the ecological?