The Art of Anthropocene

The three-part series for Artyčok.TV entitled The Art of Anthropocene follows contemporary discussions that are devoted to the changing conditions of artistic production in times of climatic disruption. The videos are based on interviews with theoreticians, philosophers, cultural workers, artists and activists who have long been involved in environmental and climate issues, whether in connection with their artistic or institutional practice. It’s obvious that the issue of the environment and ecology in art is increasingly becoming a consciously political decision that affects what art we create, how we teach it, how we talk about it, or how we present it. Artwork is intertwined with cultural activity, which is linked to activism and vice versa. The context, material used and financial resources are increasingly accentuated.

During 2019, we visited Prague, Brno, Bratislava and Berlin and held 22 interviews with experts who have a major influence on shaping the local art scene. We deliberately addressed those persons who are active in the field of current visual art, therefore there are no references to environmental art before 2000, but also interviews with scientists from various related fields and politicians. The script was created gradually and was more a result of gradual discovery and mapping than a predetermined declarative plan. Successively we come from general theoretical concepts to the functioning of art and cultural institutions, and finally to the actual artistic practice. This gave rise to a common narrative, which could be characterized in three questions: What forms can cooperation between science and art take? How is our attitude towards art and the art scene changing with the approaching climate catastrophe? And what can we do?

The visual component of the video consists of walks in environments where the relationship between man and nature is markedly formed and/or the images are associated with the constructed idea of nature. While the camera slowly guides the viewer through a common arc of recorded statements, the characters appear to be posing to the camera’s eye in front of the natural scenery. This creates an image reflecting the formation of our ideas and archetypes (for example, through various strictly organized chateau gardens, or educational amusement parks), which allows you to pay close attention to the topics presented in the videos during pauses between the interviews. It is also possible to listen to parts of the series only as podcasts, to return to utterances that were not comprehensible, or to see them as a crossroad to names, people, concepts and ideas that require much deeper and more time-consuming research.

David Přílučík and Anna Remešová

01 Terms

The first part introduces the theoretical field and explains the key concepts such as anthropocene, posthumanism, extractivism and others. It is not an encyclopedic set of contemporary philosophical ideas, but an attempt to popularize the thinking of theorists who are actively involved in the discussion about ecology, art and art related topics. Theoretical considerations would then become meaningless in this series if they weren’t part of discussions about specific political and artistic strategies, which was one of the conditions of the individual interviews. Art scene has its own specific tools, producing critical thinking and present-day images that contribute to what relationships we create with others, what ideas we have about the world, and whether we decide to break down stereotypes about the decision-making processes set by global societies of the North. This, too, formed the direction in which interviews often followed.

02 Struktury

The second part follows the activities of art and cultural institutions of which representatives re-evaluate the institutional functioning, funding and self-organization within the contemporary art scene. In the West, discussions on institutional critique took place in the 1960s and 1970s, when the state-owned Czechoslovak art and cultural institutions didn’t accept any political and critical art. Apart from these, apolitical art was presented, which was critical in its very form (for example, it rejected imaginary realism), but had no opportunity to resist the power and economic context that largely shapes the form and functioning of institutions. More intensive discussions about the role and influence of museums and galleries have thus only come up in the Czech environment in recent years, precisely with the question of the extent to which art institutions contribute to environmental pollution and the role of financial resources that enable creation and presentation of artwork. The second part seeks to map this new institutional critique in the Czech Republic and at the same time pursues initiatives that require a change in the internal functioning of educational and art institutions and critically reassess their hierarchical and anthropocentric behaviour.

03 Díla

The third part focuses on artists and their approaches to climate change, political and economic infrastructures and the search for a suitable art form. It confronts us also with insecurities and worries about ethical demands and re-evaluation of the artworks themselves, which is related to the deteriorating climate of the planet. Consideration of cooperation with non-human actors also plays an essential role. For this part, we approached those authors who we know are intensively considering their relationship to environmental activism and working with scientific facts. A separate chapter, which also appears in previous parts, is then art education, popularization and striving for clarity. Contemporary art can contribute to the debate on global climate change, its ability to visualize and its internal self-reflection is irreplaceable. However it turns out that we are still at the very beginning of rethinking what the role of art is in the changing conditions of life on the planet.