SCANZ2013:Art in the Anthropocene

Comprehending Complexity: Art in the Anthropocene

Author: Josh Wodak


Climate change challenges the limits of human comprehension of causality and complexity, particularly the space-time dimensions of local vs global actions-and-consequences in the here-and-now vs distant future. This presentation concerns how art about the Anthropocene may facilitate public understandings of science, particularly the complexity of climate science in relation to climate change. Exemplary explorations in this endeavour are discussed in the context of contemporary ecological visions that may challenge how we perceive, imagine, and value the Earth.

This discussion is grounded by reference to my postdoctoral Practice Based Research of art about climate change. In particular, two current photo-portrait and video-portrait projects, ‘When I Was a Buoyant’ and ‘Jubilee Venn Diagrams?’, are produced through cross-cultural interchange and participation of the respective local communities of Marrickville, NSW and Grafton, NSW. Both projects explore strategies for communicating the complexity of climate change in an intuitive, embodied and visceral way for project participants and audiences alike, through use of digital photography, video art and sound art. The projects investigate mapping and modeling of past, present and future (predictions of) climate data to render apocalyptic imagining of what different climate trajectories mean for the planet in human-scale and planetary-scale time and space. The projects seeks to give voice to the perspectives of the participants as to what they make of the different climate trajectories in terms of their views on the complex reality of climate science. These case studies are presented to illustrate techniques for exploring how climate change challenges collective and individual agency, and of the space-time dimensions of natural and human history.