catastrophic extinction events and contemporary art

I’m on study leave this semester, which has given me a great chance to return to New Zealand for some research in archives and galleries. I have also used the time to visit the art schools in Auckland and Wellington. I gave this talk at Elam that is based on my forthcoming essay in Reading Room (its in press right now, and should be out in September 2015).

Stella Brennan. The Middle Landscape. 2009.
Stella Brennan. The Middle Landscape. 2009.

Su Ballard, International Visiting Academic, Guest Lecture, Tuesday 21 July 2015. Elam School of Fine Arts, National Institute of Creative Arts & Industries. The University of Auckland / Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau.

Catastrophic Extinction Events, Contemporary Art and the Anthropocene.

Human animals in the Western tradition continue to describe our encounters with other species as exchanges of power, and when confronted with extinction rush to the defence of the species at risk. Yet, now we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction, defence is simply not going to be enough. This talk documents a different approach to catastrophic extinction. Basing itself on the work of six contemporary artists and drawing on the thought of Felix Guattari, Donna Haraway and Gregory Bateson I show how it is possible to respond to the ongoing and catastrophic extinction of birds in New Zealand by addressing nature as a critical unit of survival. I argue that in staging small moments of encounter, which remind us that our experience of the environment is intimately tied to the survival of ideas, contemporary works of art can help us think about extinction anew.