Symposium and Exhibition

Keynote Speakers (alphabetical order)

Emeritus Professor Steve Baker, UCLAN

Keynote Abstract (Art) - The Necessary Gaze

What might currently constitute an adequate approach to the visual representation of animals?  This rather clumsily expressed question has been central to my research as an art historian and animal studies scholar since the early 1990s, and to the development of my art practice over the past decade.  By an adequate approach, I refer to the construction of imagery that is not shot through with anthropocentric assumptions, and that is recognizably contemporary.

In recent decades many scholars and artists in the arts and humanities have constructed critiques of representation, the pictorial and the gaze, often casting these notions and practices as aesthetically conservative and ethically dubious.  An unusually subtle and persuasive expression of this line of thought within animal studies can be found in Rosemarie McGoldrick’s recent essay ‘Unscoping animals’.  I will consider some of that essay’s arguments in order to shape my own counter-argument for a ‘necessary gaze’, drawing both on Elaine Scarry’s discussion of generous attention and Iris Murdoch’s notion of ‘a just and loving gaze’.

My own practice has focused increasingly, though sometimes inadvertently, on the construction of particular kinds of pictorial space.  It is only in retrospect (via ideas adapted from Deleuze and Guattari and from Ron Broglio) that I’ve been drawn into considering whether and how certain kinds of pictorial space might be less anthropocentric than others, and how that might influence the presence or absence of animals in my recent work.  The talk will conclude with a report on a collaborative project-in-progress with the artist Catherine Clover, in which our focus is on the representation of white storks in urban environments. 

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Professor Andrew PatrizioUniversity of Edinburgh

Keynote Abstract (Art): Bumping Into Animals

What are the possibilities of an extreme, non-hierarchical politics of animal encounter robust enough to guide art writing, interpretation and history? Drawing on the multiple positions set out in The Ecological Eye I will see whether there are structural lessons we can learn that might guide how we write about (and curate) animality – from the ground up. My book used the motif of non-hierarchy in its many forms – from anarchist art history and politics, new materialism, eco-feminism, environmental psychology, cultural studies and green theory – to offer an array of potentialities that might enrich and expand the interpretative field of art. But non-hierarchy might imply, metaphorically and spatially, that we are going to bump up against each other more often along the horizontal axis. Would that be such a bad thing? Or does importing ‘flat ontologies’ into art writing risk suppressing abuses of horizontal power relations?

I will revisit an earlier piece of writing about the ‘Battle at Kruger’ footage, circulated on YouTube in the 2000s, where buffalo, crocodiles, lions and tourists bumped into each other (rather spectacularly), as a springboard to think how well the environmental humanities are placed as an intersection – a place for intersectionality – where vivid forms of justice can be proposed. The animal is then only one among many other subjects of exploitation (living and non-living together). In seeking to amplify some of the wide speculations in The Ecological Eye it might be possible to recruit into creative and academic domains even more humans ready to re-orientate their work and re-imagine an environmentally just world. A future political ecology of art and its histories is yet possible..

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Keynote Abstract (Architecture): 
Connecting Animals and Machines

Humanism backgrounds nature and legitimates a stance of human domination,with its environmental and ecological darkside. Posthumanism turns up the brightness on the nonhuman and rebalances the picture, suggesting a different human stance in the world—a shift from enframing to poiesis in Heidegger's terms. There are many strategies for getting the nonhuman into better focus, and in this talk mine is to explore ways of making performative connections with animals at the level of coupled actions. Our usual connections are asymmetric and pin animals down (think of industrial farming); I am more interested here in symmetric and open-ended interactions, with examples drawn from the arts as well as everyday life. I turn to Jakob von Uexküll's concept of an umwelt to open up the discussion and I try to extend the frame by thinking also about science and about our relations with machines, in particular cybernetic robots

Professor Peg RawesThe Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL)
Keynote Abstract (Architecture): 
Animal relations in a time of climate emergency

This paper considers an animal ontology, given our present anthropocenic climate emergency. With the Australian bush fires still in view, I discuss the artfulness of scientific, artistic, philosophical and political writers who engage with ecological, biological and evolutionary sciences in order to reconfigure concepts of life, difference, biodiversity, death and extinction. How might these minor (often invertebrate) practices of artful animal relations and collectives contribute to today’s questions of planetary ecological survival?