Accepted paper:

Ecological art as ethical praxis


Jennifer Clarke (Robert Gordon University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to show how environmental art connects with issues of general anthropological concern, and proposes that particular ethical positions and ethical action can be conveyed as a praxis response to environmental crisis, through art.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores issues in contemporary 'ecological' art in relation to anthropology and ethics. It describes the work and positions of two British contemporary ecological artists and my collaborations and engagement with them and their work, which are perhaps excellent examples of "acts that do not necessarily pursue specific ends". Drawing on philosophy and politics, in the contexts of working with and in forests and with people and trees, the paper presents an analysis of artists' approaches to ecology. My argument focuses on doing anthropology with (or withs) art and artists, rather than of art, an approach explored through the idea of an 'ecology of practices'. I describe key encounters with these artists in relation to specific places and ideas, with regard to the notion of creative work as ethical work, considering conversation, drawing 'in and from the field', and disciplinary boundaries between art and anthropology, to show how the researcher actively creates a field of inquiry, and then follows it. In doing so, I explore what it means to work creatively 'with' ones counterparts, and what art does, in ethical terms - as a praxis response to ecological crisis.

panel P51
When means and ends coincide: beyond 'utility'