Critical Arts

Ecological aesthetics: thinking trees and Goods for Me
by Nathaniel Stern

Published July 2016 in Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies

Firewall access via Routledge



People and peoples are always in process with the world around us; we are only a small part of intricate, complicated and ongoing systems; we are always more than the boundaries of what we know, or feel, or make. ‘Ecological aesthetics: thinking trees and Goods for Me’ argues that an ‘ecological aesthetics’ is surfacing in contemporary art, which makes such linkages felt. The best of this work amplifies who and how we are, together with all of matter, and more importantly how we could be. This work can and should be experienced, practised and studied through the ecologies at play in and around that work, be they material, conceptual, environmental, personal, social, economic and/or otherwise. The article more specifically thinks with some of the work of South African artist Sean Slemon, which manifests a politics of movement, potential and composition outside standard human perception. It narrativises, through one artwork, our experience and practice of complex systems and forces. Here every-thing is continuously emergent with its conceptual-material environments, is part of continuously moving and changing assemblages. Ultimately, an ecological aesthetics calls for rethinking human and non-human relations as always mattering, always affecting, always political – together.