Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS/Urban Lab Waste: Biopolitics of the Plasticene

Amanda Boetzkes (University of Guelph, Canada), Diana Lelonek (artist). Respondent: Wood Roberdeau (Critical Ecologies, Goldsmiths), moderated by Maja and Reuben Fowkes (IAS, UCL)

diana lelonek

24 January 2020

The proliferation of plastics in terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments is not only transforming the ecology of the planet, but also altering the biochemical makeup of living organisms through food consumption, drinking water and microparticles in the air. In the age of plastic, the dispersal and infiltration of synthetic components raises environmental as well as chronic biopolitical questions that are entangled with the terminal infrastructures of carbon capitalism, with its cycle of resource extraction, mass production, inbuilt obsolescence and disposal. How have artists utilised the materiality of plastics to investigate the breakdown of the division between the synthetic and the natural, the emergence of hybrid forms and the extent of the adaptability of living organisms to plasticised environments? In what ways has contemporary art disclosed the centrality of plastic to consumerism-driven economic systems since the mid-twentieth century and contested the culture of overproduction and waste that it represents? What are the most viable options in meeting the ecological and biopolitical challenges of life in the plastisphere?

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