Considering dominant understandings of value and systems of production within industrial plastics and the plastic arts
Keywords:re-materialising, plastic, petro-hegemony, petrocultures, biopolymer art, bioart, new materialism, circular economies, art ecology, site responsive painting, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, geoaesthetics
This paper considers how systems of art production are changing in response to climate crisis, and how artists are re-materialising extractive materials like plastic. This discussion centres on the creative practice of Te Whanganui-a-Tara and Ōtautahi based Pākehā artist Raewyn Martyn and thinks through connections with Pākehā, tauiwi and Indigenous practitioners in the context of earlier ecologically engaged practices. Extreme weather is escalating concerns about cycles of industry reliant on carbon emissions and waste production, and within contemporary art industries there is heightened dissatisfaction with dominant models of production, curation, collection and market-led valuation. We discuss parallel changes within systems of production in the plastics industry (with a focus on bioplastics) and within the art world, specifically Martyn’s investigation and creation of biopolymer forms which simultaneously comprise context, ground, and ‘image’ within each site responsive painting. Attention will be focused on the potentials of circular economies and aesthetics, alongside values that complicate an art ecology within the wider transition away from petro-hegemonic culture.
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