Monday, March 21, 2016

Towards an Eco-Design of the Anthropocene

Hi folks! Below is the intro blurb for the talk I'm giving in Cincinnati in May. I'm very pleased with it. It all came out in a flurry of 3 AM insomnia. Enjoy.

Nick Guetti Intro: Towards an Eco-Design of the Anthropocene

I come from ecological design, in terms of education: the design and life sciences basically, with just a smidgeon of the humanities—enough to glue it all together with a sociopolitical analysis and an ethical imperative, while little enough to allow it to neatly sidestep any issues of critical philosophy pertinent to these. 

My mother and father were both philosophy teachers. She taught at Yale in the seventies, and was a Derridean, so the effect of deconstructionism on my world began when I was about eight. 

My interest in philosophy has only lately intensified, however, as a result of my acquaintance with Timothy Morton’s object-oriented take on ecological criticism, and his perhaps even more fascinating (but, in my opinion, terribly overlooked) post-Derridean take on object-oriented ontology (OOO) itself. 

My thesis is basically that ecological design fails—both as a collection of tools and as a social movement—to the extent that it pretends direct reference to Nature and the real that its own idealism flatly denies. And indeed, by many measures within the movement itself, it is failing, and failing badly. To use the parlance of many people schooled in the design art of permaculture, the “visible structures” of landscape design, architecture, horticulture and animal husbandry are easy enough to build, given the resources; meanwhile, the “invisible structures” of socioeconomic and political arrangements are much more difficult. Yet, the invisible structures are at least as much a precondition for the existence of the visible as vice versa! 

This is why I point to the wealth of options that OOO offers design arts such as permaculture. These arts have traditionally been unwilling to admit any intellectual criticism of their Johnsonian take on realism (as if getting one’s hands dirty were proof of connection with the soil), and has quite stoically avoided treating invisible structures as extant bodies in an interobective ecology. Graham Harman’s temporary allowance of flat ontology is one among many possible keys for this lock on the door to an ecological design of the Anthropocene.

My passion for ecological design-art has proven more “sustainable”, ironically, than the youthful idealism which started it, and is the reason for my rejection of substance ontologies (informing terms such as “nature” and “matter”) in favor of the realism which informs my current work. I hope it may be of use in the arts and humanities as well as the ecological design movement, and that it may bring these two sadly estranged worlds closer, if only a little.

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