For an Aesthetics of Becoming beyond the Wasteocene

Yvonne Volkart

We live in the Wasteocene – the digital age – in which raw materials; human and animal bodies; plants and labor are increasingly depleted, devaluated, and turned into waste. If we want to overcome this “-cene” of wasting, we need to establish a culture of care, an aesthetics of becoming (Other). We need to invent and deliver other images, images that perform relations towards the other in the making, images that enact and create openings, beyond representation.
Assuming that there is no escape from technology in the Wasteocene, the belief in technologies as agents of information and possible action is widespread in both technophile and critical discourses. Embracing the paradox and connecting to techno-scientific methods of observing the world, many artists use technologies like sensors and methods such as Big Data to get in touch with what has long been unknown time. They try to ‘translate’ earthbound signals into human perception (i.e. make them visible or audible), in order to deliver information and establish new relations between non-humans and humans. I have called these technologies ecomedia. But what do these ecomedia and their images narrate? And whom do they address? How do they affect us? What kind of experiences do they open up and what role does the aesthetic play in this?
Drawing on theories of media-ecology and new materialism as well as on results of the ongoing SNF-research project “Ecodata-Ecomedia-Ecoaesthetics” this talk discusses how visual aesthetics might enable (or not) participation and lateral thinking beyond the Wasteocene.