Towards Ecological Autarky


Session Title:

  • Eco-Activism

Presentation Title:

  • Towards Ecological Autarky




  • Keywords: ecology, autarky, self-sufficiency, climate change, sustainability, media art, art &
    technology, curatorial practice.

    Today’s ecological threats call for far-reaching changes in the way we live. To achieve these changes however, they first need to be envisioned. Art plays a crucial role in such imagination of us dealing with ecological threats. This paper assesses the role of art as a catalyst in climate awareness by analysing artistic scenarios that deal with climate issues. It will focus on artistic scenarios that call for increased levels of self-sufficiency with respect to existing infrastructures and systems, such as alternative energy infrastructures (e.g. the mobile architecture projects Walking House by N55 or The Blind Painters’ World in a Shell project), reflect on agricultural systems (e.g. Christien Meindertsma’s PIG 05049, Sjef Meijman’s Chicken Tractor project, or Claudy Jongstra’s textile projects), or question consumer economy (e.g. Thomas Twaites’ The Toaster Project).

    Certainly, science and philosophy also propose scenarios that call for far-reaching changes to cope with ecological threats and increased levels of self-sufficiency. The more radical their proposals are however, the less chance there seems to be that they will lead to concrete experimentation or implementation. In contrast, in the context of art, radical ideas are never merely conceptualized, but always put to practice through art projects, that serve as proof of concepts for micro-ecosystems or as conversation starters. While doing so, art dealing with climate issues often helps establishing constructive dialogue and knowledge exchange among different disciplines, as the artistic scenarios discussed in this paper will illustrate.
    The artistic strategies will be discussed in the light of an existing body of theoretical work that proposes increased levels of self-sufficiency as a solution to ecological threats. The paper combines artistic research and theoretical work to sketch the contours of a new version of autarky: An ecological autarky, in which individuals live ‘autonomous’ with respect to existing infrastructures.