Wisdom of the rocks: Art and the organic after a geologic turn
Drawing on Manuel Delanda’s concept of 'wisdom of the rocks' understood as "a way of listening to a creative, expressive flow of matter for guidance on how to work with our own organic strata”, I will discuss recent art projects by Katie Paterson, Oron Catts and Hideo Iwasaki, Adam Brown, Michael Burton, Oliver Kellhammer, and Ilana Halperin, which employ a geological perspective in their considerations of living and nonliving matter. Such perspective demands the use of scales which are far beyond those of humans, hence, these artists work not only with fossils as evidence of long-gone life and the immensity of time, but also with life to come in the future as a result of both bioengineering and geoengineering. Minerals co-evolving with life as they pass through life forms (including humans) in metabolic processes are a focus of the artists’ attention, especially when themes concerning the deep future are introduced with questions such as: what kind of geological strata do we expect to leave behind on the planet and how – if at all – should we promote carbon life in the Universe. I will argue that taking a deep time perspective allows for an attempt to avoid “organic chauvinism” and reconsider questions such as the origin of life as well as organic and mineral evolution but also critically approach biotechnological challenges such as efforts to create synthetic life or the promotion of carbon life in non-terrestrial contexts.
Monika Bakke works in the Philosophy Department at the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland. She writes on contemporary art and aesthetics, with a particular focus on posthumanist, gender and cross-cultural perspectives. The author of two books: Bio-transfigurations: Art and Aesthetics of Posthumanism (2010, in Polish) and Open Body (2000, in Polish), co-author of Pleroma: Art in Search of Fullness (1998), and editor of
Australian Aboriginal Aesthetics (2004, in Polish), Going Aerial: Air, Art, Architecture (2006) and The Life of Air: Dwelling, Communicating, Manipulating (2011). Since 2001 she has been an editor of the Polish cultural journal Czas Kultury (Time of Culture).