Decolonizing Aesthetics and Creating Conditions for Aesthetic Biodiversity in the Ecosystem of the Global Contemporary Art World


Decolonizing Aesthetics and Creating Conditions for Aesthetic Biodiversity in the Ecosystem of the Global Contemporary Art World, Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Vol. 19, 5/6. 2020: Vol. 19, 5/6.

Abstract:

Aesthetic paradigms have political power as they rationalize and render legible and desirable certain forms of experience and existence. Specific forms of human activity have destabilized the physical life-support systems of the planet, initiating a new age called variously the Anthropocene, Capitalocene, or the neologism that I have coined to capture the most salient features of this phenomenon: the “Anthroposupremocene.” I characterize this toxic model informing the dominant Western, modern, industrial form of civilization as a form of "entitled exceptionalist" Anthroposupremacism that conceptually and invidiously locates humans outside of nature.


Anthroposupremacism and the Anthroposupremocene lends aesthetic form and logic to a necropolitical mode of civilization powered by exploitation and extraction. This political aesthetic paradigm has rationalized the processes that have destabilized the natural world. To confront and begin to heal this damage, which threatens the existence of our species and myriad other life forms, we urgently need to decolonize and dismantle this aesthetic paradigm and with it the underlying assumptions that separate humanity from nature in ways that can offer different ideational, normative, aesthetic, and institutional foundations for our basic shared practices of everyday life. Art has a dynamic role to play in decolonizing global aesthetics, creating aesthetic biodiversity, and promoting art that can speak to our contemporary crisis and help us re-envision the human in relation to the more-than-human world. Drawing on traditional art languages and practices, and Daoist and Buddhist philosophies, Chinese contemporary art has the potential to play a leading role in decolonizing global aesthetics, but can only do so first by decolonizing artists’ and the art world’s own’ art-making practices and institutions. This article explores and frames this challenge and what’s at stake in decolonizing global aesthetics.