Human Ecosystems in the 21st Century

Krista Bailie

The Fashion of Minimalism: Rethinking ‘Waste’ in an Age of Experienced- Based Consumerism

As the planet dies a slow death under the weight of commodities and their products of waste, the ‘thing’ has taken on not only its own subjectivity, but the ability to exist as an actant inside the human/nonhuman assemblage that is our world. This paper argues that the thing, once an example of progress, has become an unfixable problem, a destructive force we are ill-equipped to manage as it has become its own agent. In that these things existed because of and were purged from human use, and to the extent that they are our own corpses, expelled from self but no less a part of it, there is no way to extract ourselves from the products of our own destruction. Therefore, we cling to the individual, to our perceived ability to distance ourselves from ourselves through the continued maintenance of class divisions and the conscious choice to reject representations of death within our immediate environments. Using Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up as a starting point, this paper deconstructs the fashion of minimalism within the popular awareness by considering how minimalism functions in diet, design and fashion. Drawing from Thorstein Veblen’s theory of waste and connecting it to vital materialism,as well as theories about the object and its relationship to repulsion, this paper posits an impulse to less as being a class-based movement to reject the environmental impact of hyperconsumerism through the embracing of “experiences” over “things. The experiences, be they activities or objects acting as experiences through their affective properties, create an intellectual distancing from the perceived drive towards death emanating from overconsumption by the lower classes.

Krista Bailie is an artist and graduate student in the department of Art History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Her research focuses on alienated labor in creative economies, with an interest in the object and a reconsideration of the production of commodities in creative fields.

Stéfy McKnight

Hunting for Prey: Security, Private Property & Technologies in Northern Ontario

Kevin Haggerty and Daniel Trottier write “a surveillance escapist may be unnerved to find him or herself retreating into a nature that is itself increasingly permeated by surveillance” (2013). What they suggest is, surveillance practices and technologies are being implemented in rural, natural and “wild” areas, for scientific, pleasurable, security and recreational purposes. My paper looks at scouting (hunting) cameras as a case study to ask, how do landowners use surveillance technologies to protect their private property, livestock and belongings or function creep? Originally designed to capture images of non-human animals for pleasure, science and hunting, the practicality and availability of hunting cameras as mechanisms for surveillance has been recognizable in heavy forested and “wild” landscapes. This paper includes data from three methodological sources: the methodology of visual objects and cultural analysis; creative research and qualitative interviews. These methodologies critically engage with the case study and focus working through three overall themes: sustainability, consumerism; and security and risk.

Stéphanie McKnight (Stéfy) is an artist based in Kingston ON. She is a doctoral student in the Cultural Studies Program at Queen’s University. Interested in how cultural objects and productions produce knowledge and interaction, her research focuses on gender performativity, privacy, media, surveillance post 9/11 and Edward Snowden revelations. Stéfy’s primary artistic medium is installation art in forms of site specific, video; experimental photography, performance and found objects. Stéfy has recently exhibited at Modern Fuel Artist Run-Centre, The Centre for Indigenous Research-Creation, the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning, OCAD University, WKP Kennedy Gallery and White Water Gallery in North Bay and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. In 2015 her work Coded, I Am was shortlisted for the Queen’s University Research Photo Contest. Her work was recently published in LandEscape Now! Contemporary Art Review in Europe (2016).

Morgan Oddie

Fucking the Flora: Ecosex and Hedonistic Environmentalism

The current anthropocene disallows the possibility of partitioning humans from their inhabited ecosystems. Ecosexuality combines activism and post-human hedonism in order to acknowledge the environmental crisis, while attempting to displace human dominance over nature. As a movement, ecosexuality claims post-humanism and presents the idea of a hedonistic environmental ethic in an era of post-sustainability. It raises questions about frameworks of consent and expands the notion of sexuality beyond the typical focus on genitals by challenging what humans are supposed to do with their orga(ni)sms. By focusing on seeking consent from non-human species, there is a reframing of ethical interactions between humans and non-humans. There is a playful and experiential element to ecosexuality, but it maintains the erotic entanglement of humans and the environment, which makes erotic transmissions possible. In November 2016, Pony Express created an “Ecosexual Bathhouse” as a performance art installation in Melbourne. In addition to longstanding work by activists Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens, this prompted interactions and discussions about other-than- human queer sexuality and potential erotic engagement with the Earth. This eroticism includes the aesthetics of flesh and disembodiment during sex.

Morgan is a second year Ph.D. student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. Her work focuses on power, playfulness, and the corporeality of bodies in consensual bondage, dominant/submissive and sadomasochistic (BDSM) sex.