[ISEA2018] Paper: Nathaniel Stern — Ecological Aesthetics: Artful tactics for humans, nature, and politics


Stories that think and change; stories that deconstruct and distill; stories that make and provoke new stories, new pasts, presents, and potentials – all felt and thought, both affectively, and upon reflection.

My new book, Ecological Aesthetics: artful tactics for humans, nature, and politics (Dartmouth College Press, to be released 3 July 2018) reminds us that stories are simple, but precious – and, perhaps, a bit too rare in current critical discourses. And they are the “artful tactic” with which I
propose we mostly orient ourselves towards concern with the world: with humans, nature, and politics, with how we move-think-feel and act. I give in-depth narratives around about ten artists and their artworks, over ten sections, like a gentle manifesto, moving between strong statement and rich description, thoughtful definitions and punctuated rhythms. An “ecological approach” takes account of agents, processes, thoughts, and relations. Humans and non-humans, matter and concepts, things and not-yet things, politics, technology, economics, and industry, for example, are all actively shaped in, and as, their interrelation. And “aesthetics” is five things: what can be said, shown, experienced, or practiced; what is said, shown, experienced, or practiced; how it is said, shown, experienced, or practiced; why it is said, shown, experienced, or practiced; and, most importantly, the stakes therein. It is, overall, a style of, and orientation towards, thought, and thus action.

  • Nathaniel Stern (USA/SA) is an artist and writer, Fulbright and NSF grantee and professor, interventionist and public citizen. He has produced and collaborated on projects ranging from ecological, participatory, and online interventions, interactive, immersive, and mixed reality environments, to prints, sculptures, videos, performances, and hybrid forms. His first book, Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance (Gylphi 2013), takes a close look at the stakes for interactive and digital art, and Ecological Aesthetics: artful tactics for humans, nature, and politics (Dartmouth 2018) is a creative and scholarly collection of stories about art, artists, and their materials, which argues that ecology, aesthetics, and ethics are inherently interconnected, and together act as the cornerstone for all contemporary arts practices.“Technological, thought-provoking and unexpected” (NPR) Stern has been dubbed one of Milwaukee’s “avant-garde” (Journal Sentinel), called ”an interesting and prolific fixture” (Artthrob) behind many “multimedia experiments” (Time.com), “accessible and abstract simultaneously” (Art and Electronic Media web site), someone “with starry, starry eyes” (Wired.com) who “makes an obscene amount of work in an obscene amount of ways” (Bad at Sports) – both “bizarre and beautiful” (Gizmodo). According to Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, Stern makes “beautiful, glitched out art images”, and Caleb A. Scharf at Scientific American says Stern’s art is “tremendous fun,” and “fascinating” in how it is “investigating the possibilities of human interaction and art”. Stern is an Associate Professor of Art and Design in Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and a Research Associate at the Research Centre, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg.  nathanielstern.com

Full text p. 147-149