Keywords: E-textiles, installation art, enchantment, sentience, vital materialism, environmental politics
Jane Bennett’s concept of enchantment materialism argues for aesthetics’ role in calling for an attentiveness to the ecologies of things. In turn, such experiences of appreciation and care have the capacity to instigate an ethics of generosity (2001). In Vibrant Matter (2010), Bennett enacts this ethics by including all entities, living and non-living, in what she calls an ‘onto-story’ – a counter tale to the anthropocentric stories of a disenchanted world.
This paper outlines how we told onto-stories through e-textiles installations, central to which are the transformative material encounters with non-human bodies. We begin with an account of working with a conglomerate of natural and electronic materials to attend to disappearing plant species in the site installation Twilight States and the Edges of Darkness (2016) for Bundanon’s Siteworks. We follow with a discussion on our collaboration with unfamiliar materials to explore coral polyps as bio-archives in the multi-sensory installation Spinning World (2018) for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
These accounts are framed within Bennett’s theory of political ecology to show how material assemblages open up spaces of wonder for encountering non-human and non-living entities. The paper concludes by addressing how sentience can participate in an environmental politics for an ecosophic world.
- Jo Law is an artist and researcher whose works investigate the transformative potential of art, science, and technology in response to changing the sociocultural, political and natural environments. Her doctoral dissertation premised on art as the technical organization of experience extends the philosophy of Walter Benjamin in the critique of materialist aesthetics and processes. Her artworks haven exhibited widely including at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney and the Sheila C Johnson Design Centre, New York. Her current research focuses on the collaboration between scientific and creative disciplines in making sense of our world and ourselves. She teaches at the University of Wollongong, Australia.
- Dr Agnieszka Golda an artist-researcher specialising in collaborative installation art that arises out of textual and practice-based investigations set around the themes of affect, emotion and senses in eco-socio-spatial contexts. Her research focuses on the intersection between nature, human and nonhuman in contemporary art, specifically investigating how images, materials and making processes can transform attitudes towards the natural world. Her recent collaborative projects with other artists and scientists; Alchemical Worlds (2019-21), Eco Maker (2019), Slow Force (2018), Spinning World (2018), draw from her field studies in Australia, Japan and Poland, personal experiences of migration as well as contemporary studies of perception in anthropology, environmental studies and cultural geography.