The vicissitudes of the image: materiality and the environment in the Old Growth project

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Cooke, G 2017, 'The vicissitudes of the image: materiality and the environment in the Old Growth project', Transformations, no. 30, pp. 20-38.

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What can an image do? And what can we do with images? These are broad questions, and need narrowing in any case, just as a concept of “the image” needs defining. After all, we live in a culture of images, they explode across our screens and public spaces in so many forms that any discussion of the image is reliant on context to be useful. This paper addresses these questions within the context of media art: the aim of this paper is to explore ways in which artistic enquiry and production can contribute to the discourse around environmental issues, particularly within the context of the Anthropocene, where humanity’s influence on global geological and atmospheric conditions is understood to constitute a new geological epoch. I will explore my Old Growth project as a way of thinking through this problematic. The Old Growth project is a series of three video works that explore the effects of anthropogenic climate change and resource extraction, through a kind of material allegory or media analogue, whereby photographs of a series of sedimentary or accretive environments are subjected to chemical degradation. Across the three works, the project conducts both an environmental critique and a material enquiry, by using photographic media and corrosive chemicals to “materialize” environmental degradation along different channels than the documentary record.

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