Reading List: Arts and Ecology

by | Nov 29, 2021 | Arts and Ecology, News & blogs, News & blogs: Arts School

We asked the programme team for our Arts and Ecology Master’s to put together a short list of books for anyone wishing to start exploring this topic in more detail. Read on to find out the top ten books as selected by our curator, Natasha Rivett-Carnac.

Detail from art installation at Dartington

1. Morton, T. (2007) Ecology without Nature, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

In Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the “nature” they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all. 

2. Grande, J.K. (2004) Art Nature Dialogues, Albany: State University of New York.

Art Nature Dialogues offers interviews with artists working with, in, and around nature and the environment. The interviews explore art practices, ecological issues, and values as they pertain to the siting of works, the use of materials, and the ethics of artmaking. John K. Grande includes interviews with Hamish Fulton, David Nash, Bob Verschueren, herman de vries, Alan Sonfist, Nils-Udo, Michael Singer, Patrick Dougherty, Ursula von Rydingsvard, and others.

3. Monbiot, G. (2013) Feral: Rewilding the land, the sea, and human life.

How many of us sometimes feel that we are scratching at the walls of this life, seeking to find our way into a wider space beyond? That our mild, polite existence sometimes seems to crush the breath out of us? Feral is the lyrical and gripping story of George Monbiot’s efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. He shows how, by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives. Making use of some remarkable scientific discoveries

4. Urbonas, G.; Lui, A; & Freeman, L., eds. (2017) Public Space? Lost and Found.

Reflections on the rapidly changing formulations of public space in the age of digital media, vast ecological crises, and civic uprisings.

5. Tsing, A. (2015) The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins.

The Mushroom at the End of the World explores the unexpected corners of matsutake commerce, where we encounter Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human devastation. The Mushroom at the End of the World delves into the relationship between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.

6. Princeton: Princeton University PressCezar, A. & Burrows, D., eds. (2019) Politics of Food, Sternberg Press.

Artists, anthropologists, activists, and others consider the global politics and ethics of food production, distribution, and consumption. The last decade has witnessed a proliferation of artists and artist collectives interrogating the global politics and ethics of food production, distribution, and consumption.

7. Davis, H.M. & Turpin, E. (2015) Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among aesthetics, politics, environments and epistemologies.

Taking as its premise that the proposed epoch of the Anthropocene is necessarily an aesthetic event, this collection explores the relationship between contemporary art and knowledge production in an era of ecological crisis.

8. Harding, Stephan (Feb 2022) Gaia Alchemy: The Reuniting of Science, Psyche, and Soul.

A bold exploration of the reintegration of rationality and intuition, science and soul, to foster individual and planetary healing. Examines how integrating important alchemical images with Gaian science can offer insights into our interconnectedness with Gaia. Looks at how the four components of the living earth–biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere–mesh with the four elements of alchemical theory and the four functions of consciousness as understood by depth psychology.

9. Jaque, Andres; Otero Verzier, Marina; Pietroiusti, Lucia; Mazza, Lisa (2021) More-than-Human, Het Nieuwe Instituut.

The More-than-Human reader brings together texts by writers across a wide array of disciplines that reflect on the state of post-anthropocentric thinking today.

10. Demos, T.J. (2016) Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary art and the politics of ecology, Berlin: Sternberg Press.​

A study of the intersecting fields of art history, ecology, visual culture, geography, and environmental politics. While ecology has received little systematic attention within art history, its visibility and significance has grown in relation to the threats of climate change and environmental destruction.

We hope this preparatory reading list gives you a sense of the kinds of entry points available for getting to grips with the subject. The Arts and Ecology MA will allow students to really run with these ideas and undertake their own practice- and project-based research, as an artist or activist, or anyone working in the interdisciplinary space between the arts and ecological studies.

For more information about taking the degree and to apply, please click the button below. We are accepting applications for students wishing to take the limited remaining spaces to start in April 2022. The next deadline is 17 January.