Context and Meaning XXI: Art and the Anthropocene

The Graduate Visual Culture Association (GVCA) at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) is seeking submissions for a graduate research conference exploring the intersections of art and the Anthropocene. Hosted by the Department of Art History and Art Conservation and the GVCA, this year’s conference will take place from January 28 to January 29, 2022.

This year’s conference engages broadly with the complex interrelationship between art and the environment in the so-called human-geological era, or the ‘Anthropocene’. Human forms of production such as the arts are an essential aspect of the anthropocene and invite critique for the ways in which they use, destroy, exploit, and enhance the natural world. Central to the anthropocene is the language used in academic discussions of it; the term ‘Anthropocene’ has been criticized, and other terms, such as ‘Capitalocene’ (Moore) and ‘Chthulucene’ (Haraway) have been suggested to highlight the impacts of economic systems or interspecies contact as central to our current time. How might art, art theory, and artistic representation, or a historical understanding of art navigate these terms? In what way might art serve to reconsider our relationship to the environment, and in what way does the notion of the ‘Anthropocene’serve as a framework to understand our relationship to art?

Context & Meaning XXI will provide an inclusive forum to facilitate multi-disciplinary academic discussion on visual material culture. The conference welcomes papers that consider this year’s theme of Art and the Anthropocene from a broad range of disciplines and approaches, including but by no means limited to art and design history, conservation, museum studies, material culture studies, gender studies, architecture, religious studies, and those from other fields whose research responds to visual and material culture in relation to this year’s theme. Though by no means a complete list, some potential topics and themes for presentations could include:

  • Earthworks, site-specific artworks, and manufactured spaces
  • The “White Cube” and the limitations or destruction of space through art
  • The decomposition and preservation of art materials; the ephemerality of art
  • The response of artists to climate change, drought, famine, or economic disparity
  • Simulations, virtual worlds, NFTs/block chain technology
  • Indigenous artworks that address the environment
  • The impact of economic systems on artistic production

Submissions are welcome from current graduate students at universities worldwide, as well as those who have completed their graduate studies within the last year. The conference seeks to assemble a diverse group of scholars in order to foster interdisciplinary discussions. If selected, presenters will be asked to film a 20-minute video to deliver their ideas which will be published for a limited time on our website. On the day of the conference, presenters will be invited to participate in a panel for a discussion period. Pending future COVID-19 restrictions, presenters will have the option to present remotely or in person at Queen’s University.

Please email an abstract of 300-words with a 250-word bio to Please ensure that your name and the title of your paper are included on the document and in the email subject line (name-title). The deadline for submissions will be Friday, November 5th, 2021.