– Autumn/Winter 2017

Wake in Guangzhou: Steps for an Ecological Aesthetic

Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra

Maria Thereza Alves, Wake in Guangzhou: The History of the Earth, 2008, Indian ink paintings, photographs, dimensions variable. Installation view, 3rd Guangzhou Triennale, Guangdong Museum of Art, 2008. Photograph: Maria Thereza Alves/Herunlian. Courtesy the artist

  1. Maurice Maeterlinck, The Intelligence of Flowers (1907, trans. Philip Mosley), Albany: SUNY, 2005, p.2.

  2. Alan Bewell, ‘Traveling Natures’, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, vol.29, no.2–3, 2007, p.91.

  3. The work was subsequently exhibited at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of the exhibition ‘The Way Things Go’ (2015), curated by Rirkrit Tiravanija. A part of the installation will be exhibited at Galleria Enrico Astuni in Bologna in June 2017.

  4. Jennifer Wolch, ‘Zoöpolis’, Capitalism Nature Socialism, vol.7, no.2, 1996, p.28.

  5. See Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1987.

  6. The installation Wake for Berlin was exhibited in BüroFriedrich in 2001 and in the Jüdisches Museum in 2011.

  7. ‘Latest on the Refugee and Migrant Crisis’, UNICEF website, available at https://www.unicef.org/ ceecis/resources_28329.html (last accessed on 15 May 2017).

  8. See N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999; and Andrew Pickering, The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

  9. T.J. Demos, ‘Return of a Lake: Contemporary Art and Political Ecology in Mexico’, in Maria Thereza Alves: The Return of a Lake (exh. cat.), Mexico City: Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, 2014, p.30.

  10. See Teobaldo Lagos Preller, ‘“Wake” de Maria Thereza Alves: Palabra y proceso vegetal, saberes en expansión’, Revista de Estudios Globales y Arte Contemporáneo, vol.3, no.1, 2015, p.448.

  11. See Néstor García Canclini, Art Beyond Itself: Anthropology for a Society Without a Story Line (trans. David Frye), Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014, p.16. Originally published as La sociedad sin relato. Antropología y estética de la inminencia, Madrid: Katz, 2010.

  12. In an email, Alves wrote to me that she visited two archives and two libraries but did not keep track of the sources. She recalls ‘a book of the paintings by an Italian priest who was the court painter under I think Emperor Qianlong. Another was a book on merchants of Guangzhou in the seventeenth or eighteenth century.’

  13. A. Bewell, ‘Traveling Natures’, op. cit, p.89. See also A. Bewell, Natures in Translation: Romanticism and Colonial Natural History, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.

  14. A. Bewell, ‘Traveling Natures’, op. cit., p.89.

  15. Battuta travelled to, among other places, Guangzhou, Damascus, Cairo, Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Iraq, Iran, Mombasa, Anatolia, Afghanistan, the Maldives and Vietnam.

  16. A. Bewell, ‘Traveling Natures’, op. cit., p. 92 and 90.

  17. Ibid., p.95.

  18. Ibid., p.90.

  19. Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. See also Matthew Gandy, ‘El resurgir de Zoöpolis: biodiversidad, paisaje y ecologías cosmopolitas’, Urban, vol.5, March–August, 2013, pp.9–14.

  20. Maria Thereza Alves, ‘Wake for Berlin, 1999–2001’, statement available on the artist’s website at http://www.mariatherezaalves.org/works/wake-for-berlin?c=47 (last accessed on 15 May 2017).

  21. T. Lagos Preller, ‘“Wake” de Maria Thereza Alves’, op. cit., p.442.

  22. Post-War cybernetic theory was first crafted by American mathematician Norbert Wiener in collaboration with, among others, Mexican physiologist Arturo Rosenblueth. It was then appropri- ated by academics from various fields through what are known as the Macy Conferences in New York (1946–53). These conferences were attended by Wiener, Rosenblueth, Bateson, W. Ross Ashby, Julian Bigelow, Margaret Mead, Heinz von Foerster, John von Neumann and various others.

  23. Jon Goodbun, ‘Gregory Bateson’s Ecological Aesthetics – an Addendum to Urban Political Ecology’, Field: A Free Journal for Architecture, vol.4, no.1, 2010, p.41–42.

  24. Ibid. See also Noel G. Charlton, Understanding Gregory Bateson: Mind, Beauty, and the Sacred Earth, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008, p.102.

  25. Stemming from neuroscience, the notion of neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the adapt- ability and mutability of the brain resulting from learning, behaviour or the environment at all stages of human development. Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do with Our Brain?, New York: Fordham University Press, 2009, p.xii.