What’s the matter with a bit of violence?

Abstract

I am thinking about this from my perspective as a sculpture and installation artist rather than the more typical academic disciplines. Using an unconventional aesthetics based approach it unpacks violence, catastrophes and related topics using the same methodology and thought process I use when approaching any medium be it clay, film or performance. Through this lens it aims to provide a framework to help identify the origins and processes involved that allow situations of violence and catastrophes to spiral and accordingly how they might be addressed.

I focus on specific topics which contribute to the phenomenon of global insecurity including climate change, robotisation and globalisation. I question these subjects in terms of their form, treating them like matter that are subject to material and abstract processes causing shifts with their internal and external environments and accordingly engendering alternative relationships with space and time.

How can all socio-political phenomena be understood in terms of its form? And how is this is helpful to identify and address the dangers and when they might be reaching a tipping point that leads to different types of violence and catastrophes? What we have been witnessing is a process of ‘abstractification’ - tectonic shifts from a more material, physical identity of greater certainty and definition to one which is far more abstract, intangible or transcendent. Moreover, this has been taking place at breakneck speed over a period of only three generations or from grandparents to grandchildren. Some of these fundamental shifts in identity have been overwhelmingly positive, creating greater equality and individual freedoms for the disempowered or marginalised. Others, however, spell disaster for the future of our planet and its finite resources and providing a platform from which violence and catastrophe can grow and thrive. The tension and backlash against this tide is in full flow in the form of dramatic surges in right-wing authoritarian populism, border closures, sectarianism and other inward-facing movements bedfellowed in their desire to reverse the process and return to a time of greater control.

Abstract for performative paper presented at University of Derby conference 'Violence and catastrophes in an age of uncertainty'