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Lucid Materialism: Drawing, Ecosophy and Antonin Artaud's 'Mountain of Signs’

Jon K Shaw (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Artaud is perhaps the most enigmatic of modernist figures. The tremors of his legacy are still being felt across western culture 75 years after his death, from the philosophies of Deleuze and Derrida, to the music of Patti Smith and Diamanda Galas, and the artwork of Complicité and Nancy Spero. Between his early work in theatre and cinema, and his final years spent predominantly writing and drawing, Artaud made two long journeys: one to Mexico and the Sierra Tarahumara, and the other to Inis Mór in Ireland’s Galway Bay. In both cases Artaud was concerned with contacting cultures and ways of life which were fast disappearing, and in particular he sought to understand the relationships to the landscape and to the earth informed by the remnants of their pre-Christian beliefs. In a sense, what was at stake was the relationship between matter and meaning, and between humanity and the planet. This lecture will argue that by attending to the works on paper from his final years, we can better understand the nascent ecosophy which began to emerge in Artaud’s travels, and thus to rethink for the Anthropocene how art “matters”.

Event details

Jon K. Shaw is a writer, educator and editor. His academic research concerns unilateral difference and retroactive causation in the work of Antonin Artaud. Jon teaches at West Dean College, City and Guilds Art School, and in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is founding editor of Rattle: A Journal at the Convergence of Art and Writing, and assistant editor of the book series "Visual Cultures As" (Sternberg Press). He lives and writes in southeast London.

The 2015/16 Art History and Visual Culture research seminar series, chaired by João Florêncio under the theme of “Ecopoetics,” brings together speakers from a wide variety of disciplines – from art history and visual culture to theatre and performance, geography, law, and sociology – to explore the ways in which the realm of the visual intersects with ecological debates, thus reflecting on what it might mean to build an oikos, a home or dwelling place, predicated on more ethical modes of engagement and cohabitation with the human and nonhuman other.


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