Artist Statement

During the last century, the West’s attitude to the natural world has accumulated to treat Earth as a limitless resource. Such behaviour has led humans to use and abuse Earth to the extent that a new epoch has been proposed – the Anthropocene. Human activity on earth has had such an environmental impact that we are witnessing a mass extinction of species. The fight for a sustainable future is driven by the predictions of an uninhabitable Earth by the end of the century. In my practice, I am interested in the way humans interact with and place themselves within the Earth’s biotic community. I am inspired by Arne Næss’ ‘Deep Ecology’ theory where he argues that ‘we should think deeply about the human impact upon the planet and acknowledge the intrinsic value of all things.’[1] Instead of putting human needs above all others, we need to change our relationship with nature from an anthropocentric environmental ethic to a non-human centred standpoint.


In the development of my research, I discovered that the human gut is made up of microbiome with more non-human bacteria than human. This non-native biotic community lives within our body and enables it to flourish – our digestion would not be the same without it. ‘Once we recognise that individuals are ecosystems, it shows us that the loss of a single species probably entails the loss of many kinds, not just one.’ [2] I wanted to photograph and document ‘Slime Mould’ (March 2020)[3] (a multicellular Protista) growing because of its ‘intelligence’ in its ability to find the fastest route to food. Therefore, giving precedence to the notion that even the smallest living things in our ecosystems hold as much value as any other being, even if they may not always be visible. Without the evolution of the microbe, humans could not exist.


I’m interested in the juxtaposition of humans living in the world and how our man-made environment impacts natural ecology. This led me to critically assess the drivers behind the superficial desire for an aesthetic design that I am also implicated in. It is an exploration and self-criticism of my own desire to follow on-trend consumer culture and tensions it creates. This ‘hyperaesthetic’ appears in Instagram pages such as “Vogueliving,”[4]; beautifully staged artificial living areas are promoted, often using pastel colour palates and houseplants. This notion of heightened sensitivity to the environment and the ‘perfect’ aesthetic home whilst attainable is unrealistic and unsustainable. Using plants contained in pots in the home exposes the intertwined assemblage between man-made and the natural world for our benefit and pleasure. Though these interior adverts often appear to showcase plants, they also betray the contradiction in humans’ hierarchical exertion of power over nature.


Responding to my concerns about current interior trends, I created ‘Blobs Series’ (October 2019)[5]. I sought to exaggerate features and common themes found by heightening the use of abject sickly colours to create tension and make the work unsettling. With reference to France-Lise McGurn, expanding the paintings beyond the borders of the canvas to the wall itself, led to the creation of ‘Wall Paintings 1 and 2’ (December 2019, February 2020)[6]. This development allowed the work to be more representative of the aesthetic trends on which I aim to comment. Following this work, I developed ‘Inside Outside’ (March 2020)[7] drawing from Heather Barnett’s ‘Armchair Botanist’ to create my own ‘outstallation’[8]. This work explores the relationship between human living spaces and the outside natural world. Using Photoshop, I embedded the images of slime mould into the ‘outstallation’ and thus making the invisible, visible. ‘Photoshop Experiments’ (April 2020)[9].


I created a maquette as an intentional plan for my final portfolio piece ‘Model room’ (April 2020)[10]. This became a work in its own right, developed by introducing slime mould into the maquette. Interestingly, the slime mould struggled to survive. In future work, I will either use the time lapses I have created or find a better living environment for the slime.


My final portfolio piece, ‘The Living Room’ (May 2020) has been constructed to resemble a domestic living space. Using furniture together with living objects such as plants and slime mould, as well as the use of blob paintings the room is an assemblage of the separate elements of researched pieces. Intentionally repositioning humans into the ecosystem web by creating a synthesis of a domestic living space and immersing it with natural agents the work stimulates an uncanny feeling of being at home but also being uncomfortable. This ‘living room’ forces the viewer to question what makes a domestic space desirable. Changing the way humans interact and engage with real ecology through a ‘deep’ ecological understanding is vital to fully reposition humans back into the web of life.






[1] Naess, Arne, The Deep Ecological Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects, Environmental Ethics, An Anthology (Blackwell, 2003) p.264

[2] McFall-Ngai, Margaret, Noticing Microbial Worlds, The Postmodern Synthesis in Biology, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) p.66

[3] https://www.artcreatedbyzoe.com/blank-page-1

[4] https://www.instagram.com/vogueliving/ (Last Accessed: 1/5/2020)

[5] https://www.artcreatedbyzoe.com/series-of-blob-paintings

[6] https://www.artcreatedbyzoe.com/blank-page-2

[7] https://www.artcreatedbyzoe.com/blank-page-3

[8] http://heatherbarnett.co.uk/work/as-nature-intended/ (Last Accessed: 1/5/2020)

[9] https://www.artcreatedbyzoe.com/blank-page-5

[10] https://www.artcreatedbyzoe.com/blank-page

 

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