Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art

Joanna Page

ISBN: 9781787359765

Publication: April 15, 2021

Series: Modern Americas

What is this?

Projects that bring the ‘hard’ sciences into art are increasingly being exhibited in galleries and museums across the world. In a surge of publications on the subject, few focus on regions beyond Europe and the Anglophone world. Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art assembles a new corpus of art-science projects by Latin American artists, ranging from big-budget collaborations with NASA and MIT to homegrown experiments in artists’ kitchens.

While they draw on recent scientific research, these art projects also ‘decolonize’ science. If increasing knowledge of the natural world has often gone hand-in-hand with our objectification and exploitation of it, the artists studied here emphasize the subjectivity and intelligence of other species, staging new forms of collaboration and co-creativity beyond the human. They design technologies that work with organic processes to promote the health of ecosystems, and seek alternatives to the logics of extractivism and monoculture farming that have caused extensive ecological damage in Latin America. They develop do-it-yourself, open-source, commons-based practices for sharing creative and intellectual property. They establish critical dialogues between Western science and indigenous thought, reconnecting a disembedded, abstracted form of knowledge with the cultural, social, spiritual, and ethical spheres of experience from which it has often been excluded.

Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art interrogates how artistic practices may communicate, extend, supplement, and challenge scientific ideas. At the same time, it explores broader questions in the field of art, including the relationship between knowledge, care, and curation; nonhuman agency; art and utility; and changing approaches to participation. It also highlights important contributions by Latin American thinkers to themes of global significance, including the Anthropocene, climate change and environmental justice.

Joanna Page is Reader in Latin American Literature and Visual Culture at the University of Cambridge.

List of figures

1. A planetary art beyond the human

I. Inhuman agency

II. Seismic encounters and the acoustic sublime

2. The atmosphere as a planetary commons

I. Breathing a common air

II. From the Anthropocene to the Aerocene

3. Art and environmental change: beyond apocalypse

I. Art and geodesign for climate change

II. Environmental futures beyond precarity: symbiosis and resilience

4. Science in an ecology of knowledges

I. Indigenous cosmologies and cognitive justice

II. Transgenic maize: between the milpa and the monoculture

5. Interspecies communication and performance

I. Plantbots and the logic of vegetal life

II. The language of cetaceans

III. Microbe music

6. Revising systems art: biological time and the ethics of care

I. Slow robotics and the art of bioremediation

II. Curation and care

7. Sensory worlds and the pluriverse

I. Spider/webs: from connection to coevolution

II. Myrmecology and multispecies communities


‘Joanna Page presents a deeply researched account of contemporary art-science projects in Latin America and their role in the formation of a post-anthropocentric imaginary. Her approach to boundary-breaking practices situates them at the crux of current discussions on the decolonization of both the sciences and the arts.’ – Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra, Birkbeck College

Format: Open Access PDF

41 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2021

ISBN: 9781787359765

Publication: April 15, 2021

Series: Modern Americas

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