Fluidity, Shift and Bloom: Understandings of an Oceanic Sublime in an Age of Ecological Collapse

By Fiona Edmonds-Dobrijevich.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The idea of an “Oceanic Sublime” exerted a strong presence in the art and literature of the Romantic Era, a time which saw explorative and philosophical forays into an Unknown. The persistence of current investigation into the sublime marks a new journeying into the vast unknown of globalisation and technology, a return to an anxious relationship with the natural world. In a world of increasingly new ways to perceive human space, our understanding of an “oceanic sublime” is located in a state of fluidity, shift and bloom: part of the new mobilities within which we conduct our existence presently. Humans beings have intervened in all but the most unknowable of geographies: where an experience of the sublime may have been historically sought in nature as a material geography, it is now mapped by the invisible trajectories of technology, the “global hypermobility” of Nicolas Bourriaud. This paper looks at examples of Visual Arts pactice in the Asia Pacific region which address notions of an Oceanic Sublime in an age of ecological collapse

Oceans increasingly threaten civilisation with its nihilistic capacities, spilling beyond boundaries. The terror and awe historically inspired within the canon of the sublime are now become dualistic: the terror is induced by the fragility and vulnerability of wilderness sites and the collapse of the oceanic system itself.

This paper seeks to examine ways in which current arts practice in the Asia Pacific Region acknowledge the role of the ocean as a site for a contemporary sublime. The potential for eco-collapse, the toxic bloom, the network of infinite technologies traversing it, the commodification of the sublime experience, all subvert our reading of a Kantian Sublime. Never before has the ocean, in its vast unchangeability, been on such a precarious position. Contemporary Visual Art and Poetry can both divulge the secret places of the sea, but retain the privilege of disclosing an imminent disaster.

Keywords: The Sublime, Eco-Collapse, Aquatic Aesthetic, Visual Art

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.95-108. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.111MB).

Fiona Edmonds-Dobrijevich

Lecturer, Practising Artist, Research Student, College Fine Arts (University of NSW) and Faculty of Social Science (UTS), University of New South Wales and University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Fiona Lectures in Visual Art at the University of Technology, Sydney, is a Research Student at the UNSW College of Fine Arts, and maintains an art practice which involves painting, drawing, animation and digital imagery.

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