Arts and Culture
Material ecology is a method of cultural analysis that opens up new perspectives on the relationship between human and nonhuman agents in particular ecosystems and on a planetary plane. This new outlook is meant to engender a consensual set of environmental values that can transcend national borders. As a concept, environmental awareness applies to efforts by official or unofficial agents to change behavioral patterns that can harm the environment by explaining or demonstrating their consequences. The two approaches are at the core of the quest for a global polity that can support and integrate different communities in their various endeavors to implement rules and incentives for sustainable ways of living based on environmental justice. Highlighting the transformation of landscapes through globalized, unsustainable patterns of urbanization, agri-industrial production, power generation, resource extraction and waste disposal, this paper will, supported by selected works of art, explore how nonhuman agency can be perceived, researched and taught, as well as aesthetically represented and narrated. In a second step, it will introduce Kunming poet Yu Jian’s thing poetry. Analyzing the latter, I will argue that Yu Jian’s creative bricolage of Anglo-American romantic nature writing, European modernist realism, Chinese Taoist animism, and traditional shanshui/landscape art can promote environmental awareness and, moreover, transcend linguistic and visual modes of communication. Yu Jian’s thing poetry thus brings to the fore humanity’s material embeddedness and protests against the materialist annihilation of nonhuman worlds and things.