Fiery arts : pyrotechnology and the political aesthetics of the anthropocene

Clark, Nigel Halcomb (2015) Fiery arts : pyrotechnology and the political aesthetics of the anthropocene. GeoHumanities, 1 (2). pp. 266-284.

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The effects of combustion feature prominently in the planetary predicament signaled by the Anthropocene thesis. Historical studies of pyrotechnology—the application of heat to transform earth materials—suggest a wide-ranging inquiry into human fire use might bring new insights to the practical and political challenges of the Anthropocene. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari, I use the term pyrotechnic phylum to refer to the multimillennial developments of metallurgy, ceramics, and related “fiery arts” centered on the enclosed fire of the oven, kiln, and furnace. As an engagement with the forces and properties of the Earth, pyrotechnical innovation has a pronounced experimental and playful dimension—opening up possibilities that human geological agency might have aesthetic origins. Pyrotechnic histories also highlight the widely distributed character of innovation, raising questions about a singular thermo-industrial revolution centered on Europe. Bringing together a feeling for the creative, world-shaping aspects of the pyrotechnic arts and a sense of the decentered, collaborative nature of their development, it is suggested that the pyrotechnic phylum might be seen as a kind of a shared platform for political action. Although attentive to its current contraction and marginalization, I speculate about the possible role of pyrotechnology in a political aesthetics for the Anthropocene.

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in GeoHumanities on 23/11/2015, available online:
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08 Mar 2016 15:20
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05 May 2024 23:37