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Professor Cecilia Novero, University of Otago (NZ): "Aging in the Age of the Chthulucene: Spoerri's Fossils and Monsters"

Event Type
Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
Room 2090B Foreign Languages Building (2nd floor office area, near 2nd floor mailroom)
Feb 1, 2019   3:00 pm  
Professor Cecilia Novero, University of Otago (NZ)
Free and open to the public.
Originating Calendar
School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics Calendar

Abtract: Taking its cue from Daniel Spoerri’s recent artistic production, roughly starting with Il Giardino (Tuscany) in the 1990s, via his Museum / Storage in Hadersdorf am Kamp (since 2009, Austria) to his 2012 retrospective at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, my paper examines Spoerri's late work with, in and around nature. More specifically, the framework and focus of my paper are constituted by the fabulated temporalities of return that Spoerri’s latest confrontation with natural history have concocted. I engage the latter through the lens of Donna Haraway’s proposed age of the Chthulucene, her alternative to the Anthropocene.


The paper argues that Spoerri’s engagement with nature –in particular as evinced in his appropriation of natural history’s “fossils and monsters,” as Foucault notoriously put it in The Order of Things-- first coherently carries forth Spoerri’s early line of thought about art’s impermanence which was already present at the start of his career, for example in his trap-paintings. In this sense, I argue against canonical interpretations of “old age” artistic production. Second, the paper investigates how his nature-object assemblages help underscore the materiality of this secular temporality of return, i.e., of death and rebirth, a Terran temporality, as Haraway would have it. To make this point, I read closely a few art installations that Spoerri exhibited in the course of his retrospective in the Natural History Museum in Vienna. I connect the assemblages on show during this exhibition with others from the Giardino, and preceding it, including for example, Spoerri’s early collaborations with rats. I contend that a look at Spoerri’s art of natural history is crucial to understanding Spoerri’s oeuvre as –aptly-- rhizomatic. Third
Novero 2 and last, Spoerri’s “nature” assemblages, when considered from within the framework of such collaborative and material(ist) temporality “onto death”, as it were, raise the issue whether Spoerri’s work resists being framed within the discourses of lateness and afterness that have reignited the cultural-critical debate about modernity/postmodernity since the new millennium. If this artist’s late work does, as I indeed maintain, the question arises whether these assemblages may help us instead to come to grips with perhaps the more pressing temporalities --and relative arguments-- concerning the Anthropocene / Capitalocene / Chthulucene.

Spoerri’s art –I hope to show—has always presented itself as a “laboring” process, with time as its “subject”, indeed a col-laboring around questions of time, which it has engaged enlisting the aid of many others: actors, companions, critters, objects, etc. Spoerri’s col-laborative and materialist-historical temporal art of nature on the one hand throws off transcendent ideas of late style, of great men taking stock of their great lives; and, on the other, perhaps, Spoerri’s late works possibly re-cast lateness (whether literally in bronze, or through his recuperation of outmoded domestic washboards, crochet centerpieces, and herbaria) as an acute late and necessary (in addition to viral, indiscriminate and not age-focused) stage of strabismus that endows its fortunate victims with the double vision of presentpastness and pastfutures, a vision that is required in the age of myopia, and even dystopia.


Speaker bio: Cecilia Novero has a PhD in German Studies from the University of Chicago. After positions held at the University of Michigan, Vassar College and Penn State University (UP), she joined the University of Otago (NZ) in 2008.


Her book entitled Antidiets of the Avant-Garde: From Futurist Cooking to Eat Art (UMP 2010) examines the temporal relations between the historical Avant-garde and the Neo-Avant-Garde, through the lens of material consumption.


Cecilia's research and teaching interests are the interdisciplinary fields of Food Studies, Animal Studies and the Environmental Humanities. She pursues these interests by focusing on Visual Culture, mostly 20th and 21st-century European cinema and the art and texts produced by the historical Avant-garde and the Neo-Avant-garde movements.

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