Erewhon: framing media ecologies in the antipodes



Publication Details

Ballard, S. "Erewhon: framing media ecologies in the antipodes." Re:live Media Art History 09: Third International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology Conference Proceedings. Ed. S. Cubitt & P. Thomas. Melbourne: University of Melbourne and Victoria College of the the Arts and Music, 2009. 6-11.


Erewhon is a geographical location, a novel, and a fragment of our technological imaginary. Described by Samuel Butler as somewhere between nowhere and elsewhere. Erewon provides a framework for understanding antipodean media art histories. Its fictional representation remains uniquely New Zealand: a utopian society set within a clean green country apparently isolated from networked global systems. In Erewhon Butler recognised an ecological intensity that heralded a terrifying shift in societal and technical relations. This paper examines how media artists engage this nowhere place, as both a historical formation and present day high country sheep farm. Artists including Aaron and Hannah Beehre, Jane and Louise Wilson, David Haines and Joyce Hinterding have revisited the multiple mediated layers of Erewhon. Focused on machinic connectivities as well as the morals, social constructions and economic models described in its fictional incarnation, their works suggest an ongoing commitment to a potential future elsewhere and to the construction of media histories that are embedded in concrete locations. In placing the long term concerns of ecology alongside the hopelessness of utopia, this paper suggests that Erewhon continues to offer a critical map for the histories of media aesthetics, machines and humans.

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