The Anthropocene is a condition of rupture (Hamilton, 2016) caused by and resulting in losing (Western) heads, with loss of dominion over ‘nature’ and (common) sense. This paper takes loss of head metaphorically further through its relationship to severing mind (head) from matter (body) in Cartesian thinking which guided Euro-Western objectification of nature, installing centrality of mind crucial for anthropocentrism.
The universalising logic of the Anthropocene according to Davis and Todd is ‘structured to sever the relations between mind, body, and land’ (2017, p.761). They make the case that Crutzen’s and Stoermer’s (2000) Anthropocene proposal emphasised the noösphere – a layer of thought that sits ‘above the biosphere and geosphere’ (2017, p.768) – therefore replicating Euro-Western division of thought, severed from the rest of biota and land and ultimately ‘replicates the […] epistemic violence of European colonialism’ (2017, p.769). Consequently, exposing severed wounds is imperative in the Anthropocene.
Embodiment and re-materialisation are called for in the Anthropocene and henceforth this paper analyses early modern Western religious and mythological paintings of acephalous states and those by contemporary artists such as Nigel Cooke. Forging connections between decollated heads, still life (natures mortes) and emojis, with the bodilessness of the digital Anthropocene, this paper urges for a finding of bodies and not losing heads.
Rachel Magdeburg is a visual artist, writer and PhD candidate at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, researching through art practice contemporary painting and the Anthropocene.