SCS-63: From Elements to Ecologies: Art, Media, and Environment in the Ancient Mediterranean

  In-Person   SCS Session   Panel


Mary Danisi, Cornell University; Jessica Plant, University of Cambridge


Sandra Blakely, Emory University


Recent work on the primary four elements and natural forces in the Greco-Roman world has enhanced appreciation for the materiality and aesthetics of ancient art forms (as illustrated by the forthcoming conference series, "Elemental Readings" at UCLA). Building upon these approaches, and recognizing the value of a synthetic study of air, fire, earth, and water, our panel focuses instead upon "composite" artistic media–that is, works of art and architecture featuring compounds, mixtures, and amalgams of natural materials. Our aim is to explore how complex artistic processes and "artificial" products participated in the "organic." While much has been made of art's imitation of the natural world, we interpret diverse modes of visual and material culture as multi-scalar environmental infrastructures. We intend to contribute to contemporary critical reevaluations of the manufactured division between nature (phûsis/natura) and culture (têchne/ars) (Haraway 1991; Anguissola 2020; Hedreen 2021), as well as the developing, critical exchange between the fields of Classics and Media Studies (Michelakis 2020; Barringer and Lissarrague 2022). Attention to composite media ecologies, we propose, enables us to think with and through art and architecture as multimedia environments, and "natural" environments themselves as synthesized media. Oriented from this perspective, papers, employing literary and/or archaeological sources, will articulate how ancient craftspeople engaged with commixtures of materials, (sub)structures, and surfaces when executing their works. We hope to explore how craft techniques were generators and products of amalgamated, organic worlds (kôsmos/ornamentum) in all their elemental complexity (Gagné 2021; Kéi 2022).