MECO is a research network for cultural practices in Environmental Humanities. MECO focuses on the relationship between materialities, the environment, and culture, with a particular focus on the intersections of the human and non-human, animate and inanimate, living and nonliving, and material and immaterial. We concentrate on the knowledges that cross-species and radical material encounters generate. MECO recognises the tensions that are core to the ever-developing impacts of the Anthropocene, and, as such, the network provides a vehicle for transdisciplinary exchange, research generation, praxis, support and collaboration across intersecting theoretical, disciplinary, and methodological interests within the broad fields of Contemporary Arts, Media and Humanities.
MECO is a research network that studies, imagines, and builds new ecologies of objects, energies, and human and non-human animals in the Anthropocene. The present geological epoch is characterised by widespread, human-induced environmental degradation, and increasing exploitation of resources and species; at the same time, an expanding interconnected digital sphere has come to shape much of human experience.
As a new research entity, MECO draws together a network of UOW researchers in order to provoke, generate and support research that highlights the material intersections of technological, non-human, animate, nonliving, and immaterial objects. MECO provides a space to invent new ways of thinking through transdisciplinary investigation and creative practice.
The Illawarra is central to MECO’s identity. The specific geography of the Illawarra is marked by social, cultural, economic, and ecological transformation. The distinctive coastal/escarpment sub-tropical, temperate and cool temperate environment has a unique relation to a complex history of Indigenous traditions, colonisation, agriculture, mining and heavy industry. Within this system, the constant exchange of materials – migration and displacement of humans, animals, plants, minerals, things – provides a significant setting for thinking from the periphery.
MECO aims to:
- Expand transdisciplinary knowledge on material ecologies research and map its futures.
- Support research collaboration through the discovery of common concerns between practices in art, design, writing, media, communication and performance.
- Experiment with innovative methods of building and nourishing research culture, including critical reflection on how a research network forms and behaves.
MECO is outward looking. It actively looks for collaborations outside of traditional academic research models and draws on the knowledges contained within practice-led research. MECO is strategic. It locates itself on the periphery of a number of other research entities, and offers a minor place from which to address the animal, mineral and vegetable. MECO is inclusive. In teasing out the overlapping and provocative domains of the animal, mineral and vegetable, we form a literal network of common intersections that is equally undone by our differences.
MECO takes an active role in asserting material ecologies’ vital role in gaining understandings of a contemporary world made up of nonhuman and inorganic things, objects, plants and animals. MECO starts from practice and play as critical modalities of thought. Key to MECO’s location within the international research context of the Environmental Humanities are a set of emergent methodologies within the arts and humanities that expand and question existing tropes of digitality, the human and the animal. By actively revealing and redefining relationships between society and nature, humans, animals and technology, and the material and immaterial, MECO offers researchers opportunities to reflect upon the history of recent debates concerning new materiality, ecologies, and the environmental humanities as well as the space to organise and articulate specific and divergent threads as they emerge out of individual research.
Significantly, MECO addresses nonhuman things, such as animals, rocks, digital networks and rivers, and asks what role they play in cultural understandings of anthropogenic climate change. In this we also explore the Anthropocene as both a fabulation and diagram. This approach is demanded in response to the effects of an apparently impoverished and somewhat literal sense of ecological understandings that we see in existing frameworks for the Anthropocene. Practice-led research is a key driver of our modes of thought. MECO encourages radically transdisciplinary research based on the conviction that the current economic, ecological and political crises as well as technological advances and everyday practices offer potential for new ways of thinking what we do, as much as what we are thinking about.