The Anthropocene is both a widely acknowledged and fiercely debated term for a new geological era caused by humankind’s destructive influence on the planet. A growing number of exhibitions and publications are studying the intersection of the so-called Anthropocene with artistic and cultural practices. Often they advocate for modes of trans-disciplinary research that incorporate visual, cultural, artistic, technological, architectural, ecological and political categories. There seems to be an urge for a new kind of aesthetics for narrating the contemporary global reality—whether measured by a scientist or framed by an artist, or collaboratively developed by both. This collaborative narration transforms separate creative disciplines into a new multi-disciplinary field, the future appearance of which remains speculative.

Are we searching for ‘new mental equipment’ that will allow us to imagine the Human-Nature partnership differently? There is certainly growing engagement and activism among artists and designers—motivation to work together as collectives within cooperative projects, laboratory research settings and the like. What can we learn from these new modes of operation and this trans-disciplinary research? How are artists and designers able to act? How do we educate them in the face of the Anthropocene? What repercussions might these kinds of discussions even have for secondary art education?

With these questions we intend to explore the role of the art and design fields as active agents contributing to the multi-disciplinary discourse on the Anthropocene. Special focus will be given to the notion of trans-disciplinary research—because of its cross-pollination of art, design, media, cultural disciplines and science—arising as part of the (critical) discussion about the Anthropocene. We are also interested in the discussion about the Environmental Humanities on the one hand, and the question of how art academies can create a sense of critical awareness about the environmental crisis we are faced with among artists and designers within their practices.