Con­tem­po­rary Art and Cli­mate Change: The Aes­thet­ics of Dis­ap­pear­ance at the Poles

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • New Environmental Art Practices on Landscapes of the Polar Regions; Politics, Emotion and Culture (FARFIELD 1)

Presentation Title:

  • Con­tem­po­rary Art and Cli­mate Change: The Aes­thet­ics of Dis­ap­pear­ance at the Poles

Presenter(s):



Abstract:

  • Panel: New Environmental Art Practices on Landscapes of the Polar Regions; Politics, Emotion and Culture (FARFIELD 1)

    Cli­mate change pre­sents us with one of the great nar­ra­tives to emerge over the last twenty years. The re­lated uni­ver­sal dis­course raises an apoc­a­lyp­tic storm that em­braces every place, every­one and every­thing. It sur­rounds us on a global scale that is so in­tractable and is so ex­ceed­ingly hard to rep­re­sent, be­cause it cries out for a myr­iad of re­sponses and change at all lev­els of ex­is­tence. Given the enor­mous scale of cli­mate change en­com­pass­ing the en­tire earth one of the tasks of this paper is to ques­tion the way cli­mate change is rep­re­sented at the polar re­gions and to point out the ways it is per­ceived so that new de­f­i­n­i­tions of re­lated art, sci­ence and pol­i­tics can be formed and put to more ef­fec­tive use. Fo­cus­ing on the work of con­tem­po­rary artists, I ques­tion the un-rep­re­sentable of cli­mate change not only be­cause many of the ef­fects of cli­mate change are in­vis­i­ble but also be­cause the cli­mate con­tro­versy it­self has made clear that many en­tan­gled in­ter­ests im­pact its rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The strug­gle to put an image on cli­mate change often hap­pens in spite of and some­times against var­i­ous gov­ern­ment con­trols, oil and gas in­dus­try pres­sure and var­ied pop­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tions. In the con­text of this po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy, I ask what are the modes of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of cli­mate change.

    How can cli­mate change be rep­re­sented? How should it be rep­re­sented? What kinds of eth­i­cal ques­tions should we con­sider in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of cli­mate change? What and whose ex­pe­ri­ence is rep­re­sented? This paper dis­cusses a shift in rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the polar re­gions from the older aes­thetic tra­di­tion of the sub­lime as pure heroic wilder­ness to the aes­thetic of the con­tem­po­rary sub­lime wherein cat­e­gories of both na­ture and civ­i­liza­tion are un­done be­cause ex­treme na­ture is dis­ap­pear­ing. By fo­cus­ing on the work of three artists-Ed­ward Bur­tyn­sky, Anne Noble and Con­nie Sama­ras-this talk asks: What new sto­ries and im­ages are being pro­duced through re­cent at­tempts to re-vi­su­al­ize the Arc­tic and Antarc­tic? What im­pact have the gen­res of lit­er­ary fic­tion, sci­ence fic­tion and hor­ror, as well as the older aes­thetic tra­di­tions of the sub­lime and the con­tem­po­rary sub­lime, had on their work?  All three artists in­ter­ro­gate land­scape prac­tices and the role of pho­tog­ra­phy and new media in the con­struc­tion of vi­sual knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of Antarc­tica.

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