“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Global Warming Art

It's hard to imagine how the extended discussion of the dialogue at Northwestern, the day after the papers, could have gone much better! The room was absolutely packed, as the previous one had been. There was good food. And loads of questions.

One of them was about global warming art. I semi brushed it off at first as I'm very reluctant to dictate what sorts of art there should be. And I'm pretty frustrated with how art can be boxed as pr for scientism.

It was pointed out quite accurately I think that Sierra Club-style arresting imagery doesn't quite work, if "work" here only means having a galvanizing impact on a viewer. Or that we could imagine more than that. Since you can't directly point to global warming it can't quite fall into categories such as beauty or disgust or the sublime, even, all that easily.

Its symptoms can. The iceberg on the cover of Hyperobjects is a brilliant example. That's also an image of how the vertiginous rush of human reason can be confronted with its horrific double, the climate it created...

I suggested music, because it's a more drawn out temporal medium, and can talk about processes and fluids and temporality in a very intuitive way. Björk's Biophilia would be a very very powerful example.

I thought of another good answer that wasn't negative, right after the seminar finished. Isn't it always the way?

Weirdness, uncanniness, creepiness. That's the kind of register I'd like to see more of when it comes to global warming. Less 350s on beaches. Less aggression. Gothic mode. I think very few ecological artists in the past exploited this mode, for various reasons to do with the valences of the gothic. That's a shame, because it's perfect, as I've argued over and over again. Happily there's a growing number of them.

Two Scandinavian artists did this video based on dark ecology--I'll find it and try to link to it.

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