Climate Realism – Aesthetics and Politics of Climate

Climate Realism is an ongoing research project consisting of international colloquiums, conference panels, and both a forthcoming journal issue of Resilience (2020) and book on Routledge (2019). The concept names the challenge of representing and conceptualizing climate in the era of climate change. Climate has traditionally referenced the weather it gathers, the mood it creates, and the settings it casts. In the era of the Anthropocene – the contemporary epoch in which geologic conditions and processes are overwhelmingly shaped by human activity – climate indexes not only atmospheric forces but the whole of human history: the fuels we use, the lifestyles we cultivate, the industrial infrastructures and supply chains we build, and the possible futures we may encounter. In other words, with every weather event, we have become acutely aware that the forces indexed by climate are as much social, cultural, and economic as they are environmental, natural, and physical. By starting with this fundamental insight, this book intervenes in the well-established political and scientific discourses of climate change by catalyzing and consolidating the emerging aesthetic and conceptual project of mediating the various forces embedded in climate.

Climate Realism is an occasion to rethink the aesthetics and politics of climate in its myriad forms; to capture climates capacity to express embedded histories; to map the formal strategies of representation that have turned climate into cultural content; and to index embodied currents of past and future climates.  How is realism – in both the aesthetic history of representation and the philosophical tradition that underwrites it – transformed by contending with our new experience of climate in the Anthropocene? What, if anything, separates first and second nature in an age contoured by climate crisis, and what does this mean for a history of philosophy premised on their difference? In order to temper climate change – to apprehend its complexity, to address its short- and long-term consequences, to mitigate its many sources – Climate Realism boldly claims we must develop new aesthetic theories and projects.

Amanda Boetzkes is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Guelph. Her research and publications focus on the intersection of visual and creative practices with the biological sciences (particularly ecology and neurology). Her first book, The Ethics of Earth Art (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), considers the development of the earth art movement, focusing on how ecology transitioned from a scientific discourse to a domain of ethical and aesthetic concern. She is co-editor, with Aron Vinegar, of Heidegger and the Work of Art History (Ashgate Press, 2014). She is completing a book entitled Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste, which examines the interplay between the aesthetics of contemporary art, global systems of energy-use, and the life cycle of garbage. Boetzkes has published in the journals Postmodern CultureArt HistoryReconstruction – Studies in Contemporary CultureRACAR and Antennae – The Journal of Nature and Visual Culture and Eflux. Her upcoming book project, Ecologicity: Vision and Art for A World to Come, analyzes the aesthetic and perceptual dimensions of imagining the ecological condition. She is currently a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Germany.

Graeme Macdonald is  Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, and teaches on the English and Comparative Literary Studies program. MA (Jt Hons in Literature and Sociology) Aberdeen; PhD (Glasgow); (PGCHE) Warwick. He recently edited a new edition of John McGrath’s play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil (2015) and is currently preparing a monograph, Petrofiction – Oil and World Literature. He is a member of WreC (Warwick Research Collective), whose members work on new ways to think about World Literature/Literature in the World. They have published a co-written monograph on peripheral modernism and world literature: Combined and Uneven Development – Toward a New Theory of World Literature (Liverpool University Press, 2015). He is at present co-investigator on the RSE Research Network, Connecting with a Low Carbon Scotland (2016-18).

Kathryn Yusoff is Reader in Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on geophilosophy, political aesthetics and the Anthropocene. She is currently writing a book on geologic life. Her work is centred on dynamic earth events such as abrupt climate change, biodiversity loss and extinction. She is interested in how these “earth revolutions” impact social thought. Broadly, her work has focused on political aesthetics, social theory and abrupt environmental change.

The three speakers all have forthcoming essays in Climate Realism (Routledge 2019). The panel will be followed by a screening of Shezad Dawood’s ongoing film cycle, Leviathan, and a roundtable discussion with Dawood and the panelists on the politics and aesthetics of climate.

Shezad Dawood works across disciplines film, painting, neon, sculpture and more recently virtual reality to deconstruct systems of image, language, site and narrative. Using the editing process as a method to explore both meanings and forms, his practice often involves collaboration and knowledge exchange, mapping across geographic borders and communities. Through a fascination with the esoteric, otherness and science-fiction, Dawood interweaves histories, realities and symbolism to create richly layered artworks.

Goethe-Institut Niederlande i.s.m. de Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis en het Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis.