Media @ McGill

Climate Realism

English

 

Climate Realism, Media@McGill’s international colloquium, asks leading scholars in the humanities and social sciences to spell out a new research agenda for climate theory and aesthetics in the age of the Anthropocene. 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? 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.

Videos

Barbara Herrnstein Smith - Opening keynote

Panel 1 - The Climate of Representation

Panel 2 - The Subject of Climate

Panel 3 - Climate and the Critique of Realism, or Realism and the Critique of Climate

 

Project Overview

Climate Realism 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, Media@McGill’s international colloquium intervenes in the well-established political and scientific discourses of climate change by naming and exploring emergent aesthetic practices, and the 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 climate’s 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.

The Climate Realism project is conceived by Lynn Badia, Marija Cetinic, and Jeff Diamanti. The international colloquium has been developed in collaboration with Media@McGill.

 

Program

Pre-conference event: CLIMATE REALISM – Preliminary Encounters

Thursday, 9 March 2017, 5-7pm, Canadian Centre for Architecture

Join Media@McGill for a series of short interventions and critical readings on the themes of climate, art, media and environment. Please note that the pre-conference will be held in English only.

Colloquium schedule – 10 March 2017, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

9:00-9:15:       Opening words

9:15-10:15       Keynote: Barbara Herrnstein Smith (Duke University)
“Perplexing Realities: Practicing Relativism in the Anthropocene”

10:30-12:00:    Panel 1: The Climate of Representation

  • Amanda Boetzkes (University of Guelph) “Ecological Postures Towards a Climate Realism
  • Anne-Lise François (University of California, Berkeley) “Figures of Improvisation, or what to Glean from a Climate Realism”
  • Alessandra Ponte (Université de Montréal) “Governing Climate”

13:30-15:00:    Panel 2: The Subject of Climate

  • Kathryn Yusoff (Queen Mary University of London) “Geologic Realism: Epochal Thoughts and the Terminal Beach of Geologic Time”
  • Nicole Starosielski (New York University) “Thermal Vision”
  • Michelle Ty (Clemson University) “Realism’s Phantom Subjects”

15:15-16:45:    Panel 3: Climate and the Critique of Realism, or Realism and the Critique of Climate

  • Kyle Powys Whyte (Michigan State University) “Indigenizing the Time, Memory and History of Climate Change”
  • Ingrid Diran (Pacific Northwest College of Art) and Antoine Traisnel (University of Michigan) “Climate Change, Natural History, and the Extinction of Thought”
  • Graeme Macdonald (University of Warwick) “Petrorealism and the Figure of the Offshore”

17:00-18:00:    Keynote: Pierre Bélanger (Harvard University) “EXTRACTION”

 

Talks


2017 MLA CONVENTION PHILADELPHIA, 5–8 JANUARY

Title: “Climate Realism: Aesthetics of Weather, Climate, Atmosphere”

Three panelists from across the spectrum of energy and environmental humanities will address Climate Realism at MLA 2017, bookended by a short introduction on the concept of the panel by Marija Cetinić, and a brief response by Lynn Badia.

Calista McRae’s paper, “More than weather”: Climate in Clampitt,” studies the atmospherics of Amy Clampitt’s poetry in relation to recent debates about the literary history of the lyric. McRae argues that both mood and weather are bound to one another in Clampitt’s ecopoetics, and the spectre of climate crisis therefore gets projected as a lyrical crisis. McRae’s talk concludes with a brief survey of related techniques in other late-20th-century poems. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson’s “Confronting Collapse: Surveying Apperception and Activism in Global Climate Change Fiction” measures the formal and thematic effects of recent climate change fiction through both a close and a distant reading of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (2012), Daniel Kramb’s From Here(2012) and Berit Ellingsen’s Not Dark Yet (2015). Schneider-Mayerson analyzes how “cli fi” models and creates the intellectual and affective apperception of climate crisis alongside moments of ephiphanic awareness, which prompts subsequent activism or quiescence. The paper’s aim is to both distil the emergent conventions of climate realism, and to offer a form of literary analysis specific to this new aesthetic category. And finally, Jeff Diamanti’s “Clouds, Climate, Crisis: A Short Art History of the Weather” compares the aesthetic theory of the cloud as it was initially formulated in Hubert Damisch’s ground-breaking Theory of /Cloud/: Toward a History of Painting (1972) to the contemporaneous emergence of two very different cloud-based architectures: Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s “Blur Building” at the Swiss Expo, 2002, and Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud in 2006. Between the theoretical and architectural turn to clouds, Diamanti argues, is the materialization of what was the trope of weather that underwrites the discourse of mood in 20th century theory.

Put in conversation with one another, these papers name and clarify the aesthetics and formal strategies of “climate realism.” Each of our panelists examine the aesthetics of atmospherics in order to map new discursive, political, and affective formations that began to emerge in the late 20th century. The framing comments and responses to be given by Cetinić and Badia will make these connections explicit and elaborate how the significance of weather, climate, and atmosphere is transformed by contending with the new realities of climate crisis in era of the Anthropocene.

Participants:

Marija Cetinić: Moderator
Marija Cetinić is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at York University. She held a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Alberta. Signs of Autumn: The Aesthetics of Saturation, her current project, focuses on the concept of saturation, and on developing its implications for the relation of contemporary art and aesthetics to political economy. Her essays have appeared in Mediations, Discourse, and European Journal of English Studies. “House, Library, Field: The Aesthetics of Saturation” appears as a chapter in Neoliberalism, Value, and Jouissance. “Affect Theory” is forthcoming in A Companion to Critical and Cultural Studies.

Jeff Diamanti: Panelist
Jeff Diamanti is the 2016-17 Media@McGill postdoctoral fellow in “Media and the Environment.” He is co-editor on a number of collections and companions on energy, climate and political theory, including After Oil (Winter 2016), a special issue of Reviews in Cultural Theory on “Envisioning the Energy Humanities” (March 2016), and Materialism and the Critique of Energy (forthcoming 2017). He has an article forthcoming on naturalism in US fiction and the transition to an oil economy in Western American Literature; energyscapes and the architecture of postindustrial philosophy in Postmodern Culture; and is working on a monograph titled The Long Transition: Market Media and the Future of Energy.

Calista McRae: Panelist
This spring Calista McRae will receive her PhD from Harvard, where she specialized in lyric poetry; starting this fall she will be an Assistant Professor of English at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her current book project, Lyric as Comedy, focuses on humor and poetics in recent American writers; it argues that attention to lyric can expand our conceptions of comedy. A version of her first chapter will be published by Modern Philology in the fall of 2016; another recent article on Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell is forthcoming from Arizona Quarterly.

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson: Panelist
Matthew Schneider-Mayerson is Assistant Professor of Humanities (Environmental Studies) at Yale-NUS College. He has a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and was a Cultures of Energy Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University. His first book, Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2015. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Environmental Politics, American Studies and the Journal for Religion, Nature and Culture, and he is the founder of the “Fossilized in Houston” public climate art project. His current research concerns the reception and impact of climate change fiction; narratives of the ongoing energy transition; the naturecultures of Singapore; and novel forms of collective happiness for the Anthropocene.

Lynn Badia: Respondent
Lynn Badia is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta in the Department of English and Film Studies. For the Fall 2015 term she was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge, as part of the Climate Histories Research Group at CRASSH Cambridge and Cambridge Interdisciplinary Research on the Environment. Badia’s research in literature, film, philosophy, and cultural studies is focused on questions about scientific knowledge and the natural world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research is published in or forthcoming from Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Cultural Studies, Rutledge, and Fordham University Press, with additional working publications under contract. She is currently completing her second book manuscript, Imagining Free Energy: Fantasies, Utopias, and Critiques of America, which introduces the concept of “free” or unlimited energy as a critical framework for understanding the conditions of American society since the beginning of the industrial era.

 

Special Issue

Resilience: An Environmental Humanities Journal
Double Issue (In preparation) 

Climate Realism:
The Aesthetics of Weather, Climate, and Atmosphere

Edited by Lynn Badia, Marija Cetinić, and Jeff Diamanti

This special, double issue collects new accounts and theories of climate from scholars and artists engaged in the Environmental Humanities, and it promises to archive and clarify the emergent aesthetic economy and formal strategies of “climate realism.” These proposed contributions, one of which is a lexicon and photo essay, engage a range of formal strategies and experiments in the representation of climate, across various mediums. A series of ten succinct essays (5000-7000 words) will allow the issue to cover a more comprehensive range of media, including fiction, lyric, sound, photography, and film. In doing so, these entries take up theoretically challenging questions about how climate change forces us to reconsider our classic philosophical categories and to revise the category of “media” itself in order incorporate the inscriptive forces of the nonhuman and material world.

 

Hosting organization: Media@McGill

Media@McGill is a hub of interdisciplinary research, scholarship, and public outreach on issues in media, technology and culture, housed within the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. One of its main missions is to examine the critical role of media in the development of democratic processes. Our activities are supported by a generous gift from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.

Colloquium Programming Committee

Dr. Jeff Diamanti, 2016-17 Media@McGill Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University

Dr. Marija Cetinić, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alberta

Dr. Lynn Badia, Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta

Prof. Darin Barney Grierson Chair in Communication Studies, Department of Art History & Communication Studies, McGill University

Prof. Christine Ross, James McGill Chair in Contemporary Art History, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Colloquium Organizing Team

Dr. Jeff Diamanti, 2016-17 Media@McGill Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University

Prof. Darin Barney Grierson Chair in Communication Studies, Department of Art History & Communication Studies, McGill University

Prof. Christine Ross, James McGill Chair in Contemporary Art History, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Dr. Tamar Tembeck, Academic Associate, Media@McGill, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Mary Chin, Administrative Coordinator, Media@McGill, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Caitlin Loney, Graphic Designer and Web Administrator, Media@McGill, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

Media@McGill Colloquium Partners:

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; McGill University: Dean of Arts Development Fund, Grierson Chair in Communication Studies, James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology, James McGill Chair in Contemporary Art History, William Dawson Scholar of Feminist Media Studies, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, McGill School of Environment, Institute for the Public Life of Art and Ideas (IPLAI); Canadian Centre for Architecture; Media History Research Centre, Concordia University; Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, University of Alberta.