A discussion between T.J. Demos, Nabil Ahmed, and Ros Gray to launch Demos' new book: Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today.
Addressing the current upswing of humanities-based, scientific and environmental arts and attention in relation to the recent proposition that we have entered a new human-driven epoch called the Anthropocene, this new book by cultural critic and art historian T.J. Demos presents a critical overview of that thesis, and its limitations in conceptualisation and in practice.
Looking at multiple examples of visual culture — including popular science websites, remote sensing and SatNav imagery, photographic documentation, eco-activist mobilizations, and experimental art projects — the book argues that the Anthropocene terminology works ideologically in support of neoliberalism’s financialization of nature, anthropocentrism’s political economy, and the endorsement of geoengineering as the preferred — but likely disastrous — method of addressing climate change, constituting further modes of environmental violence.
To democratise decisions about the world’s near future, Demos proposes that we urgently need to subject the Anthropocene thesis to critical scrutiny and develop creative alternatives in our precarious present — which is the ultimate goal of Against the Anthropocene.
T.J. Demos is Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Founder and Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. He writes widely on the intersection of contemporary art, global politics, and ecology and is the author of Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016); The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013) and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013). A member of the editorial boards of Third Text and Grey Room, Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organised Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014.
Ros Gray is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Critical Studies in the Art Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research explores the trajectories of militant filmmaking, particularly in relation to liberation struggles and revolutionary movements in Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso, and more recently with the intersections between artistic practices and decolonial environmentalism. She has contributed to books including Lars Kristensen (ed), Postcommunist Film: Russian, Eastern European and World Culture; the Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies; and a three volume book on the history of filmmaking in Angola: Maria do Carmo Piçarra and Jorge Antonio (eds), Angola - O Nascimento de uma Nação. Gray was co-editor with Kodwo Eshun of a special issue of Third Text entitled The Militant Image: A Ciné-Geography. She is on the Editorial Board of Third Text, and is currently preparing two publications—a monograph entitled The Cinemas of the Mozambican Revolution (forthcoming 2017, Boyer & Brewer) and a special issue of Third Text on the topic of Botanical Conflicts: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Soil and Planting.
Nabil Ahmed is an artist and researcher working on environmental violence and forensic architecture. His writings have appeared in academic journals, magazines, and various art, science and architecture publications such as Third Text, Scientific Reports, Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, and South Magazine - Documenta 14. He has been part of the Anthropocene Project at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennial. He is co-founder of Call and Response, a sound art organization in London. He holds a PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today is available to purchase through the Sternberg Press website