This year, the section Cinema and Contemporary Arts explores the relation between moving-image based art strategies and media ecologies, focusing on the notion of ecology as a mode of intersectionality developed by T. J. Demos – Professor of Visual Culture and Director of Center for Creative Ecologies at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a methodological framework to address issues of environmental violence and justice.
This presentation will discuss how aesthetic practice disarticulates and reconfigures terms like atmosphere, climate, and environment as more than abstract categories of nonhuman natures. Instead, they become insistently socioecological, dense entanglements of politics, economics, and technology as much as biology, chemistry, and geology. This is not a simple matter of political perspective, or of a social art history of association and metaphor that draws distinct fields of meaning together. Rather, these practices offer various approaches to what Donna Haraway calls “sensible materialism,” where past colonial and extractive violence provide ongoing and determining forces within social life today, forces that play a material role in defining the present in ways that cannot be forgotten, repressed, or separated out without practicing a mode of epistemic violence. As a site where aesthetics and environment cross (in the same way that the Anthropocene identifies the irrevocable collision of human and natural history), sensible materialism opens the analysis of what I term intersectionalist ecology—or ecology as a science of social as much as natural relations. As well, it proposes a politics of justice, without which we are unable to come to terms with the past and are instead fated to be haunted by it.
T. J. Demos
T. J. Demos is Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz, 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 several books, including Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and Political Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016), and Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today, (Sternberg Press, 2017), and The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013)—winner of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award. Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015; Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014; and Beyond the World’s End at the Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz in 2019. His most recent book is Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing (Duke University Press, 2020).