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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2022-23

ARTH 63.73 Art in the Age of Climate Change

Since the advent of industrial capitalism, humans have released 555 petagrams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing CO2 concentrations to a level not seen for at least 800,000 years. The long-term consequences of these atmospheric changes remain unknown, but there is already strong evidence that the Earth is rapidly moving into a less biologically diverse, less forested, much warmer, and probably wetter and stormier state. Research on climate change points to a particular irony: human actions have unprecedented impact on the environment, but this produces effects that are increasingly out of human control. Inside that conundrum lies another. Scientists have certain strategies to address urgent environmental challenges, but what of the arts and the humanities? What can practitioners in these fields, in dialogue with the sciences, offer in this moment of climatic disruption and political inaction? To what new modes of visualization does global warming give rise, and how do these aesthetic innovations allow us to live with and through environmental change? What ontological status can be assigned to various biological, geological, and meteorological ‘actors’ if human agency is no longer privileged?

In taking up these questions, this course recognizes that the manifold effects of climate change demand new structures of cross-disciplinary thinking and critical engagement. Accordingly, it draws on concepts and methods drawn from art history and critical theory as well as science and anthropology. As we will see, the field of contemporary art does not simply project forward to predicted catastrophic future scenarios. Rather, it foregrounds the unique capacities of humans to imagine scenarios or worlds that have not yet come into existence.  What, in essence, can art help us imagine that science alone cannot? Through this line of enquiry, this course asks what it means to think through the possibilities and limits of our planet beyond a pessimistic orientation towards foreclosed futures.



Degree Requirement Attributes

Dist:ART; WCult:W

The Timetable of Class Meetings contains the most up-to-date information about a course. It includes not only the meeting time and instructor, but also its official distributive and/or world culture designation. This information supersedes any information you may see elsewhere, to include what may appear in this ORC/Catalog or on a department/program website. Note that course attributes may change term to term therefore those in effect are those (only) during the term in which you enroll in the course.