full name / name of organization:
Bradon Smith and Benjamin Morris
"Representing Climate Change: Ecology, Media and the Arts"
A conference and photography exhibition hosted by "The Cultures of Climate
at The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
(CRASSH), University of Cambridge.
15-17 October 2008
While considerable attention has been paid to the problem of global climate
change from the domains of science, policy, and economics, only recently
have the arts and humanities begun to address the phenomenon on their own
terms and via their own methods. This is an unfortunate delay, for in the
efforts to educate the public about the nature of the phenomenon,
scientists and teachers often draw on visual and verbal resources with
which the arts and humanities have developed expertiseâ€”consequently the
need for more nuanced and flexible conversation is clear. Emerging from the
first year of The Cultures of Climate Change, an interdisciplinary research
group at the University of Cambridge, this conference and its associated
photography exhibition aim to redress that imbalance by taking
representations as a ground on which all disciplines may meet.
Representationsâ€”whether in textbooks, museums, newspapers, or on gallery
wallsâ€”are intimately linked to the ways that scientific knowledge is
created, reproduced, received, and used. In the context of contemporary
debates surrounding climate change, the use and abuse of representations of
environmental phenomena have become even more loaded as different camps
seek to sway an â€˜undecidedâ€™ or uncommitted public to their vision of
ecological change. But at the same time as scientific representations seek
to accomplish their own ends, artistic works and representations
(photography, paintings, novels, even operas) have emerged as another way
of considering the phenomenon of climate change, even a form of activism in
their own rightâ€”as shown by initiatives such as Northsoutheastwest or the
Cape Farewell project. This conference, then, seeks to find these meeting
points between disparate disciplines and present them to the artistic,
academic, and policy-based communities. Some questions we hope to address are:
â€¢ What ontological differences separate artistic and scientific
representations of climate-related processes and events? In what ways can
these differences be seen to unite them?
â€¢ Must photography about climate change address loss, disaster, and
suffering in order to make its case? What are the effects of taking this
specific kind of subject matter?
â€¢ How can different narratives (scientific, anthropological, political)
surround a climate-related image, and what are the points of convergence
and divergence with one another?
â€¢ Which representations of climate change (like glacial melt or bleached
coral reefs) have attained iconicity, and which have been shunned? Why and
how has this happened? Which more ambiguous images (like polar bears) have
been hijacked for the purpose?
â€¢ How does looking at a representation of climate change (however
interpreted) encourage or require us to reassess ways of looking at
representations of non-climate-related environmental phenomena? What is an
ecological way of seeingâ€”a visual ecopoetics?
â€¢ Taking these questions more broadly, how can art effect social change on
a wider scale? In what ways does a sound-art installation of a melting
glacier lead to social action?
500-word proposals for 20-minute papers are invited from members of the
academic, artistic, and policy-based communities. Proposals should be sent
in PDF or Word format, and include contact information and an academic or
artistic biography. Selected papers will be considered for a planned
volume; deadline for all proposals is 1 July 2008 with notification
following by 15 July. Further questions should be directed to Benjamin
Morris, bam32_at_cam.ac.uk, or Bradon Smith, btls2_at_cam.ac.uk. As stated, the
conference will be joined by an exhibition of work from noted contemporary
photographers, to which participants are invited to refer in their
presentations. Updates and further details about both the conference and
exhibition can be found at the CRASSH website,
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Received on Wed Jun 04 2008 - 17:31:24 EDT