Art History in Climate Change

This online conference will explore the stakes of art and art history in the climate crisis. 

In recent years, climate change has become a central issue on the international political agenda, due to the activism of groups such as Extinction Rebellion and the worldwide campaigning of figures such as Greta Thunberg. Yet the disastrous effects of excessive fossil fuel emissions on the biosphere and human civilisation have long been understood by scientists, politicians and public figures alike, and environmental activism is hardly a new phenomenon. 

In this decisive moment for our planet, we need to think critically about who or what is allowed to represent the climate crisis. As Chika Unigwe has recently argued, the long-term efforts of climate activists of colour risk erasure in the western media’s current promotion of Thunberg. 

Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus, the global economy has been in a state of partial shutdown with a reduction of emissions, surely providing an unprecedented opportunity finally to transition to a ‘greener’ mode of production. How can art contribute to this effort, especially in a moment when many arts organisations risk permanent closure? As events move online, including this conference, how do we need to rethink accessibility to ensure the widespread dissemination of knowledge? 

We shall consider the role representation plays in our understanding of climate, and ask why some images of climate activism and environmental disaster might appear and become more alluring, effective and widespread than others. We’ll also explore the particular dialectical potentials of art in the effort to avert the catastrophic levels of warming. Papers will address the work of artists based in Europe, North America, Australia, Africa and South East Asia, and consider the methodological implications of both artists and art historians in global warming. 

Please join us as we consider what it might mean for art to ‘tell the truth’ of the climate crisis.

Organised by Dr Theo Gordon (The Courtauld) 


Opening Remarks 

Panel 1:
Kathuria (Vasant Valley School, New Delhi) – ‘Activism and Response in Contemporary Art: Notes on Rural Distress in India’ 

Anna Reid (Paul Mellon Centre, London) – ‘The Day is Bright and Open: Lucy Skaer’s Geological Occasion’

Panel 2: 
Lucy Branchflower (University of Edinburgh) – ‘Defining the Body: Climate Art and Queer Ecology’

Grace Thompson (University of East Anglia, Norwich) – ‘Ecological Participation; Ideas on the Value of an “Open” Subjectivity’ 


Panel 3: 

Lisa Reindorf (Artist) – ‘How Artists Follow Sustainable Practices of Art in a Time of Climate Change’ 

Mary Gagler (The City College of New York) – ‘Time and the Art of Gunybi Ganambarr: Using Found Objects to Depict a Changing Country’ 

Panel 4: 

Maja Fowkes and Reuben Fowkes (University College London) – ‘Climate Migration: Invasive Species in the Political Imaginary’ 

Lindsay Wells (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/University of Wisconsin, Madison) – ‘See and Be Cene: Picturing Planetary Change in Nineteenth-Century British Art’



Panel 1: 

Laura Ouillon (Université de Paris) – ‘Uprooted Ghanaian Trees in Trafalgar Square: Spectres of Empire and Global Deforestation in Angela Palmer’s 2009 Ghost Forest 

Francesca Curtis (University of York) – ‘Here/Now, Everywhere/Always: Ocean Landmark and the Spatio-Temporal Conditions of Ecological Breakdown’ 

Panel 2:

Anna McLauchlan (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow) – ‘Grappling with The Glasgow Effect: exploding art world and academic success fantasies’ 

Giulia Smith (Ruskin School of Art, Oxford) – ‘Can Art History Serve Global ecological struggles? A case study between Britain and Guyana’ 


Panel 3:

Kadambari Baxi, (Columbia University, New York) – ‘Climate Dissonance: Loud & Clear and Amplified’ 

Edward Christie (University College London) – ‘Towards an Eco-Logical Ontology:  Mobilising Agnes Denes’ Pyramid Series Against the Climate Crisis  

Panel 4: 

Emily Tradd (King’s College London) – ‘Examining Art as a Tool for Communicating Climate Change and Eliciting Behaviour Change: Psychology, Efficacy, and Utilization in the United Kingdom’ 

Bénédicte Ramade (Université de Montréal) – ‘Beyond Representation, Sounds of Climate Change’ 

Concluding Remarks 


This event is generously supported by the Association for Art History 

This event has passed.

25 Jun - 26 Jun 2020

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