A discussion between T.J. Demos, Anna Tsing, and Jennifer González to launch Demos' new book: Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today will take place October 17, 7-9 pm, in Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) 108.
This event is FREE and open to the public. Metered parking is available in the Performing Arts Lot.
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.
Anna Tsing is Professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, as well as the Neils Bohr Professor in the School of Culture and Society at the Aarhus University in Denmark. She is also the acclaimed author of many titles including Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, In the Realm of the Diamond Queen, and Mushroom at the End of the World. Professor Tsing earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale University and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. In 2010 she won a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 2011 she received a Martin M. Chemers Award for Outstanding Research in the Social Sciences Division.
Jennifer González is Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and also teaches at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York. She has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and the American Council of Learned Societies. She has published in Frieze, Bomb, Diacritics, Camera Obscura, Open Space and Art Journal. Her first book Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art (MIT Press, 2008) was a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award. Her second book, Pepón Osorio was published by University of Minnesota Press (2013).
Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today is available to purchase through the Sternberg Press website.
"The idea of the Anthropocene needs to be eviscerated, and there is no one better suited to do it than T. J. Demos. In this sharp book Demos demonstrates that the Anthropocene thesis obscures a host of gross inequalities and the powerful interests behind them. Exploring examples (such as Google Earth) that support Anthropocene iconography, as well as a plethora of critical alternatives that decolonize and indigenize the Anthropocene, Demos offers a strong indictment of the violence of contemporary fossil capitalism. This manifesto should be on the bookshelves and in the back pockets of all climate justice activists.”
—Ashley Dawson, Professor of English, CUNY Graduate Center and College of Staten Island
“Against the Anthropocene is much more than simply ‘against.’ In this short, accessible, and fiercely written book, T. J. Demos shows how visual culture is implicated in the Anthropocene’s occlusions as well as a resource for conceptualizing—and mobilizing for—emancipatory alternatives. Deftly weaving together environmental accounts, scholarly arguments, and activist mobilizations, Demos makes an impassioned argument for new modes of thinking and representing the global environmental crisis that refuse the old fictions of the ‘social’ and the ‘natural.’ It is a book that shows how visual culture matters in our struggle for a just and livable future.”
—Jason W. Moore, Associate Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University
“T. J. Demos is one of the most important critics of visual culture and its politics today. In this must-read book he makes a compelling argument not only against the discourse of the Anthropocene but also for an activist, critical, and intersectional culture of climate justice.”
—Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies and of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
“In Against the Anthropocene, T. J. Demos adds to the growing chorus of voices critical of a term that, while intending to sound an alarm about climate change, in fact obscures responsibility for our eco-disaster. Through his unique assessment of the role of the image in the Anthropocene, Demos highlights the work of contemporary artistic-activist projects that contest imagery designed to shape our response to environmental crisis. For those who think that we can’t envision our crisis or do anything about it, this wonderful book shows us all the ways in which visuality is being reinvented in support of a new, vibrant politics of collectivity.”
—Imre Szeman, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies and Professor of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
“In this indispensable survey of visual culture’s intersection with the ongoing catastrophe of climate change, T. J. Demos makes its political stakes visible in new and exciting ways.”
—Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University