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An Aesthetics of Resilience

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An Aesthetics of Resilience is a collaborative research initiative of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences and the Friedlaender Lab at UC Santa Cruz. The project brings scientists, artists, and activists together to examine multiple experiences of vulnerability in the face of climate change. With original research, newly commissioned artworks, a traveling exhibition, and a series of public programs, the initiative is designed to transform understanding about the cascading—and connected—social, political, and environmental challenges affecting our lives.

This project takes whale histories and migration routes as a starting point and provocation through which to promote climate resilience and justice in our communities. The histories of commercial whaling point to colonialism and capitalism as inextricable from climate change and species extinctions, while also exposing rifts between conservationist and Indigenous approaches to environmental stewardship. The seasonal movement of whales across international borders highlights the ineffectiveness of approaching climate policy and species protection from nationalist perspectives and invites imagining place and belonging from a perspective of mobility. Bringing artists and scientists together around the questions raised through these tensions, this collaboration travels across land and ocean, art and science, humans and other mammals, to examine multiple experiences of vulnerability in the face of climate change. 

The aim is for artists and scientists to together engage a central dilemma of existing climate discourse: many of the frameworks for analyzing climate change and proposing solutions reproduce existing structures of power and entrenched inequalities along lines of race, class, gender, and more. To counter this, each facet of Aesthetics of Resilience will involve close collaboration with partner organizations, artists, activists, and scholars that represent some of the communities most immediately impacted by, and at greatest risk from, climate change. The ultimate goal of Aesthetics of Resilience is to facilitate the cultural and social shifts necessary to mitigate climate destruction, nurture climate resilient communities, and create an environment of flourishing for all.

An Aesthetics of Resilience is organized by Rachel Nelson and Ari Friedlaender and supported by a University of California Office of the President California Climate Action Seed Grant, with additional support from the Coha Nowark Art + Science Fund.

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Aric Sleeper

University of California, state partner to award climate action grants, Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 7, 2023

Allison Arteaga Soergel

Five UC Santa Cruz projects win California Climate Action Grant funding, UCSC News center, August 31, 2023