Climate Aesthetics

CALL FOR PAPERS: Critical Climate Aesthetics
Editor: Dehlia Hannah

The past decade has brought forth a spectacular array of extreme weather events–hurricanes, fires, floods–as well as highly consequential yet imperceptible changes such as ocean acidification and rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Under the growing weight of both scientific evidence and personal experience, the consensus theory of anthropogenic climate change has achieved broader acceptance. This special journal issue explores how that scientific consensus has become part of everyday experience, as knowledge of the causes and effects of climate change inform our perceptual awareness and affective orientation to our environments. For better or worse, in reorienting our relations to and concepts of nature, climate change opens up new avenues of aesthetic engagement with the environment even as it forecloses others that have long been valued. In this sense, it is also about pleasure. Permutations of pleasure and displeasure in regards to our unfolding catastrophe are abundant in contemporary news media and visual culture, where the long-range processes climate change and its more immediately perceptible effects are dramatically premediated, remediated, doubted and affirmed. From disaster reportage, film, literature and art exhibitions, to the no longer banal genre of the weather forecast, we are enticed to thrill to mega-storms and extreme weather, pity stranded polar bears and aestheticize melting glaciers. And we are all the while reminded that these are not universal and disinterested pleasures but rather ones attended by guilt end enabled by social stratification at both the local and the global level.

Critical climate aesthetics seeks to take account of the changing aesthetic horizons afforded by climate change and to interrogate the consequences of those changes for our understanding of the relations between aesthetics and politics, morality and epistemology. Contributors may wish to address the following questions and are encouraged to suggest others: How do apprehension and comprehension inform one another in contemporary imaginings of climate and environment? What aesthetic tropes are used to figure climate change in different media? How does climate aesthetics reflect to the aesthetics of disaster in its social and technological, as well as questionably natural, forms? What is the significance of nostalgia—for lost species and environs and expiring historical categories alike—in structuring representations and experiences of contemporary natures? Insofar as concepts like the sublime, the beautiful, the disgusting and even the cute rely upon a stable distinction between art and nature for their supply of exemplary cases (towering peaks, roiling oceans, baby animals), how does the erosion of that distinction through anthropogenic climate change pose a problem for traditional aesthetic categories? How ought we to respond aesthetically to environmental phenomena that are hazardous to ourselves and others?

Other possible topics include:
–       Phenomenology of atmosphere and climate
–       Environmental aesthetics beyond the opposition between art and nature
–       Politics of climate aesthetics
–       Questions of scale and temporality, the challenge of comprehending the general trends of climate change and its particular manifestations
–       Weather and climate
–       Anticipation, prediction, and premediation
–       New ideas of climatic determinism
–       Mediation of climatic phenomena
–       Spectatorship vs. participation
–       Artistic engagements with climate change
–       Environmental catastrophes

Please send an abstract of approximately 500 to dh2058@columbia.edu by April 1, 2014. Preliminary expressions of interest are welcome, as are suggested topics which other authors may wish to address.