Sensing Change: Mapping the Climatic Imaginary through Art, Science and History

November 7-9, 2013

Center for Contemporary History and Policy, Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In conjunction with the CHF Museum’s art exhibition Sensing Change, on view July 2013-May 2014, this conference will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the social, historical and philosophical implications of contemporary art that addresses climate change. Changes in the global climate unfold over temporal and geographical scales that are beyond the scope of the individual human senses or the isolated observer to perceive. Our understanding of these changes is mediated by predictive models and simulations based on data collected via global networks of scientific instruments, yet the processes registered by this network are directly accessible only in the form of local effects. Sensing climate change, therefore, begins with developing a heightened awareness of one’s local environment, the rhythms of life of its flora and fauna, its weather patterns, water levels, and air quality.

Sensing Change showcases the work of nine contemporary artists—Vaughn Bell, Diane Burko, Roderick Coover, Katie Holton, Stacey Levy, Eve Mosher, Andrea Polli, Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg—and draws upon the CHF’s resources as an institution of historical scholarship, its archival collection of scientific instruments, oral history program, and active program of public engagement in science to mobilize art and science into the service of sensing and reflecting on the implications of climate change for the Philadelphia area. Sensing Change therefore offers a unique opportunity to explore how what we may call the climatic imaginary has been articulated through contemporary and historical art and science as well as to consider the role of art exhibitions in provoking public discourse about climate change and other scientific matters of concern.

The aim of the conference is to foster an intensive cross-disciplinary conversation about the role of the arts in articulating the science and social implications of climate change. Audience members are encouraged to participate actively in post-presentation discussions. Breakfast, lunch and coffee will be provided for all participants. To attend please RSVP to Dehlia Hannah at AND Rebecca Ortenberg at

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Thursday November 7: An Evening with Andrea Polli

6 p.m. Reception

7 p.m. Conversations with Andrea Polli & Shuttle-bus tours to view Particle Falls at the Wilma Theater

8:00 p.m. Dessert and coffee


Friday November 8:

8:30 – 9AM Coffee and Breakfast

9AM – 9:30 Christy Schneider & Elizabeth McDonnell Curating Sensing Change: Gallery Tour

Jody Roberts Sensing Change in Context at the Chemical Heritage Foundation & the Center for Contemporary History and Policy

9:30 – 10:15 “Model Climates” – Dehlia Hannah, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Coffee Break 10:15 – 10:30

10:30 – 11:15 AM “The Productive Value of Contemplative Work” – Edward Morris (& Susannah Sayler), The Canary Project

11: 15 – 12PM “Futurescape City Tours: Incorporating the Temporal, Sensory and Material in Public Engagement with Nanotechnology” – Kathryn de Ridder-Vignone, The Center for Nanotechnology and Society, Arizona State University

Lunch 12 – 1:30PM

1:30PM – 2:15  “Do Artistic Images Affect the Willingness to Buy Carbon Offsets? An Empirical Study” – Robert W. Turner, Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Colgate University

2:15 – 3PM Artist’s Talk: “The “What’s that?” and the “What if?” Visual Research, Map Rhetoric and Creative Practices” – Roderick Coover, Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Media Arts, Temple University

Coffee break: 3PM – 3:15

3:15 – 4PM “Adaptations of Bioart for Climate Change” – Hannah Star Rogers, Science and Technology Studies, University of Virginia

4PM – 4:45 Diane Burko Artist’s Talk: “Polar Investigations”

5PM – 6:30 Keynote: “Seeing Global Warming” –  Finis Dunaway, Professor of History, Trent University



Saturday November 9:

9 AM – 9:30 Coffee and Breakfast

9:30 – 10:15 “Artificial clouds” – Jim Fleming, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, Colby College

10:15 – 11AM “Red Futures. Making Climate Change imaginable through Expert Graphs” – Birgit Schneider, Philosophische Fakultät Institut für Künste und Medien, Universität Potsdam

11AM – 11:45 “Invisible to Visible: Revealing the Climate Change through Heat” – Sabrina McCormick, Professor of Sociology, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University

Lunch 11:45 – 1PM

1PM – 1:45 “Art & the Anthropocene: Aesthetics After Nature” – Rory Rowan, Independent Scholar

2 – 3PM Closing Discussion & Publication Planning Meeting


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