Accepted Paper:

Artwash and Influence: Photography and Climate Change in the Prix Pictet  
Julia Peck (University of Gloucestershire)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that the Prix Pictet photography prize, whilst probably provoking a range of audience responses, also risks generating complacency in ‘special publics’.

Paper long abstract:

The Prix Pictet, a photography prize that is in its sixth cycle, foregrounds multiple sustainability issues with a view to both showing the impact of various environmental concerns (including climate change) as well as addressing how new sustainable living patterns might emerge. The prize aims to be prestigious, drawing upon the expertise of notable international photography curators, written contributions of various notable writers and scholars, including Slavoz Zizek and Simon Schama, and prestigious photographers including Allan Sekula, Gideon Mendel and John Gossage. The Prix Pictet, then, can be seen to be negotiating complex territory. It addresses sustainability explicitly (although not rigorously) whilst also quietly ensuring social prestige for its sponsor. Pictet is a Swiss investment bank and this prizes helps to raise awareness of its sustainability investment fund. This paper, then, aims to explore the potential effects and affects of such an exhibition, sponsored as it is by the proliferation of international capital. Following Mel Evans, this paper will argue that the exhibition is as much for 'special publics' or 'opinion leaders' (those who have the potential to influence Pictet and other organisations) that sustainability issues are being addressed and supported by this part of the investment banking sector. Moreover, in utilising art that explicitly addresses sustainability, the suggestion is made that myriad other publics are also doing the same. Whilst the impact of such exhibitions is likely to be diverse there is a risk here of complacency in that something, enough, is already being done to address climate change.

Panel P32
Visualizing Climate - Changing Futures?