Accepted paper:

Apprehending environmental change: affect, perception and possibility in art/science collaborations


Lenore Manderson (University of the Witwatersrand)

Paper short abstract:

In describing art/science programs I curated in the USA and South Africa, I consider the affective work of installation, performance and public art work. I argue that this work supports scientists and policy makers to develop alternative narratives to address climate change.

Paper long abstract:

Climate change embraces a unique breadth of scholarship and collaborations across institutional and disciplinary spaces. From the early 2000s, growing numbers of foundations, coalitions and artist collectives have worked on questions of global warming, climate change, and sustainability, directing their art practice to public engagement and advocacy. In my own work, I have taken up questions of climate change and sustainability. This includes the curation of six art/science programs on the environment - the Earth, Itself series at Brown University (USA, 2015-2019), and Watershed at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa, 2018). I consider the role of affect in effecting shifts in public perception, as a precondition to changes in policy implementation and as a way to promote narrative of alternatives. I describe firstly how initiatives like Julie's Bicycle and Cape Farewell promoted public awareness of climate change through engagement with practicing artists and scholars, and through art advocacy in policy contexts. I then consider performance and public art as affective practice. Drawing on the performance work of conceptual artists such as Atul Bhalla (India), Marcus Neustetter (South Africa), the sculptures of Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Elíasso, and the work of sound and visual artists as presented at Earth, Itself and Watershed, I question how art practice effects public discourse and shapes alternative narratives, and show how art and academic come together as a bundle of knowledge systems that are necessary to comprehend planetary challenges.

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Climart: imagining and communicating climate change through artistic practice