Material Makings in the Anthropocene
Art + Ecology
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Art + Ecology Course Proposals:
(with an emphasis on photography)
Alternative Photography in the Anthropocene.
From its inception, photography has been dependent on extractive and toxic processes. From the silver, gelatin, plastic and chemicals used in traditional film to the molybdenum in digital possessors, photography has always carried a destructive ecological footprint. As awareness of anthropogenic climate change increases, how are photographers responding both materially and conceptually?
In this studio course, we will explore this question through artist case studies and alternative photography methods. Following the argument in Alexis Shotwell’s Against Purity, we will acknowledge and assume our complicity in creating amidst the climate crisis. This acknowledgment at the outset allows for a shame-free yet critical approach to creativity, learning, and practice.
Assignments will challenge students to think about the ethical complexities of each material in their practice. Weekly demonstrations and critiques will teach students alternative photography methods such as cyanotypes, anthotypes, chlorophyll prints, and how to make plant-based film developer. This course will also introduce a variety of ecologically attuned material practices that students could incorporate into their practice, like paper making from invasive plants.
Decolonizing Landscape Photography:
In this hybrid studio/seminar course, intermediate and advanced photo students will investigate historical and contemporary landscape photography while learning how to use the large format camera.
With an emphasis on decolonial perspectives, we will explore how various cultures define and relate to land and landscape. Readings, podcasts, and lectures by artists and scholars such as Natalie Diaz, Dorceta Taylor, Barry Lopez, Amitav Ghosh, and Jedidiah Purdy will guide students’ investigation of landscape photography’s complex ties to American environmentalism and its embedded colonial gaze. We will thus begin to redefine and reimagine the landscape photograph. Demonstrations throughout the course will guide students in operating the large format camera and processing 4x5 black and white film. A series of photo assignments will help put theory into practice, encourage students to take what they are learning, questioning, and discussing and apply it to how they engage as photographers.
The course will culminate in a student designed group show that reimagines the landscape photograph.
Example Reference Books:
Decolonizing Nature by TJ Demos
American Geography: Photographs of Land Use from 1840 to the Present by Radius Books (Editors: Sandra S Phillips, Sally Martin Katz)
Visions of Nature: How Landscape Photography Shaped Settler Colonialism by Jarrod Hore
Shifting Ground: Landscape in Contemporary Native American Art by Kate Morris
The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorceta Taylor
Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy
After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene by Jedidiah Purdy
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz