About the event

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Images and words can be reportage, witness, representation, and simultaneously also constructive, connective, material reality. How does the particular ability of images and words to hold all of these qualities act in a reconsideration of the earth’s resources? Continuing the James Gallery’s ongoing investigations into “things” and “objects,” this conference will open discussion on fossil fuel imaginaries, embodied research, postcolonial ecologies and eco-aesthetics, and the material/non-human turn with visual artists, literary scholars, art historians, designers, geographers, activists, and writers of literature and philosophy. Held in tandem with the exhibition World of Matter, the conference examines the creation of political worlds of words and images by approaching environmental crisis as a material question with deep roots and profound opportunities for the changing life of the earth.

Conference Schedule

Introduction & Panel 1

9.30am Introductory remarks by organizers Emily Eliza Scott (History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zürich), Ashley Dawson (English, The Graduate Center, CUNY) and Katherine Carl (James Gallery and Center for the Humanities, The Graduate Center, CUNY)

10-11.30am “Resource Imaginaries” with Ashley Dawson (English, The Graduate Center, CUNY), Jennifer Wenzel (English, Columbia), and Elizabeth Ellsworth (Media Studies, New School and Smudge Studio) and Jamie Kruse (School of Design Strategies, Parsons and Smudge Studio). Respondent: D. Graham Burnett (History of Science, Princeton).

Panel 2

11.30am-1pm “Postcolonial Ecologies” with presentations by Graduate Center Ph.D. students Stacey Balkan (English), Morgan Buck (Earth and Environmental Sciences), Sean M. Kennedy (English), Rafael Mutis (Earth and Environmental Sciences), Micheal Rumore (English), and Elizabeth Sibilia (Geography), developed in the context of Ashley Dawson’s spring 2014 seminar of the same name. Respondents: Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer (Vienna University of Technology and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London).

1-2.30pm Lunch and Exhibition viewing

Panel 3

2.30-4pm “In the Middle of Things” with David Joselit (Art History, The Graduate Center), Kate Orff (GSAPP, Columbia, and SCAPE Studio), and Lonnie van Brummelen. Respondent: Ursula Biemann.

4-4.30pm Coffee break

Panel 4

4.30-6pm “Eco-Aesthetics and the Material/Non-Human Turn” with TJ Demos (Art History, University College London), Omar Dahbour (Philosophy, The Graduate Center), and a roundtable discussion with World of Matter artists Ursula Biemann, Uwe Martin, Peter Mörtenböck, Helge Mooshammer, and Emily Eliza Scott.


Cosponsored by the Austrian Cultural Forum; The Center for Place, Culture and Politics; the PhD Program in English; Pro Helvetia; Speculative Realism and Accelerationism Seminar in the Humanities.