“There’s no image of it, other than that disco-ball microscopic view of the thing.”
— Terry Allen
Screen capture of CNN reporting on coronavirus in the West Wing of the White House, May 11, 2020
In my previous post, I drew on Louis Althusser’s theory of ideology to argue that the “spiky blob” image of the coronavirus produced by designers at the CDC is an ideological image that “interpellates” us by repeatedly triggering in us a flight instinct that leads us to an isolating abyss of fear and thus constitutes us as subjects amenable to the project of neoliberalism.
The broader visual culture of COVID-19 is similarly inclined and has taught us how to fear Continue reading
Screen capture of Sean Hannity on Fox News, February 27, 2020
A couple months ago, as the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic was setting in, I read a news story in which I learned that unwashed produce could put my life in jeopardy. Why am I being taught to fear vegetables? Louis Althusser may have some answers: Continue reading
[With this post we begin a series in which we will offer some responses to the pandemic now unfolding across the globe, disrupting everyone’s lives. As we do on this blog we will speak from our own disciplinary positions, in the hope that people from other fields might find their own attempts to understand this crisis enriched.]
Pandemics, like climate change, are strange combinations of human activity and other natural processes. We make pandemics through all that we do — moving, touching, caring, talking, and so forth — because Continue reading
Baronstown West Man, found in County Kildare
This past June, I gave a talk at the Art in the Anthropocene conference at Trinity College Dublin and used the always-happy occasion of being in Ireland to visit a few places there that I had not previously visited. Among them were Continue reading
Joseph Beuys, “7000 Oaks” adapted under CC A-SA 3.0 from Wikimedia Commons
This coming June, I will give a talk at the “Art in the Anthropocene” conference at Trinity College, Dublin about the sculptural theory of the German artist Joseph Beuys. I will discuss the theory’s implications for the politics and ethics of human action in the Anthropocene, implications imbricated with accusations that Beuys, a pilot in the Luftwaffe during World War II, harbored fascist tendencies in his working methods, which often involve the marshaling of large numbers of people in projects that Beuys grouped under the rubric “social sculpture.” Key for this talk, and for this post, will be a remark Beuys made in 1975 about plastic, so I wanted to use the occasion of this post to further some of my thinking about Beuys, particularly where it most intersects with our present focus on plastic.
Plastiglomerate from Kamilo Beach displayed in the exhibition One Planet in Museon (The Hague, The Netherlands). Photo by Aaikevanoord.
Beginning last summer we started featuring a series of posts on the theme of perceiving the Anthropocene—so far, we have looked at objects or phenomena through which this colossal abstraction could be manifested to our senses. In one of my contributions I argued that a particularly good avatar of the Anthropocene is plastic. Plastic, I suggested, has an exemplary status in the Anthropocene as one of the most pervasive (and perhaps one of the more insidious) examples of the human transformation of nature. Continue reading
What are we to make of the fact that humans are susceptible to conspiracy theories involving anthropogenic effects on the planet? Continue reading
This is the first in a series of posts on Perceiving the Anthropocene.
After escaping Polyphemus’s cave, Odysseus, ignoring protests from his men, shouts back in anger at the giant:
Cyclops! If any mortal asks you how
your eye was mutilated and made blind,
say that Odysseus, the city-sacker,
Laertes’ son, who lives in Ithaca,
Destroyed your sight.
— Homer, The Odyssey, IX.502-506, Emily Wilson, trans.
Odysseus’s announcement functions like a signature Continue reading
[This is the continuation of the post from last week.]
The Plain of Catania, atop which the city of Catania sits, is land reclaimed from the Ionian Sea by Etna’s lava and other subterranean volcanic uplift. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who traveled across it while writing the letters and notes that became his Italian Journey, refers quite accurately on May 1, 1787 to Continue reading
In Homer’s Odyssey (9.443), Polyphemus cries out “Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me” after Odysseus, his captive and prospective meal, blinds him and eventually flees from his lair. Continue reading
On November 4, 1966, the Arno overflowed its banks into the streets of Florence. A number of prominent foreign art historians, including Frederick Hartt and John Shearman, arrived soon thereafter to assist their Italian colleagues, working generally under the oversight of the Uffizi’s conservation director Umberto Baldini, in developing a response to a cultural emergency: the Italian Renaissance was underwater. Their collective expertise facilitated the arduous work of restoring what could be salvaged from the flood, which had Continue reading