University of Tasmania
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Climatic embodiment : a visual exploration of climate change as expressed by the human body

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posted on 2023-05-28, 12:10 authored by Nilssen, EL
This research project seeks to find a visual language that addresses and responds to the states of mind such as guilt, avoidance and ambivalence that are experienced in relation to the ongoing global crisis of climate change. In contemporary discourse there is an acknowledgement that human culture is not changing quickly enough to respond adequately to the threat of catastrophic climate disruption. This lack of responsiveness is linked to the difficulty most people have in connecting the distant and threatening idea of climate change with the everyday reality of their own lives. I have chosen to bring the climate crisis within reach by using my own body in the setting of my domestic environment, as a vehicle to explore the complex and difficult emotions it arouses. The research questions my work addresses are: ‚Äö How can my emotional responses to the crisis of climate change find visual expression through my body? ‚Äö How can this resonate with the experience of others? ‚Äö How can an exploration of guilt, avoidance, and ambivalence about climate action give voice to the emotional burden of the crisis and clarify some of the barriers people feel towards mitigating against catastrophic climate change? My approach is informed by the feminist thought of Karen Barad concerning the nature of reality as a performative engagement composed of interactions. Ideas about the way humans need to connect with non-human realities from Deborah Bird Rose, Elizabeth Grosz, Luce Irigaray, Val Plumwood, and Donna Haraway, also influence the project. My work occupies a place in the field of contemporary visual art which uses the body as a focus for addressing environmental issues including artists such as Jill Orr, Mary Mattingly, and Roni Horn. The works in this submission are comprised of woven forms made from domestic waste plastic and my own body, as well as video performances involving my encounter with the damaging aspects of climate change in my domestic environment. They are generated through strategies which employ closeness, rawness, laboriousness, discomfort, humour, and material agency as a means to give voice to an intimate and personal experience of the climate crisis. The contribution my work makes to the field is to provide a visual means of bridging the distance we often experience when confronted with the enormity of the crisis of climate change. By using my own body as a focus and locating it within a domestic setting, I give a voice to the experience of many people who, while insulated from the worse effects of climate change, are aware of the environmental damage their ordinary activities cause. Through the flawed and ambiguous nature of my own engagement with the climate, I hope to provide the viewer with an opportunity to reassess the nature of their own role in climate change, in a way that is playful and free from moral condemnation.


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Copyright 2021 the author

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