The Center for Creative Ecologies researches the intersection of art, culture, and environment. The aim is to develop useful arts-led interdisciplinary research tools to examine how cultural practitioners—filmmakers, new media strategists, photojournalists, architects, writers, activists, and interdisciplinary theorists—critically address and creatively negotiate environmental concerns in the local, regional, and global field. These concerns include anthropogenic climate change and global warming, and relate to factors such as habitat destruction, drought, species extinction, and environmental degradation, in relation to which we ask: how are creative practitioners imagining alternative narratives that cultivate ecological wellbeing, support a just transition to a post-carbon future, and regard the nonhuman world as other than an anthropocentric resource for wealth accumulation? Drawing on such wide-ranging fields as visual culture and art history, political ecology and economics, anthropology and sociology, Earth jurisprudence and new materialism philosophy, Indigenous cosmopolitics and climate justice activism, and insisting on addressing ecology from a justice-oriented framework, the Center energizes the formation of the emerging environmental arts and humanities at UC Santa Cruz.
Embedded in the Department of History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC), the Center supports and strengthens its PhD program in Visual Culture, and provides a dynamic space of interdisciplinary thinking that merges undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels. It addresses a wide arena of cultural experience, within and beyond artistic practice, including ecological theory, mass media narratives, governmental and intergovernmental policy, and science communication, where environmental matters are discussed, represented, and negotiated. The Center aims to be an inclusive space of dialogue—operating between university disciplines, community groups, nongovernmental organizations, and social movements—welcoming diverse participants to consider ecological conflicts and creative sustainable alternatives, to widen our knowledge society and abilities to respond to environmental transformation, and to assess and contribute to informed approaches to policy-making in the widest sense of the term.
The Institute of the Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery and the Center for Creative Ecologies, is proud to present Forest Law, an exhibition by artist-researcher Ursula Biemann and architect Paulo Tavares.
Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares: Forest Law
Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, UC Santa Cruz
October 3 - December 1, 2018
Opening: October 3 5-7 p.m.
Extended remarks by art historian and theorist T. J. Demos at 6 p.m.
Forest Law, 2014, is a 38-minute video essay and catalog drawn from research carried out by Biemann and Tavares in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It considers the legal cases which plead for the rights of nature against the dramatic expansion of large-scale extraction activities in the region, including the trial won by the indigenous people of Sarayuku based on their cosmology of the living forest. The project creatively maps the cosmopolitical and ecological dimensions of these trials on behalf of the forest and the people who cultivate the forest, tracing the entanglements and frictions between the ethical and onto-epistemic stakes these cases raise.
Situated at the transition between the Amazon floodplains and the Andean mountains, the Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth and fulfills vital functions in global climate regulation. It is also the home of indigenous nations and a land of great ethno-cultural diversity. Underlying this vast territory are immense deposits of oil, gas, and minerals. This makes it the target of many corporate extractive industries, intent on unearthing the mineral wealth despite the diasterous effects these industries have on the area and its inhabitants. In 2008, indigenous lawyers and experts successfully fought to amend the constitution of the State of Ecuador, establishing fundamental rights of nature for eco-systems to fight this extraction. Nature in Ecuador became a subject of the national legal code, with the governments and corporations abusing and misappropriating it, at least conceivably, to be held accountable.
The Institute of the Arts and Sciences and the Center for Creative Ecologies presents: The Cosmopolitics of Forest Law Revisited: A Conversation with Marisol de la Cadena and T.J. Demos.
Join the Institute of the Arts and Sciences for TRACTION: Art Talk, featuring ecologically-engaged artist Carolina Caycedo. Following the lecture, Caycedo and collaborators will perform Beyond Control, a choreography of movements which evoke the visual and theoretical relationships that exist between the construction of dams, the containment of bodies of water, and the physical, legal and psychological control of the social body.
* Image: Installation view of Ursula Biemann and Paulo Tavares, Forest Law (still of José Gualinga, leader of the Sarayaku people), 2014, Sesnon Gallery, UC Santa Cruz.
In this November 2017 essay contribution to the CCE Journal, writer and curator Rachel Nelson provides a piercing analysis of Berlin-based artists Angela Melitopoulos and Angela Anderson’s Unearthing Disaster I & II (pictured above), which document socio-environmental injustice in Greece’s Halkidiki Peninsula. During May-June 2017, the Institute of the Arts and Sciences of UC Santa Cruz, in coordination with the 2017 Extraction research project organized by A. Laurie Palmer and T.J. Demos of the Center for Creative Ecologies, presented Unearthing Disaster I & II. Expertly curated by IAS founding director John Weber at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, the double video project examines the destruction of a pristine, mountainous forest region in Northeastern Greece by a Canadian mining company, set within the anti-democratic conditions of EU-imposed Greek austerity, and considers what resistance means. Read more...
In May 2017, Vienna-based artist Oliver Ressler visited UC Santa Cruz and the Center for Creative Ecologies, where he spoke about Everything’s Coming Together While Everything’s Falling Apart, his recent series of films from 2016-17. The three short pieces, each between 12 and 36 minutes, address international climate governance, its challenges and failures, and showcase select artist-activist grassroots movements seeking to transform the ways we live and how we organize society on the most fundamental of levels. Another world is indeed possible. Ressler’s extensive body of moving-image-based work—established over more than two decades of practice at the intersection of experimental art and radical politics—is exemplary for its seeking out viable and collectively organized political-cultural forms of life, which might be termed the arts of living otherwise, that represent radical alternatives to the disastrous course of petrocapitalism. That bankrupt regime is based on corrupt political governance, growing economic inequality, and violent social injustice founded upon the destructive exploitation and transformation of Earth’s natural systems. For Ressler, “The story of this ongoing film project may turn out to be a story of the beginning of the climate revolution, the moment when popular resistance began to reconfigure the world.” Let us hope for just that. Read more...
On the Power of the Humusities for a Habitable Multispecies Muddle”: A Salon Evening With Donna Haraway*
Please join us for an informal dinner discussion with Donna Haraway on the occasion of the publication of her new book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin the Chthulucene (Duke University Press, 2016).
Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 6:30pm
In its pages, Donna Haraway writes of the sustained imperative of our new geological epoch: “we must cultivate “response-ability; that is also collective knowing and doing, an ecology of practices.” In that spirit, the Center for Creative Ecologies—dedicated to exploring precisely creative practices of response-ability and promoting ecologies of interdisciplinary connection —invites guests to consider the significance of the terminological proposals for our time, such as Anthropocene, Capitalocene, and Chthulucene. The latter is Haraway’s own conceptualization for describing and cultivating a post-anthropocentric era of multi-species mutualities, sympoiesis, and creative kin-ful co-becomings. For these may be our best chance of fending off the incursions of the regressive individualism and human exceptionalism of Anthropocenic hegemony and equally the petrocapitalist exterminism of the Capitalocene’s financialization and colonization of all remaining natures. Please join us for what will be a fascinating humusities discussion with Donna—akin to a muddy exchange of organisms, a composting of ideas in the pluriversity of humus—of how we might make life habitable amidst this multispecies muddle.
Becoming Indigenous, Feb 18, 2016
Salon discussion with Jim Clifford, Santa Cruz, Feb 18, 2016. The informal topic of the event is "becoming indigenous," a term mobilized by Clifford in his 2013 book Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century. In addition to proposing ways to think about the multiple meanings of Indigenous becomings in relation to the uncertain postcolonial, media-networked forms of native life today, how might the phrase also relate to the conditions of people living locally with ethico-political consciousness? Can the suggestive phrase also characterize becoming local at a time of global uprootedness, migration (forced and voluntary), and virtual presence/absence, sending down roots when nature, nativity, and nationality--and thus the nature of locality--have all begun to break down, at least as uncomplicated, uncontested words? Does it make sense to think about "becoming local" as an ecological act, linked to solidarity with assorted Indigenous becomings in an era of extractivism, climate chaos, and growing political inequality?
*Thanks to Jim Clifford for the above shot of Paris' Luxembourg Gardens and its mobile indigenizing flora!
Global Climate Justice Today
UC Santa Cruz, October 13-27, 2015
This series of talks at UC Santa Cruz—featuring Valentin Lopez (Amah Mutsun Tribal Band), Flora Lu (UC Santa Cruz), Néstor L. Silva (Stanford University), Leila Salazar-Lopez (Amazon Watch), Andy Szasz (UC Santa Cruz), T.J. Demos (UC Santa Cruz), and Paulo Tavares (Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London/Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador)—investigates the current meanings of climate justice for communities from California to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Climate Justice is built on the realization that addressing environmental change must be accompanied by attentiveness to structural inequalities, and that any solution must prioritize socio-political and economic justice and include the participation of those most vulnerable to environmental impacts. As such, climate justice raises ongoing questions of political-ecological urgency for artists and activists alike.
Organized by T.J. Demos and the Center for Creative Ecologies, Climate Justice Today responds to these pressing questions related to how we address the social, economic, and ecological impacts of our changing environment, and what political recourse and sites of agency remain. Climate Justice Today is generously sponsored by UCSC’s Arts Dean’s Fund for Excellence, UCSC’s Colleges Nine and Ten, UCSC's American Indian Resource Center, and the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.
The Center for Creative Ecologies (CCE) hosts a regular reading group for interested faculty and students.
We encourage participants from any discipline or area of interest to join. The CCE Reading Group was initiated in Fall of 2016 and represents an interdisciplinary assembly of academics and graduate students interested in engaging with current texts written at the intersection of art, culture, politics, and ecology. The group meets every two or three weeks during the school year. Meetings are held across the UCSC campus at various locations, usually outside or in non-formal settings. The aim of the reading group is to develop useful arts-led interdisciplinary research dialogue to examine and explore how cultural practitioners critically address and creatively negotiate environmental concerns in the local, regional, and global field. These concerns include anthropogenic climate change and global warming, and relate to factors such as habitat destruction, drought, species extinction, and environmental degradation. We strive to create an inclusive atmosphere to collectively share and explore new avenues of thought and practice.
Recent texts considered: Donna Haraway’s (2016) Staying with the Trouble, McKenzie Wark’s (2015) Molecular Red, Jason Moore’s (2016) Capitalism in the Web of Life, and Glen Coulthard’s (2014) Red Skin, White Masks, and Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey’s Undercommons (2013), among others. Readings are collectively determined and aligned with current events, recent publications, and exhibitions at and around UCSC.
More information can be found at the CCE Reading Group website.
T. J. Demos / UC Santa Cruz receives Mellon Foundation humanities grant to explore Earth Futures during 2019-20
Catastrophic environmental breakdown, mass species extinction, financial collapse, racist separatism, global nuclear war…there is much speculation these days that we are living at the end of democracy, liberalism, capitalism, a cool planet, and civilization as we know it. What are our chances for survival? How can we envision the unimaginable, and what will life look like in the near and distant future?
Faculty and students at UC Santa Cruz will explore these urgent issues over the next two years thanks to a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support “Beyond the End of the World”—a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures directed by T J. Demos of the Center for Creative Ecologies.
The project will bring leading international thinkers and cultural practitioners to UC Santa Cruz to deliver a series of public lectures and will include post-doctoral and dissertation-level research. It will culminate in an art exhibition and interdisciplinary conversation titled “Beyond the End of the World: Approaches in Contemporary Art”—addressing the topic from the perspective of the visual arts and providing a venue to connect cross-disciplinary thinking. More info