The Center for Creative Ecologies provides a place to consider the intersection of culture and environment. The aim is to develop useful 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. Drawing on such wide-ranging fields as visual culture and art history, political ecology and economics, Earth jurisprudence and new materialism philosophy, Indigenous cosmopolitics and climate justice activism, the Center energizes the formation of the emerging environmental arts and humanities.
Embedded in the Department of History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) at UC Santa Cruz, and funded in part by UCSC’s Arts Division, the Center supports and strengthens its PhD program in Visual Culture. It addresses a wide arena of visual experience, within and beyond artistic practice, including mass media and governmental publicity, where environmental matters are discussed, represented, and negotiated. The Center aims to be an inclusive space of dialogue welcoming diverse participants to consider the ecological conflicts and creative sustainable alternatives that impact us all, to widen our knowledge society, and to assess and contribute to informed policymaking in the widest sense of the term.
Center for Creative Ecologies
1156 High St.
Porter D 201, MC: Porter Faculty Services
University of California Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Director of the Center for Creative Ecologies: Professor T.J. Demos
T.J. Demos is professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz. Demos writes on contemporary art, visual culture, and global politics, and is the author, most recently, of The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013, recipient of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award), and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg, 2013). In 2013, he guest-edited a special issue of Third Text (no. 120) on the subject of “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology,” and in 2015 he wrote a blog for the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland on the visual culture of the Anthropocene. Demos co-curated the international group exhibition Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, a screening series of artist films at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014. His most recent book, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology, was published by Sternberg Press in 2016.
Affiliates and Participants
Donna J. Haraway is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department at UC Santa Cruz, and the author of several pioneering books and essays that bring together science studies, feminism, and SF (string figures, science fact, science fiction, speculative feminism, speculative fabulation), such as “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” (1985) and Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective (1988). She recently published Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (2016), which offers provocative new ways to reconfigure our relations to the earth and all its inhabitants in the midst of spiraling ecological devastation. She eschews referring to our current epoch as the Anthropocene, preferring to conceptualize it as what she calls the Chthulucene, which, Haraway explains, requires “sym-poiesis,” or making-with, rather than auto-poiesis, or self-making. Learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying together on a damaged earth will prove more conducive to the kind of thinking that would provide the means to building more livable futures.
Laurie Palmer is Professor in the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz. Her work investigates matter’s active nature as it asserts itself on different scales and in different speeds, and with collaborating on strategic actions in the contexts of social and environmental justice. Her recent book In the Aura of a Hole: Exploring Sites of Material Extraction (Black Dog, London, 2014) investigates what happens to places where materials are removed from the ground, and, once liberated, how these materials move between the earth and our bodies. Palmer co-founded (with seventeen other artists, attorneys, scholars, and activists) Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, a collaborative public project that helped build the foundation for passing, in May 2015, the first reparations legislation in a U.S. municipality for racially motivated law enforcement violence (chicagotorture.org). She also collaborated with the four-person art collective Haha for twenty years on site- and community-based projects. She has shown her work nationally and internationally, and taught sculpture and contemporary theory at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 18 years before coming to UCSC in 2015.
Elizabeth Stephens is a performance artist, filmmaker, activist and educator. Her artwork, performance art and writing have explored themes of queerness, feminism and environmentalism for over 25 years. Her current focus is SexEcology: the art of exploring the Earth as a lover. Stephens is creating this new field of research in collaboration with her partner Annie Sprinkle. Together they are the movers and shakers of the ecosex movement within the field of SexEcology. Stephens and Sprinkle are making environmental art a little more sexy, fun and diverse through their performance, visual art and award winning film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story. Stephens’ work has been exhibited, performed and screened nationally and internationally.
Flora Lu is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at UCSC and Provost of Colleges Nine and Ten. She earned her A.B. in Human Biology from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, Royster Society Fellow, and Lang Post-Doctoral Fellow, Flora began conducting research in the Amazon while as an undergraduate in 1992. Her longitudinal fieldwork among indigenous communities in the northeastern Ecuador has been featured in two programs on the National Geographic Channel, has been funded by $2.2 million in external grants, and has been published in two books and thirty-five articles in journals such as Human Ecology, Conservation Biology, Current Anthropology, Human Organization, and the Journal of Ecological Anthropology. She is the recipient of the Committee on Teaching’s Excellence in Teaching Award (2011) and the Division of Social Sciences “Golden Apple” Distinguished Teaching Award (2010).
Kyle Parry is Assistant Professor in History of Art and Visual Culture at UC Santa Cruz, where he teaches and researches across the history and theory of media, contemporary art and cultural memory, and digital and networked culture. His current book project explores shifting conditions and possibilities for mediating and visualizing disasters; related written and practice-based projects investigate the potentials and politics in digital archival and assembly-based responses to ecological violence. Emerging research domains build on these themes, including recent inquiry into histories of photographic hyper-production as well as issues of scaffolding and performativity in digital communication and pedagogy.
Rick Flores is a graduate student in the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. His research focuses on the efforts of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB) to relearn traditional ecological knowledge and become active stewards in their traditional territory once again after a period of colonial dispossession. He is also the Steward of the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, which is a collaborative effort between the Arboretum and the AMTB to assist the tribe in the relearning of plant identification, ethnobotany, and traditional resource and environmental management practices, as well as educating students and the public about California Indian lifeways. In addition, he is a Research Associate for the Amah Mutsun Land Trust which uniquely merges conventional land trust approaches with indigenous knowledge, techniques, and ideals, and is committed to protecting and celebrating cultural resources through creating opportunities for the AMTB to engage in traditional ways across their landscapes of their ancestors.
Jennifer A. González is Professor in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She also teaches at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York. She has written for numerous periodicals including Aztlán, Frieze, Bomb, Camera Obscura, and Art Journal. Her essays about digital bodies and critical race studies have appeared in anthologies such as The Cyborg Handbook, Race in Cyberspace, Visible Worlds and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self. Her first book Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation Art (MIT Press, 2008) was a finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award. Her second book, Pepón Osorio was published by University of Minnesota Press (2013).
Miriam Greenberg is Associate Professor of Sociology, and the director of Critical Sustainabilities, at UC Santa Cruz. Her research explores the intersections of urban political economy, geography, and cultural studies, with particular interest in the dynamics at play in moments of “crisis.” She is the author of Branding New York: How a City in Crisis was Sold to the World (2008), and Crisis Cities (2014), a collaborative and comparative book project with Tulane sociologist Kevin Fox Gotham on post-crisis redevelopment in New York City following 9/11 and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Soraya Murray holds a Ph.D. in art history from Cornell University, and an MFA in Studio Art from the University of California at Irvine. An Assistant Professor in Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, she is also faculty in the Digital Arts and New Media MFA Program, and affiliated with the Center for Games and Playable Media. Murray is an interdisciplinary scholar who focuses on contemporary visual culture, with particular interest in contemporary art, cultural studies and games. Her writings have been featured in publications such as Art Journal, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Public Art Review, Third Text, CTheory and PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art.
Rachel Nelson is a Teaching Fellow and PhD candidate at the UC Santa Cruz. Her dissertation research focuses on how contemporary art practices, shown internationally, articulate their engagements within specific conflict zones. In current exhibitions of contemporary art, present-day political strife is at the forefront. Immersive projects that engage citizen uprisings, participate in protest movements, unearth governmental corruption, or viscerally enact economic policies of neglect and impoverishment are exhibited in close proximity to one another. This project asks how art practices imaginatively act within the specific and localized political structures they engage as they are exhibited in international exhibitions, biennials, and museums. It attempts to look beyond the overwhelmingly dim worldview that emerges when the distinct political concerns of individual works merge uneasily together.
Amber Hickey is an organizer and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. She is also a PhD Candidate in the Visual Studies program at UC Santa Cruz, where her research focuses include art activism, indigenous and postcolonial studies, and environmental justice movements. Amber is a member of the UCSC Global Nuclear Awareness Coalition, which was formed by a group of scholars at UCSC to better understand and communicate issues related to nuclear power, energy sovereignty, and indigenous knowledge. She is currently working on a series of “Justice Reports” with the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest and Heath Schultz, which respond to racialized violence in the United States. She is also organizing a forthcoming exhibition of the work of Librarians and Archivists with Palestine at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. Amber has taught classes exploring art and ecology at Scripps College Claremont, the California Institute of Integral Studies, UC Santa Cruz, Utopia School (Long Island City), and the Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery. She has organized projects focusing on art and activism at the Tate Modern (London), Salon Populaire (Berlin), the white space (Zurich) and the Institut für Alles Mögliche (Berlin) among others. She is the editor of A Guidebook of Alternative Nows (Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2012), which explores creative practices that prefigure more socially, economically, and ecologically just versions of “now.”
Chessa Adsit-Morris is a curriculum theorist, environmental educator and arts-based activist. Her interests include feminist science studies, SF, ecological thought, art activism and environmental justice, and she is the author of a forthcoming book publication with Palgrave Macmillan titled Restorying Environmental Education: Figurations, Fictions, Feral Subjectivities, which will be in print January 2017. She is a PhD student in the Visual Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz, focusing on innovative arts-based pedagogical strategies and the complexities of curriculum studies in a more-than-human world. She has a BA in Architecture and Environmental Science and a MA in Education (Curriculum Studies). She has worked with Universities, NGOs, school boards and municipal authorities across the world to translate complex scientific research into approachable, teachable theory; creating strategies and resources that help to guide policies and practices toward creating a healthy and more sustainable future.
Albert Narath is a historian of modern architecture and design from the 19th century to the present. He earned a BA in Anthropology from Bowdoin College, an MA in Architectural History and Theory from the Architectural Association in London, and a PhD in Art History from Columbia University. His current work operates within the intersection of architectural history, environmental history, and anthropology. Projects on subjects such as the impact of ecological thinking on architectural practice, the history of “passive solar” design, and the adoption of environmentalist ideas in architectural education interrogate the complex relationships between the ideas of technology and nature in design discourse during the past half-century. His current book project focuses on the reception of indigenous architecture in the American Southwest following World War II, when debates about ecology and technology were central to the social and political context of design developments both outside and within Pueblo communities.
Jordan Reznick is a photographer, scholar, activist, and educator. Her written and visual work involve the history of American snapshot photography, human precarity, and critical whiteness studies. She has been involved with environmental, anti-globalization, labor, housing rights, and queer rights activism since the 1990s. She has a BFA in Photography from New York University, an MFA in Photography and an MA in Visual & Critical Studies from California College of the Arts, and is also a PhD candidate in Visual Studies at UC Santa Cruz.
Andrew Szasz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies. He is the author of EcoPopulism: Toxic Waste and the Movement for Environmental Justice (University of Minnesota Press, 1994) and Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). Szasz recently coedited How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change: Social Scientific Investigations (Routledge, 2014). He is the recipient of the American Sociological Association Environment & Technology Section’s Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution Award (2011) and the Section’s Teaching and Mentoring Award (2014). He teaches courses on Environmental Justice, Sociology of Climate Change, the History of the American Environmental Movement, and Sociological Theory.
John Weber is the Founding Director of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Institute conducts public programs, residencies, publications, and a nomadic exhibition program, functioning as an intellectual hub for artists, scientists and humanists-in-residence, faculty and students. It is planning and fundraising for a future, purpose-built facility for exhibitions, installations, seminars, events, and research. Weber previously served as director of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, as curator of education and public programs at SFMOMA, and as curator of contemporary art at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon. He has taught at Skidmore, the San Francisco Art Institute, Mills College, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. He began his career as a studio artist and critic, with degrees from Reed College and UC San Diego.