Climate change is the first major crisis in the history of humankind that did not, thus far, yield striking images, recognizable plots, and tragic heroes and heroines. Any attempt to capture global warming appears as a game of large numbers: the square miles of melted ice, the cubic tons of methane in the atmosphere, the mountains of plastic in the oceans, and entire industries and populations that are responsible for these changes. It seems that this crisis can only be understood through numbers and scientific models, not experienced through artistic representation.
At the same time, the most important social aspect of this crisis is that the young generation is responding to it much more strongly and courageously than that of their parents and grandparents. This seminar does not offer readymade answers on how to make art that can depict global warming in striking images, narratives, or sounds, and in doing so offer easy solutions. Instead, in it, we will explore the present state of the field and ask questions on how to make art that can give the body (and image, narrative, sound, etc.) to this slow-moving disaster that seems to defy representation. In short, the seminar acts as an incubator of ideas for a new kind of work that combines art, science, and activism. We will explore a wide range of strategies that artists and activists have already attempted, analyze what is effective, and try to come up with new ways of talking and acting in order to address this planetary crisis. While this class is open for all kinds of ideas, artistic explorations, and narrative inventions, there are two phrases that we will absolutely resist: "we are doomed" and "it's too late."
"For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in political aspects of various forms of art; in the last year, I became convinced that climate action is, now, the highest form of political art. During that time, with my colleagues from TAPS, Diana Looser and Matt Smith, I have co-edited a special issue of TDR: The Drama Review on climate change and performance. What I learned from this experience was, one, that no single art can address global warming on its own, and that in addressing this issue the arts need to take a critical view on their own main premises and histories; and two, that the opposition to climate action has been uniquely effective in turning this crisis into a regime: a general background against which all of the humanity is forced to live, as long as that is profitable for extractive industries.
"My work on climate change and performance follows my research on the so-called social turn in the arts. In my book Alienation Effects: Performance and Self-Management in Yugoslavia, I explored the experience of worker-run factories and artist-run art institutions in socialist Yugoslavia in relation to the development of performance art in the West since the Second World War. This book received the Joe A. Callaway Prize for the Best Book on Drama or Theater for 2016-17 and Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Outstanding Book Award in 2017. My first book was on Daniil Kharms, the most inspiring and most tragic poet and artist, who came of age in the first decades after the Soviet revolution and perished in Stalinist purges. I have written extensively on Soviet, American, and European avant-garde and experimental theater, visual arts, film, and literature. The tragic break-up and demise of Yugoslavia, where I was born and raised, is my permanent source of interest. I have written and published on that subject both in the US and in Yugoslavia's successor countries (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina)."