Artistic perspectives on the climate emergency, technology and equity
[The] question becomes, how do we re-create and recommunalize our worlds? How do we develop forms of knowing that do not take words and beings and things out of the flow of life—that is, forms of knowing and being that do not recompose nature as external to us, as dead or unsentient matter?
— Arturo Escobar, Designs for the Pluriverse
Image by Patrick Perkins
At the dawn of the new ’20s, the world is reckoning with the fact that the climate emergency is here. Images of wildfires, polluted water pouring out of taps, and unimaginably destructive floods forcefully bring into focus what our most vulnerable communities have long known: the climate emergency is an equity issue.
Public perception is now catching up—and with it, comes the recognition that traditional ways of knowing and addressing climate equity have led to failure, and that there are no easy technological fixes at hand. Artistic imagination and creative ways of learning and knowing are crucial for avoiding the binary traps of techno-optimism or -skepticism which so often lead to paralysis. They are instrumental to birthing more equitable ways of knowing what the issues are, where they come from, and how they can be addressed.
*This Is Not A Drill* embodies this effort. It is a program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts that is directed by Mona Sloane and that fosters creative and critical thinking around the intractable social problems that are entangled with the rise of technology and the climate emergency.
As a project of the Future Imagination Fund at the Tisch School of the Arts, *This Is Not A Drill* works to create a new public pedagogy around technology, the arts, critical thinking, and activism.
A public pedagogy is an emerging assemblage of forms, processes, and sites of education and learning that occur beyond formal educational practices. This assemblage often brings into focus cultural, artistic, performative, critical, and activist pedagogical approaches to learning in the public sphere. A public pedagogy also sets out to redefine education by exploring posthuman reconceptualizations of pedagogy that push beyond anthropocentric modes of performative rationality, binarism and colonialism.
Photo by NOAA
Each year, *This Is Not A Drill* supports five NYU Faculty Fellows and five to ten NYU Student Fellows who receive stipends to develop their artistic *This Is Not A Drill* investigations and projects. They convene regularly as the *This Is Not A Drill* working group.
The inaugural *This Is Not A Drill* exhibition shows new pieces by Fellows Tega Brain, Mingyue Chen, Pedro Galvao Cesar de Oliveira, Richard Move, Pato Hebert, Karen Holmberg, Irene and Camila Mercadal, Genevieve Pfeiffer, and Yan Shao.
*This Is Not A Drill* will be on view in the Mamdouha Bobst Gallery from September 28 - December 4, during Bobst Library's hours of operation.
Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s work, Fragile States, centers the voices, knowledges, and experiences of climate activists who have been imprisoned. Documenting and archiving their experience in a non-extractive way on large hanging canvases, this piece itself steps outside of the museological and becomes an act of activism and works towards establishing a new and more radical climate ontology.
Mingyue Chen, Annie Li, Henry Haoyu Wang, Leo Ji, RJ Sun, and Marjorie Yang’s interactive installation, Rising, follows an equally activist agenda. Putting audience members into the shoes of New York City residents who are faced with rising sea levels, class stratification, and the pressures of personal interests, this interactive piece frames knowing as doing and combines climate data and predictive modeling with interaction and game design.
Taking a cue from Escobar’s focus on the flow of life, Pedro G. C. de Oliveira’s Just In Case centers a post-dualistic non-Eurocentric approach to the climate emergency. Two emergency cabinets materialize Global South perspectives on climate justice and embody concepts of Desobediencia Tecnológica, Resilience as Futurism, Hybrid Nature and Gambiarra.
Impact, rather than flow, inspires Pato Hebert’s Study #17 for the Infeasibility of Peaceful Nuclear Explosions, a very personal exploration of the entanglement of individual and environmental catastrophes. The ceiling-suspended Panamá wood examines the US government’s Interoceanic Canal Studies of the 1960s vis-à-vis techno-optimism, colonial and imperial precedents, and the devastating impacts on humans and the ecologies of which we are a part.
In their piece Visualizing….Art-Science of the Future, Karen Holmberg, Andres Burbano, and Pierre Puentes share an acute interest in ecological environmental disaster, risk, and regeneration in past and future contexts. Their large, photogrammetry-based wall panels and interactive visual essay explores evocative data from a prehistoric rock art cave under a recently-erupted volcano in Patagonia. They invite new ways of thinking about time and the geophysicality of our planet, as well as renewal and regeneration.
A different type of landscape is the focal point of the piece Dirt and Water by Irene and Camila Mercadal: Patagonian peatlands, a type of wetland that stores a disproportionate amount of carbon in the soil. The contradicting perspectives of inhabitants, as well as the unique landscape, are captured in interviews, filming, and data analysis, and examine local ecological knowledges.
Richard Move emphasizes more local explorations of movement, ecology and flourishing ecosystems. Their documentation of the dance performances that comprised Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island, the first performance commissioned by the Trust for Governors Island, showcases six sites and choreographies that highlight the island's unique landscapes in the midst of one of the world’s most populated urban areas.
The material manifestations of human and plant interactions in New York City are central to Genevieve Pfeiffer’s Intimate Garbage. With her interactive installation of dried flowers, plastic discards, and handwritten poems, she asks what parts of plants are valued by people in the city, what is discarded, and what time scales do we invoke when plants and culture brush against each other?
Yan Shao also develops an intimate relationship with plants. Her Algae Chorus is a sound installation that provides a space that rom respiration and implies the mutual dependencies of humans and photosynthetic organisms.
Photo by Mike Erskine
This exhibition is presented in partnership with NYU’s Office of Sustainability, NYU Libraries, NYU Climate Change Research Seed Grant, 370 Jay Project, and NYU Reads. The *This Is Not A Drill* program is a project of the Future Imagination Fund at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.