Otago Polytechnic

Bridie Lonie’s PhD thesis explored art’s relationship with climate change.

Climate change is a paradigm shifter, an emergent, complex phenomenon that artists have engaged with since the 1970s. By 2013 the notion of the Anthropocene emerged as an epistemological and critical tool within the art world.

Artists have engaged in different ways with the complexities of climate change as subject-matter, leading to new intersections between art and other disciplines, and including consideration of the socio-economic issues raised by climate change. Bridie considers artforms in terms of their capacity to deliver the combination of affect, cognition and criticality required for adequately addressing climate change.

Climate change is not simply a scientific subject; it involves an unpicking of the ways that human flourishing has led to a destabilized climate and environmental degradation. The symbolic thinking of the artist, whether reductive or expansive, draws together cause and impact, specificity and wider context. Art’s primary focus on relationality plays a significant role in assisting the cognitive as well as the emotional uptake of the problem. The classic and the newer artforms play different but complementary roles as we use art to negotiate our understanding of a changed world.

Bridie concludes: 

“Top-down action to reduce climate change has failed, and collective bottom-up responses are urgently needed. In that situation, artists and their audiences can play an active role.”

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NATURAL & BUILT ENVIRONMENT

April 2019

Image credit: Marzena Wasilkowska detail from #02 Earth’s Self Correcting Systems