This event is part of Uncommon Senses II, a sensory studies conference hosted at Concordia from May 3 to May 5, 2018.
Caroline A. Jones, Professor of Art History (Department of Architecture, MIT) will be leading a special grad student seminar entitled “Invisibilities, or, How Not to See the Anthropocene.”
Two papers will be circulated in advance of the seminar, both co-written with Peter Galison (Pelegrino University Professor, History of Science, Harvard).
The first is the essay that got the whole conversation started around how something as diffuse as “the environment” comes to be seen (and at the same time obscured), entitled “Unknown Quantities,” published in Artforum November 2010. The second is “How Images Obscure the Anthropocene, or How Not to See” (a work in progress). To receive the papers, please register for the event. A link to download the papers will be sent to your email address.
Abstract: Collaborating across our domains as historians (of science, of art), we inquire into the intellectual, technical, and cultural histories of recent operative images of environmental disaster. We are interested in how something as diffuse as “the environment” comes to be seen, and how contemporary images also obscure. Just as every statement requires a silence to render it audible, so regimes of the visible require invisibilities: blanks and voids that shadow and adumbrate what we see and “know.” Contemporary images necessarily call on cultures of seeing and traditions honed through centuries of landscapes, summoning genre and the aesthetics of the sublime.
We pursue specific case studies to assess how the visibility operates to produce specific kinds of knowledge, and functional ignorance. Under water, on the ground, and in the air, images proliferate; states and corporations attempt to control the visual narrative, even as activists and scientists rely on images as never before. Inevitably, we encounter the special challenge presented to humans by new “senses” of planetary alteration. How can humans make visible global systemic effects, which transcend normal registers of visual culture in their temporal and spatial scales?
Ultimately, we argue for a mesh of cultural and technical operations that feed imaginaries, incorporating olfactory, haptic, microbial, ethical, and data-driven modes of being. Visibilities alone are not enough.