Troubling the Waters of Neutrality: Eco Art as an Identity Proposition

WashU affiliated authors: Ila Sheren (Dept. of Art History and Archaeology)

Abstract: Any discussion of climate change, ecological crisis, or the Anthropocene entails an understanding of the differential experiences of life on a rapidly altered planet. Much of popular eco art focuses sharply on the representation of data, and on visualizing the perspectives of nonhumans. Such strategies, while doing the political work of raising awareness and generating necessary interspecies connections, continue to maintain a troubling neutrality toward human inequality and the nuances of identity. Even when grappling with what Rob Nixon has termed “slow violence” against the global poor, much politically oriented eco art nonetheless frames climate refugees and those affected by environmental crisis as victims, inherently other to the audience. In what follows, I analyze the depiction of toxicity in the work of Indian artist Vibha Galhotra, and argue that reorienting our frame of analysis to privilege a non-Western subaltern reading of the work provides key insights into approaching the depiction of climate change more broadly.

Citation: Sheren, Ila. “Troubling the Waters of Neutrality: Eco Art as an Identity Proposition.” Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism 47, no. 2 (2020): 28-34.