Project Overview

Climate Realism names the challenge of representing and conceptualizing climate in the era of climate change. Climate has traditionally referenced the weather it gathers, the mood it creates, and the settings it casts. In the era of the Anthropocene—the contemporary epoch in which geologic conditions and processes are overwhelmingly shaped by human activity—climate indexes not only atmospheric forces but the whole of human history: the fuels we use, the lifestyles we cultivate, the industrial infrastructures and supply chains we build, and the possible futures we may encounter. In other words, with every weather event, we have become acutely aware that the forces indexed by climate are as much social, cultural, and economic as they are environmental, natural, and physical. By starting with this fundamental insight, Media@McGill’s international colloquium intervenes in the well-established political and scientific discourses of climate change by naming and exploring emergent aesthetic practices, and the conceptual project of mediating the various forces embedded in climate.

Climate Realism is an occasion to rethink the aesthetics and politics of climate in its myriad forms; to capture climate’s capacity to express embedded histories; to map the formal strategies of representation that have turned climate into cultural content; and to index embodied currents of past and future climates. How is realism—in both the aesthetic history of representation and the philosophical tradition that underwrites it—transformed by contending with our new experience of climate in the Anthropocene? What, if anything, separates first and second nature in an age contoured by climate crisis, and what does this mean for a history of philosophy premised on their difference? In order to temper climate change—to apprehend its complexity, to address its short- and long-term consequences, to mitigate its many sources—Climate Realism boldly claims we must develop new aesthetic theories and projects.

The Climate Realism project is conceived by Lynn Badia, Marija Cetinic, and Jeff Diamanti. The international colloquium has been developed in collaboration with Media@McGill.