Nature as violent and violated : Five essays on the visual culture of the Anthropocene
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This dissertation aims to explore the configuration of the relationship between nature and technology in a selection of significant works from contemporary visual culture, that have not previously been subject to a similar ecocritical analysis. I engage with central concepts to the field of visual culture, focusing primarily on the Anthropocene, violence, technology, and visuality. Through deploying and developing this theoretical framework on a heterogenous image material from 1959 to 2015, I find that nature is depicted as violent and violated, a paradoxical condition which also presents itself in the depiction of humanity and its extensions. The dissertation demonstrates the relevance of visual culture analyses to the critical study of the Anthropocene and the academic field of environmental humanities. I approach the main research question through five independent articles. Inspired by Jacques Rancière’s concept of mediality, the first article asks how a media ecological analysis may contribute to a discussion on media’s material, physical consequences on the environment today, in a study of the auto-destructive and auto-creative art of Gustav Metzger. The second article describes how Olafur Eliasson’s art installations and photography engage with nature and technology, demonstrating how his projects both epitomize and challenge Jussi Parikka’s notion of a topological media ecology. Exploring the visual construction of authority over the Arctic, the third article explores PR photography accompanying resource extraction by way of tar sand and shale gas installations, carried out by the oil company Statoil (now Equinor). Further exploring the perspectives of visuality and media ecology, the fourth article examines an art installation by Toril Johannessen that researches objects used to uncover the laws of light and vision, displaying the geological foundation of modernity. Finally, in an analysis of the TV series Treme (2010) and the motion picture Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), I identify the visuality of “Mold in the Machine”. This visuality highlights nature’s violent and violated characteristics and their entanglement with technology’s role in the slow violence endured by local communities, demanding that we recognize the material consequences of progressive modernity.
Has partsPaper I: Vik, Synnøve Marie. “Damaged Nature: The Media Ecology of Auto-Destructive Art.” In Media and the Ecological Crisis, edited by Richard Maxwell, Jon Raundalen, and Nina Lager Vestberg, 40–52. New York/London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315885650
Paper II: Vik, Synnøve Marie. “Nature as Image in Olafur Eliasson’s Art: A Media Ecological Perspective.” In Seeing Whole: Toward an Ethics and Ecology of Sight, edited by Mark Ledbetter and Asbjørn Grønstad, 101–17. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions.
Paper III: Vik, Synnøve Marie. “Petro-Images of the Arctic and Statoil’s Visual Imaginary.” In Arctic Environmental Modernities: From the Age of Polar Exploration to the Era of the Anthropocene, edited by Lill-Ann Körber, Scott MacKenzie, and Anna Westerståhl Stenport, 43–58. London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39116-8
Paper IV: Vik, Synnøve Marie. “Toril Johannessen’s In Search of Iceland Spar: Truth and Illusion in the Anthropocene.” In Artistic Visions of the Anthropocene North, Climate Change and Nature in Art, edited by Gry Hedin and Ann-Sofie Nielsen Gremaud, 110– 27. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2018. Full text not available in BORA due to publisher restrictions. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315311890
Paper V: Vik, Synnøve Marie. “Mold in the Machine: Nature and Technology in Treme (2010) and Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012).” In The Aesthetics of Violence, edited by Hans Jacob Ohldieck and Gisle Selnes, 297-324. Oslo: Scandinavian Academic Press, 2020. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2730274