Strategies of Visibility: Arts of Environmental Resistance and Creativity

Sophomore and above—Fall

Many of the lethal compounds produced by contemporary industry and government-sponsored facilities are not accessible to the senses. Human beings are not biologically equipped to sense the hazards of radioactivity; nor do they perceive, under normal circumstances and levels of contamination, the presence of chemical compounds or radioactive materials that are significant causes of disease, debility, and mortality in human and nonhuman populations. A key problem and challenge for artists, local residents, writers, scientists, and public policy experts, as well as for local, regional and nongovernmental environmental advocacy organizations, is how to render “visible”—or accessible to our senses—the nature and immanence of these toxic and radiological threats. How are individuals and organizations creating and deploying “strategies of visibility” and “tactics of sensibility”—techniques of translation and mediation that engage human capacities to perceive and respond to sensory stimuli—in order to create more fully informed, alert, and engaged publics? How do strategies of visibility create possibilities for awareness and empathy? What possibilities are there for developing strategies of visibility that engage the affections and perceptions of citizens in a world of proliferating threats and images of threat? The aesthetic project is investigated as a tactical and strategic attempt in fashioning sensibilities, making and mobilizing publics, and equipping citizens to respond to environmental issues.  Background/course work in social sciences is required.