Living Extinctions


BREAKING NEWS – October 2018: the IPPC reports only 12 years to avoid disastrous global warming; April 2019: Extinction Rebellion emerges as a visual force and stages non-violent, city-blocking protests; June 2019: The Green New Deal for Goldsmiths petition is signed and circulated; July 2019: students across the world declare a Climate Emergency and rise up; August 2019: Goldsmiths announces key measures to meet the demands of the GND.

In response, the Department of Visual Cultures and the Critical Ecologies research stream offer Living Extinctions, a public programme in anticipation of the 2020 UN Climate Crisis Summit (COP26) in Glasgow.

From the Latin extinguere, the term ‘extinction’ languished in its pre-modern usage for the quenching of a flame or the paying of a debt. By the eighteenth century, however, this mundane description began to take on the evermore vertiginous rhetoric of the wiping out of species. In what many are now identifying as the Anthropocene, a period now witnessing the sixth mass extinction, we are faced with the fact that ‘Man’s’ economics and politics are directly entangled with climate collapse and the rendering of the living earth as uninhabitable for non-human animals and, increasingly, for ourselves.

Yet, as we know, human [carbon] footprints are distributed geographically, culturally, and economically, creating diverse degrees of impact that divide the subject Anthropos beyond its vanity point in the Global North. Local and global environmental degradations stockpile civil unrest, deforestation, colony collapse disorder, migration violence, coral bleaching, whales beaching, air pollution, and fracking. This list is not random, not exhaustive, but escalating with both systemic and individual losses.

While Ecomodernists might optimistically frame survival and renewal through catastrophic ‘end times’, are reparative concepts such as ‘rewilding’ or ‘de-extinction’ possible or desirable? If not, how does this affect cultural production? How best to answer the call for the decolonization of Nature itself by renewing a sense of ‘response-ability’ to diverse planetary cohabitants, both human and non-human?

In this series of talks and discussions we come together as thinkers, practitioners, and students to ask, ultimately, how we should engage the task of living with extinction in this contemporary and volatile world.

Co-organized by Wood Roberdeau & Lynn Turner, with the support of the Critical Ecologies research stream

October – December 2019

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