killing denouement


blank is the new black

Seems like every other instant, there’s a new ‘… is the new black’. This collaborative piece from Gil Cocker, Pete Bell, Luke Bird, Nic Kane, Paul Niblock, Lucinda Randell, Fiona Storey and Carys Tiley creates a lovely comment on this with what they call “a look at the fickle and ever changing trend of the new black in fashion”. In which they created a fake space and filled it with thousands of balloons representing every colour that isn’t black.

Sure there’s more to greenness than global warming, but it’s still pretty important. Envisioning Change was a pretty sweet exhibition created in time for the UN’s 2007 World Environment Day. Using photographers and artists from around the world, it aimed to address the theme of climate change, ‘ the melting and thawing of ice, snow and permafrost are environment-altering changes taking place around the world- from the Andes to the Himalayas to the melting ice caps of the Poles’.

On the right is a still from David Buckland‘s 2005 Ice Texts video which charted the demise of an iceberg.

The first image here is from Norwegian Fred Ivar Utsi Klemetsen‘s look at the nomadic Sami. The latter two are from French photographer Gilles Mingasson‘s project on the End of Shismaref, of which he says,

For the 600 inhabitants of Shishmaref, a small Alaska village
near the Arctic Circle, climate change is a reality. Every year, the sea grinds away at their island, destroying houses and shoreline. Poised to become some of the first global warming refugees of the 21st century, the people of Shishmaref are fighting to preserve their ancestral way of life.

At that, there seems to be something uncomfortably tokenising in writing about these peoples in paragraph snippets like this.

I was surprised to find that the exhibition talked in the rhetoric of the more innocuous ‘climate change’ as opposed to the once-more-common ‘global warming’. Change seems kind of harmless, less scary than a worldwide warming, or even ‘climate crisis’. The shift in usage is no semantic accident but a conscious, and successful campaign by the US right to reframe issues in their own terms through language. Brian Kelly has a really fascinating post on the language around global warming and its co-option by the Right. To quote,

Well, as one might have guessed, this wasn’t an accident. A man by the name of Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and strategist, advised Republican politicians to use the term “climate change” instead of “global warming”. This effort by conservatives popularized the term and it is now a popular term. Why did he do that? Because the term “global warming”, as he put it, was “too hysterical”. The word caught on and is now part of the narrative that is told to the public and repeated by the public about global warming and environmental destruction. In a 16-page document entitled “The Environment: A Cleaner, Safer, Healthier America”, Luntz Research Companies advised conservative politicians on what language they could use to argue that there is “no consensus” on the issue of global warming. Hell, even Democratic Party leaders now regularly use the term.

As soon as we use the word “climate change” in front of an audience, we are triggering a whole slew of conservative stories and arguments that the right has built up around that term. And they do this for every issue!

Moral of the story: When we use their language, we lose.”


[photo by Chris Jordan]

I don’t know how much I ascribe to linguistic structuralism myself. Brian’s site however – an incredibly thorough look ar progressive issues – is in itself pretty fascinating, not in the least in its usage of the rhetoric of the ‘progressive’ as opposed to maybe ‘radical’. That’s probably a pretty smart way to go about it. Something else I’ve never really thought about much is the idea of E-waste, as targeted by American artist Chris Jordan’s piece above. I don’t actually know much about it at all.

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