Siobhan Angus//September 24th
Here-now, there-then, and the yet-to-come: Temporalities of Crisis
The temporal paradox that Roland Barthes observed in photographic time—the photograph is here-now that was there-then—has something in common with climate breakdown, for while climate catastrophe is here-now, it was caused by something that was there-then. As climate crisis has materially demonstrated, the traces of the past never fully disappear, but forms the existing material conditions of the present, and the future is always prefigured in the present. Photographic time, like climate crisis, is also yet-to-come. To consider the temporalities of crisis—which help us track the causes of climate breakdown and also, point to where we might go—this presentation turns to Warren Cariou’s photographs made with bitumen from the Athabasca Tar Sands. The Athabasca Tar Sands are the largest and most ecologically destructive industrial project in the world and this eco-system introduces complex questions about settler colonialism, extractive capitalism, and the role of the state in promoting extraction. I read Cariou’s photographs in dialogue with Metis anthropologist Zoe Todd’s work on fossil-kin, which asks what responsibilities we might have to fossil fuels in addition to the other human and extra-human species that make up the Athabasca region. Cariou makes the connection between extraction and representation tangible, and in doing so, prompts the question, what does it mean to see through oil?
Bio: Siobhan Angus is an art historian, curator, and organizer who specializes in the history of photography and the environmental humanities. Her book project, Camera Geologica: Materiality, Resource Extraction, and Photography, explores the visual culture of resource extraction with a focus on materiality, perceptions of nature, and environmental justice. She is currently a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art at Yale University and a visiting scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. Her research has been published in Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, Radical History Review, and Capitalism and the Camera (Verso, 2021) and is forthcoming in Geohumanities and October.