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Environmental Emergencies Across Media

Welcome to "Environmental Emergencies Across Media", a transdisciplinary conference hosted by Linnæus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies and Kalmar Art Museum.

We live in a state of planetary environmental emergency. Scientific research as well as global news reports and local or Indigenous testimonies from all over the world witness an increase in alarming signs of current and future destruction. We are met with reports about so-called ‘natural’ weather disasters including megadroughts, extreme floods, and wildfires, as well as ever-growing waste mountains and landfills, gigantic plastic islands in acidified oceans, and species extinctions at an unprecedented pace. These unsustainable conditions produce eco- and climate-refugee streams around the world which in turn may evolve into political instabilities. These threats concern all aspects of human and non-human life, and the radical future changes they prompt range from ethics and existential choices including individual consumer choices to political institutions, collective investment strategies, ideological policy decisions, and business strategies.

Even though anxiety is widespread and for many people unescapable, the very basic premises of the current state remain utterly complex: the meaning of terms such as ‘climate’, ‘environment’, or ‘emergency’ are under continuous discussion in various academic disciplines, in policy fields and among activists: what happens when such terms and science constellations are brought together in a "climate emergency" or “environmental emergency”? These questions constitute an important focus point for this conference.

Another starting point is the fact that the immediate and urgent environmental emergencies per definition are mediated phenomena. This means that we are confronted with the crisis by way of what has been called ‘ecomedia’, the broad range of media types representing different aspects of the ecological crisis in highly divergent ways. These media types range from poetry to popular science, from demonstrations at COP-meetings to political reports and to books, journal articles, fine art, and tv-programmes.

Not only so-called ordinary people, scientists, and artists but also business leaders and national and international policymakers need to navigate often confusing media landscapes consisting of conventional mass-meditated news, fake(d) information on social media, and trustworthy references to scientific reports in popular science outlets. These media landscapes furthermore compete with or are supplemented with information conveyed in literature, film, or art exhibitions. Common for all these media types is that they more or less truthfully give access to crucial aspects of the world — and that we tend to consume such diverging knowledge more or less simultaneously, and at the same platforms. Consequently, a media studies approach in general, as well as a specific intermediality approach, is needed to help better understand and even untangle some of the knots of the ongoing information and representation wars.

Ecocriticism, as a specific field under the broader umbrella of environmental humanities, has for decades offered important insights into the reasons for and the problems relating to representations of the ecological emergency. Until recently, ecocriticism focused primarily on literary material; rarely have questions on different media forms and communicative types been emphasised. One of the tasks for this conference is, therefore, to rejuvenate ecocriticism and the environmental humanities with a cross-medial approach: an intermedial ecocritical tactic needs to be developed. An intermedial point of view, drawing on disciplines specializing in both understanding the a priori mixed media character of all communication — and in registering and investigating transports of content from one medial constellation to another — offers a systemic understanding of the complex role all media play in communicating the environmental crisis.

Finally, we need to ask what it means for us to orient ourselves and to act ethically, culturally, politically and cognitively in the near-to unfathomable complexity of the environmental emergency. There is a risk of being overwhelmed, numbed and pacified by the sheer enormity of the situation — which is doubly problematic in our current situation that needs individual and collective agency, political mobilisation, and radical re-evaluations of economic models. What answers are needed to face the current emergency? And crucially: how can we create spaces for action in relation to temporalities and scales that are difficult to grasp? What are the interrelations between ecological emergency, heterogeneous mediations, and individual and collective agency?

Similar to two earlier conferences, “Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices”, Växjö January 2019, and “The Anthropocene Condition Across Media and the Arts”, Cluj/Romania August 2019, this conference recognizes that the arts — including work by artists, activists, writers, performers, and artistic researchers — has a crucial role to play in the current environmental emergency. Our argument is that in the same way that citizens and decision makers need to calibrate their acts in a complex epistemological situation, artistic endeavours, likewise, are faced with huge representational and epistemological challenges. Therefore, we invite not only academics but also artistic contributions, artistic research presentations, and contributors who identify as activist researchers in order to open up a full debate on these challenges.

The aim of the conference

The aim of this conference, thus, is to move beyond the conventional targets of a humanities ecocritical conference — regularly focusing upon the problems of representing the environmental crisis – by adding activist and speculative fields of articulation and collaboration in transdisciplinary terrains. The conference, consequently, inaugurates a collaboration between Linnæus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies and Kalmar Art Museum.

The official language of the conference is English.

The conference is generously supported by

  • The Strategic funds of the Vice Chancellor of Linnæus University, Peter Aronsson
  • The Department for Languages, Anna Greek
  • The Department of Film and Literature, Piia Posti
  • The Cultural University of Linnæus University, Christina Dahlgreen and
  • The Linnæus University Center for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies
Symbol for a sustainable event at Linnaeus University

A sustainable event

The conference Environmental Emergencies Across Media is a sustainability-assured meeting in accordance with Linnaeus University’s guidelines for sustainable events. These guidelines are linked to the 17 global goals in Agenda 2030 and comprise the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, the social, and the environmental. 

Learn more about Linnaeus University´s sustainable events here.

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