From Black communities in Flint, Michigan whose drinking water remains contaminated, to Indigenous communities in the Amazon whose land continues to be deforested, to Aboriginal communities in Australia whose water and swamplands are being despoiled, the climate crisis disproportionately affects the quality and length of life of the global BIPOC community. In this course, we’ll discuss the work of BIPOC artists who view the climate crisis as not only an environmental problem but also a matter of racial and social injustice. We’ll discuss how the global climate crisis affects the daily lives of BIPOC communities, exploring how their various identities and histories are entangled within this crisis and how they’ve navigated it through creativity. We will insist on understanding them as exemplars rather than victims, following their cues as we seek innovative and creative responses that thoughtfully address the climate crisis. And we’ll create interdisciplinary creative proposals—employing prompts, challenges, collaborations—that explore what poetic justice—new forms of justice through art —could look and feel like for BIPOC communities in the climate crisis.
The course is organized around the classical four elements that order humans’ relationship to the environment: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. As found in the Medicine Wheel across various Indigenous communities in the Americas, these elements are an invitation to draw on the wisdom of the past as we make sense of our present and future. We'll study and discuss material for each element, including artworks, exhibitions, essays, poems, and data reports – storytelling in its myriad of forms. Featured artists may include Pope L, Maya Lin, Allison Janae Hamilton, Alan Michelson, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, and Himali Singh Soin.
Students will respond to the climate crisis through words, images, sounds, and objects in conversation with the four elements and their ill effects on marginalized and underserved communities. The four elements invite a conversation with ancestors who were stewards of the environment and their descendants. Students will combine research with their creative intuitions and imaginations to develop presentations that invite critical discussions and fruitful reflections on climate crises. The final projects will range from essays to art and design proposals. The course will also include guest lectures from BIPOC artists, researchers, and scientists.
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