Past Events

Racial Capitalocene: Ecology and Abolition

Conference, Lecture – T. J. Demos

  • 19 November 2020
  • An event as part of the multi-part conference programme 'British Art and Natural Forces'

This keynote lecture by T. J. Demos will be available to watch on 19 November from 10.00am.

This presentation begins with consideration of Infinity Minus Infinity, the 2019 speculative film by the Otolith Group, as a portal into a discussion and critical consideration of the conference’s conceptual framework, one that expands to vital questions of socio-environmental methodologies emerging in ecocritical art, visual culture, and politico-ecological analysis today. Within the latter, the status of ‘nature’ is thoroughly conflicted: it’s been questioned and even opposed by those who see it as a discursive vehicle for ideological forces (as a mode of naturalization, whether of gender or race, capitalism or nationality); and displaced and hybridized by others who view its discreet identity and presumed separateness from culture no longer ontologically viable in an Anthropocene geological era of deep entanglements. In considering the sixteenth century’s Anthropocene emergence as inextricable from colonial capitalism and Indigenous genocide, and linking that deep history to more recent dramas of Britain’s ‘hostile environment’ of xenophobic migration policy in the afterlife of slavery, Infinity Minus Infinity goes further still. Disrupting nature and nationality alike, even while uncovering how each has been reproduced in the other to violent effect, it names the racial Capitalocene as a more compelling political geology, one that demands an abolitionist critical framework of response, where social, environmental, and racial justice coincide. Answering that call, the presentation also considers the radical chronopolitics of Black Quantum Futurism and the Indigenous futurism of Thirza Jean Cuthand, each of which expands our conceptions of abolitionist ecologies and broadens the stakes of current socio-environmental artistic horizons.

Listings caption: The Otolith Group, Infinity Minus Infinity, 2019 (still)

About the speaker

  • T. J. Demos is an award-winning writer on contemporary art, global politics, and ecology. He is the Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in Art History in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, at University of California, Santa Cruz, and founding Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. Demos is the author of numerous books, including Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today(Sternberg Press, 2017); Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology(Sternberg Press, 2016); The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013) – winner of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award – and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013). Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organized Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014. During 2019–21, with the Center for Creative Ecologies, and as a Getty research institute scholar, he’s working on a Mellon-funded research project, art exhibition, and book project dedicated to the questions: what comes after the end of the world, and how can we cultivate futures of social justice within capitalist ruins? His new publication, Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing was recently released by Duke University Press.