Catastrophe Aesthetics: The Moving Image and the Mattering of the World

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Aesthetic intervention can reveal new views of the world that work towards undermining the prevailing anthropocentric ideas that undergird the catastrophe of climate change. This paper outlines “catastrophe aesthetics,” an artistic strategy that attempts to deal with “the mess” of the Earth in an effort to “turn the world anew.” To exemplify this aesthetic orientation, I examine three geologically themed films that feature the “matter” of the Earth: Adrien Missika’s Darvaza, Sasha Litvintseva and Isabel Mallet’s The Stability of the System, and Terra Jean Long’s Notes from the Anthropocene. These works share commonalities with new materialist philosophies in that they examine the way in which the “stories” of rocks, fossils, dirt, and other subterranean substances are deeply entangled with humans and have a key role in creating meaning in the world. These films contest the stance that the ground materials of the Earth are inert objects to be used or ignored. Instead, they grant to these substances a certain kind of agency and history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransformations Journal: Journal of Media, Culture & Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • new materialism
  • experimental cinema
  • climate change


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