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"Just Sabotage"

Tremblay Poster
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Jean-Thomas Tremblay (Assistant Professor Department of Humanities, York University)
AAHVS Art History Speaker Series

Recent climate protests entailing the defacement of paintings share with ecocriticism an investment in an essentially liberal, pedagogical, and moral covenant, one that urges witnesses to undergo an individual process of reflection in order to acquire or affirm values and priorities friendlier to the environment. The sabotage of energy infrastructures violates this covenant; blowing up a pipeline may be said to have met its goals by reducing and slowing the supply of oil, regardless of what the public learned from sabotage's mediatization. Drawing on psychoanalytic accounts of aesthetic education, I argue that sabotage introduces absurdity into a category, action, that the climate movement otherwise insists is self-identical. Sabotage does this by subtracting the world wherein putatively future-bound actions, including having and raising a child, mean what they do. I test out this claim in a reading of Nell Zink's novel The Wallcreeper and Benedikt Erlingsson's film Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð), two absurdist comedies that formally amplify the semiotic crisis induced by sabotage and, in so doing, enable us to contemplate the necessary dislocation of politics from sense.

Sponsored by the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Contact: David Massung