[-empyre-] Wired sustainability. Welcome Tom Shevory, Patty Zimmerman and Stephanie Rothenberg

Patricia Zimmermann patty at ithaca.edu
Thu Apr 10 02:06:11 EST 2008

Thanks, Renate and Tim, for inviting us to participate in this exciting
forum to ponder WIRED SUSTAINABILITY. We've enjoyed (and learned much)
from the postings so far--very exciting to see this dialogue emerged.

The terms SUSTAINABILITY and ENVIRONMENTAL are highly charged, polysemic,
seismic, contentious, fluid, which is of course why they present exciting
realms for artists, curators and scholars to work in.  However, in popular
culture, the political volatility--and transnationalism--of these terms
gets diluted, amputated, silenced.  Similiarly, the term WIRED is also
highly charged, polysemic, seismic, contentious, and fluid---and often, in
popular culture and even arts/visual/political culture, reduced down to a
base materiality of wires, gadgets and machines in order to tame concepts
and  practices which are much more disruptive, interventionist,
collaborative.  The artists we at FLEFF have been interested in curating,
whether in analog or digital, reject these conservative visions of
SUSTAINABILITY, ENVIRONMENTAL and WIRED by conjuring connections,
networks, dialogues and interfaces open up new ways of thinking and doing,
collapsing distinctions between the three terms and collapsing differences
between production, distribution, audience, politics, collaboration. 
Stephanie Rothenberg's projects exemplify this.

One question erupts repeatedly around the Finger Lakes Environmental Film
Festival:  How is FLEFF an environmental film festival?

Our answer is simple:  environments do not exist, they are imagined and

Popular culture figures the environment in a dualistic way, positioning
the human and the natural as opposing forces.  Nature is privileged as a
pastoral fantasy. Nature functions as an edenic ideal, a projection of
desire into the uncontaminated and uncontrolled.  Nature is protected and
romanticized. Nature can only be understood through science.

Many media works about the environment--for example, An Inconvenient
Truth--present a safe, depoliticized, neutral view of global warming. As a
result, they fail to analyze the pressing, but hidden, questions of power.
These popular culture representations of the environment—whether Al Gore,
the Discovery Channel, or March of the Penguins-- oversimplify the complex
issues at stake. For example, this more truncated view of the environment
would ignore the question of war.

This limited definition of the environment represses the constantly moving
vectors which both close down and open up issues of equality, freedom,
social justice, aesthetic innovation, access to health care.  It also sets
up false dichotomies between the human and the natural, between the social
and the scientific, between the argumentative and the empirical, between
the US and the globe.

These popular culture representations of the environment are too
confining, too safe, too tame.  They quarantine nature. They paralyze
critique.  And they often imply a white, American-centric, economically
privileged position.  Outside the confines of the United States, the terms
environment and ecology mobilize a quite different set of coordinates and
actions. We think that it is OF VITAL POLITICAL IMPORTANCE to expand our
vectors between a US centric axis, and beyond the nature/culture divide.

In a more global intellectual and political conversation, the term
environment exceeds these simple binary oppositions and reductionist
assumptions.  Environment and ecology signify a complicated nexus of the
social, political, aesthetic, technological, economic, physical and
natural.  An ecological way of thinking, then, demands tracing these
complex intersections in order to understand them-- and then act on them.
Ecology means understanding how things, people and ideas are


Patricia R. Zimmermann, Ph.D.
Department of Cinema and Photography
Codirector, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
Ithaca College
Ithaca New York 14850 USA
Phone: 607 274 3431    FAX  607 274 7078

> We  want to thank Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray for introducing us to
> their work at Eyebeam and for being hosts for last weeks discussion.   I'm
> sure we will be hearing from them online as month progresses.  If any of
> you are in New York City we are hoping you will visit Eyebeam in Chelsea
> to see Britta and Rebecca's project as well as the entire exhibit
> FEEDBACK.  Later this month Amanda McDonald Crowley from Eyebeam will be
> our guest.
> A very warm welcome to Tom Shevory, Patty Zimmerman, and Stephanie
> Rothenberg  for being this week's guests  for our -empyre-discussion on
> "Wired Sustainability".   Tim and I enjoyed meeting Patty, Tom and
> Stephanie at a party on Saturday night celebrating  a week of events
> scheduled for the Finger Lakes Film Festival.  We are looking forward to
> their discussions about the festival and their own creative work.
> Below are biographies for Tom, Patty and Stephanie so that you can get to
> know them a little better.  Looking forward to talking to all of you
> online!  Renate and Tim
> Thomas Shevory is co-director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film
> Festival (http://www.ithaca.edu/fleff) at Ithaca College with Patricia
> Zimmermann. Shevory is also professor and chair of politics at Ithaca
> College. He is the author of five books, including Body/Politics: Studies
> in Production, Reproduction, and Reconstruction; Notorious HIV: The Media
> Spectacle of Nushawn Williams; and Toxic Burn: The Grassroots Struggle
> against the WTI Incinerator. He has published
> numerous scholarly articles  on law, public policy, popular music and
> popular culture, with a focus on health and the environment.
> Patricia R. Zimmermann is co-director of the Finger Lakes Environmental
> Film Festival (http://www.ithaca.edu/fleff) at Ithaca College with Tom
> Shevory. She is also professor of cinema, photography and media arts in
> the Roy H. Park School of Communications. She is the author of Reel
> Families: A Social History of
> Amateur Film and States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies, as
> well as coeditor of The Flaherty: Forty Years in the Cause of Independent
> Cinema and Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories.
> She has published numerous scholarly  articles  and journalism on cinema,
> digital media, and film/video history and theory, with a focus on
> documentary, amateur film, and new media interfaces.
> Stephanie Rothenberg (Women Direct new media artist in residence for
> Fingerlakes Film Festival) is a new media artist working at the
> intersection of art and technology. Her
> interdisciplinary practice merges performance, installation, and networked
> media to create solicitous interactions that question the boundaries and
> social constructs of manufactured desires. She has lectured and exhibited
> in the United States and internationally at venues such as the 2008
> Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah; Hallwalls Media Art Center,
> Buffalo, New York; 2007 ConFlux Festival, New York City; Interaccess Media
> Arts Centre, Toronto; 2006 Chicago Underground Film Festival; Radiator
> Festival New Technology Art, Nottingham, England; 2004 Inter-Society for
> the Electronic Arts, Helsinki; Knitting Factory, New York City; and the
> Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing. Her recent awards include the 2007
> Eyebeam Atelier artist in residence in New York City, SUNY Buffalo 2020
> Scholars Award, and a free103point9 artist in residence. She is currently
> assistant professor of visual studies at SUNY Buffalo, where she teaches
> courses in the communication design and emerging practices concentrations.
> Renate Ferro
> Cornell University
> Visiting Assistant Professor
> Fine Arts
> Tjaden Hall
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> rtf9 at cornell.edu
> Home Page:  <http://www.renateferro.net>
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