Text on Climate Aesthetics by Paolo Cirio. 2023
Press material
- Press kit of the artworks

Related shows

- Climate Mismatch, Venice, 2023
- Natural Sovereignty, Capri, 2021

Related artworks

- Climate Tribunal
- Climate Class Action
- Climate Evidence
- Climate Culpable
- Extinction Claims

Related texts
- Climate Aesthetics, artist's essay, 2023
- Climate Mismatch, artist's text, 2023
- Climate Class Action, artist's text, 2023
- Climate Tribunal, artist's text, 2021
- Natural Sovereignty, artist's text, 2021
- Extinction Claims, artist's text, 2021
- Regulatory Art, manifesto artist's text, 2019
- Climate Change Fighters, artist's text, 2010

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Outlining a climate aesthetics serves the creation and critique of art works on climate change by examining the ethics of such an aesthetics.

Climate aesthetics is not about the weather, nor only about the effects of climate change on the Earth’s surface, but rather speaks to the social dynamics that this change generates. Climate aesthetics looks at changes in social phenomena driven by new knowledge and ethics brought by climate change in relation to the physical materiality of geological and organic matter. Climate aesthetics seeks to place social systems at the center of art on climate change. A human-centered approach is essential to rebalance the ethics of climate change and acknowledge that aesthetics is a social construct that evolves alongside the development of human conscience in the context of a historical momentum.

Climate change evolves the ethics of politics, economics, and culture from both a collective and personal perspective in everyday life. Therefore ethics are central to climate aesthetics, both regarding the question of ethics of representation in the arts, ethics of modes of production, and general ethics in relation to destruction of forms of life and human wellbeing. The ethics of climate aesthetics can be seen as an evolution of the concepts of justice and truth, conscience and knowledge. This expansion of ethics in aesthetics and global society signals a new form of humanism based on global consciousness of the interconnectedness of planetary forces and vulnerabilities.

The ethics of climate aesthetics can be considered in any artistic strategy such as figuration or abstraction, pop or conceptual art, fiction or realism, and in any mediums such photography, performance, and fine arts. It is not a matter of style or genre, rather climate aesthetics looks at the ethics of the quality, consistency, and relevance of the social, scientific, and philosophical discourse surrounding the subject of climate change.

Even if climate aesthetics inventively falls mostly into the category of realism, artists also approach the representation of subjects on climate change through speculative scenarios, expanding them through fiction, yet all possible narratives of climate aesthetics are based on scientific facts, disguising or altering them for works of art is a already a fundamental ethical issue.

Scientific truth in climate aesthetics connects genuine social realities: “the aesthetic practice of realism is in the intermediated space of representations where the arts, humanities, and sciences collaborate on the ongoing challenge to detail climate’s history, as well as its present and future truths.” Similarly the notion of “evidentiary realism” is relevant for climate aesthetics, however the inclusion of scientific, economic, or social evidence can be used as research material and not necessarily shown in the works of art.

In climate aesthetics, realism mostly deals with the relationship between society and science, specifically on the science of the whole planet system, an interrelated network of physical forces and reactions on a global scale. This global scientific phenomena is fundamental in climate aesthetics, which distinguishes it from other forms of art about the science of natural subsystems, environments, and materials.

Climate aesthetics doesn’t relate directly to the notion of environmentalism and sustainability. Distinguishing climate aesthetics from artistic practices generally related to nature can help to develop the growing field of art and ecology, and thus it can begin to provide a set of analytical tools for the making and analysis of works of art specifically addressing climate change. Similar distinctions are already present in the history of environmental politics. Climate change has very particular causes and effects to be worth its own aesthetics, distinguishing it from arts on ecological issues in specific types of pollution, extinction, deforestation, among several other types of environmental damage.

Starting from the science of global warming as fundamental to climate aesthetics, an intrinsic and consequential character of this aesthetics is the accounting of the scale of such global phenomena.

The dimensions of climate change reach an exceptional geographical scale, temporal scale, economic scale, political and social scale. Simultaneously, such extensive scales also snap back to the narrow scope of hyperlocal ecological and social crises that occur rapidly. Yet the scale of the causes remains vast, and so the aesthetic representation, signification, and discourse of the issue needs to take in account the scale of comparable phenomena of global causes, relating the scale of the scientific phenomena to the scale of social, economic, political, and personal consequences. Climate aesthetics looks only at impacts generated by global warming and thus from greenhouse emissions, which are produced globally over decades, not only from individual sources, locations, and over short timelines. This is how the aspect of scale is a fundamental dimension in defining climate aesthetics.

The overwhelming scale of the causes and effects of climate change challenges human cognition and perception. Even if the scientific and technological tools might be able to picture and predict climate change, human emotional capacity and ethical complexity, as well as, the current political-economical and philosophical frameworks cannot process such change. Human emotions, thoughts, and ethics around climate change can be formed not only with analytical science, but rather through culture that enhances perception and receptions of such an epochal human transition. Art can play a key role in providing the ability of seeing, feeling, and comprehending the scale of climate change.

Particular use of semiotics and linguistics in climate aesthetics can make the perception and cognition of climate change accessible through emotional, intuitive, and appealing works of art. Rather than rhetorical devices to represent climate change with an absent referent, vague, or false, in climate aesthetics perception can be enhanced with rigorous semiotic devices and languages. The accurate use of signs and significations in climate aesthetics refer to the ethics of representation and intentions of the works of arts.

The scale of ethical considerations integrated in climate change makes ethics a central part in climate aesthetics. The ethics of representation, production, and outcomes of works of art are related to the ethics of accountability of governments and corporate misinformation, deregulation, and the actual production of greenhouse emissions. From the complexity of these ethics new morals emerge, which tend to confuse or even intentionally shift perception, thus making the use of the ethics of climate change an ethical issue.

The difference between ethics and morality in the discourse of climate change can be helpful to break down the use of ethics for shaming, de-responsibilizing, or instilling paralyzing guilt. Morals around climate change form mostly by inflicting on individuals the responsibility for causing climate change or by focusing on individual causes of greenhouse emissions. Such morals are then internalized by citizens and amplified by the business world that instrumentalizes them to shift responsibility, or to promote an alternative sellable lifestyle. Instead of fixative morals, the science of ethics can offer more sophisticated and accurate instruments for analyzing and comparing ethics in climate change within its scale of causes and effects from a political, economic, and social perspective.

The aesthetics of the climate needs to overcome oversimplification, embracing the complexity of multilayered systems around climate change, and how its social, economic, and intimate realities are created and perceived.

Climate Realism by Marija Cetinić, Lynn Badia, Jeff Diamanti, 2020
Evidentiary Realism by Paolo Cirio, 2017

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