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Mediating the Ecological Imperative: Formats and Modes of Engagement

Applicant Schneemann Peter J.
Number 193842
Funding scheme Sinergia
Research institution Institut für Kunstgeschichte Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Interdisciplinary
Start/End 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024
Approved amount 1'379'236.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Visual arts and Art history
German and English languages and literature

Keywords (11)

image; engagement; aesthetics; literature; culture; ecology; eco-ekphrasis; co-creative practices; anthropology; Anthropocene; art

Lay Summary (German)

Der ökologische Imperativ benennt eine der grössten Herausforderungen des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts. Welchen Beitrag können kulturelle Praktiken leisten? Wie können sie die ethischen Anforderungen verhandeln, welche die ökologische Krise an unsere Gesellschaft stellt?
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Das Forschungsprojekt untersucht Formate und Modi, die einen “ökologischen Imperativ” vermitteln. Die Vermittlung und das Engagement ethischer Forderungen manifestiert sich in Klimabildern, in Öko-Ekphrasen, im erweiterten Kunstbegriff der Gegenwartskunst und in Praktiken des sozialen Engagements. Diese verschiedenen Forschungsfelder werden nach vergleichbaren Kategorien des 1) Displays, der 2) Materialität, der 3) Zeitlichkeit und der 4) Verräumlichung auf produktive Synergien hin analysiert. Der interdisziplinäre Forschungsansatz bringt vier verschiedene Disziplinen zusammen: an der Universität Bern die Kunstgeschichte der Moderne und der Gegenwart, die Amerikanistik und die Sozialanthropologie, sowie an der UNAM in Mexico-Stadt die Kunstgeschichte mit einem Schwerpunkt auf bildwissenschaftliche Fragen. Ein geographischer Fokus der gemeinsamen Forschung liegt auf den Amerikas.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext

Wir fragen, wie spezifische Formate kultureller Produktion intermedial funktionieren, um einen “ökologischen Imperativ” zu vermitteln. Das Projekt untersucht die Art und Weise, wie kulturelle Produkte und Praktiken eine Verbindung zwischen Ästhetik, Ökonomie, Politik und Ethik in Bezug auf die Umweltkrise konstituieren und manifestieren.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.06.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner


The goal of this SNSF Sinergia project is to research the way twentieth and twenty-first century cultural products respond to the ethical demands the ecological crisis places on our society and how this manifests in the formats that mediate these demands. Examples of these cultural mediations are part of a growing consciousness about “the image politics of climate change” (Schneider/Nocke 2014) and the role of “cultural sustainability” (Meireis/Rippl 2019a) or examined according to the principles of contemporary “eco-aesthetics” (Miles 2014; Baader/Wolf/Ray 2019) and “new documentary ecologies” (Nash/Hight/Summerhayes 2014). We take the notion of an “ecological imperative” of cultural products-an ethical stance toward human resource management built upon Kantian terms (Jonas 1979; Spivak 2010, 2012)-as a starting point. Engaging with ecological and environmental themes, the humanities have already produced a multifaceted discourse (Adamson/Davis 2016; Heise/Christensen/Niemann 2017; Emmett/Nye 2017; Oppermann/Iovino 2017). This SNSF Sinergia project builds on these rich research results and propels the state of the art by exploring the mediation of ethical demands engrained in images, literary texts and eco-ekphrases, expanded artforms, and practices of social engagement. We ask how specific formats in cultural production work intermedially to engender the ecological imperative. Our corpus differentiates between specific formats and modes from across the disciplines of image studies, literary studies, art history, and social anthropology. Our objects of study are examples of cultural products’ potential to inspire human beings to take action and to acknowledge the demands of an ecological imperative. Due to our common expertise, the geographical focus is on the Americas.Our research approach brings together researchers from four distinct disciplines. By jointly developing methods and analyzing case studies, we adhere to an interdisciplinary agenda that allows us to understand how complex twentieth and twenty-first century cultural production mediates the urgent ecological imperative of our time. The close collaboration of word and image specialists will establish an analytical framework for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the environmental humanities by conceptualizing four modes of mediation: 1) modes of display, 2) modes of materiality, 3) modes of temporality, and 4) modes of spatialization. Our scholarship engages with the ways in which cultural production, cultural practices, and cultural forms constitute and manifest the nexus between the aesthetic, the economic, the political, and the ethical in relation to the environmental crisis. Combining our core competences, we will both rely on tried and true methodologies--including those of political iconography, intermediality and ekphrasis studies, the analysis of artificial environments in the artworld, and studies of co-creative filmmaking practices--and develop new approaches through our shared analyses.The team assembled for this project is based primarily at the University of Bern, with one co-applicant from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). While the proximity of the team and the similarity of working conditions will help with the management of the project, our collaboration with a colleague in Mexico City strengthens the focus on the Americas and provides a useful external perspective. Limiting our project to a set of well-defined case studies ensures the feasibility of the project and allows us to adhere to our schedule and requested budget.