Journal Issue on Petro-Media
After nearly three years of work, Emily Roehl (Augustana University) and I are proud to release our special issue of Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies on “Critical and Creative Engagements with Petro-Media” (June 2022). This issue explores how textual and audio-visual media have been used to examine petroleum’s place within Canadian and American cultural landscapes and oil’s attendant socio-political and economic structures. Contributors trace energy histories and the materiality of oil, while exploring the visual and literary arts as tools of scholarly inquiry.
This issue emerged from a panel Emily and I organized at the 2019 Biennial Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) Conference, held at UC Davis. Like the panel participants, the artists and scholars in this issue take up facets of petro-media to examine complex entanglements of cultural production, settler colonialism, and oil extraction.
Solar-Powered Art and Energy Justice Community Workshops
Inspired by our shared passion for arts education and energy justice, I’m collaborating with Anne Pasek (Trent University) and Brooklyn-based multimedia artist and educator Alex Nathanson to develop a series of community-based workshops on solar-powered art in fall 2022. We aim to use hands-on, DIY photovoltaic (PV) projects such as “draw bots” or solar chimes to spark conversations about solar power and the need for justice within wider energy transitions.
Solar-powered thaumatrope built by Rachel Jekanowski in Brooklyn, NY. Video recorded by Alex Nathanson, July 2022.
In the first stage of the project, we’ll organize public workshops in Peterborough, Ontario and Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador. These will be followed by artist talks with Alex about his practice as an artist, designer, and writer. The next stage of this project may include collaboratively writing an article examining solar-art as a form of climate communication, the formal and relational properties of solar PV as an artistic medium, and regional differences in community encounters with solar power.
Cinemas of Extraction: Land, Resources, Settler Imaginaries
I’m currently working on my first monograph, which reexamines the centrality of settler colonialism and extractive capitalism within North American film cultures. Cinemas of Extraction: Land, Resources, Settler Imaginaries traces the important role of nontheatrical film and video (e.g. amateur and industrial films, documentaries, sponsored media) in shaping white audiences understandings of land, settler identities, and the nonhuman world. Examining films produced and screened by government, industry, and educational institutions in Canada and the United States about environments, I argue that this “cinema of extraction” contributed in complex ways to practices of capitalist world-making—transforming life and geological substances into resources to be extracted, monetized, and transported elsewhere.
As a media form, cinema can help to lay bare the extractive infrastructures of settler societies. Focusing on moving images produced in twentieth-century Canada for domestic and foreign exhibition, I show how this cinema of extraction is entangled with industrial-scale resource extraction on the level of production, narrative, and discourse. As forms of settler cultural production, these moving images also index extractive relationships between colonial governments and Indigenous Peoples, including the theft of Indigenous lands and waterways and settler appropriations of Indigenous knowledges, identities, and lifeways. I look at how Indigenous film and media-makers have reworked colonial archives to critique such practices of extraction and imagine ways of relating otherwise.
Cinemas of Extraction will contribute to film and media studies, as well as the environmental humanities, by mapping continuities between extractive and racial capitalism through their imprints on visual culture and environments.