On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture
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This essay reflects on queer environmental ethics by delving into the artistic practice of the photographer David Benjamin Sherry (born 1974). In his series "Climate Vortex Sutra" (2014), consisting of 31 photographs, geological phenomena such as rock formations and panoramic landscape photography of national parks of the American West are presented next to photographs of animals and human beings. The combination of different subjects together with the hyperreal color and saturation act as a performative strategy in the process of reception that entails anticipatory and transformative potentialities, thus empowering my ecologically queer reading. With this oppositional reading strategy, I want to put queer studies and art history into dialogue with environmental studies to address the following question: To what extent does Climate Vortex Sutra deal not only with questions of climate change and environmental destruction but also with the heteronormative history of American landscape photography? I argue it is through the strategic act of resignification that Sherry’s photographs intervene in the Western American landscape tradition along with its andro- and heterocentric power relations between gender, sexuality, desire, and nature. In addition, "Climate Vortex Sutra" can be read a ‘silent protest’ against climate change in and environmental destruction of America’s Western national parks. Equipped with an ‘eco-queer sensibility,’ Sherry’s photographs ask for environmental ethics in which agency is understood as a product of (inter-)connectivity between humans, animals, and other (non-human and non-animal) materiality.
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