On view in the Lower Gallery
June 6, 2017 – November 11, 2017
Curated by Arif Khan, Director, University of New Mexico Art Museum & Subhankar Banerjee, Lannan Foundation Endowed Chair of Land Arts of the American West and Professor of Art & Ecology in the Department of Art at UNM
In a recent essay Subhankar Banerjee coined the term ‘long environmentalism’ to draw attention to environmental justice engagements that last, not merely weeks or years, but decades, and become inter-generational. The exhibition presents a selection of his photographs, writing, lectures, interviews and other activist initiatives over the past sixteen years that collectively continue to contribute to the long environmentalism in Arctic North America. It highlights the resistance movements and coalitional politics to stop destructive fossil fuels development projects in lands and waters in Arctic Alaska, which are home to an incredible chorus of biotic life and have sustained, nutritionally, culturally and spiritually, the Gwich’in and the Iñupiat indigenous communities for millennia. The exhibition also includes a photograph from Siberia that alludes to what anthropologist Piers Vitebsky has called ‘Outliving the Empire’.
Residents of the lower latitude generally consider the Arctic as the ‘Far North’, a place disconnected from their daily lives and concerns. Banerjee’s work urges us to consider the Arctic instead as the ‘Near North’, a place that connects us all in material and intangible ways. The Arctic is the bellwether of climate change as it continues to warm at a rate of at least twice the global average, and yet paradoxically, the Arctic and non-Arctic nation states are pushing hard to exploit its fossil fuels reserves, the burning of which will only exacerbate Arctic warming, and which in turn will affect the whole planet as the top of the Earth is the integrator of our planet’s climate systems. Engaging in ‘long environmentalism’ we may derail this suicidal trajectory.
Subhankar Banerjee is Lannan Foundation Endowed Chair of Land Arts of the American West and Professor of Art & Ecology in the Department of Art at UNM. He is convener of the recent UNM environmental justice public forum “Decolonizing Nature”, and is currently working to establish a new interdisciplinary center at UNM, Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities.