The visionary video projects of London-based artist John Akomfrah—in particular Vertigo Sea—expansively reconceive what “climate” means, drawing the term into inextricable relation with sociocultural ecologies of racial capitalism, migration politics, ecocide, and mass species extinction. Presenting a vertiginous visuality of world-ending disasters in racial and more-than-human terms, Vertigo Sea offers a cinematic vortex that conjoins necropolitics to geopower. Pitted against the politics of fatalism and spectacle alike, this presentation argues, along with Akomfrah, for emancipatory futures beyond the catastrophe of capitalism’s deathly in/humanisms and racial and speciesist objectifications.
T. J. Demos is Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. He researches the intersection of visual culture, radical politics, and political ecology—particularly where they oppose racial and colonial capitalism—and is the author of several books, including Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing (Duke, 2020); Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and Political Ecology (Sternberg, 2016); and Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today, (Sternberg, 2017). He co-edited The Routledge Companion on Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change (2021), was a Getty Research Institute Fellow (Spring 2020), and directed the Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar research project Beyond the End of the World (2019-21). He is presently working on a new book on radical futurisms.