Seeing the Anthropocene through Montage: John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea and Elizabeth Price’s BERLINWAL

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Abstract

Environmental changes and the age of the Anthropocene demand new ways of seeing. This article contends that montage serves both as form and as argument in representing the Western modern experience of human-nature relations in the supposed Anthropocene. I suggest that montage resists a single narrative of the Anthropocene and allows for modified readings to address race and capital through alternative notions such as the Capitalocene and Black Anthropocenes. Montage in relation to the Anthropocene is exemplified through two contemporary British artists’ works, which visualize agencies and legacies of human interventions into fluvial geographies, the sea, and whales: the touring film installation Vertigo Sea (2015) by John Akomfrah and the site-specific intervention BERLINWAL (Berlin whale) (2018) by Elizabeth Price at the Museum für Naturkunde (natural history museum) in Berlin, Germany. In both works, though differing in medium, montage serves as structure to hold different materialities, multiple spatial and temporal scales, affording integration as well as confrontation. Its multi-focal perception and multiple perspectives challenge ontologies and afford a de-centering of the viewer towards de-exceptionalizing the human.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Humanities
Volume16
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Dec 10 2023

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