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U5, U5, Topographies of A Desert, Oil Spill, 2022, drawing with acrylic, marker, pencil.

U5, Topographies of A Desert, Oil Spill, 2022

Ph.D.: Narrating the Anthropocene in Art, Architecture, and Film
in the Works by Lara Almarcegui, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Peter Zumthor

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Philip Ursprung, ETH Zurich,
and Prof. Dr. Karen van den Berg, Zeppelin University

     This dissertation investigates the role of storytelling in encountering the challenges posed by the non-representability of the Anthropocene. It argues that the new epoch requires novel narrative strategies and imaginaries to examine and dismantle existing dualisms manifested by Western cultures, such as of objectivity vs. subjectivity, culture vs. nature, pragmatism vs. emotions, in order to redefine and reshape our relations to nature as entangled, symbiotic, and non-violent.

     Living and researching in the Anthropocene means witnessing the effects of climate change as delineated by scientific forecasts materialize before our eyes. Amidst a proliferation of apocalyptic narratives reflecting mass extinction and ecological breakdowns, the thesis explores how we can face the environmental crisis with respect, care, and dignity towards each other and our multiple ecologies.

     Consequently, the dissertation seeks to explore new perspectives, methodologies, and narrative strategies for engaging with the Anthropocene through art, film, and architecture, focusing on the works of Lara Almarcegui, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Peter Zumthor. Examining these practices, the study questions modernist grand narratives of progress and growth, while delving into intricate site-specific complexities, such as human/nature relations, entagled landscape histories, and exctractivism. Through the three case studies, the thesis addresses concerns regarding the non-representable, the non-perceptible, as well as latencies and other challenges of the Anthropocene, framed within relevant theoretical frameworks such as posthumanism, object-oriented ontology, new materialism, rights of nature, slow violence, and slow hope.

     The aim of this study is to apply new methods of critical science by integrating speculative and experimental research and feminist situated writing into established forms of knowledge production in the humanities, including art and architectural history. How can exploratory research develop alternative visions and facilitate new patterns of thinking and doing based in environmental justice, non-violence, inclusivity, and ecological and sustainable practices? Accordingly, the thesis includes a diverse assemblage of speculative and fictional text forms that provide glimpses into life in the Anthropocene. To further underscore non-representational practices and explore the boundaries of artistic and academic research, visual elements in this dissertation were created by the artist collective U5, aiming to foster associative and imaginative thinking while addressing the uncertainties and intangibilities of the Anthropocene.

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