Day 192: Global Warming Means More Naked People to Look at

This or something else seems to be the message of Spencer Tunick’s latest “installation,” in which 600 people stripped naked on the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. The event was supported by Greenpeace and attempted to call attention to the drastic effects of global warming (as measured by the dramatic rate at which the glacier has been melting) and argue for the necessity of quick and significant political responses to this problem. While I certainly agree with the argument here, I am somewhat hesitant to classify this as art (there are some interesting nude “installations” Tunick has done before, yet this recent one, as so many other projects of his, does not quite fall into that category). I am simply not sure whether this fulfills the criteria of political art and would therefore categorize this more as part of a wave of opportunism that attaches itself to the global warming bandwagon, reducing much discourse about this problem to self-serving, empty gestures. So, while I have the feeling that this is not the real thing, it also makes me wonder what true political art addressing the global warming problem might look like. It’s still early in the day for me and I do not yet have a convincing idea. Maybe some coffee will help. Any ideas? The problem Tunick addresses is an important one: slow political change that is willing to make radical changes in order to counter the effects of global warming. Yet, I doubt that his recent project is a very persuasive argument, which, after all, is one of the main characteristics of political art. I am just rambling at this point and I’ll think more about it and maybe offer something of more substance (after all, there is still the question of what counts as truly progressive political art these days anyway and it is hard enough to find art that even displays the ability to imagine the future in any progressive way at all, let alone formulate a possible progressive political strategy–it seems as though the utopian impulse has died and the apocalyptic depiction of scary scenarios is the best we can do–but as we all know this does not count as true Hegelian negativity–it’s purely negative without a dialectical utopian impulse that generates progressive ideas for the future).

In any case, I’ll come back to this and in the meantime you can read more about Tunick’s recent work and see the glacier pictures/videos here.