WeatheringEcologies of ExposureBerlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2020
Preface
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Cite as: Arnd Wedemeyer and Christoph F. E. Holzhey, ‘Preface’, in Weathering: Ecologies of Exposure, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey and Arnd Wedemeyer, Cultural Inquiry, 17 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2020), pp. vii–xx <https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-17_01>

Preface

1The intensifying ecological devastation of the planet is being registered across scientific disciplines and activist, artistic, or more broadly cultural endeavours in ways that rethink the temporal dimensions of a catastrophe that can no longer be considered ‘looming’. In many political contexts — trying to get scientists heard, mobilizing state power and international agreements to curb the extractivist rapaciousness of global capitalism — it might still seem essential to create a sense of urgency, of a rapidly closing interval, last chance, now or never. Yet taking stock not only of the planetary sum totals of global climate change but its present local manifestations, the devastations of neocolonial extractivism, the irreversible extinctions of countless species, destruction of ecotopes on land and in the sea, has produced a growing awareness that in many crucial senses, it is ‘too late’ — that the time can no longer be given as ‘five minutes to midnight’ but has moved a lot closer to the dead of night, whether this is being regarded primarily as a question of the cumulative loss of biodiversity as part of what is now known as the ‘sixth mass extinction’ or as the approach of several ‘tipping points’ of global climate change, such as the current ice sheet disintegrations in the polar regions, the greenhouse gas release triggered by the loss of permafrost, and irreversible desertifications. The complexion of ecology, over these last years, has turned from juicy green to dark and brittle.

2The most decisive recent interventions, while acknowledging the overwhelming pessimist thrust of ecological thought, have tried to use a more complex, more differentiated account of the temporality of environmental ruination in order to reflect on the diminished possibilities for life in these ruins while avoiding familiar registers both of science fiction dystopias and self-healing planets.

3Thus, while both Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing and Timothy Morton habitually invoke ‘the end of the world’, they try to salvage, describe, and mobilize a distinct new dimension of ecological thought — no longer extrapolating future scenarios to be averted, but vindicating[p. viii]Beginning of page viii different natures, enlarged and broken temporal frames, meshes of life worn, torn, and stitched.

4Timothy Morton characterizes the uncanny time of ‘hyperobjects’, such as climate change, based not only on their temporal vastness — they stretch into an unknowable future, he says, ‘like the empty streets […] in the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico’ while also predating any awareness of them — but also on their ‘temporal undulation’, an abyssal veiling or withdrawal:11Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapol…Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), part i, chapter ‘Temporal Undulation’, pp. 55–68 (p. 55) ‘The undulating fronds of space and time float in front of objects.’22Ibid., p. 63.Ibid., p. 63. If Morton’s hyperobject thus has to remain uncannily out of reach, its time is ‘radically different from human-scale time’, approaching the present from a future beyond calculation, prognosis, projection.33Ibid., p. 197. The strangeness of the postulated temporality forces Morton’s stylistic han…Ibid., p. 197. The strangeness of the postulated temporality forces Morton’s stylistic hand: ‘The undulating temporality that hyperobjects emit bathes us in a spatiotemporal vortex that is radically different from human-scale time.’ Part ii of Hyperobjects deals with ‘The Time of Hyperobjects’, pp. 99–201. This is the heterotemporal reservoir Morton mobilizes in the deliberately paradoxical exhortation to allow the present to be changed by the withdrawing future of hyperobjects. In his 2014 Wellek Lectures titled Dark Ecology, Morton will beckon even further, into what he calls ‘the third darkness, the sweet one, past the second darkness, the uncanny one’.44Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, The Wellek Library Lectur…Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, The Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), p. 5. The first darkness enumerated (‘we usually don’t get past the first darkness, and that’s if we even care’) is the nihilism and depression that comes with the realization of environmental doom. The unknowable future emanating from hyperobjects, the ‘ontological mystery’, is supposed to be passed (or, with Morton’s recoded concept, ‘subscended’)55Ibid., p. 116.Ibid., p. 116. towards an ethical ‘future coexistence’.66Ibid., p. 160.Ibid., p. 160.

5For Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, too, the future to be mobilized by a radical ecology is one of coexistence, but she remains committed to a time-scale that contrasts starkly with Morton’s temporal immensities. The temporal horizon she sketches ‘at the end of the world’ is not demonstratively ‘posthuman’ but of deliberately modest dimensions; [p. ix]Beginning of page ixthe futurity brought into play is not one of mysterious withdrawal but of the surprise encounter with a matsutake mushroom: ‘If we open ourselves to their fungal attraction, matsutake can catapult us into the curiosity that seems to me the first requirement of collaborative survival in precarious times.’77Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in…Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), p. 2. Rather than the descent into doom that Morton cultivates and that is to spawn a purgatory of ontological mystery to arrive at a paradise of bittersweet non-human coexistence, Tsing looks for a curiosity without speculative violence, a surprise thoroughly lodged in the small entanglements of gathering practices, embodied as much in her subjects as in her own writing.88Ibid., p. viii.Ibid., p. viii. The goal, in Tsing’s words, is the preparation of an idea of a ‘third nature’ in contrast to both the ‘first nature’ of ecological relations (human and non-human alike) and the ‘second nature’ of ‘capitalist transformations of the environment’:

My book then offers ‘third nature,’ that is, what manages to live despite capitalism. To even notice third nature, we must evade assumptions that the future is that singular direction ahead. Like virtual particles in a quantum field, multiple futures pop in and out of possibility; third nature emerges within such temporal polyphony.99Ibid.Ibid.

6For Tsing, this temporal polyphony grows from the spore-carrying aleatorics of devastation and ruination itself, yet it is looped into the entangled unity of dispersal and discovery of repetitive, mundane, everyday gathering practices.

7This modest proposal for a heterotemporal futurity ‘at the end of the world’ can be contrasted with Donna J. Haraway’s response to the ongoingness of environmental disasters, global climate change, and extinction events — in Haraway’s words: ‘unnecessary killings of ongoingness’.1010Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duk…Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), p. 1. Haraway launches an audacious ‘no future!’, a plea against futurity as such, against fantasies of ecological securitizations or [p. x]Beginning of page xsustainabilities, but also against the deadlines of totalized environmental catastrophe:

[M]any of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, or stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make futures for coming generations. Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future.1111Ibid.Ibid.

8For Haraway, the energies wasted on imagining futures dark or bright, vast or modest, would have been better spent on widening the present, rendering it diverse and messy enough so that it begins to function as a ‘hot compost pile’. Indeed, a kind of generalized, or rather sprawling, tangling understanding of composting, home to an ‘opportunistic, dangerous, and generative sympoiesis’, provides, for Haraway, the only possibility of resurgence.1212Ibid., pp. 4 and 168.Ibid., pp. 4 and 168. Yet not only is ‘eschewing futurism’ the precondition for present-tense composting, but the collaborative tangle of the compost heap in turn is the only way to avoid futural fixations:

Alone, in our separate kinds of expertise and experience, we know both too much and too little, and so we succumb to despair or to hope, and neither is a sensible attitude. Neither despair nor hope is tuned to the senses, to mindful matter, to material semiotics, to mortal earthlings in thick copresence.1313Ibid., p. 4.Ibid., p. 4.

9Haraway openly embraces the circular structure of this rejection of futurity, it provides the very heat of the composting present, the pressure with which finitude, mortality, corruptibility are taken off their grand temporal scaffoldings.1414Ibid., p. 32: ‘Ecosexual artists Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle made a bumper sticker fo…Ibid., p. 32: ‘Ecosexual artists Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle made a bumper sticker for me, for us, for SF: “Composting is so hot!”’.

10It seems telling that no matter how radically different these three critical responses to the current environmental catastrophe might seem, they all proceed through a reimagining of time — not an epochal break within time, neither dawn of a new age nor posthuman aftermath, [p. xi]Beginning of page xibut a non-anthropocentric reconfiguration of temporality as such, a settling into a time understood anew: whether as the extreme dilation afforded by hyperobjects, the nooks of gathering futures, or a steaming pile of compacted co-presencing.

11This intense and diverse work on the temporal implications of the way in which ecological devastation is being thought also needs to be understood, of course, as a response to the headline-grabbing attempt to confront anthropogenic planetary change by inscribing it in the grander scale of geological epochs. The efforts to define and establish this epoch under the name ‘Anthropocene’ has taken centre stage since it was launched by the Anthropocene Working Group of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy of the International Commission on Stratigraphy in 2009. The relative merits of this undertaking have been hotly debated over the last decade. At issue is the question of temporal scale: The assignation proffers a widening of the scope, which often translates into an elevation of the environmental impact of a global humanity past its local conflicts, ‘daily squabbles’, the political project-making predominant in considerations of brighter futures, and in particular the supposedly roughly equally disastrous environmental impacts of capitalist and socialist economies.1515This point has been most forcefully pursued by Dipesh Chakrabarty since his seminal ‘The C…This point has been most forcefully pursued by Dipesh Chakrabarty since his seminal ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’, Critical Inquiry, 35.2 (Winter 2009), pp. 197–222. See also Chakrabarty, ‘The Human Condition in the Anthropocene’, in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 35, ed. by Mark Matheson (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016), pp. 139–88, available online: <https://tannerlectures.utah.edu/Chakrabarty manuscript.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2020]. The convergence between certain ideas of globalization and the supposedly uniform planetary impact captured in the term Anthropocene has prompted vehement opposition. The very categories of the global and the planetary tend to obliterate the vast environmental inequities of today, insufficiently acknowledged, let alone addressed, in the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Paris Agreement and the carbon market it established both for ITMOs (International Transfers of Mitigation Outcomes) and emergent practices of corporate carbon offsetting.1616The preamble of the Paris Agreement only half-acknowledges calls for climate justice, righ…The preamble of the Paris Agreement only half-acknowledges calls for climate justice, right alongside beliefs in a ‘Mother Earth’, as it ‘not[es] the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”, when taking action against climate change’. See UNFCCC, Conference of the Parties, ‘Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Proposal by the President’ (Bonn: UNFCCC Secretariat, 2015) <https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2020]. Yet more importantly, they keep from [p. xii]Beginning of page xiiview the extent to which the current situation is the outcome of centuries of colonizations and the ongoing mutations of colonial power and its ever intensifying extractivist devastations. As Kathryn Yusoff admonishes:

Seeking to monumentalize Anthropocene history is an attempt to reclaim an ‘innocence’ around this geohistory. The histories of the Anthropocene unfold a brutal experience for much of the world’s racialized poor and without due attention to the historicity of those events (and their eventfulness); the Anthropocene simply consolidates power via this innocence in the present to effect decisions that are made about the future and its modes of survival.1717Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesot…Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), pp. 11–12.

12For Yusoff, geohistory can acknowledge the planetary change caused by extractivism and industrialization only to the extent that it acknowledges its own involvements in these projects, that is, as long as it is willing to give up its supposed ‘scientific’ innocence, the ‘objectivity’ licensed to the natural sciences. It is indeed hard to see how the elevation of the name of humankind in the geological period assignation can help but remain complicit in the radical modes of dehumanization bound up with ecological exploitation and destruction. Yusoff’s observation of the dehistoricizing implications of talk of an ‘Anthropocene’ exceeds the genealogy of geology through which it is filtered. She rightly insists that the temporal scale itself is not the problem. The enlarged temporal frame dehistoricizes inasmuch as it invites the sublime contemplation of an earth before (and now also after) humankind and thus still passes over into a familiar conception of ‘prehistory’, itself a secular heir of Christian salvation history, which justified the enslavement of non-European peoples with their presumed existence ‘outside of history’.1818On the cultural impact of the modern invention of ‘prehistory’ see Préhistoire. Une Énigme…On the cultural impact of the modern invention of ‘prehistory’ see Préhistoire. Une Énigme moderne, ed. by Cécile Debray, Rémi Labrusse, and Maria Stavrinaki (Paris: Centre Pompidou, 2019). For the anthropological division of peoples inside and outside of history see Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object, foreword by Matti Bunzl, new edn (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).

13 [p. xiii]Beginning of page xiiiIn light of these fraught attempts to address the current ecological catastrophe under the sign of an ‘Anthropocene’, the nature of Morton’s, Tsing’s, and Haraway’s interventions becomes clearer: No matter how far they diverge in their conceptions, they all reject the anthropocentrist contortion and, in some sense, irony of the name ‘Anthropocene’, refusing to scale along the very name of a species whose exceptionalism this undertaking can only emphasize, even in its critical inflection. They all radically decentre the human and its temporal scales, insist on its entanglements, involutions, but also scatterings and dispersals. The question being negotiated among the three authors in question — but many more alongside them — concerns their search for the most effective way to breach the divide between natural history and a history of humankind, between the anthropos and its milieus: through composting, hyperobjects, or the errant dispersal of mushroom and gatherer.

14This reconsideration of entangled, layered times, scales, durations, and the attendant turn away from evental futurity also informs the present collection and its title-giving consideration of weathering. Its authors’ reflections on the diverse modalities of ‘weathering’ is premised on an acknowledgment of the fact that the impact of environmental catastrophes is being registered already, and disproportionately so in regions of the globe at a decisive distance from first-world hyperconsumption, a distance defined, still, by the long arm of neocolonial extractivist and exploitative schemes. To insist that environmental damage is not looming past a future horizon but is already being weathered and unevenly, injustly so, means to forgo patent illusions of sustainability or resilience and the ways in which they have amalgamated with neoliberal doctrines over the last decades. But the invocation of ‘weathering’ also means to emphasize a certain passivity with which cataclysmic change, often diffuse and slow (according to some time scales), is being registered and endured. There are clear affinities — yet also notable differences — to figures of vulnerability and exposure, but also resilience and endurance, around which new forms of political and ethical theorizing have emerged that distance themselves from [p. xiv]Beginning of page xivnotions of agency, sovereignty, autonomy, and self-determination and instead, often inspired by Emmanuel Levinas, produce an enriched understanding of passivity as a potential to think responsivity otherwise.1919See, among many, Vulnerability in Resistance, ed. by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and L…See, among many, Vulnerability in Resistance, ed. by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016). Butler acknowledges and discusses the Levinasian inspirations of this ethics of vulnerability in several texts, for example in her Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), chapter 5: ‘Precarious Life’. But it is important to note that Levinas’s resolutely anthropocentric ethics had been grafted onto ecology even earlier by, among others, John Llewelyn, The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience: A Chiasmic Reading of Responsibility in the Neighborhood of Levinas, Heidegger and Others (London: Macmillan, 1992) and Silvia Benso, The Face of Things: A Different Side of Ethics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000).

15In search of an extension of these explorations into an environmental ethics, Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Loewen Walker have, already in 2014, suggested the term weathering as a keyword for ‘a feminist ethos of responsivity towards climatic phenomena’.2020Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Loewen Walker, ‘Weathering: Climate Change and the “Thick Time…Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Loewen Walker, ‘Weathering: Climate Change and the “Thick Time” of Transcorporeality’, Hypatia, 29.3 (2014), pp. 558–75 (p. 558). Providing a New Materialist expansion of ‘insurgent vulnerabilities’,2121Ibid., pp. 566 and 573. Like the notion of ‘transcorporeality’ in the subtitle, this is a…Ibid., pp. 566 and 573. Like the notion of ‘transcorporeality’ in the subtitle, this is a reference to the work of Stacy Alaimo, in this case to: ‘Insurgent Vulnerability and the Carbon Footprint of Gender’, Women, Gender, and Research (Kvinder, Køn og Forskning, Denmark), 3–4 (2009), pp. 22–35. In her Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016) — which is interested in ‘[p]erforming exposure as an ethical and political act’ and in how to ‘occupy exposure as insurgent vulnerability’ (p. 5) — Alaimo, in turn, suggests that ‘[p]erforming exposure can catalyze that very sense of weathering’ (p. 82) that Neimanis and Loewen Walker are proposing. they, too, suggest a modified temporality to account for an entanglement beyond the nature-culture divide, one they term ‘thick time’, characterized by what they term a ‘nonchronological durationality’.2222Ibid., p. 561.Ibid., p. 561. For Neimanis and Loewen Walker, the term ‘weathering’ mainly signals a radical shift in the relation to global climate change as something everyone is already immersed — and implicated — in: ‘We recognize our own implications in the climate conditions around us, thick with co-labored temporalities that we are also making possible.’2323Ibid., p. 573.Ibid., p. 573. And yet Neimanis and Loewen Walker derive from this a particular ‘duty’ for [p. xv]Beginning of page xvspecifically human agents in a posthuman context […] to direct this reponsivity in particular ways’.2424Ibid.; emphasis in original. The imperative continues: ‘Our call is […] for those of us li…Ibid.; emphasis in original. The imperative continues: ‘Our call is […] for those of us living in privileged, high-consumption situations to direct our responsivity more consciously, in a way more closely attuned to that which we are affecting.’

16The present volume and its authors are more reluctant when it comes to reconstituting this kind of exceptionalist ‘human guardianship’, however intricately tangled or passively inflected. The emphasis, instead, lies here on the enormous richness of what the English language calls ‘weathering’. Thus, for example, weathering might appear to be a surface phenomenon; or it can seem to be generally unwelcome. And yet, even the most dramatic storm or profound inner turmoil can be said to have been weathered; and weathering also denotes a host of cultural techniques that makes use of the elements in drying fruit or varnishing artefacts. It seemed imperative to the participants of this project to explore the semantic richness of the term that refuses all symmetries, deranges etymological sequencing, and can hardly be divvied up into literal and figurative uses. Its semantic spread seems at times as diffuse as the phenomena it describes, its impact deeply ambivalent, to say the least.

17Yet if the diverse considerations and interventions presented in this volume engage with one another and tangle in often unforeseen ways, this is a result of a longer process and exchange: The authors of this volume had convened as the primary researchers of the two-year research project ‘ERRANS environ/s’ in 2018, under the auspices of the ICI Berlin. The project, concluding part of the six-year ERRANS cycle of the Institute, followed the research project ‘ERRANS, in Time’ and indeed emerged from the latter, inheriting many of its engagements with non-linear temporalities, questions of temporal scales, standstills, and reversals. ERRANS environ/s had been devised to track the wider scientific and cultural impact of ecology, of notions such as milieu and environment, as one of diffusion, scatter, dispersion, and blurring rather than totalization. Over the course of the first year of research, the group chose the term ‘weathering’ to focus its reflections, which were presented in a workshop in the Fall of 2019. The individual contributions were elaborated and expanded under difficult circumstances, the COVID-19 outbreak becoming a ‘Public [p. xvi]Beginning of page xviHealth Emergency of International Concern’ in January 2020 and a ‘Pandemic’ by March, effecting a dispersal of the research group, which continued and concluded its work under distancing provisions.

18While the contributions appear clustered in the table of contents, this certainly does not suggest that the plurality of disciplines, approaches, theoretical interventions, choices of subject matter allow for any kind of systematization whatsoever. Quite on the contrary, the section headings (Elements, Traces, Layers, and Floods) seek to effect a refractive multiplication rather than any logic of subsumption. The first contributions, gathered as ‘Elements’, seek to show the expanse of weathering, semantically, logically, but also historically. The second cluster, ‘Traces’, considers the interaction between weathering and the particular figure of the trace, its degradation, but also the idiom — including the linguistic boundaries of the idiomatic idiosyncracies with no exact parallel outside of the English language. The essays gathered under ‘Layers’ show that an attention to weathering might start on a surface but ultimately invites a model of layered complexity, whether this applies to environmental policy, the violence of border regimes, or the role of revolutionary contingencies. And the final grouping, ‘Floods’, quite directly engages with an elemental dimension, water, which has been figuratively tied to forgetting and erasure.

19Weathering becomes a principle of this presentation insofar as its collection implies an exposure and inasmuch as the authors were aware of the fact that the resulting process should not be considered arrested and preserved in print (and digital object identification) but invites a mutability that, ultimately, remains incalculable.

*

20The section ‘Elements’ begins with a chapter by Christoph F. E. Holzhey, who engages the nature–culture divide with the generative ambivalences of weathering in both language and physics. Taking the different uses of the enantiosemic and ambitransitive verb as indicative of the human’s fraught relationship with its environment and itself, the chapter analyses multiple ways in which ‘weathering’ can involve subject–object relations, objectless subject–predicate relations, [p. xvii]Beginning of page xviior even subjectless processes, and proposes to think them with mechanics, thermodynamics, and chaos theory.

21The brief explorations of radiation exposures that Alison Sperling presents within the second chapter draw primarily from nuclear art and culture and contribute to the field of nuclear aesthetics, which has long been fixated on the problem of visibility and the representation of nuclear residues. The examples draw primarily from photographic technologies and other aesthetic registers that capture visual residues of radiation. The challenges of nuclear aesthetics are also political and social. This constellation of objects and inquiries is meant to explore the fraught political, environmental, and social relations between radiation, visibility, toxicity, through the concept of exposure. They offer feminist glimpses into other ways of thinking exposure, as it develops in relation to (often imperceptible) toxicity that is not inscribed into a logic that partitions the passive victim of suffering from some pure or unaffected subject. They are examples that are both forms of exposure specific to the nuclear while also, perhaps, helping to expose more nuanced and complex ways of understanding forms of exposure that extend beyond nuclearity.

22In ‘Weathering the Afterlife’, Nicolò Crisafi and Manuele Gragnolati investigate the meteorological phenomena represented in Dante Alighieri’s Commedia and their interrelation with the subjectivity of the dead in Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Examining how the dead weather the afterlife and how the elements affect them, in turn, the essay takes the complex enantiosemy of the word ‘weathering’ as a conceptual guiding thread for the exploration of dynamics of exposure (Inferno), vulnerability (Purgatorio), and receptivity (Paradiso).

23Daniel Liu addresses ‘Scaling from Weather to Climate’. One of the theoretical tensions that has arisen from Anthropocene studies is what Dipesh Chakrabarty has called the ‘two figures of the human’, and the question of which of these two figures of the human inheres in the concept of the Anthropocene more. On the one hand, the Human is conceived as the universal reasoning subject upon whom political rights and equality are based, and on the other hand, humankind is the collection of all individuals of our species, with all of the inequalities, differences, and variability inherent in any species category. This chapter takes up Deborah Coen’s argument that Chakrabarty’s claim [p. xviii]Beginning of page xviiiof the ‘incommensurability’ of these two figures of the human ignores the way both were constructed within debates over how to relate local geophysical specificities to theoretical generalities. It examines two cases in the history of science: Martin Rudwick’s exploration of how geologists slowly gained the ability to reconstruct the history of the Earth in deep time, and Coen’s own history of Austrian climate science, a case where early assumptions about the capriciousness of the weather gave way to theories of climate informed by thermodynamics and large-scale data collection.

24The section ‘Traces’ opens with an essay about rust co-authored by Amelia Groom and M. Ty. Iron usually plays the part of strength, stubbornness, and impenetrability, but rust registers the dimension of time in the material, reminding us that it always carries the potential for its own decomposition. While great expense is incurred to stave off iron’s oxidization, Groom and Ty read the uselessness that rust precipitates as an interruption of the instrumental logics that sustain racial capitalism. Looking to the rusted ring that became Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s Enduring Ornament (1913), they consider how the discarded and defunctionalized lend themselves to ornamental redeployment. The essay then turns to works by the contemporary American artists David Hammons and Andrea Fraser, both of which turn Richard Serra’s rusty steel sculptures into a backdrop for fleeting gestures of impromptu reclamation. Attending to questions of susceptibility and monumental weathering, these reflections look to rusty leakages that play out the impossibility of refusing the environment. Rust, the authors suggest, is a material archive of exposure that does not keep itself, but flakes apart and seeps away.

25Damiano Sacco’s chapter addresses the question of weathering by considering its excess to the conceptual dimension and relating it to what Jacques Derrida names (the) ‘trace’. The study of the ‘logic’ of weathering/the trace is confronted with Giorgio Agamben’s critique of Derrida’s project. Their two different conceptions of language, of its presuppositional structure, and of its order of ‘metaphysical presence’ are considered, in particular by turning to Werner Hamacher’s work on these and related matters.

26‘Glaze: Or Formulas to Get through Bad Weather’ is a short story by Umut Yıldırım set during the military junta of 1980 in Istanbul. [p. xix]Beginning of page xixOn the run and underground with her family, Ö searches for ways to bestow meaning on numerous encounters her father had with thieves.

27The section ‘Layers’ starts out with the chapter ‘Weathering Weather: Atmospheric Geographies of the Guiana Shield’ by Yolanda Ariadne Collins. It argues that paying attention to the weather and its associated processes of geological, biological, and social weathering can destabilize knowledge traditions that insist on dichotomies. Looking to specific histories and current conditions in Guyana and Suriname, this chapter shows how notions of weathering can accommodate a wide range of referents, ranging from the weathering of rock to socio-political and historical afterlives of violent colonial displacements.

28Following Hannah Arendt’s remarks on refugee camps as spaces of ‘worldlessness’, Anja Sunhyun Michaelsen examines how, in films on European asylum facilities, systemic violence ‘makes itself known’ in images of nature. The chapter ‘“Locked out in nature”’ shows how nature separates and isolates (La Forteresse, Forst), constitutes a sphere of domination and control (View from Above), and functions directly as a murder weapon (Purple Sea). Nature, in these films, indicates the Outside within, haunted by the latent and ghostly presence of systemic violence.

29Entitled ‘On Bad Weather: Heidegger, Arendt, and Political Beginnings’, Facundo Vega’s chapter restages Hannah Arendt’s Auseinandersetzung with Martin Heidegger regarding ‘political beginnings’. Sketching Heidegger’s exceptionalist account of ‘new beginnings’ and Arendt’s dispute with him in relation to the tension between the spheres of ‘philosophy’ and ‘politics’, Vega traces her position about ‘political founding’. According to Vega, Arendt invites us to recognize the ‘principle of an-archy’ innate to ‘political beginnings’, which cannot be absorbed by exceptionalist invocations of the ‘history of Being’.

30The final section ‘Floods’ begins with Marlon Miguel’s chapter ‘Representing the World, Weathering its End: Arthur Bispo do Rosário’s Ecology of the Ship’. The chapter explores the intrinsic relationship between weather/weathering and the imaginary of the sea, which features in the work of artist Arthur Bispo do Rosário. Bispo was a black man who spent most of his life in psychiatric institutions. There is an important interplay between his psychotic deliriums [p. xx]Beginning of page xxand the production of hundreds of objects, many of them ships or forms that relate to the sea. These objects open up a discussion on decoloniality as they are embedded with marks left by the transatlantic slave trade.

31Claudia Peppel’s chapter is entitled ‘Enduring Rain’. Over the six months in which Vajiko Chachkhiani’s Living Dog Among Dead Lions was exhibited at the Georgian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, heavy rain was pouring inside the installation. This artificially generated process provokes thoughts on the nature of the here and now as well as of the afterlife and of the future appearance of the hut’s water-sensitive insides. Eventually, the spaces and furniture exposed to rain and water stagnation will begin to rot and disintegrate, and mould and moss might grow over them. Its viewers feel caught between what they see and what they hope to see; between their perceptions and expectations, in an exceptional time zone where ‘natural’ weathering is being performed as a subject of meditative observation. The chapter is followed by a conversation between Vajiko Chachkhiani and Claudia Peppel. Entitled ‘Life Never Stops Being Violent’, it focuses on the role of extreme weather conditions and the vulnerability to weathering in Vajiko Chachkhiani’s work, especially in the piece Living Dog Among Dead Lions.

32In ‘Confined Weathers: Graciela Iturbide and Mario Bellatin’s The Bathroom of Frida Kahlo/Demerol without Expiration Date’, Delfina Cabrera asks: What is the work of weathering in an enclosed space? What if that space was the bathroom of the famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo? Defying prudeness and asepsis, writer Mario Bellatin and photographer Graciela Iturbide enter that intimate room and through a series of artistic interventions give Kahlo’s weathered legacy a new afterlife. The logic of the archive is their guiding principle: in order to protect what has been locked inside, they must expose it and return it to common use.

Arnd Wedemeyer

Christoph F. E. Holzhey

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  4. Butler, Judith, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004)
  5. Butler, Judith, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay, eds, Vulnerability in Resistance (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016) <https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822373490>
  6. Chakrabarty, Dipesh, ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’, Critical Inquiry, 35.2 (Winter 2009), pp. 197–222 <https://doi.org/10.1086/596640>
  7. ‘The Human Condition in the Anthropocene’, in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 35, ed. by Mark Matheson (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016), pp. 139–88, available online: <https://tannerlectures.utah.edu/Chakrabarty manuscript.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2020]
  8. Debray, Cécile, Rémi Labrusse, and Maria Stavrinaki, eds, Préhistoire. Une Énigme moderne (Paris: Centre Pompidou, 2019)
  9. Fabian, Johannes, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object, foreword by Matti Bunzl, new edn (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) <https://doi.org/10.7312/fabi16926>
  10. Haraway, Donna J., Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016) <https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822373780>
  11. Llewelyn, John, The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience: A Chiasmic Reading of Responsibility in the Neighborhood of Levinas, Heidegger and Others (London: Macmillan, 1992)
  12. Morton, Timothy, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, The Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016)
  13. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010)
  14. Neimanis, Astrida, and Rachel Loewen Walker, ‘Weathering: Climate Change and the “Thick Time” of Transcorporeality’, Hypatia, 29.3 (2014), pp. 558–75 <https://doi.org/10.1111/hypa.12064>
  15. Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015) <https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvc77bcc>
  16. UNFCCC, Conference of the Parties, ‘Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Proposal by the President’ (Bonn: UNFCCC Secretariat, 2015) <https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2020]
  17. Yusoff, Kathryn, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018) <https://doi.org/10.5749/9781452962054>
Notes
1.
Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), part i, chapter ‘Temporal Undulation’, pp. 55–68 (p. 55)
2.
Ibid., p. 63.
3.
Ibid., p. 197. The strangeness of the postulated temporality forces Morton’s stylistic hand: ‘The undulating temporality that hyperobjects emit bathes us in a spatiotemporal vortex that is radically different from human-scale time.’ Part ii of Hyperobjects deals with ‘The Time of Hyperobjects’, pp. 99–201.
4.
Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, The Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), p. 5. The first darkness enumerated (‘we usually don’t get past the first darkness, and that’s if we even care’) is the nihilism and depression that comes with the realization of environmental doom.
5.
Ibid., p. 116.
6.
Ibid., p. 160.
7.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), p. 2.
8.
Ibid., p. viii.
9.
Ibid.
10.
Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), p. 1.
11.
Ibid.
12.
Ibid., pp. 4 and 168.
13.
Ibid., p. 4.
14.
Ibid., p. 32: ‘Ecosexual artists Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle made a bumper sticker for me, for us, for SF: “Composting is so hot!”’.
15.
This point has been most forcefully pursued by Dipesh Chakrabarty since his seminal ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’, Critical Inquiry, 35.2 (Winter 2009), pp. 197–222. See also Chakrabarty, ‘The Human Condition in the Anthropocene’, in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, 35, ed. by Mark Matheson (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2016), pp. 139–88, available online: <https://tannerlectures.utah.edu/Chakrabarty manuscript.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2020].
16.
The preamble of the Paris Agreement only half-acknowledges calls for climate justice, right alongside beliefs in a ‘Mother Earth’, as it ‘not[es] the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”, when taking action against climate change’. See UNFCCC, Conference of the Parties, ‘Adoption of the Paris Agreement. Proposal by the President’ (Bonn: UNFCCC Secretariat, 2015) <https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2020].
17.
Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), pp. 11–12.
18.
On the cultural impact of the modern invention of ‘prehistory’ see Préhistoire. Une Énigme moderne, ed. by Cécile Debray, Rémi Labrusse, and Maria Stavrinaki (Paris: Centre Pompidou, 2019). For the anthropological division of peoples inside and outside of history see Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object, foreword by Matti Bunzl, new edn (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).
19.
See, among many, Vulnerability in Resistance, ed. by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016). Butler acknowledges and discusses the Levinasian inspirations of this ethics of vulnerability in several texts, for example in her Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004), chapter 5: ‘Precarious Life’. But it is important to note that Levinas’s resolutely anthropocentric ethics had been grafted onto ecology even earlier by, among others, John Llewelyn, The Middle Voice of Ecological Conscience: A Chiasmic Reading of Responsibility in the Neighborhood of Levinas, Heidegger and Others (London: Macmillan, 1992) and Silvia Benso, The Face of Things: A Different Side of Ethics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000).
20.
Astrida Neimanis and Rachel Loewen Walker, ‘Weathering: Climate Change and the “Thick Time” of Transcorporeality’, Hypatia, 29.3 (2014), pp. 558–75 (p. 558).
21.
Ibid., pp. 566 and 573. Like the notion of ‘transcorporeality’ in the subtitle, this is a reference to the work of Stacy Alaimo, in this case to: ‘Insurgent Vulnerability and the Carbon Footprint of Gender’, Women, Gender, and Research (Kvinder, Køn og Forskning, Denmark), 3–4 (2009), pp. 22–35. In her Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016) — which is interested in ‘[p]erforming exposure as an ethical and political act’ and in how to ‘occupy exposure as insurgent vulnerability’ (p. 5) — Alaimo, in turn, suggests that ‘[p]erforming exposure can catalyze that very sense of weathering’ (p. 82) that Neimanis and Loewen Walker are proposing.
22.
Ibid., p. 561.
23.
Ibid., p. 573.
24.
Ibid.; emphasis in original. The imperative continues: ‘Our call is […] for those of us living in privileged, high-consumption situations to direct our responsivity more consciously, in a way more closely attuned to that which we are affecting.’