(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 10: It’s Not Easy Being Green (Under Capitalism)

What does culture look like in a “sustainable” world? In episode of 10 of (Pop) Cultural Marxism, Ajay, Isi, and guest Rebecca Ariel Porte examine the problems with “green” technology and consumption—which, it turns out, do little, nothing, or less than nothing to sustain the environment—and talk about the kinds of cultural forms, from literature to architecture to games, that are not only sustainable in terms of ecology and society but also aesthetically compelling and beautiful. How does genuine ecological sustainability depend on social sustainability for artists and engineers and other creative workers, and promote far richer aesthetic expressions? Why is so much “Green”-branded work—in everything from the built world to fine art—anything but? What forms of aesthetic creation not usually thought of as ecological, are actually sustainable in every dimension? How does our current unsustainable social and ecological society constrict imagination and creative effloresce? And how would even a modestly more sustainable world, actually enable and support such creative flourishing? Looking to both current and historical examples, Isi, Rebecca, and Ajay review art installations like Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room and the MOMA’s Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism; architecture from the “PR-architecture” of projects like “Oceanix” to the actual sustainability found in works like Võ Tr?ng Ngh?a’s “Farming Kindergarten”; unexhausted forms in music (from Bach to Stravinsky, pop music to the vast world of jazz) and in verse, such as the ghazals of poet Anthony Madrid; film, tv, and even videogames, whether low-powered and low-tech (as with recent critical and commercial successes like Hades (Supergiant) or Stardew Valley (Concerned Ape)) or high-powered and high-tech (and highly popular), like Zelda, Elden Ring, and more. How is production—from emissions to mineral inputs, exploitative assembly and “crunch”—key to understanding aesthetic exhaustions? How does unsustainable ecological design and an ever accelerating model of production stifle creativity and promote ever narrower, more costly, and less interesting work? How does a model like streaming—and other modes of supposedly “dematerialized” distribution—actually obscure ecological damage while simultaneously making aesthetic production more difficult for artists and aesthetic consumption less compelling for everyone? What is the “trickle up misery” of “defensive architecture”? In the face of a capitalist ethos that always insists on creativity as bound to a logic of “bigger, faster, better, more,” the conversation explores the ways in which working, creating, designing, and engineering within limits has produced some of the most exciting aesthetic forms and experiences, and how the necessity of ecological and social limits can act as the “enabling constraints” of a far more compelling aesthetic life than the all-too-real dystopia of today.

You can download the episode by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.” Or, look us up on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

This episode of (Pop) Cultural Marxism was edited by William Clark. If you like what you’ve heard, consider subscribing to Brooklyn Institute’s Patreon page, where you can enjoy access to all past and future episodes of this podcast, as well as Practical Criticism, Faculty Spotlight, and other BISR podcast productions.

(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 10: It's Not Easy Being Green (Under Capitalism)

Notations

Digital Eclipse, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration

Andrei Tarkovsky, Nostalghia (1983)

Ordinary Unhappiness podcast: https://ordinaryunhappiness.buzzsprout.com/

Marguerite Young, Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias (1945)

Linnea Axelsson, Ædnan (2018)

Otar Iosseliani, Favorites of the Moon (1984)

Andrey Platonov, Chevengur (1972)

Tamsyn Muir, Harrow the Ninth (2020)

Lies of P (Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio)

Philip Jodidio, Green Architecture (Taschen)

Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room (1977)

Rosalind Krauss, “The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalist Museum” (1990)

Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring (1975 premiere)

MoMA: Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism

Neri Oxman, Material Ecology (2020)

Kate Wagner, “What Good Is Architecture on a Drowning Planet?” https://www.thenation.com/article/environment/climate-architecture-flooding-infrastructure/

Snøhetta, The Spark: https://old.snohetta.com/projects/388-the-spark

Dave the Diver (Mintrocket)

Pentiment (Obsidian Entertainment)

Playdate: https://play.date/

Ghazal poetry of Anthony Madrid, “It is with words as it is with people” (2015): https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/58025/it-is-with-words-as-it-is-with-people

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621)

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

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