Séminaire “Landscape Malaise : The Unseen, the Invisibilized and the Unsightly in Canadian Visual and Literary Art”

Mardi 13 juin 2023 à 18h, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, site Saint-Charles, salle 126.

Séminaire organisé dans le cadre des axes « Matérialités » et « Faire commun » d’EMMA. Intervention de Claire Omhovère.

Canada’s promotion of its image as a natural haven has intensified in recent years, especially in circumstances when the public sphere has grown wary of the environmental impact of extractivism without being ready to renounce its immediate economic benefits. In this context the preservation of the wild has become a promotional mantra, and greenwashing a widespread strategy to guarantee jobs without alienating communities of voters. Lumber companies operate behind thin curtains of trees that disrobe unsightly clearcuts from the view of motorists in British Columbia. A similar strategy has been adopted with strip mining in the Athabasca region should the sites of extraction be close to the highway. Most of the time, however, the exploitation of natural resources occurs in places that are so remote from Canada’s urban centers that the sites of extraction can only be reached by plane, which means that industrial operations can take place on a large scale with few visible effects, except for the Indigenous populations living in the same area. This talk aims to query the distrust of landscape that has been asserting itself along with present concerns for the degradation of the environment, in order to better understand to what extent the Western taste for landscape, and the visual aesthetics that sustain it, may represent a stumbling block to environmental justice. Attitudes towards landscape assume paradoxical forms of reverence mixed with rejection in settler colonies where the historical dependency on a staple economy has accelerated the destruction of ecosystems over the very same period when landscape was extolled as the vibrant expression of the national identity. In Canada, this phenomenon is embodied by the vogue of the Group of 7 and the regain of attention their painting style drew during the Centennial decade when the second act of the independence played itself out. This talk will focus on the landscape malaise that has gained consistency after the last decade of the twentieth century at a time when postcolonial scholars were reaching out to establish connections with the developing field of ecocriticism (Hutcheon 1993). During this talk I will reflect on three visual regimes that trouble the aesthetic appreciation of the natural environment as landsc(r)ape (Boetskes 2017). Taking into account the unseen, the invisibilized and the unsightly will help reframe the mutual dependency between aesthetic, colonial and environmental exploitation, thereby putting a strain on the moralizing discourse of a sentimental ecology cut off from a concrete, material engagement with place, no matter how disturbing this may be.

(Illustration : Marlene Creates, Points of Interest, Saskatchewan, 1999, detail, 12 vintage colour Endurochrome photographic prints, 61 x 91.4 cm each. Collection of Remai Modern. Purchased with the support of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, 2019.)

Présentation de l’intervenante: Claire Omhovère est professeure de littérature du Commonwealth à l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, laboratoire EMMA, spécialiste de l’écriture du paysage dans les nouvelles littératures en anglais, principalement au Canada.


OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
Marc Lenormand (13 juin 2023). Séminaire “Landscape Malaise : The Unseen, the Invisibilized and the Unsightly in Canadian Visual and Literary Art” Études Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone. Consulté le 21 juillet 2024 à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/o815


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