Imagining climate change: The visual arts to the rescue?


Humanity has entered a new era, often labelled the Anthropocene – the human epoch. It poses a significant threat to the ecological integrity of the planet, particularly through human-caused climate change. The abstract and complex nature of climate change makes it a topic that is often framed and visualized in overly scientific and negative ways. This research studies a promising alternative approach for imagining climate change from the contemporary visual arts. This approach differs from the mainstream public discourse, addresses the imaginative deficit of science and has the potential to shape public engagement with climate change. The emerging and innovative field of the Environmental Humanities, which combines traditional Humanities modes of inquiries with Environmental Sciences and other disciplines, has started to investigate the role of the visual arts in the climate change debate. This PhD research will expand this important work by asking: How do the visual art/ists imagine the human-climate change relation? Three interrelated studies investigate (1) imagination as discursive framing (discourse analysis of visual artists as public intellectuals); (2) imagination as visual representation (visual and text analysis of artworks); and (3) imagination shaping public engagement in the Netherlands with climate change (photo elicitation interviews). This research, therefore, addresses the urgent need to re-imagine environmental issues such as climate change as human challenges. It is a response to urgent calls for the further mobilization of the Humanities to contribute to effectively addressing one of the biggest issues of our time.





Prof. dr. F.R.R. Vermeylen

Verbonden aan

Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication ESHCC


16/09/2019 tot 01/09/2023