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 Research

 

Siobhan Angus is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work bridges art history, media studies, and the environmental humanities. Specializing in the history of photography, her current research explores the visual culture of resource extraction with a focus on materiality, perceptions of nature, and environmental justice. Her scholarship also engages with temporality and scale in the geological turn, landscape studies, settler colonial studies, toxicity in contemporary art, and the visual cultures of capitalism and labor. Analyzing the complex relationship between art, science, and industry, she considers how raw materials are transformed into the material foundations for art and architecture, and how, paradoxically, art helps us make sense of these processes.

 

​Her book, Camera Geologica, (forthcoming with Duke University Press) explores the visual culture of resource extraction with a focus on materiality, perceptions of nature, and environmental justice. Advancing an eco-critical reading of photography to consider the material links between resource extraction and image making, Camera Geologica focuses on mined materials that have been used in photographic processes. At the root of the book is a simple premise: that the mine is a necessary precondition for photography as a medium. At various points in photography’s history, different materials have been extracted from the earth to facilitate image-making, including bitumen, silver, platinum, iron, uranium, and rare earth minerals. Taking a transhistorical and transregional approach, this project considers the complex imbrication of extraction and image making. Connecting photography to its material foundations in mining directly links questions of environmental justice to art. This research makes materials, and the consequences of their extraction, visible. Materials bring histories, both symbolic and concrete, into the everyday. Once set in the photograph, they create meaning and become a critical tool for helping us make sense of the world. As such, photographs are a powerful means to illuminate, and attempt to redress, ecological catastrophe in the present. 

She is currently working on two new projects. The first focuses on toxicity and the remediation of polluted landscapes, exploring toxicity as a material and representational problem in contemporary art. Examining how scientific exploration made toxicity a defining feature of contemporary life, impacting the environment, health, and culture, she argues that the material engagement with toxicity by artists reframes cultural understandings of purity and damage in the contaminated modernity of the present. The second reconsiders landscape as an aesthetic category by centering the politics of land and land relations. If landscape studies have traditionally focused on questions of representation and cultural imaginaries, how does taking land seriously as a category prompt a rethinking of landscape? What does a history of landscape that centers land relations look like?

 

Image Caption: Carleton Watkins, Malakoff Diggins, North Bloomfield, Nevada County, 1871. Albumen print. 39.3 x 54.8 cm (15 1/2 x 21 9/16 in.) National Gallery of Art, Patrons' Permanent Fund. 1995.36.128.