Climate Art As Disruption: Making Space For Transformation

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Chloe Fishman (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Laura England

Abstract: Climate change is arguably the most acute existential crisis of our time because it is deeply interconnected with the health of all present and future human-natural systems. Recently, climate communication scholars have recognized the limitations of prevailing past and current approaches and called for climate communication practitioners to increase their use of creative media in outreach. Through this thesis I address the question, how can engagement with climate art help remove obstacles to meaningful climate discourse and action? Scholars suggest that climate art and affective messaging may help to disrupt climate silence and inaction by making space for visceral responses, fostering culturally accessible and critical engagement, and inspiring openness to non-traditional perspectives and solutions. However, scholarly literature neglects to adequately address the significance of who is producing climate art—who conveys and receives perspectives and ideas though climate art platforms? This gap is important to explore because the slow violence of climate change perpetuates injustice by silencing those who are most affected by climate change, and who challenge the systems responsible by using climate art to render visible this violence and suggest alternatives. Through this thesis, I use decolonial thinking—which identifies and resists patterns of thinking that perpetuate colonial power imbalances—to analyze the role of climate art engagement in breaking climate silence. I explore how elite Global North (GN) decision makers’ epistemological domination and efforts to shield the dominant violent systems responsible for climate change variously affect the Global South (GS), youth, and the American public. I draw from scholarly literature on climate communication and examples of projects to show how climate art qualifies non-scientific knowledge as legitimate, empowering American public art receivers to claim their right to speak on climate change. I then explore climate art production through exploratory analysis of interviews I conducted with six Appalachian State University Climate Action Collaborative (CSC) student artists. I suggest that CSC mirrors the youth empowerment of Fridays for Future school strikes by disrupting academic curriculums to make space for students to process and respond to climate change, and to learn while making an impact through hands-on experience with climate communication. Thereafter, I review examples of GS climate art and assess how these works disrupt the slow violence of climate change and build toward just alternatives. Ultimately, I argue that if the American public respectfully receives and foregrounds youth and GS climate art, it may build solidarity around the need for climate action. By taking space for discussion and action, these groups may decentralize climate discourse and decision-making, thereby disrupting dominant systems responsible for climate injustice, and building more equitable futures.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Fishman, C. (2019). Climate Art As Disruption: Making Space For Transformation. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2019
Climate art, climate action, climate change, justice, decolonial, Global South, Youth

Email this document to