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Edward Christie

PhD supervisors: Professor Robert Mills (History of Art) and Professor Mark Maslin (Geography)
Working title for PhD: 'Beyond Eco Art: Mobilising Post-War (Anti-)Modern Art History Against the Climate Crisis'

Through my doctoral project, I am working to reform post-war modern art history in the light of critical discourse on the environment, which has proliferated in recent years with the wide acceptance of the Anthropocene thesis and the popularisation of climate activism. Fundamentally, I ask the following question: ‘What would it mean to interrogate post-war modern art history through the prism of a contemporary environmentalist perspective?’. My answers centre on the conviction that art history essentially involves the critical analysis and transformation of the conditions of subjectivity as expressly manifested in artworks, and that an environmentalist approach to the discipline could therefore point towards fundamental and holistic means of responding to the climate crisis. To fulfil this potential, I advocate anti-modern art history: the rejection of the discipline’s multitudinous, entrenched ties to the modern system, and the prioritisation of socio-environmental ethical praxis within the subject.  

Research interests

Environmentalism and political ecology; the political agency of art history; radical philosophy; post-war modern art; anachronism; interdisciplinary collaborations between the arts and sciences.

Publications 

Conference papers and presentations: 

Media appearances/outreach work 

Cultural Ecology: Galvanising Climate Action Across the Arts, Seminar Host. 

  • Based at UCL Anthropocene, the Cultural Ecology seminar programme united activist-academics working across the arts to interrogate the following question: ‘How might cultural researchers galvanise more urgent and effective responses to the climate crisis to remedy the severe inadequacy of the actions currently being set into motion by governments and corporations?’

UCL Anthropocene, Project Coordinator.

  • UCL Anthropocene works as a virtual school by assembling projects, people, courses, and events from across the social sciences, arts, humanities, life, environmental, and health sciences to articulate and address the problems that the Anthropocene poses for our collective future.
  • Among events I have organised for the initiative, on Tuesday 17th November 2020 I will be hosting a forum on ‘Contemporary Art in the Anthropocene’.

Environment Domain Early-career Network (EDEN), Co-chair.

  • The Environment Domain Early Career Network (EDEN) provides support to researchers in the early stages of their career in environmental research at UCL.
  • Through my work with EDEN I have been promoting interdisciplinary discourse on environmental issues between early-career UCL academics from arts and sciences backgrounds.

Reforming Anatomy, Co-founder.

  • Reforming Anatomy is a research network focused on examining the human body through the lenses of contemporary art and medicine.
  • After the pandemic, we will resume our series of conferences for The Royal Society of Medicine to explore the question of ‘What is Health?’ – considering its mental, social, and environmental dimensions; and critically weaving together how it is defined by medical professionals and artists, in order to reach a synthesised and more objective understanding of wellbeing.

Past Imperfect Seminar, Steering Group Member.

  • Past Imperfect is a visual culture seminar based in the History of Art Department at UCL. We share concerns with the past and its place in the present, a present increasingly overinvested in the value of the contemporary. 
  • I took a leading role in developing last year’s programme, which was centred on the theme of ‘Activation’. Among events, I helped to organise a series of short talks on the relationship between art and protest movements, for which I gave a presentation on how contemporary documentary artists are responding to extractivist crimes in Latin America. 

Teaching 

  • Postgraduate Teaching Assistant. HART0021: Modern & Contemporary Art in London. January—April 2021 [forthcoming].
    • This course will examine the significance of art in the so-called ‘Anthropocene’—our geological epoch which is defined by modern humans’ profound disturbance of the Earth’s planetary conditions. We will critically explore how artists since the late eighteenth century have both contributed to the worsening of the climate crisis by fortifying modern ideology and subverted dominant politics to promote social and environmental justice. Underpinning these analyses will be a discussion of how approaches to the arts—including art practice, curation, and history—might be transformed to more meaningfully contribute to the climate movement, whether that be through policymaking or activism. The seminars will take place at iconic London institutions including Kew Gardens, the Courtauld Gallery, and Tate Modern; and each session will focus on an important artist such as Marianne North, William Morris, and Rasheed Araeen.
  • Postgraduate Teaching Assistant. Undergraduate Dissertation Coordinator. September 2019—July 2020.

Awards 

  • My PhD is fully funded by one of UCL’s Graduate Research Scholarships.
  • In addition, my doctoral research has been supported by the following awards:
    • Yale-UCL Collaborative Student Exchange Award (2021-22)
    • Inoue Masaru Scholarship (2021-22)
    • Departmental Travel and Conference Fund Award (2021-22)