In Conversation with Shela Sheikh


Monday, May 6, 2019


5:00 pm


Main Building President's Conference Room

The Future of the Witness:
Aesthetic Practice and More-than-Human Environmental Publics

A recurrent motif in many art works dealing with colonialism and environmental violence, especially in the absence of human survivors, is that of nature as “witness”. Beyond metaphor, to what degree can we conceive of the nonhuman witness? Does nature “speak”, and if so, how to attune our ears to it? And how to avoid the pitfalls of “speaking for” or silencing entailed within classic schemas of representation? In the face of anthropocenic disaster and the ruination of life-worlds, now more than ever what is called for is a reconceptualization of the solitary witness figure into testimonial constellations comprised of both humans and “other-than-humans.”

Shela Sheikh is Lecturer in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths (University of London), where she convenes the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy and co-chairs the Goldsmiths Critical Ecologies Research Stream. A recent multi-platform research project around colonialism, botany and the politics of planting includes “The Wretched Earth: Botanical Conflicts and Artistic Interventions”, a special issue of Third Text co-edited with Ros Gray (vol. 32, issue 2–3, 2018) and Theatrum Botanicum (Sternberg Press, 2018) edited with Uriel Orlow. Her current research interrogates various forms of witnessing, between the human, technological and environmental.

Sponsored by the Media Studies Program

Melissa McAlley

Media Studies Program