“Massive Corporate Wealth Has Blocked the Democratic Process”: In Conversation With T.J. Demos



Vít Bohal: In your new book Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology you are critical of the recent dOCUMENTA (13) exhibition, stating that its overall conception “tended more toward the hybrid aesthetics of sci-fi than political engagement.” How can contemporary art be used effectively as a political tool, beyond partaking in a simple post-conceptual aestheticism?

TJ Demos: In Decolonizing Nature I argue that art can function as an effective political tool, though it depends what we mean by it. I contend that the political is intrinsically aesthetic, where aesthetic designates the sensible. How we organize that sensible realm is a crucial question. As we currently confront a global ecological crisis that is historically unprecedented—one that is frequently out of sight—it becomes imperative to create paths toward environmental sustainability that are made visible. And given that environmental violence is premised on racist, sexist and other forms of social and political inequality, it’s crucial, I argue, to view environmental sustainability as inextricable from social justice and political equality, and to show why.