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Art & Earth: Taking an Ecological view on Contemporary Art Worldwide


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


In his book Facing Gaia (2017), Bruno Latour, one of the world’s leading sociologists and anthropologists, in eight lectures points at our globe’s present-day, unstable situation having entered – as he describes it – an ecological mutation of unprecedented scale: a new climate regime, which some refer to as the Anthropocene. Because of men’s interference – human activity and the natural world – we need to renegotiate our relationship to the surrounding world (nature) and reopen earlier notions of nature. For this, academics, scientists, artists, and activists need to team up to adjust to this new climatic regime. Here ‘Gaia’ comes in, not as some sort of natural goddess but as a new way of thinking and understanding the Earth as a porous and whimsical being – a whole of collaborating organisms – that may strike back. It will not suffice to approach the ecological crisis in a strictly scientific way, we need the humanities, we need religion, we need art, is Latour’s contention. In this course we are going to explore Latour’s ideas and bring art and activist’s practices into the equation.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • Acquiring knowledge of and insight in the debates revolving around contemporary art and theory/discourse and activism regarding ecological issues;

  • Training to reflect on relevant theories and approaches;

  • Learning how art and curatorial practices interact with and can be productive in exchange with theory and debate;

  • Learn to understand how art practice and theory mutually challenge each other, and how this interchange stimulates an awareness of diverse positions and a different take on art within diverse contexts;

  • Gaining insight into the cultural and societal role and function of art in regards to environmental, ecological issues.

  • Learn to analyse works of art, curatorial practices and theoretical positions, and presenting the results of these analyses in oral presentations (including making a poster) and academic papers.

  • ResMA students only: you are asked to add an annex to the final paper of 2.000 words in which you discuss how in your opinion the theories and approaches of the course may contribute to the discipline of Art & Culture studies with new perspectives. The final paper thus can be seen as a ‘diptych’ in which part one discusses a certain topic of choice and the second part the theoretical reflection as mentioned


The timetable is available on the Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar;

  • Excursion to relevant exhibition

Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two seminars, provided they present a valid reason beforehand. Students who have missed more than two seminars will have to aply to the Examination Board of the Ma Arts and Culture in order to obtain permission to further follow and complete the course.

Course Load

Course load in summary: 10 ects (280 hrs)

  • Seminars: 3 hours per week x 12 weeks: 36 hours;

  • Readings for first block of the course: 6 x 6 hours: 36 hours

  • Reading, preparing and giving oral presentation: 50 hours

  • Writing midterm assignment 38 hours

  • Assignments to prepare for individual research topic and poster: 40 hours

  • Writing of final course paper: 80 hours (re-reading texts, collecting research material, searching and reading additional literature, composing and writing of paper).

Assessment method

  • The seminar is a 3 hours per week course, in which we all together discuss the course books, students give presentations, participate in discussions, reflect on the issues discussed, collaborate in assignments and write papers (mid-term and final paper);

  • The seminar will be concluded with poster presentations that will lead up to the final paper.

  • Excursion to relevant exhibition;

  • Oral presentation.

  • Papers

ResMa students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (see below).


The final grade is the average of the three grades (20%, 30%, 50%). A student passes the class if the weighted average is a 6.0 or higher (marks under 5.0 are not allowed) and the poster and final paper are a 6.0 or higher.

  • ResMA students only: you are asked to add an annex to the final paper of 2.000 words in which you discuss how in your opinion the theories and approaches discussed in the course may contribute to the discipline of Arts & Culture studies with new perspectives. The final paper thus can be seen as a ‘diptych’ in which part one discusses a certain topic of choice, and the second part the theoretical reflection as mentioned.

Both the midterm assignment and the final paper need to be a pass.


There is a re-sit for every assessment

Exam Review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • information

  • course materials, texts, PowerPoints

  • announcements

Reading list

Assigned Literature (course books for the seminar):

  • Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia: Eight lectures on the new climate regime. (translated by Catherina Porter). Cambridge (UK), Polity Press 2017

  • T.D. Demos, Against the Anthropocene. Visual Culture and Environment Today. Berlin, Sternberg Press 2017

For further orientation:

  • Cheryll Glotfelty & Harold Fromm (eds.), The Ecocriticism Reader. Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens (GE)/London, The University of Georgia Press 1996


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. You can register until two weeks after classes have started however students are advised to register as soon as possible and preferably before the start of the course.
In the case of electives: please be aware that most electives have a maximum amount of students who can enroll. Do not approach the course instructor in case the class is full. You will automatically be put on a waiting list.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher S. Noach MA