Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

You are here

Subhanker Banerjee, "Trouble in Paradise: Photography, Visual Ecology, and Extraction in Olympic National Park"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 5:30pm
Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) 108

Presented by: 

Digital Arts and New Media

Institute of the Arts and Sciences

Arts Department


Internationally acclaimed artist Subhanker Banerjee is presenting "Trouble in Paradise: Photography, Visual Ecology, and Extraction in Olympic National Park" as part of EXTRACTION, a research program exploring the industrial operations which abuse natural resources and thrive off of labor exploitation and racialized impoverishment.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Metered parking is available in the Performing Arts lot.

For this talk, Subhankar Banerjee will introduce his forest series photography “Trouble in Paradise.” Situated in the Olympic National Park and the Peninsula in Washington State that, so far has eluded any critical and significant artistic engagement, the primary aim of the series is to update visual depictions of nature from the 19th and 20th centuries to our time in the 21st. Instead of depicting National Park as a place of national pride, of reverence, for leisure and aesthetic pleasure, or to seek solace and silence, the series reframes “America’s Best Idea” as a mirror onto which the detritus and hubris of industrial progress is reflected with clarity. The talk will begin with a brief history of the park, which includes crimes against Native American communities through settler colonialism, acrimonious and protracted environmental campaigns to protect the last remaining old growth coastal temperate rainforests from logging, and an ongoing long environmentalism campaign to decolonize nature. Even though “Trouble in Paradise” was initiated with the intention to visually document recent climate change impacts, which includes drought-induced rainforest fire in 2015 and mass die-off of sea stars that started in 2013, but the project took a sharp turn toward something else, to apprehend how do the tourist, the Park Service, and inhabitants of the area, react and respond when disasters arrive at the doorstep. The inquiry proved illuminating: visitation to the park went up to a historic high; loggers and nature lovers happily shared the road largely oblivious to “Fire Ban” and “Burn Ban”; and “Fire Information” didn’t dissuade tourists from snapping selfies. But a new realization also emerged—photography is as much about reading as it is about seeing, and therein lies a glimmer of radical hope.  

A self-taught artist and writer and an accidental activist, Subhankar Banerjee is Lannan Chair of Land Arts of the American West and Professor of Art and Ecology at the University of New Mexico. His photographs have been exhibited widely, including at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Nottingham Contemporary and Biennale of Sydney; and writing published in anthologies and progressive media, including Ecocriticism and Indigenous Studies and TomDispatch. Over the past sixteen years his work primarily addressed resource wars, climate change, and indigenous human rights in the Arctic, and contributed to defeating and/or slowing down oil and gas development in some of the biologically and culturally significant places, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Teshekpuk Lake wetland, and the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. He collaborates closely with the Gwich’in and the Iñupiat indigenous communities in Arctic North America. Banerjee is editor of Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point. He has been working on a long-term visual ecology (Arctic, desert, forest) trilogy on (non)human.


Artists’ Lecture and Film Screening Series

*All lectures and screenings are on Tuesday evenings, 5:30 -7:30 PM, in DARC 108 at UC Santa Cruz unless otherwise noted.

1/17 Presentation by Matthew Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation

1/24 Presentation by Ed Morris and Susannah Sayler of The Canary Project

1/31 Screening of Beth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle’s Goodbye Gauley Mountain, 2013, with Artists’ Presentation

2/14 Screening of The Otolith Group’s The Radiant, 2012

2/21 Presentation by Subhankar Banerjee

2/28 Screening of the following shorts videos:
-David Kelly / Patty Chang, Spiritual Myopia, 2015
-Harun Farocki, Silver and the Cross, 2010
-Sammy Baloji, Mémoire, 2007

3/7 Screening of Elizabeth Knafo’s Rare Earth, 2014 and Presentation by the artist

3/14 Screening of Sanjay Rawal’s Food Chains, 2014, with Presentation by Ann López (Center for Farmworker Families)

Field Trips

Saturday, March 11

Visit the Harrisons’ Future Garden (with Newton Harrison), and to the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program research garden (with Rick Flores and members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band), Arboretum, UC Santa Cruz

Sunday, May 7

Farmworker Reality Tour in Watsonville with Ann López of the Center for Farmworker Families


May 12-13 (Friday at the Multi-Purpose Room at College Nine and Ten; Saturday at the Nonviolent Resource Center)

Confirmed speakers include: Jason Moore, Brian Holmes and Claire Pentecost, Anne Quirynen, Caleb Ben, representative from NoDAPL, Angela Anderson and Angela Melitopoulos

Image Credit: Fire Information from "Trouble in Paradise". Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee, 2015.