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Aesthetic practices in the climate crisis: Intervening in consensual frameworks of the sensible through images



Previous research has shown that Western visual journalism has represented climate change through certain repetitive and stereotypical imagery mainly consisting of catastrophic images of climate change impacts, images depicting technological causes and solutions, and images of politicians and activists. This imagery has proven to be distant, abstract, and ineffective in motivating personal engagement with climate change. In this article, we claim that visual journalism's representations of climate change are rooted in the consensual frameworks of human-centredness and consumption-centredness. Leaning on Jacques Ranciére's notion of “the politics of aesthetics”, we aim to challenge these frameworks. We suggest, with examples from visual arts, four aesthetic practices which could intervene in these frameworks: 1) revealing connectedness, 2) recognising agency, 3) compromising the attractions of consumerism, and 4) illuminating alternatives. We propose that visual representations, renewed through these aesthetic practices, could have an effect on how people connect to climate issues and imagine possibilities for agency in the climate crisis. Implementing these aesthetic practices would entail shifts in the sphere of visual journalism.