The “Arts and Media” cluster of the CENHS aims to create innovative programming, curriculum, and research around 1) the way artists, artistic media, and social media reflect and shape our thinking about energy, ecology, and sustainability, and 2) the interwoven nature of Houston’s unique energy and arts landscapes. By hosting artists, presenting art, and reflecting critically on art and media, this cluster hopes to address how artists respond to perceived crises over energy and ecology. We will consider how the arts and various media forms shape and impact how we visualize, experience, imagine, and comprehend urgent contemporary concerns: energy gathering, use, and transmission; ecological change that has present effects and yet occurs over almost unimaginable time scales; the shaping of urban geographies by the imperatives of energy collection and distribution; and patterns of consumption that subtend conservation and sustainability.

Over the next few years, the “Arts and Media” cluster will begin to develop sustained curricular and campus efforts to understand energy, ecology, and sustainability in the context of the city of Houston. In one sense Houston provides Rice’s “local” environment, an environment uniquely and extensively impacted by the energy industry, which also includes extensive arts philanthropy funded by energy monies of various kinds and at various moments in Houston’s history. But Houston is also the hub or nexus of a massive energy network linking local concerns of ecology and urban geography to global circuits of energy production, transmission, and trade. As a major research university in the center of this hub, Rice is uniquely positioned to innovate by 1) commissioning, documenting, and analyzing the unique ways in which arts and media map energy, ecology, and sustainability, and 2) collaborating with local arts presenters who share an interest in energy, ecology, and the arts.

For the first year, the “Arts and Media” cluster with sponsor, with generous funding from both the CENHS and Rice’s new Arts Initiatives, a series of activities centered around consumption. To think of energy and ecology is to think of patterns of use and the ways of thinking that enable excessive consumption. The simultaneously subtle, accessible, and provocative art of Marina Zurkow provides powerful ways of visualizing patterns of energy extraction, consumption, and use and their ecological consequences. As Zurkow herself puts it, she “makes media works that explore humans’ relationships to animals, plants and the weather. These reconfigured and inclusive notions of our environment have taken the form of animated videos, customized multi-screen computer pieces, installations, prints, and participatory public art works.” We will invite Zurkow to campus for two conversations about her work. We will also sponsor the installation of her single-channel animation “Mesocosm (Wink, Texas)” in a variety of locations on campus and host “Outside the Work” which is a meal highlighting the entanglement of food and petrochemicals.

In conjunction with our year-long theme, Timothy Morton (English) will teach English 358 “Consumption and Consumerism,” a combination of eco-criticism and food studies. Morton’s students blog on their consumer habits here. Anne Kokas (Chao Center) will teach ASIA 438: “Global Environmental Media.” Joseph Campana (English) will begin a blog called “Alternate Currents,” focusing on energy and the arts.

Core members:

Joseph Campana is a poet, critic, and scholar of Renaissance literature. The Pain of Reformation: Spenser, Vulnerability, and the Ethics of Masculinity (Fordham UP, 2012), and two collections of poetry, The Book of Faces (Graywolf, 2005) and Natural Selections (2012), which received the Iowa Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Slate, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Conjunctions, Colorado Review, and many other venues. He has received the Isabel MacCaffrey Essay Prize, the MLA’s Crompton-Noll Award for LGB studies, and grants from the NEA and the HAA. Current projects include a study of children and sovereignty in the works of Shakespeare entitled The Child’s Two Bodies, an edited collection (with Scott Maisano) entitled Renaissance Posthumanism, and a collection of poems entitled The Book of Life. His interests also include energy, affect, and enervation and their representation in a range of arts and media from the Renaissance to the present. You will be able to find his reflections on energy and the arts in a new blog coming soon called Alternate Currents.

Timothy Morton studied English literature at Oxford (BA and D.Phil.), and then did postdoctoral work at Princeton. He has worked at NYU, CU Boulder and UC Davis. Morton is currently writing Dark Ecology and Buddhaphobia, two studies of philosophy and culture in the global nineteenth century. He is the author of Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (Open Humanities Press, 2013), Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (U of Minessota P, forthcoming), The Ecological Thought (Harvard UP, 2010), and Ecology without Nature (Harvard UP, 2007). He has published seven other books, all of which are about issues and authors in the Romantic period (Frankenstein, Percy Shelley, Romantic-period food and eating, radicalism). Professor Morton is the author of over eighty essays on philosophy, ecology, literature, food and music. He gives lectures around the world on literature, ecology, philosophy, and culture. Professor Morton’s Blog: Ecology without Nature.

Aynne Kokas, Ph.D., is the Baker Institute Fellow in Chinese Media and a sustainability postdoctoral fellow at the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University. She was a visiting scholar with the Cultures of Energy Mellon-Sawyer Seminar. Kokas’ current research focuses on the circulation of U.S. environmental media on Chinese social networks. She also has written extensively about the challenges and opportunities presented by public-private partnerships in Sino-U.S. joint ventures, with particular focus on the media industries. Kokas is currently revising the book manuscript Shot in Shanghai: Blockbusters, Social Networks and Sino-U.S. Media Co-Production based on her dissertation which won the 2013 “Best Dissertation in Global Communication and Social Change” prize from the International Communication Association. Prior to her work at Rice, Kokas was a project manager at the UCLA Anderson Center for Global Management’s Green Business Week and a teaching fellow in the flagship Global Environment Program at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Internationally, Kokas has been a Fulbright scholar and a Social Science Research Council fellow in Shanghai, a Foreign Language and Area Studies grantee in Taipei, and a Chinese Ministry of Education fellow in Beijing. She was also a visiting fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, one of the PRC’s leading public policy think tanks. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, Kokas also speaks German and Korean. In addition to conducting research in Sino-U.S. industrial relations, Kokas has also worked as management consultant focusing on both Chinese market entry strategy and engineered products. She holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from UCLA.

is a PhD student in the Department of English at Rice University. He is a Diana Hobby Editorial Fellow for Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 and is a member of the Center for Critical and Cultural Theory (3CT). His research interests include ecocriticism, the history of science and technology, narrative theory, and formalism. His research has been focused primarily on 17th and 18th century English literature, and in particular, the ways in which mechanistic philosophy and materialism shaped the production of early theories of energy and the environment, as well as the emergence and proliferation of new forms; literary, industrial, and otherwise.

Clint Wilson III is a PhD student in Rice University’s English Department, having received an MA in literature from West Virginia University and an MSc in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh. He is a Diana Hobby Editorial Fellow for Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 and a teacher for the Houston non-profit, Writers in the Schools. Framed by the contributions of biopolitics and systems theory, Clint’s research explores how networks of race, governmentality, and contamination shape the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ understanding of “toxicity,” particularly witnessed by Modernist and Avant-Garde imaginaries.


For further information on Arts & Media cluster activities please contact Prof. Joseph Campana (campana@rice.edu)