Skip to main content


From Narcissism to Self-Obliteration: Art and Ecology between Vito Acconci and Fukushima

Event details

On the 11th of March, 2011, at exactly 14:46 JST, the Pacific Coast of Tōhuku, Japan, was hit by the 9.0 magnitude-strong Great East Japan Earthquake. As a direct result of the earthquake, a series of explosions took place at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, culminating in mass discharges of radioactive material and in the biggest nuclear accident since Chernobyl, the consequences of which are still not yet fully known. Soon after the accident, a video appeared on YouTube. On it, a rogue anonymous worker, wearing full protective clothing, walked towards one of the CCTV cameras installed at the power plant and pointed his finger towards the centre of the frame whilst watching his own image being streamed live on a smartphone. 

This talk will address the similarities and differences between that gesture and the one it reenacted, Vito Acconci’s 1971 performance for camera Centers. Through thinking those two moments—so similar and yet so far apart—some points will be made concerning the ongoing ecological crisis and the ways in which it calls us to rethink the separation of ’Nature’ and ‘Culture' and the specular dynamics through which it has been produced and reenacted in modern thought, art and visual culture.

Biography: Dr João Florêncio is a Lecturer in the History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture. His research navigates the intersections of visual culture, performance theory, post-continental philosophy, and eco-humanities in an attempt to question the certainty of the 'Nature'/'Culture' divide and to investigate the domain of the aesthetic vis-à-vis the ecological crisis and the metaphysical challenges raised therein. More specifically, it investigates how aesthetic encounters can call into question the certainty of long-established divides between 'Nature' and 'Culture', 'Art' and 'Science', human and nonhuman and, as such, rehearse new ethical modes of cohabitation with the Other.



Washington Singer 234