President's Dream Colloquium on Creative Ecologies

Colloquium Syllabus


Dr. Denise Oleksijczuk, Contemporary Arts,

Meeting time:

Thursdays, 2:30-5:30, Woodward’s 4390 (see below for exceptions).

Course Description:

We are living on a damaged planet—one whose lands, waters, species, and atmosphere we continue to damage despite every signal that we will soon be past the point of no return. We hear and read about this damage on a daily basis, but in what ways are we failing to listen and respond to these signals? In what ways are facts and data often not enough to motivate us to individually and collectively act today so that we might all live and breathe tomorrow?

In recent decades, the field of Environmental Humanities has emerged in recognition of the impossibility of relying on any one system or culture of knowledge to save the world. Integrating ecological inquiry from the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts, the field has also insisted not only on the dismantling of all nature/culture divides but on the dismantling of hierarchies between Western, Eastern, and Indigenous ways of knowing and relating. Taking this kind of intervention as its starting point, Creative Ecologies asks how art, philosophy, and decolonizing methodologies might help us to connect more intimately and imaginatively to the disaster of the present. Through a series of public lectures and seminar meetings we will explore together “the dimensions of life that have been anaesthetized, massacred, and dishonoured in the name of a progress that is reduced today to the imperative of economic growth” (Isabelle Stengers). We will use the lectures and seminars to cultivate a renewed sense of curiosity about the world, to learn the art of noticing what we were blind to, and to foster a sense of activity and possibility.

The invited speakers will propose productive alternatives to apocalyptic thinking (Clare Colebrook); cultivating deep listening (Candice Hopkins); Indigenous and anthropological methods for “knowing from the inside” (Elizabeth Povinelli and Tim Ingold); studying the earth’s material witnessing (Susan Schuppli); and building new worlds through an Indigenous understanding of deep time (Leanne Simpson and Amanda Strong). The speakers’ biographies and abstracts are posted on SFU’s President’s Dream Colloquium website. Students will be asked to attend the public lectures and to keep a journal of notes and questions; to engage with the richness of multisensory study; and to complete an essay or trans-medial project that may involve writing, video, soundscape, curating, etc., that applies to one or more of the issues addressed in the lectures, screenings and course readings.


Required and recommended reading will be available on Canvas as pdfs. Please print these out and bring them with you to discuss in class.

Methods of Evaluation:

Five journal exercises          25%
Seminar reading summary and discussion facilitation       10%
Project proposal presentation, abstract, and schedule of work      15%    
Final project                     50%

The final grade in the colloquium course will be a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory for graduate students, and Pass/Fail from undergraduates.  A "Satisfactory" grade will have no effect on your cumulative GPA.

Schedule of Public Lectures, Readings, and Screenings

(Note: some changes may be made to the reading list)

Introduction to the aims and issues of the course

Sept. 5: Class CGA4390

  • Bird Rose, Deborah. “Shimmer: When All You Love Is Being Trashed,” in Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, ed. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather, Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017, pp. G51-63.
  • Ursula K. Heise. Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016. (excerpts)
  • Stengers, Isabelle. In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism. Open Humanities Press, 2015, pp. 7-25.


  • Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton. London: Athlone, 2000.

Two Films by The Karrabing Film Collective

Sept. 12: Class CGA4390, and evening screening in the Cinema CGA3200

Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland, 2018, (26.29 mins.) and Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams, 2016 (28 mins.). Conceived and realized by the Karrabing Film Collective; directed by Elizabeth Povinelli, 7:00 pm in the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Simon Fraser University


  • Povinelli, Elizabeth. “Tidalectics: Imagining an Oceanic Worldview through Art and Science,” In The Kinship of Tides. Stefanie Hessler, ed. MIT Press, 2019.

After the End: Stubborn Affects and Collective Practices

Sept. 19: No class, Public Lecture during classtime

Speaker: Elizabeth Povinelli (Frans Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University), Sept. 19, 3:30 pm, Images Theatre (room to be confirmed), Burnaby Campus.

Art and Anthropology for a Living World

Sept. 26: Public Lecture in Burnaby during classtime

Speaker: Tim Ingold (Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen), 2:30 pm, Big Data Hub Presentation Studio, Burnaby Campus

Note: This talk will be broadcast via video conferencing.

Reception to follow in atrium.

Title: “The Sustainability of Everything”

  • Ingold, Tim. “One world anthropology,” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 8, 1/2, (2018): 158–171.
  • Escobar, Arturo. “Sustainability: design for the pluriverse”, Development 54, 2 (2011): 137-40.
  • Ingold, Tim. “Designing environments for life.” In Anthropology and Nature, ed. Kirsten Hastrup. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, pp. 233-246.


  • Ingold, Tim. “Culture on the Ground: The World Perceived through the Feet,” Journal of Material Culture, 9, 3 (2004): pp. 315-340.

Indigenous Resurgence

Oct. 3: Class GCA4390

  • Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Indigenous Americas. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. (excerpts)
  • Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. This Accident of Being Lost: Songs and Stories. 2017. (excerpts)


Oct. 10: Class CGA4390

  • TBA

Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes),”

Oct. 17: No class, Public Lecture in the evening

Speaker: Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Michi Saaglig Mishnaabeg writer, scholar and activist), with special guests: Amanda Strong, Bracken Hanuse Corlett, and Whess Harman, 7:00 pm, Fei and Milton Wong Theatre, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Vancouver Campus

Reception to follow in the Wong Theatre Lobby

Title: “The making of ‘Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes)’”

Simpson will screen the animated film: Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes), 2018 (19:00), based on a story by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and directed by Amanda Strong.


Fragility, Globalism, and the End of the World

Oct. 24: Public Lecture during classtime

Speaker: Claire Colebrook (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, Pennsylvania State University), 3:30 pm, Big Data Hub Presentation Studio, Burnaby Campus

Reception to follow in the atrium.

Title: “What would you do (and who would you kill) in order to save the world?”

Material Witnessing

Oct. 31: Class CGA4390

  • “Submerged Perspectives,” in Gomez-Barris, Macarena. The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies Decolonial Perspectives. London: Duke University Press, pp. 1-16.
  • Mattern, Shannon. 2017. "The Big Data of Ice, Rocks, Soils, and Sediments."  Places Journal November. doi:


  • “Introduction,” in Kahn, Douglas. 2013. Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts. Oakland: University of California Press, pp.1-24.
  • “Geology, Race, and Matter”, in Yusoff, Kathryn. 2019. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or NoneForerunners: Ideas First. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, pp. 1-22.

Bearing Material Witness to Climate Change

Nov. 7: Class CGA4390 (visiting speaker will attend), Public Lecture in the evening

Speaker: Susan Schuppli, (Director and Reader in the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmith’s, University of London), 7:00 pm, Djavad Mowafaghian World Art, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Vancouver Campus

Reception to follow in World Art

Title: “Earth Evidence”

Indigenous Ways of Knowing

Nov. 14: Class CGA4390

Indigenous Methodologies and Exhibition Making

Nov. 21: No class, Public Lecture in the evening

Speaker: Candice Hopkins (Curator and writer), 7:00 pm, Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, Vancouver Campus

Reception to follow in the GCA Main Lobby.

Nov. 28 : Last Class CGA4390

Student presentations of final projects.