Panel 15: Ecomedia Concept and Theory



Panel 15: Ecomedia Concept and Theory

“Inscriptive Energetics: Climate Change, Energy, Inscription”

Nathaniel Otjen (Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy, University of Oregon)

“Eco-sexual Imaginations of the Earth”

Miriam Tola (Assistant Teaching Professor in Media and Screen Studies, Northeastern University)


Q & A

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14 replies
  1. Miriam Tola, Northeastern University says:

    Hello everyone,
    It is a pleasure to be part of this conference. My presentation discusses limits and possibilities of Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens’s sexecology. Part of a larger project on sexecology, this talk engages Sprinkle and Stephens’s recent documentary film “Water Makes Us Wet.” I am looking forward to the conversation!

    • Bridgitte Barclay, Aurora University says:

      Thank you for your presentation, Miriam. I really enjoyed your work on the complexities of the eco-sexual, and I’m wonder if you have engaged with Mother! (Everett Hamner has a great presentation on it in Panel 5). It seems it would likewise complicate Mother Earth/ sexualized nature quite a bit. Or maybe not. Perhaps it plays right into it.

      Thank you, also, for your discussion of Water Makes Us Wet. I hadn’t seen it and didn’t know they visited the Salton Sea. I discuss that in my talk and will need to watch the documentary now. Thanks for the resource!

      • Miriam Tola, Northeastern University says:

        Hi Bridgitte,
        I will make sure to watch Everett Hamner’s presentation on Panel 5 and your talk discussing the Salton Sea. Thank you!

        • ehamner says:

          Thanks for the suggestion, Bridgitte, and for following through, Miriam. I just enjoyed watching your presentation, too, and found it helpfully provocative. I think the first time I pondered this kind of direction was upon reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s *Herland*, my edition of which features a cover with rolling hills designed to look like a female body. Then Ursula K. Le Guin’s reimagined family structures in *A Fisherman of the Inland Sea* took those thoughts further. It’s fascinating to see ecosexual performance art going in related directions, so thank you for the window into these efforts.

          I’ll respond to your good questions about *mother!* and my reading over on the panel 5 page ….

  2. nateotjen says:

    Hi all,
    I am also delighted to be participating in this digital conference. In my talk, I propose an alternative way of thinking and reading the impacts of climate change. Putting forth the term “inscriptive energetics,” I argue that we can think anthropogenic climate change as a system of energy that writes itself onto bodies and into literature. This is part of a larger project, so I welcome questions and comments that point toward future directions for this work.

    • Bridgitte Barclay, Aurora University says:

      Hi Nahaniel. Thank you for your presentation. Can you expand on your idea of how inscriptive energetics and materiality? I’m thinking of how your ideas work within or against material ecocriticism, such as Stacy Alaimo, Serenella Iovino, and Serpil Oppermann’s work, for example. It seems you have engagement with Karen Barad, perhaps as well? I could also see the idea of climate change in your opening working well as a haunting/horror, which ties in well with new eco-horror work.

      • Nathaniel Otjen, University of Oregon says:

        Hi Bridgitte,

        Thank you for these thoughts and questions. Alaimo, Iovino, Opperman, and Barad all influence this reading of climate energetics as inscriptive. I’m thinking of climate energetics less as a material (although I’m open to such readings) and more as a material agent, or something that marks material bodies such as trees. And, in the longer project, I read Mapes’s *Witness Tree* as participating in the detective genre. It is very much interested in uncovering the horrors of climate change. (And it also occurs to me that the book is set in a forest, a place of anxiety for many Americans.)

  3. Mtrono says:

    Thank you both. 🙂 Miriam, your elaboration of the ecosexual and its “creative restructuring potential” (Lorraine Code’s phrase) in relation to Sprinkle’s and Stephen’s work? It very much resonates I think, and is confirmed in that it is easy to think of ecomedia examples of the opposite of polymorphous intermingling with ‘nature.’ Take for example the horror film It follows. In the recent issue of Cinema Journal, an article entitled, “Queer Ethics, Urban Spaces, and the Horrors of Monogamy in It Follows”, the author draws attention to the panicked and restricted state of urban, sexual relations. From an eco perspective, the film depicts the opposite of Sprinkle/Stephen’s vision of nature-ensconced alterity, showing instead a terrified, joyless, and rule-governed set of protocols for sexual communion where people scan all their environments only for threats. Thanks again.

  4. rlmurray50 says:

    Hi Nate and Miriam,

    Thank you both for your informative presentations.

    Nate, your talk reinforced the importance of interdisciplinary approaches in Ecomedia studies. Your approach to thinking about climate change through the lens of energy intrigued me. I appreciated your explanation of climate energetics. Thank you, too for introducing me to *Witness Tree* (which I will read). It reminded me a bit of Hope Jahre’s *Lab Girl*. Now I have a little question: Do you see such energetics conflicting with or complementing conservation approaches?

    Miriam, Thank you for your reading of Sprinkle and Stephen’s eco-sexual aesthetic. How do you see the eco-sexual/sex ecology aligning (or conflicting) with eco-porn?

    • Nathaniel Otjen, University of Oregon says:

      Thank you for passing along the title of Jahren’s book; I’ll be sure to read it! I think that Mapes sees her approach to reading climate change on trees as complementing conservation practices. She writes about how scientific instruments and literature can both teach us about climate change and help us better understand how trees are being impacted by changing seasons. Mapes, for example, is part of a project to install a camera at the base of the witness tree that provides footage for people to watch the tree online. Part of this project is to help conserve the forest. Here’s a link to the live feed:

    • Miriam Tola, Northeastern University says:


      Thanks for you comment! I guess you are referring to the coupling of sex and environmentalism explored by Fuck for Forest, the Berlin-based NGOs that performs public sex and sells porn on the Internet to fight deforestation. Fuck for Forest has been widely criticized for its troubling neocolonial attitude toward indigenous populations in Brazil (Prager 2017). Sprinkle and Stephens’s aesthetic and politics is quite different and they have been engaged in a interesting exchange with the Dakota scholar Kim TallBear who has been a critical ally of the ecosexual project (TallBear 2012).

      A more recent ecosexual art project, inspired by Sprinkle and Stephens, is the Ecosexual Bathhouse performed by the Australian performance art group Pony Express.

      I am familiar with Green Porno but to be honest I haven’t thought about its relations to Sprinkle and Stephens’s work so thank for the reference!

      • rlmurray50 says:

        Thanks! I was also thinking of other definitions that complicate our love of natural scenes. Here’s one perspective:

        Also, these images have been used in advertising by companies with large carbon footprints (such as BP).

        Thank you for introducing me to the ecosexual project and its connection with Dakota scholar Kim TailBear. I’ll look forward to seeing and reading their work.

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