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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Climate Crisis + Media Arts

The Climate Crisis + Media Arts group aims to influence cultural and political discourse on the climate emergency by creating new ways of depicting what it means to live and die within a changing climate, right now.

About the Project

There is no shortage of scholarly studies and media representations that frame the ongoing climate emergency as an existential problem. These works illustrate possible environmental futures to enact real change in the present. However, people around the world are already living within a changing climate.  

Combining the expressive power of the media arts with critical frames offered by the environmental humanities and the rigor of climate science, the Climate Crisis + Media Arts Group will illuminate the everyday experiences of people living on the front lines of the climate emergency—what climate change actually looks and feels like, and how it intersects with other pressing problems, including migration and economic inequality. 

The group will convene artists, scholars, activists and students, with the goal of producing empowering, public-facing and sensorial depictions of the material effects of climate change in a range of sites in China, Central America, the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Southeast Asia and beyond. Learn more in our Buffett Brief on Climate Crisis + Media Arts, or explore more Global Working Groups' research in our collection of Buffett Briefs >>



Group Members


  • JP Sniadecki, Radio/Television/Film, School of Communication
  • Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts, Block Museum of Art

Northwestern group members:

  • Corey Byrnes, Asian Languages and Cultures, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Robert Hariman, Communication Studies, School of Communication
  • Kang Kang, PhD candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Ginny Lee, undergraduate research assistant, Radio/TV/Film and Environmental Science
  • Anto Mohsin, Liberal Arts Program, Northwestern University in Qatar
  • Reynaldo Morales, Medill School of Journalism
  • Lakshmi Padmanabhan, Radio/TV/Film, School of Communication
  • Rasheed Peters, graduate research assistant and MFA candidate, Radio/TV/Film, School of Communication
  • Jim Schwoch, Communication Studies, School of Communication
  • Ines Sommer, Radio/TV/Film, School of Communication
  • Calum Walter, Radio/TV/Film, School of Communication

External group members:

  • Jason De Leon, Anthropology, UCLA; director, Undocumented Migration Project
  • Tala Hadid, independent filmmaker
  • Joanne Leow, English, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan
  • Fox Maxy, filmmaker, Cousin Collective
  • Brett Story, Documentary Media, Ryerson University Toronto
  • Rikun Zhu, filmmaker and founder of Fanhall Films

Latest Work and Developments

Artistic Collaborations 

  • The Climate Crisis + Media Arts Global Working Group has supported several films, including Fortune Cycles by Calum Waters, The Hills by Ines Sommer, Ekipa Fanihy by Kendall Fitzgerald and Erik Nuding and Fighting Looks Different to Me Now by Fox Maxy, which screened at the Toronto International and New York Film Festivals. 
  • To cultivate a global network of artists and scholars to further contribute to the group's efforts, the group circulated an open call in 2022 for applications from filmmakers, media artists and scholars across the world seeking support to produce film and media art illuminating stories of the present realities of climate change in innovative ways. They received nearly 200 applications from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America and islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The 10 successful applicants have joined the group’s collaborative network and received up to $10,000 to be applied to a new project or in-progress work in film, video, sound art, installation or interactive media to advance the group’s mission.
  • During winter 2023, the group organized and facilitated Portuguese scholar and filmmaker Salome Lamas’ visit to Northwestern as a Buffett Visiting Scholar. The group is supporting the production and dissemination of her forthcoming film Pantherasa project focused on human rights in the Niger Delta. The film is intended to respond the urgency of climate emergencies in the region and the need for global geopolitical reorganization. 

Engagement Activities

  • In 2021, the group collaborated with the Northwestern Block Museum of Art to host a discussion on the impact of colonialism, resource extraction and climate change with Toronto-based Indigenous filmmaker Thirza Cuthand and a dialogue on environmental racism with filmmakers Crystal Z. Campbell and Christopher Harris.  
  • In September 2022, the group sponsored and moderated a panel discussion on “(Im)permanence in Times of Climate Crisis” at the Camden International Film Festival and “De-fueling the Crisis” at the Chicago International Film Festival.
  • In winter 2023, the group collaborated with the Northwestern Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities to present the “Crude Aesthetics: Oil on Film” series of screenings and discussions about the entanglement of visual culture with the dark progress of the global oil industry during the past century, engaging with Northwestern faculty and graduate students as well as visiting artists and scholars. The group also showcased the poetic and political reworking of indigenous mythologies in the works by the Mexico-based Colectivo Los Ingrávidos and the Paraguayan director Paz Encina.
  • In spring 2023, the group hosted events with the legendary artist duo The Otolith Group (Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar) in collaboration with the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, screenings of films about Mongolian and Siberian Indigenous livelihoods and cosmologies in the age of environmental change and a screening and a talk with Chicago-based filmmaker Edgar Jorge Baralt about climate anxiety and catastrophe media.
  • With the Block Museum of Art, the group is developing a series of screenings and talks related to the Block Museum’s Actions for Earth art and ecology exhibition. The exhibition will run through winter and spring 2024 along with pop-up gardens around campus and film screenings.  

Teaching Activities

  • During winter 2023, Climate Crisis + Media Arts group co-lead J.P. Sniadecki developed and taught a seminar in the Department of Radio/Film/Television titled “Elemental Film/Experimental Film” that offered a diverse range of filmmaking approaches in 16mm and digital filmmaking to engage with topics such as climate crisis and the crisis of representation. This course, which yielded new works by MFA in Documentary Media students, will be offered again during the 2023–24 academic year with seats available to students outside the MFA Program in Documentary Media who are interested in combining practice and theory to address the climate emergency.