AGORA: Joan Sullivan

Wednesday 24 August, 16:15–17:15
Sibelius Museum

The Wisdom of Janus: Energy Transitions as Liminal Spaces

Navigating the transition to a future fueled by non-fuels (wind, water, sun) will be easier if we have the wisdom to learn from the past. In this keynote, energy transition photographer and writer Joan Sullivan turns to Janus – the two-headed Roman god of transitions – to help us better understand the liminal nature of all energy transitions, past and present. By keeping an eye simultaneously on the past and the future, Janus reminds us that energy transitions throughout history have one thing in common: they are inherently disorienting yet transformative; their outcome is unknown yet full of choice where none seemed to exist before. Viewed through the lens of liminality, energy transitions reveal themselves as potent thresholds through which humanity has radically expanded its definition of what is possible by breaking out of entrenched patterns of thought. 

Picture of Joan Sullivan

For nearly two decades, the Canadian photographer Joan Sullivan has focused her cameras exclusively on climate change. Self-taught, she first concentrated on the energy transition. But since 2019, her photographic gaze has shifted from documentary to abstraction in response to an overwhelming sense of ecoanxiety about the climate crisis. Her current project, Becoming River, explores embodiment as a visceral language to create images inspired more by intuition than by scientific facts. Joan writes a monthly column on the cultural dimensions of energy transitions for the international blog Artists and Climate Change. In her spare time, she runs a small organic farm with her husband in eastern Québec.