Cli-Fi library

Demetrisu and Demorris Burrows read excerpts from the score from Geissler & Sann’s “How Does the World End (for Others)?” at the Cli-Fi Library opening on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. 

In an austere gallery at the Neubauer Collegium, a leather sofa in the room’s center invites viewers to pick up two handmade books with excerpts from “climate fiction” or “cli-fi” texts. 

The new exhibit, “The Chicago Cli-Fi Library,” attempts to address the art world’s paralysis in the face of the “apocalyptic prospect of global warming and other consequences of this great disruption,” according to its description. Complementing the cli-fi books are works from six other Chicago-based artists, which include sculptures, photographs and recycled plastic-bound books.

Among the artists is Hyde Parker Inigo Manlano-Ovalle, a conceptual artist who is known for socially oriented sculptures and video installations. 

In Manlano-Ovalle’s work “8 West 11th Street, March 6, 1970” a stark red rectangle cuts through a newspaper photograph of actor Dustin Hoffman standing in front of the remains of a Greenwich Village townhouse, which was accidentally blown up in botched bomb-making by the Weather Underground. The piece has another local connection: Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers is a Hyde Parker himself.

“What’s fun about curating (the exhibit) is how serendipitous some connections can be,” said curator Dieter Roelstraete. He referenced the line “there’s a great future in plastics” said in the 1967 year film “The Graduate”, starring Dustin Hoffman. 

“As a curator who has been working in contemporary art for a long time, I have for some time been struck by the fact that this topic, in a way, is absent from the mainstream of the global art culture,” he continued. 

Roelstraete is currently curating another group exhibit in Venice about the weather, which he said provides a rich arsenal of metaphors for talking about larger topics like climate change and politics.

Though there is no “physical” cli-fi library, the exhibit does come with an accompanying bibliography of “underground” titles curated by artist Jenny Kendler, including authors like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. 

Accompanying the exhibit is a performance by The Crossing, a professional chamber choir that frequently performs music addressing social, environmental and political issues. The choir will perform this Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Rubenstein Forum, 1201 E. 60th St. 

“The Chicago Cli-Fi Library” is open through June 11 at the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave. It is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

staff writer

Zoe Pharo is a graduate of Carleton College. She was recently an editorial intern for In These Times, and has also written for Little Village and Chapel Hill Magazine. 

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