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Student Work

Radboud American Studies Student Work on “Art & Climate Change”: Case Studies, Analyses, Solutions

In our American Studies Master Program on “Transatlantic Studies” students explore, among many other topics, how climate change is negotiated in American culture, history and politics. The results lead to academic papers or media productions including apps, websites or documentary videos. On ArtandClimateChange.Com we present some of the most successful works of our Master students.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Beyond the Horizon of Perpetual Growth

by Tyrone Hunt

Final research project Horizon Zero Dawn by Tyrone Hunte of the seminar “American Culture in a Global Context: Imagining America in Text, Image and Music” 2021-22 (Prof. Frank Mehring).

This video documentary is an attempt to create a point of convergence between academia, popular culture, and climate change. I analyzed the Dutch video game Horizon Zero Dawn that is set in the far future in the USA, because it deals with ecology in a peculiar fashion within a transatlantic context. The analysis revolves around the research question:

How is the inability/ability of capitalism to combat climate change portrayed in the video game Horizon Zero Dawn?

I drew inspiration from academic debates on the effectiveness of art to educate, on the emergence of environmental studies, and on the limits of our contemporary economic and societal systems. The theoretical basis for my analysis rests on ideas developed by Marx, Gramsci, and Bookchin. These ideas with how economic growth functions, how ideas are spread throughout societies, and how the concept of ecology can be understood.

Horizon Zero Dawn enforces the idea that perpetual growth will lead to the destruction of life, and this course of developments is inevitable. At the same time, however, it argues that out of the ashes of the old world a new regulated and balanced world can be created. In other words, humanity has a chance of survival if we were to heavily regulate nearly every facet of human life and ecology. This Dutch video game can be viewed as a product of its time. People are arguably becoming more frustrated with the current social, political, and economic systems, while there is a sense of cynicism that change is not immediately possible.