Prof. Marcus Reisenleitner (York U)

June 20, 2018, 4 p.m.–6 p.m. (c.t.), Philosophicum II, 00-212


When President Trump announced a reduction of protected federal land in two of Utah’s national monuments, clothing outfitter Patagonia, protested, changing their homepage to a black-and-white motto “This Land is Your Land?” and joining a lawsuit against the president. The move continues the privately held company’s tradition of fighting for environmental causes. Its founder, Yvon Chouinard, distinguished himself as a documentary filmmaker with Mountain of Storms (1968) in a way similar to Bruce Brown’s father of surfing documentaries, The Endless Summer (1966). Both documentaries feature young male Californian drop-outs travelling to remote locations of natural beauty with little regard for the geopolitics of the time, setting the tone for a tradition of documenting the often politically naïve, individualistic and rebellious reactions to suburban America’s mainstream and pursuing a vague countercultural notion of escaping consumer culture while piggybacking on American imperialism’s opening up routes to remote locations.

The talk discusses the reverberations of these documentaries’ environmental and geopolitical imaginaries in two recent engagements with the tradition: Chouinard‘s 180º South: Conquerors of the Useless (2010) and William Finnegan‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (2015).

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