Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, was founded in September 2006 by Giovanni Aloi, a London-based lecturer in history of art and media studies. The Journal combines a heightened level of academic scrutiny of animals in visual culture, with a less formal and more experimental format designed to cross the boundaries of academic knowledge, in order to appeal to diverse audiences including artists and the general public alike.
Ultimately, the Journal provides a platform and encourages the overlap of the professional spheres of artists, scientists, environmental activists, curators, academics, and general readers. It does so through an editorial mix that combines academic writing, interviews, informative articles, and discussions with an illustrated format, in order to grant accessibility to a wider readership.
Deliberately provocative and irreverent, whilst maintaining an academic edge, Antennae has, over the past two years, become an international point of reference for animal and environmental studies in the arts. With a readership spanning 34 countries, the Journal delivers downloadable issues, often over 80 pages each, featuring high-quality colour illustrations, on a quarterly basis, including occasional double-releases.
Offering a mixture of academic writing, informative articles, and interviews with leading and underground artists, curators, scholars, film directors, scientists, and media producers, Antennae is effectively inviting participation in the animal studies debate by focusing on the increasing relevance of environmental studies and reframing mainstream perspectives on animals and humanism.
Main Aims and Objectives:
Over its first two years of activity, Antennae has become an influential resource of academic relevance within the fast growing field of animal and environmental studies, acting as receiver and amplifier of relevant topics, as expressed by the connections between the subject of nature and the multidisciplinary field of visual culture. It grants wide accessibility to innovative and original academic material, providing a platform for an inclusive dialogue between a range of theorists, practitioners, and international audiences. It provides international exposure to contributors and artists in order to open the dialogue to a broader range of audience, and effectively supports the development of animal and environmental studies networks around the world by capitalising on a vast network of Global Contributors reporting from countries currently underrepresented in the animal and environmental studies debate.
The Journal contributes to raising awareness of the issues involved in the representation of the natural world in visual culture in order to open to reconsideration past and current approaches and methodologies, whilst informing artists’ work and establishing a dialogue between theoretical and practical spheres.
Out of and alongside the development of environmental studies during the 1980s and 1990s, there emerged a related but distinct field of multi- and inter-disciplinary inquiry called animal studies. As the field of animal studies gained momentum over the past decade, the multidisciplinary approach that is distinctive of the subject suggested that a publication like Antennae could be potentially well received.
In June 2000, a two-page feature published by the New York Times titled “Animals have taken over art and art wonders why” brought to the surface the increasing presence of animals in contemporary art. Contributions to this field drew upon a wide range of formations within the humanities and social sciences: critical analysis of literature, the visual arts, cinema and popular culture, cultural studies, gender studies, sociology, philosophy, and history. In tune with the main concerns of animal studies, Antennae’s role is to examine the place and treatment of animals in the field of visual culture with the aim of disrupting cultural anthropocentrism. Its intent is to challenge our assumptions about non-human animals and consequently decentre the human animal. Within this theoretical framework, Antennae also aims at questioning contemporary acknowledged approaches and methodologies in order to continuously shift the focus of the discussion towards topics that appear neglected or that currently are under-represented.
Within Antennae, great effort is placed towards the deepening of artistic discussions revolving around insects and other animals that ‘cannot return the gaze’. The appropriation of the ‘the gaze’ as paradigmatic frame has, over the past few years, been thoroughly explored in the animal studies field, resulting in a range of particularly interesting and productive discussions. However, it is amongst Antennae’s concerns to recognize the limitations imposed by the paradigmatic set in question and to automatically focus on the margins of the mainstream enquiry, identifying new opportunities to understand our relationship with animals. Sensitive to contemporary environmental concerns, Antennae stresses the importance of overlaps between animal studies and environmental studies to encourage new perspectives and productive approaches.
Antennae is a pioneering publication in the field of online journals. Since the publication of its first issue in March 2006, the Journal has occupied a very precise space amongst other publications, bridging the academic world to those of practitioners, art lovers, animal supporters, and the general public. This is to be understood as one of Antennae’s major strengths and challenges. Unlike other publications of academic value, Antennae does not regularly publish articles longer than 5000 words; in circumstances involving lengthy texts, the use of large and medium- size format images plays a pivotal role in granting accessibility to audiences that may not regularly engage with academic writing.
The Journal is downloadable in its entirety and not available in separate segments. The decision to offer each issue of Antennae as one cohesive installment is in reference to the tradition of printed magazines and journals, where the coincidental encounter with material that may not otherwise be looked at, opens up new learning opportunities. Ultimately, each issue of Antennae strongly focuses around one theme; as such, the juxtaposition of texts and images generates associations, paradoxes, and continuities, making each issue a dynamic and synergic body rather than a fragmented and static one.
Within the context of juxtaposition, Antennae operates a ‘no-sections’ policy whereby academic texts, informative articles and interviews are not separated in exclusive sections. A large part of Antennae’s appeal lies in this aspect of its format. Audiences are presented with a heterogeneous selection of materials defining a steady reading rhythm, alternating between complex academic discussions and lighter, more entertaining reads.
Antennae’s page layout and iconic front covers also aim at bringing the Journal closer to the sphere of popular readership, where the design and marketing of the final product are as important as the quality of the content. After all, ‘academic’ should not stand for ‘aesthetically dry and unflattering’.
Antennae is currently supported by three operational boards.
The Senior Academic Board counts among its members academics of international relevance whose contribution to the field of animal and environmental studies and visual culture has been outstanding. The board is in charge of peer review and also contributes to the curating of Antennae’s themes.
The Advisory Board’s members have been selected for their expertise in different fields involving a focus on animals and the environment. This board is expected to contribute with ideas, opinions and suggestions about inclusions in the Journal, which may fall under one’s specific expertise. The board counts among its members academics, artists working in a range of different media, curators and researchers.
The establishment of Antennae’s Global Contributors Board (December 2008) marked a key moment in addressing one of Antennae’s aims; that of including countries currently underrepresented in the discussion involving animals and the environment in the arts, in order to decentre the current prevalence of Anglophonic contributions to the field. The board currently relates information from over twenty countries around the world.