Thomas

My presentation and notes

I presented on the reading:

Shit Happens

Notes on Awkwardness by Amy Sillman

This article was written for :

Reading Response 5

Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, in conversation with Wanda Nanibush, U of T, Daniels Faculty of Art and Design, 2018 (video)

In this video Rebecca Belmore and curator of the exhibit Wanda Nanibush discuss Facing the Monumental which was exhibited in 2018 at the AGO in Toronto.

The exhibit is a raisone of sorts and includes a great deal of work from throughout Rebecca Belmores career.

The two discuss the exhibit piece by piece in a non chronological order.

Another show that came to mind during this interview was Teras Terra,

Lito KattouPetros Moris

https://www.contemporaryartlibrary.org/project/teras-terra-at-galeria-duarte-sequeira-braga-13171

I think my reason for thinking about these works comes from the fact its Marble like Bellmores Biinjiya’iing Onji (From Inside) which is also rendered in marble.

For whatever reason this artist talk got me thinking about the art work of Irish Painter Gerard Dillon, maybe its the issue of indigenous soverignhty vs settler colonialism discussed and inherent in Mrs.Bellmores work that is also part of Some of Gerard Dillons Paintings? (not in a Canadian but in an Irish context) Im not totally sure…

I don’t really see a formal relationship between the works but maybe that is also part of it and I just don’t see it yet…

Reading Response 4

This isn’t a full response but the reading made me think of these images! Please see my others one for a full response.

This really big Iceberg floating by Newfoundland

These are some works by artist Andre Bloc

Reading response 3:

Timothy Morton

Reading Response 2:

How to Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy | Jenny Odell

I really appreciated this reading, the more I researched the text and read/watched interviews with Jenny Odell the more my interest grew. In general I understood the chapter and the book more generally to be arguing against the normative conceptions of productivity and the tying of time/productivity to work/capital… that is to say time must be spent working and most often working for money.

The surrealist painter, Giorgio de Chirico foresaw a narrowing horizon for activities as
‘’unproductive’’ as observation.

Looking at this quote from the reading one can begin to speculate and consider some deeper meanings later explored in the reading… A real life example I think of when considering this idea of valuing productivity ina capitalist sense first and foremost appears in something like the film industry in which movies that get large amount of studio funding and big budgets are most often those that can show big financial returns for example things like marvel superhero movies and other serialised never ending sequel films in comic book universe’s… however i would argue that just because these movies have big returns and are popular with the masses especially in the anglosphere and america does not make them worthy or more worthy than an arthouse / small budget etc film. I also believe it influences and forces itself upon the masses and limits our viewing of anything alternative from the hive mind…

’’Given how poorly art survives in a system that only values the Botton line, the stakes are
cultural as well. What the tastes of neoliberal techno manifest-destiny and the culture of Trump
have in common is the impatience with anything nuanced, poetic, or less-than-obvious. ‘’

Giorgio de Chirico – Love Song

Some artists I thought about during the reading include:

Snowflake #4
2022
burned archival inkjet print
72 x 72 in

Another Artist I thought of while reading this chapter was George Henry Longly.

I see these works as exploring ideas related to meaning and value within art, they are both cleanly produced images and video still which can be sold as art objects but also depict sculptural scenes which are-in some cases impermanent or commercial in quality.

Looking at this woodcut created for the St.Paul Minnesota (USA) Union Advocate Newspaper, which was discussed by Odell in some of her presentations on the book,

Below: A comedic play on the usual poster seen above^

Reading Response 1:

Patricia Kashian on Queer Mycology: Mycology as Revolutionary and Political Practice.

A key idea that grabbed my attention when listening to this podcast was Mrs. Kashian asked us to reconsider the ways in which we see fungi. I began to consider how she suggested the ways in which Fungi are viewed negatively despite their highly positive effects upon humanity and the world more genreally. Fungi have been used for tens of thousands of years if not longer as food, medecine among other things and may have even played a role in the development oif the human species as explored in the ideas of human evolution via psychadelic fungi.

I began to consider how fungi is avant garde, its goes and grows where it wants to … it forces us to see the world in a different way and

Artists I thought of during the podcast:

While listening I began to think of the ways in which binary views that are applied to the supposedly sinister fungi are applied to things in the world more genrally and how these binary and broadly brushed ideas and viewpoints might hinder aspects of artistic creation and production. An artist that comes to mind when I think of the avant garde as it applies to art is PAblo TOmek, a painter based in PAris and once a prolific wall painter and now prolfiic gallery artist, his work conurs to me relationships to the fungi… both are mis understood both chalklenge the norms of their respective landscapes adn are important to these landscapes. For the fungi they pop up as rouges in an otherwise semi uniform forest or grass patch… and much like these mushrooms Pablo’s painting would appear by his hand in the city scape braking through the usual and making us reconsider a previously passed by corridor or wall. Although many might not appreciate these wall works, many do and most will have some kind of changed perspective after seeing something rouge appear wheter it is pro-wall painting, anti wall [ainting or indifferent and just a registration of a visual disruption in an otherwise passed by space.

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Chelsea

Teju Cole: Golden Apple of the Sun and the Impact of the Everyday

A photocopy of a two-page spread from Teju Cole's book, Golden Apple of the Sun. On the bottom left, two spoons sitting on a white plate. On the right, blurry handwriting on brown paper.
A two-page spread from Teju Cole’s book, Golden Apple of the Sun.

What is something that you would classify as neither ‘interesting’ nor ‘boring’?

When do you experience it?

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Samuelle

Shit Happens Notes on Awkwardness – Amy Sillman

”I know we are no longer making things for the Beaux-Arts, for truth, beauty or elevation” All I can say about this quote is Fuck Yes!!!

In French, awkwardness translates to ‘’maladresse’ but to me, they mean different things. 

To me ‘’maladresse’’ translates to clumsy. Clumsiness involves an action whereas awkwardness is moody and doesn’t necessarily involve an action the way clumsiness does. But both involve a certain amount of vulnerability. Clumsy people are clumsy for many reasons, maybe they are tired, maybe they drank too much, maybe they’ve been clumsy since they were a kid, or maybe they should wear glasses… 

When I speak French, I use the word ‘awkward’ all the time and so do my friends. I never use the word ‘maladresse’. 

I found out about the Great Auk recently while walking my dog on the Great Auk Trail in Guelph. Here is what I found out:

The Great Auk was a flightless bird that once existed in great numbers off Canada’s East Coast. He was a great swimmer that travelled vast distances underwater in search of fish. On land, however, this bird was slow and awkward. His inability to fly and his clumsiness on land were distinctive features of his. He also did not fear humans which sealed its fate when Europeans arrived on the coast in the 17th and 18th Century. They hunted the Great Auk mercilessly and killed its last one in 1852. The Great Auk is the first known case of an entire species being wiped out after the advent of Europeans colonization. While walking this trail, I began the trail feeling sad for this beautiful clumsy instinct bird.

As I walked, I thought of feminicides, Witch hunts, and of all the women throughout capitalist history with great wisdom who got silenced and killed mercilessly just for being women. Like the Great Auk, women were exploited and abused. As I was walking, I asked myself why I was associating the Great Auk and women? Like the Great Auk, I began to imagine all the swollen tummies of pregnant women of the 17th century walking slowly and awkwardly like the Great Auk… As Silvia Federici puts it: ‘’Women, in capitalist development, have suffered a double process of mechanization. Besides being subjected to the discipline of work, paid and unpaid, in plantations, factories, and homes, they have been expropriated from their bodies and turned into sexual objects and breeding machines’’(Federici, 14). I think the only reason why women were ever kept alive throughout capitalism is because women bare children…

Like the great Auk, my art practice is clumsy, slow and awkward. I know how to swim and I dive in new waters and often surprise myself. I’ve always made my art before I have any clear idea of what I am doing. The process is what I’m after. In University context, I’ve often ashamed of my intuitive process. To me, this way of working requires a certain amount of vulnerability and willingness to make mistakes and fail. Sillman writes how artists ”try to surprise” themselves and how ”it’s hard to do”. I think that Awkwardness is a great way to surprise yourself and others.

As Thomas mentioned during his presentation, ‘Awkward’ was first introduced in the English dictionary by John Ayto in his dictionary of Words of Origin in the 1300s in Scotland and northern England, where it meant ‘’turned the wrong direction’’. 

In my art practice, I always feel like I’ve gotten lost or that I turned in the wrong direction… What have I done? What the hell am I doing? is how I often feel when I show my work to people and realize what I’ve done.

The word ‘Awkward’ comes from a combination of the Middle English adjective ‘’awk’’ (the wrong way round, backhand) and the directional suffix ‘ward’). 

The meaning of ‘Awkward’ as an adjective appeared in the 16th Century when ‘awkward’ also mean ‘’not straightforward’’, ‘’backhanded’’. 

The first adjectival citation of Awkward appeared in the Scottish translation of Virgil’s Aneneid sometime before 1522 : 

the grief-strike Dido beholds the departing Aeneas with acquart luke (with a sideway glance).

A sideway glance… what a clear image. Dido was the first woman to embody awkwardness in the English language.

In the Aeneid by Virgil, Dido is represented from the vantage point of a 3rd person, removed (Dido is the ruler of a kingdom and she wages war).  She betrays the memory of her deceased husband and her duty as a widow, and by doing so, she delays the illustrious founder of Rome from his destined path.  In this story, Dido commits suicide because she stepped above the appropriate position of a woman. It makes so much sense how in the English language, ‘awkward’ also had to imply that this sideway glance was induced by a lover departing (who also kills herself because she stepped above the appropriate position of a woman).

Here is Dido before she kills herself…

Western culture has this pervasive way of categorizing women as either good or bad which makes me sick to my stomach. An example is how women are depicted in the Film Noir movies. Noir movies emerged during the second world war in 1941 and was used as a propaganda tool to keep women from becoming independent workers.

Due to husbands being away at war, women were increasingly gaining independence as many women began working (and enjoying it). In Noir movies, a woman is either portrayed as the wife or the femme fatale. These movies were implicitly created to show how ‘’bad’’ the independent femme fatale was. At the end of each movie, after a man has had an adventure with the femme fatale, he always returns to the wife a.k.a patriarch. This return, towards patriarchy and the ‘’good’’ was a way of making the liberated woman into the enemy.

I think that Sillman’s take on Contemporary Art is refreshing as it moves away from constricting binaries in favour of bleak monumental art and virtuosity. I’m all for embracing awkwardness, shame and vulnerability.

Chromophobia David Bachelor

I’ve always loved colours and have often been told that I overdo them. This is because when I am in contact with colours, I feel possessed and I want to see them all, all at once, everywhere. They seduce me and I can’t help myself but splurge. In one of her talks on Colour, Amy Sillman compares painters to drug addicts. A painter can spend 90$ on a single tiny tube of paint… Why is it so addictive?

I had never heard of Chromophobia until I read this book and was eye-opening to read this as I’ve often felt ashamed of my use of colours. This reading helped me understand where this shame came from. I now see my use of colour as a resistance against this ”purging of colour”. It has allowed me to erase all of the teachers who told me to tone it down… I won’t!!!

Colour and its association with the senses and the primitive maintain an uncivilized status. They are ”a core of resistance to cultural domestication”. Chromophobia is ‘’this loathing of colour, this gear of corruption through colour’’(Bachelor, 22) This ‘’purging of colour is usually accomplished in one of two ways. In the first, colour is made out to be the property of some ‘foreign’ body – usually the feminine, the oriental, the primitive, the infantile, the vulgar, the queer or the pathological’’.

Chromophobic culture is similar to the history of ‘aesthetics’. Originally, the word ‘aesthetics’ derived from the Greek ‘’aisthetikos’’ meant a sense of perception sensitivity of the body’s sensations. Throughout Western Art history, the relationship between Aesthetics and bodily sensations was ruptured. The German philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten was the first to use the term aesthetics in its modern sense. In 1735, he developed aesthetics as the study of good and bad “taste”, thus good and bad art, linking good taste with beauty. By trying to develop an idea of good and bad taste, he also in turned generated philosophical debate around this new meaning of aesthetics. Aesthetics  became lifeless and like  a doll, who’s orifices are closed, art was removed from the body’s senses. Like chromophobia, by disassociating ‘aesthetics’ from the body, they categorized the abject, the feminine, the oriental, the primitive, the infantile, the vulgar, the queer or the pathological as ”bad” art. Like color who was been devalued and diminished in Western Art, the way we think of ‘aesthetics’ is problematic.


Teju Cole – On Being

The afternoon of the election in 2020, Teju Cole was taking pictures of a ‘’sliced persimmon […] on the chopping board’’. His idea was to ‘’divert [his] attention away from the stupid news and towards something life-giving and lasting’’. 

On Being combines a found cookbook from 1780s with diaristic photographs of Cole’s kitchen. Diaristic work is similar to cave paintings. Marking time and marking your existence. I have a lot to learn from old objects/artifacts. They can act a vessels through which I learn parcels of who I am at a particular time. For Cole, this cookbook creates a setting, a mood in which he can ask questions about his own identity, family and body.  

His experimental approach and intentional uncertainty speak to me as experimentation is also part of my process. When overwhelming external events happen, like Cole, I shift toward things most would consider useless or a waste of time. Art has the power to sublimate a slice of time and space. It can become a gift in which the audience finds something. I like relating to the world and current events through old objects. As Zoo writes, ‘’objects are not neutral, and the truth of a thing or a person or a period of time is not straightforward’’. I am drawn to the tactility of old objects and their smell. Through them, I feel the fragility and heaviness of lives that have passed before mine. 

On Being speaks to me of the possibility of the human mind to imagine. When we are kids, we can create our own reality. We all have the capacity to transgress reality using very basic technologies such as sticks and rocks.

While it’s true that terrible events happen everywhere and all the time, a kid somewhere is playing with rock hours on end. When children grow up, most lose these world-building capacities. Cole’s instinct to turn to photography, to his surroundings, the afternoon of the election in 2020 hint to the necessity of creative adjustment as a survival technique. When terrible things happen, artists have tools to make something out of it. As Zoo writes, Cole’s images ‘’requires [us] to work, just as reading does: we bring our imaginative effort to the experience, co-constructing the work with Cole as it proceeds’’.  

Cole speaks of the ‘’grand success of photography’’ as it is practiced by so many on social media. He points out that most of these photographers are not skilled, but a vast number of them are good. I also find friction in photography interesting. The question: can an Instagram photograph be a work of art? Generates friction itself. 

To make his piece Golden Apple of the Sun, Cole brings up the necessity of de-skilling as a way to arrive ‘’at a greater openness’’. De-skilling in photography is appealing as it requires everyone to rethink what we consider photography and photographers.  Especially on Social Media. As Zoo mentions, we are ‘’users’’ on these platforms and I find the idea of friction appealing. What’s a professional on social media?

Living Sweetgrass Population (Hierochloe odorata)

Mishkos Kenomagwen The Teaching of Grass 

What are the wrong questions?

Wrong questions in science as Kenomagwen writes, are only wrong because they were never included in Western science. 

There are pre-established norms in academia, especially in science about what a theoretical framework is. Asking a felt question, one that comes from the heart is important. It’s easy to ask the wrong questions out of being afraid of not fitting within a certain framework.

Drawing on ancient indigenous knowledge, Laurie provides a new way of approaching science. This new way is very old and has been dismissed as ‘real science’ by western thinkers/academics. As Kenomagwen writes, ‘’There is a barrier of language and meaning between science and traditional knowledge, different ways of knowing, different ways of communicating’’. 

This project was a way for Laurie ‘’ to write a thesis that would ‘’mean something to someone’’ instead of just sitting on the shelf’’(158). Like Laurie, I also think a lot of the academic thesis rot on shelves because they are so boring to read.

She wanted to conduct this study because sweetgrass is ‘’disappearing from its historic locales, so the basket makers had a request for the botanists: to see if the different ways of harvesting might be the cause of Sweetgrass’s leaving.’’

At first, no one took her proposal seriously. The dean ‘’looked over the glasses that has slid down his nose, fixing Laurie with a pointed stare and directing a sidelong glance toward me. ‘’Anyone knows harvesting a plant will damage the population. You’re wasting your time. And I’m afraid I don’t find this whole traditional knowledge thing very convincing’’.

As Kenomagwen writes, ’’this was nearly a rite of passage for women scientists- the condescension, the verbal smackdown from academic authorities, especially if you had the audacity to ground your work in the observations of old women who had probably not finished high school, and talked to plants to boot.’’

One professor ‘’shuffled through the proposal pages and pushed them aside dismissively. I don’t see anything new here for science, he said. There’s not even a theoretical framework’’.

Although the professor says that he doesn’t ‘’see anything new here for science’’, Laurie’s approach to writing a thesis is in fact a novel way of approaching academia altogether.

It’s overwhelming to think of all of the indigenous knowledge who have been lost because it wasn’t considered real knowledge.

Presentation notes

How to do nothing Chapter 1: The Case for Nothing

How to do nothing was written by Jenny Odell and published in April 2019 (A year before the pandemic).

– Odell is a multidisciplinary artist from Oakland California

– She wrote this book not long after Trumps inauguration

Her work involves acts of close observation, whether it’s birdwatching, collecting screen shots, or trying to parse bizarre forms of e-commerce.

She is compelled by the ways in which attention (or lack thereof) leads to consequential shifts in perception at the level of the everyday.

– To her, we live in a world where engineered satisfaction is the streamlining and networking of our entire lived experience.

In this book, she wants to trace a series of movements:

dropping out, not dissimilar from ‘’dropping out’’ of the 1960s;
A term popularized by Timothy Leary in 1966.

He was an American psychologist and author known for his strong advocacy of psychedelic drugs.
Leary believed that LSD showed potential for therapeutic use in psychiatry.
He took LSD and developed a philosophy of mind expansion and personal truth through LSD. Nixon named him “The Most Dangerous Man in America”. Mostly because he is very convincing and what he is proposing is a giant blow to the establishment and great potential for upsetting society.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTCxINKT7l4

2) she wants to trace a lateral movement outward to things and people that are around us

3) a movement downward into place.

– She states that unless we are vigilant, the current design of much of our technology will block us every step of the way, deliberately creating false targets for self-reflection, curiosity, and a desire to belong to a community.

Quote from the introduction

’’Nothing is harder to do than nothing. In a world where our value is determined by our productivity, many of us find our every last minute captured, optimize, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily. We submit our free time to numerical evaluation, interact with algorithmic versions of each other, and build and maintain personal brands’’

‘’Much of what give’s one’s life meaning stems from accidents, interruptions, and serendipitous encounters: the ‘’off time’’ that a mechanistic view of experience seeks to eliminate.

1877 Robert Louis Stevenson
Scottish novelist, essayist, poet and travel writer.

– He is best known for works such as Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kidnapped and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

– Stevenson called busyness a ‘’symptom of deficient vitality’’
– He observed ‘’a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scary conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation’’.

– Seneca, stoic roman philosopher in ‘’The shortness of life’’ describes the horror of looking back to see that life has slipped between our fingers.

– Odell compares it to spending an hour of our life on a social platform like Facebook.

– ‘’In an endless cycle where communication is sounded and time is money, there are few moments to slip away and fewer ways to find each other’’

– I think this is interesting to artist as in a way, that’s what a lot of artists are doing – finding the moment to slip away and find each other.

– The surrealist painter, Giorgio de Chirico foresaw a narrowing horizon for activities as ‘’unproductive’’ as observation. He wrote:

’’Given how poorly art survives in a system that only values the Botton line, the stakes are cultural as well. What the tastes of neoliberal techno manifest-destiny and the culture of Trump have in common is the impatience with anything nuanced, poetic, or less-than-obvious. ‘’

So What is ‘’Nothing’’?

– The ‘’nothing’’ she proposes is only nothing from the point of view of capitalist productivity explains the irony of a book called How to do nothing and is a plan of action.

– The point of doing nothing isn’t to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive.

– Her argument is anticapitalist, especially concerning technologies that encourage a capitalist perception of time, place, self and community.

– She is not anti-technology but opposed to the way that corporate platforms buy and sell our attention, as well as to designs and uses of technology that enshrine a narrow definition of productivity and ignore the local, the carnal, and the poetic.

– She is concerned about the effects of current social media on expression – including the right to express oneself – and its deliberately addictive features.

– To her, doing nothing in the sense of productivity and stopping to listen entails an active process of listening that seeks out the effects of racial, environmental, and economic injustice and brings about real change.

– Doing nothing is a kind of reprogramming device as sustenance for those feeling too disassembled to act meaningfully. On this level, the practice of doing nothing has several tools to offer us when it comes to resisting the attention economy.

Commercial Social Media

Commercial Social Media is the financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy and distraction.
It is the cult of individuality and personal branding that grow out of such platforms and affect the way we think about our offline selves and the places where we actually live.

– She writes this book in San Francisco and notes how there’s this mix between technology companies and nature.

Sandhill Road

The Epicenter of Venture Capital
– This stretch of roadway serves as the home to firms that have funded some of the largest tech companies in the market. Considered the “Wall Street of the West Coast,” Sand Hill Road is where ambitious founders have connected with funding partners for decades.
Slide 10 Facebook Campus
Facebook’s campus feels almost like a city, where staff commute in on private buses and can access free laundry, meals and snacks.

-In her intro, she begins by describing the hills overlooking Oakland where she currently lives.
– She names the trees surrounding her

Jack London Tree
– Jack London was a writer. He spent his short life—he died at forty— In his writing, which ranged from realist novels to memoirs and science fiction, he became a psychologist and economist of extremity. He was particularly fascinated by the idea of freezing and starving to death. He chose settings where life is hard to sustain—the Arctic, the urban ghetto, the sea, a plague-razed future—and where heroes must defy the odds.

‘’Old Survivor’’ or also called ‘’the Grandfather’’
Too weird and too difficult to proceed easily to the sawmill

– Symbol of a tree that shoes resistance

-The legendary status of this tree has to do not only with his age and unlikely survival. But it’s a mysterious location.

-When you spot Old Survivor, you still can’t get that close because it sits on a steep rocky slope whose ascent would require a serious scramble.
That’s one reason why it survived logging the other reason has to do with its twisted share and its height; ninety-three feet, a runt compared to other old-growth redwoods.
In other words, Old survivor survived largely by appearing useless to loggers

Chapter 1

-Begins with ‘’Wakes up and looks at phone’’ ‘’let’s see what fresh horrors await me on the fresh horror device

The Context in which her book is written after the 2016 election
The constant connection and the difficulty of maintaining any kind of silence or interiority was already problem but after the 2016 election it seemed to take new dimensions.

– After the election, she started noticing how we assault ourselves with news and she is not saying that the solution is to stop listening to the news completely but that we could use a moment to examine the relationship between attention span and the speed of information exchange.

-When she wrote the book, the Ghost ship fire on Oakland has just happened which

Took the lives of many artists and community-minded people on the first floor of a 31st Avenue warehouse in Fruitvale.
Residents of Satya Yuga art collective awoke to a haze of thick smoke and a fast-moving blaze. Some tried to extinguish the growing inferno with water bottles and a fire extinguisher. It was no use.
The intense fire gobbled up a wooden staircase, trapping dozens of people attending an electronic dance party upstairs.

-She grounds her book in a specific space: Rose garden amphitheater built in the 1930s and was specifically chosen because of the natural bowl shape of the land. The space feel physically and acoustically enclosed, remarkably spectate from everything around it.

– Almost got turned into condos in the 70s it took concerned efforts from residents to prevent that from happening

‘’the garden encompassed everything she wanted to cover

– the practice of doing nothing
– the architecture of nothing
the importance of public space
an ethics of care and maintenance

-It’s an Attention holding architecture. She’s observed that everyone moves slows and stop to smell the roses

-Labyrinths operate similarly ‘’enabling a dense infolding of attention’’

– She began going to the garden everyday
– Felt like a survival tactic to do’, nothing ‘ in the garden

– Odell is drawn to these kinds of spaces – libraries, small museums, gardens, columbaria- because of the way they unfold secret and multifarious perspectives even within a fairly small area.

– This unfolding of spatializing or visual doesn’t need to be visual.

Deep listening by Pauline Oliveros

The goal and the reward of deep listening was a heightened sense of receptivity and a reversal of our usual cultural training, which teaches us to quickly analyze and judge more than to simply observe.

To Oliveros, Listening is an inherently empathetic act, requiring receptivity to the intentions of others and the natural world

 investigated new ways to focus attention on music including her concepts of “deep listening” and “sonic awareness”, drawing on metaphors from cybernetics.

Cybernetics is concerned with feedback processes such as steering however they are embodied, including in ecological, technological, biological, cognitive, and social systems, and in the context of practical activities such as designing, learning, managing, conversation, and the practice of cybernetics itself.
Cybernetics’ transdisciplinary character has meant that it intersects with a number of other fields, leading to it having both wide influence and diverse interpretations.

– Gilles Deleuze wrote this in 1985 but still relevant

– ‘’nothing’’ is not a luxury or waste of time rather its a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech.

Press play to video of Black Crowned Night Heron

Bird watching
To her, stopping to listen is like a labyrinthine quality of attention-holding architecture like the rose garden

‘’a cross between a penguin and Paul Giamatti’’ says her bf

to her, bird sounds are life languages and she finds comfort in watching them

– Sometimes inventor and Famous observer

– Called himself a ‘’poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist naturalist etc. etc.,’’

He had an accident which confined him to a darkened room for six weeks during which he was unsure if he would ever see again.

He determined that life was too brief and uncertain and time too precious and that he would devote the rest of his life to a study of the process’’
When he regained his vision, he reevaluated his priorities

– She writes, ’’Most people have, or have known someone who has, gone through period of ‘’removal’’ that fundamentally changed their attitude to the world they returned to.

‘’Sometimes it is occasioned by something terrible, like illness or loss, and sometimes it’s voluntary, but regardless, that pause in time is necessary for change.’’

Privilege of time.

In 1886 in U.S , the Federation of organized trades and labor union requested 8 hours of rest, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of ‘what we will’

‘’Rest, thought, flowers and sunshine ‘’ These are all bodily human things.

– The removal of economic security for working people dissolves those boundaries of 8 hours of what we will.

– Under capitalism, there’s no more 8 hours leisure or education, 8 hours of what we will’’

Public spaces vs scripted spaces

– The most obvious difference between public space and others spaces is that you don’t have to buy anything of pretending want to buy to be there

-City Walk exists somewhere in between almost like a movie set where visitors can consume the supposed diversity of an urban environment while enjoying a feeling of safety that results from its actual homogeneity.

– A scripted space

– A space which excludes, directs, supervises, constructs and orchestrates use

– Spaces deemed commercially unproductive are always under threat, since what they produce can’t be measured or exploited or even easily identified

– Just as public spaces give space to ‘’faux spaces’’ we are sold the idea of compromised leisure which is very far from ‘’what we will’’
– And results in the colonization of the self by capitalist ideas of productivity and efficiency

– Franco ‘’Bifo’’ Berardi

– Marxist theorist

– Ties the labour movement of the 80s to the rise of the idea that we should all be entrepreneurs.

he writes that:

In the past, economic risk was the business of the capitalist, the investor […] Today, though, ‘’We are all capitalists’… and therefore, we all have to take risks… The essential idea is that we should all consider like as an economic venture, as a race where there are winners and losers’’

The boundaries of 8 hours of what we will are now dissolved. We are expected to work all the time.

‘’Every waking moment has become the time in which we make our living, and when we submit even our leisure for numerical evaluation via likes on Facebook and Instagram, constantly check on its performance like one checks a stock, monitoring the ongoing development of our personal brand, time becomes an economic resource that we can no longer justify spending on ‘’anything’’[…] it is simply too expensive’’

The gig economy

– Celebrates working yourself to death p.17

The gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic
She gives examples of Fizzer ad

– She then talks about ROWE – Results Work Only Environment which meant to abolish the 8h workday by letting you work whenever from wherever

– Why work sucks and how to fix-it : The results-only Revolution by the creators of ROWE

– As she points out, there’s nothing to be admired about being constantly connected, constantly potentially productive the second you open your eyes in the morning- and no one should accept this.

Groundedness requires actual ground and direct sensuous reality which is why she gives birdwatching as an example

Observing other animals allows us to feel more grounded

So she suggests #NOMO instead of FOMO

The 1st tool is Self Care as

Audre Lorde in 1980

– Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self preservation and that an act of political welfare.

-‘’self-care’’ has now been appropriated for commercial end’’ and has been wrenched away by activists and turned into an excuse to buy an expensive bath oil.

2nd told

– Deep Listening

‘’to hold yourself still until you can perceive what is actually there. ‘
Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything.

Listening to our bodies, bodily sense

Questions:

What would ‘’back to the land’’ mean if we understood the land to be where we are right now?

Could augmented reality mean simply putting our phones down?

What does it mean to construct digital worlds while the actual world is crumbling before our eyes?
Do you usually have FOMO?

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Julien

Bleuts

Aftersun Still

Blue is the warmest colour still

Of course when I think of blue I can never forget what James Cameron gave us:

I heeded your recommendation and opted for a digital version of the write up. I apologize for any potential headache my previous submission may have caused. I even downloaded an Image to PDF app in an effort to make it more readable. But I digress, I will transition to Maggie Nelson’s Bluets.  

I found a free audio version of Bluets read by Maggie Nelson herself. It was amazing dog walking material. I read The Art of Cruelty a few years back and found it somewhat disturbing but really enjoyable. She is very insightful and the connections she makes are like catnip to me. Sometimes they’re not even connections, but more of a blunt statement of truth or a small nugget wisdom proverb. I still recall a line (not verbatim) from that book that goes: misogyny, when expressed or explored by men, remains a timeless classic. Another lie reads: so long as we exalt artists as beautiful liars or as the world’s most profound truth-tellers, we remain locked in a moralistic paradigm that doesn’t even begin to engage art’s most exciting provinces. This last one has stuck with me, although I can’t really resolve it in a satisfying way. Maybe that’s why I like her writing and her combination of bluntness, poetry, and wisdom that stimulates the affective realm of my brain in a way I can’t shake. Bluets was similar but was much more poetic, more sexual, and at times more depressing. It felt more personal than The Art of Cruelty and that lent itself to the audio version better. Some quotes that struck a chord are posted below: 

199. For to wish to forget how much you loved someone—and then, to actually forget—can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart.   

How do you respond to that? I feel trying to unpack that logically makes no sense, though if you’ve lost a family member, or even split ways with a loved one it just makes sense intuitively.  

It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem. 

I consider myself to be withdrawn or withheld, which people have told me is strange for a Sagittarius. But I am not truly a person of solitude; I lean very heavily on people I am close with. I must agree with Nelson about the problem of loneliness. Loneliness has an implied rejection to it. Loneliness isn’t by choice. I assume one does not choose to be lonely and instead, loneliness is put upon you. Solitude has reverence; it takes willpower and is a choice made and followed through by those with strength. Solitude is something I cannot do.  

Bluets felt like a stream of consciousness, an affective exploration of the colour blue. Nelson seemingly unpacks the associations of the colour – loneliness and loss, but also longing. Like in Charlotte Wells Aftersun, how the blue of the ocean and the sky became like a hazy memory between father and daughter. 

Unmonumental: 

mon·u·ment 

/ˈmänyəmənt/ 

noun 

  • a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event. 
  • “a simple stone monument marked the nearby crash site” 

I have always wanted to start off a text with a definition. My past English teachers insisted it is too cliché and it’s at the detriment of what follows. This feels like a safe place to try it out. It doesn’t feel great, and I am happy I have gotten it out of my system. 

I think this text does a good job providing a quick/brief historical survey of some of the broad points from the recent history of sculpture. Sculpture is a quick way to my heart and I genuinely enjoy many of its basic elements: surface, form, volume, approach to gravity. Also this text covers a host of artists I admire and look to, such as Cady Noland, David Hammon, Rachel Harrison, etc. From what I can gather, both from the reading and the subsequent conversation, is that the monumental in relation to art has to do with a few qualities: size, mass, material/object choice, content, ideology, and special/object relations. While these are not all the essential qualities, they are the qualities that stand out to me as patterns across the article’s images.  

Another pattern comes through in the haphazard compilation of objects. The approach to craftsmanship has transitioned from a master carpenter or caster to one who sorts through garbage and considers the relations between and among these objects. Rachel Harrison, for example, seems to want to combine objects that baffle the viewer as we try to connect relationships, often leaving us with the conclusion that finding that thread may be futile. And is that her goal? I personally think so.  

Jim Lambie, Split Ends
Rachel Harrison XLT footbed

“It is as though in an age of hyper-visibility many artists have felt the need to define a private, at times obscure space where complexity is not suppressed and where things are free to be senseless without being forced immediately into catchy slogan”.  

I find my own approach to art making, as well as social existence, is to retain some level of secrecy. I avoid social media platforms, not so much as a political statement, but because it is truly the simplest way I can withhold parts about myself within the digital world. I find this difficult while at school, where we are often asked to divulge so much information, whether it be our biography or artistic decisions we make. Still, the most enjoyable aspect of this program has been the connections made with peers. So on the one hand, relationships require openness and transparency to develop, especially considering the short time frame of the MFA. Yet simultaneously I have an urge to retract and resist relationships that are highly mediated through digital technologies. 

HYPER OBJECTS

For the presentation notes I decided to upload my script. It is a more succinct renidtion of my presentation notes, which in all honesty I cannot seem to locate:

This article is kind of an expose of Timothy Morton themselves. Morton is a hot commodity it seems as of late. I was first exposed to the idea of Hyper objects in my undergrad as there was, maybe still is? An interest in the larger branch of philosophy called Object Oriented Ontology. This has an even larger branch which I will touch on later. But Morton is an interesting character. They seem to blend hard philosophical theory with touches of Affect theory. Their prose is beautiful and flowery, and their ideas are contemporary and dense. That said this article does a good job providing context for Morton and their work.  

Maybe talk briefly about Speculative Realism and Object Oriented Ontology as the over all branch of Morton’s theories: 


Speculative realism is a reaction against Correlationism, which is the idea that we can only know things as they are for us – as they appear to our cognitive faculties – rather than what those things are in-themselves, apart from human perception. 

That is, one can take correlationism to be the idea that humans are special among all other things that exist – after all, everything else has to accommodate itself to human cognitive faculties or else disappear from the bounds of our world. 

Human inquiry has always tried to get at things as they really are, and the idea that we can only know things as they appear to us means that no matter how many times we lick the ontological Tootsie-Pop, we’ll never get to the center of it. 

So a motivating factor for speculative realists from what I can gather is to fight against this notion of correlationism.  

That is, speculative realists seem argue that (somehow) we can know things as they are apart from human perception, and thus can speculate about the reality of those things. 

Explain Hyper objects: ADHD 
Now we move to this idea of Hyper objects, which is Mortons fight in trying to working around this notion of correlationism. Hyper objects are hard to understand 

“The problem with hyperobjects is that you cannot experience one, not completely. You also can’t NOT experience one (the classic double negative). They bump into you, or you bump into them; they bug you, but they are also so massive and complex that you can never fully comprehend what’s bugging you. This oscillation between experiencing and not experiencing cannot be resolved. It’s just the way hyperobjects are.” 

  • Un evenly distributed 
  • So vast that the human mind has difficulty grasping it 
  • As a result our reactions to it are illogical as we are unable to use facts/data/science in a meaningful way 

Explicitly connected to the current climate crisis, hyperobjects have ‘already had a significant impact on human social and psychic space’ and are ‘directly responsible for what [Morton] calls the end of the world’. 

These are very interesting ideas and it is no wonder that people from outside side of achedemia and Philosophy have been interested.  

 

  • Olafur Eliasson (Olafor Elee-ason) – Big Installation artist – THE WEATHER PROJECT, 2003 
  • Bjork is very interested in the idea of Hyper Objects 
  • Dan Boeckner talks about (something) one of his albums off of Hyper Objects 
  • The operators – Radiant Dawn 
  • Jeff VanderMeer and Dan talk about hyper obejcts in a podcast 
  • Jeff calls them (atributes of a hyper object): 
  • Timothy Morton teaches or Taught at Rice college where there is a conversation between ecologists and philosphers 
annihilation Film Stills

To wrap up this article, I am going to highlight some other key points or even some quotes that I thought were interesting and either shed more light on Morton’s ideas or feedback into the conversation we are going to have. 

Morton says “Reality is real, and right there to experience—but it also escapes complete knowability. One must confront reality with the full realization that you’ll always be missing something in the confrontation.” 

Art can fill this gap of trying to contextualize, visualize, or make known this gap of what Morton is saying is missing between this real and this unknowability. 

Morton refers to hyperobjects as “Strange strangers”—things that are “knowable yet uncanny.” THEY therefore call on us to shift away from trying to master objects and toward learning to respect them in their elusiveness, including the objects that are scary, ugly, artificial, harmful, and disturbing. 

The article gives the example of oil:  “nature at its most elemental; black ooze from the depths of the earth. And yet oil is also the stuff of cars, plastic, the Industrial Revolution; it collapses any distinction between nature and not-nature.” 

Everyday we are “surrounded by oil and its byproducts—the ooze itself, and the infrastructure that transports it, refines it, holds it, and consumes it—and yet, Morton says, we could never really see the hyperobject of capital-“O” Oil: it shapes our lives but is too big to see.”   
Morton argues that by removing the full scope of these objects from our visibility, it allows us to avoid responsibility for their effects.  

 


Relating this to a non-ecological phenomena, it makes me think of the film The Prison in Twelve Landscapes which reveals how the prison is so often kept out of sight and yet there are these community economies that deeply revolve around the prison industry, providing jobs to entire towns while disproportionately incarcerating the population that supports them. But the average person doesn’t see this; its strange and unknowable and allows the general public to disavow any complicity in the prison industrial complex. I think that’s very akin to what Morton was trying to say about oil or hyper objects. 
 
 

 


Critique: Andreas Malm – The Progress of this Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World 

Malm writes that Morton “believes that global warming is a ‘hyperobject’ endowed with agency, and that oil itself is ‘a vastly distributed agent with dark designs of its own’.” However, Malm critiques this perspective and argues “The only sensible thing to do now is to put a stop to the extension of agency. In this warming world, that honour belongs exclusively to those humans who extract, buy, sell and combust fossil fuels, and to those who uphold this circuit, and to those who have committed these acts over the past two centuries: causing the climate system to spin out of control. […] Popular talk of the warming earth as ‘agent of history’ should be discontinued. The dichotomy between human agency and non-human nonagency underpins the whole of climate science”    (Agency: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power) 
 

The end.

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Megan

SHOW AND TELL: Ed Video is hosting their annual Holiday Party (first one since before the pandemic?) on December 16th from 7-11pm! It’s going to be so fun!

“Shit Happens: Notes on Awkwardness” – Amy Sillman

Abstract painting is so far outside my frame of reference but awkwardness is near and dear. It’s in that cluster of descriptors and affects that includes clumsiness, the unrefined, the amateur, and cringe. My bread and butter! I thought Sillman’s definition of awkwardness was setting up a dichotomy between beauty and ugliness/meaning and destruction/empathy and hatred, but it turns out I started reading the article partway through: the first three paragraphs were tucked up on a separate page, above an image of one of her paintings. "Awkwardness is that thing, which is fleshy, funny, downward-facing, uncontrollable; it is an emotional or even philosophical state of being, against the great and noble, and also against the cynical. It is both positive and negative, with its own dialect and dialectic.” Oh. I see what you’re saying now, Amy. My bad. I may not “get” abstract painting but I get the Beckett reference–you have my attention.

Art-making as a metabolic process–the metaphor of digestion–is one I’ve come across before. Lately I’ve been feeling constipated: I’m still taking a lot in, but it’s not coming back out. There’s a block, or a lack of the right stimulating forces. “Finding a form is building these feelings (in this case, dissatisfaction, embarrassment and doubt) into a substance.” The digestive transformation going on in my brain is not going well and I’m straining to produce a substance that’s all wrong.

Sillman says “having a body is a daily comedy” and I want to add that it’s a tragedy too, and in my opinion tragicomedy is the only genre of real substance.

There’s this other bit in the text that caught my attention: “I know of no artist who is attempting to make something more beautiful, but I do know many artists who are looking for a form that ‘feels right’ without knowing why. Maybe it’s just satisfying to see something productive come of feeling like an idiot and the accompanying feeling of embarrass­ment.” First of all, I can’t imagine being an abstract painter because my attachment to the figurative is so ingrained. I also have the midas touch with paint–it turns to shit at my fingertips. But that’s not the important part of this quote. There’s a meme going around the Internet lately of a graph that shows the more you fuck around, the more you find out. This meme maybe distills this quote as well as Beckett’s “fail better”. This improvisational learning by doing makes a lot of sense to me, and every shameful piece of work I hide away is evidence of it.

“Having and Being Had” – Eula Biss

Like a comedian, Biss is highly attuned to the everyday: she picks apart, questions, and exposes the mechanics we take for granted. Her anecdotes end with sucker-punch-lines. Reading this excerpt, I found myself laughing – nervously. The sign of humour doing its work. 

There’s a tiny essay in Black People Are Cropped–a book of William Pope.L’s Skin Set drawings–by Helen Molesworth, who says, “Some people end up laugh-crying forever. Others, well, they just shake their heads, turn, and walk away. They might still be laugh-crying–you just can’t see them anymore” (23-24). And I think Biss is doing the same thing. A reaction–laughter or tears–is an implication. We’ve been had.

For the Skin Set drawings, Pope.L uses the formula “___ people are ___.” For example, “Orange people are my balls in summer.” “Green people are America eat its ass-ness.” “Black people are guilty.” The more nonsensical phrases highlight how nonsensical the ones that “make sense” already are. The perceived social “truth” of a statement like “Brown people are illegal immigrants” is weakened next to “Purple people are the Capote.” Like the house paint colours Biss names, both are highlighting the absurdity of racial codes within colour, and the social/moral values that come with them. Amanda Williams’ project Color(ed) Theory Suite takes its colours from products marketed towards black people, in the way that Biss’ house paints are marketed towards white (or what Pope.L might call “less-black”) people.  Marketing–what a strange and terrifying beast!

This excerpt made me think of Bridget Moser, whose work is very attuned to the absurd and disturbing power of consumer capitalism and socially constructed whiteness. Her palette is pastel, washed out, and inoffensive. This palatable palette lures you in. She uses strange readymade objects marketed to–who? Honestly, who? Why does this crap exist?! Moser, like Biss, is an astute observer of the everyday, and her tragicomic work incites that same uncomfortable laugh-crying. I know I can relate to having bought (into) something that ended up being completely useless. We’ve been had!

I wonder what my favourite colours say about me: Strawberry milk pink. Matcha green. Thai tea. King crab. Raspberry jam. Butter yellow. Peaches and cream.

WORKS CITED
Molesworth, Helen. “When Pope.L Shakes His Head…” Black People Are Cropped. Zurich: JRP|Ringer, 2013.

SHOW & TELL: November 5 trip to London to see Artist Materials Fund at artLAB Gallery, hunter gatherer at McIntosh Gallery, Spectral at Museum London, in and as an ecosystem at Good Sport, and Chains & Crowns at Forest City Gallery.

NOTES TO PRESENTATION

SLIDE 1

  • -Belcourt: writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation, bday October 21st (a Libra, like Foucault – 2 days before my bday), now teaches creative writing at UBC
  • -Published 2020
  • -Part collection of personal essays, part memoir (the Grindr chronicles)
  • -Challenging, poetic prose (challenges “simplicity”)
  • -Explores interconnected themes of utopia, joy, love, sex, Indigineity, queerness, trauma, loneliness, pain
  • -Beautiful preface, a dedication to his nôkhom

SLIDE 2:

  • importance of queer + Indigenous worldbuilding: “ancestral art” (8)
  • NDN: internet/SMS vernacular
  • “Joy is art is an ethics of resistance” (8)
  • utopia of love: “…I inch closer and closer to a Not-I. I end up at the gate of a becoming-us, which is a non-place at best.” (91)
  • “A Poltergeist Manifesto” – feral theory – an adaptation of his PhD thesis
  • trauma: a trip to the hospital; an inability to speak about the past; mass suicides of queer NDN youth; Pulse
  • “I turn into a wounded animal feral with insecurity.” (57)

SLIDE 3:

  • Nico Williams – Anishinaabe artist based in Tiohtià:ke – “Silence No More” (2015)
  • “I gave a quirky and discomfiting talk at the 2016 gathering of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association in Honolulu called ‘Anarchic Objects and the Autoerotics of Decolonial Love,’ in which I argued that indigeneity is an erotic concept. Against the sexual pulse of colonially, its perverse sensuality and all that it elaborates in NDN social world, we have the safe haven of us, this flesh, however caught up in the sign systems of race we are.” (49)

SLIDE 4:

  • Kablusiak – Inuvialuk artist based in Mōhkinstsis – “Dildo” (2019)
  • “These theories of masturbation nod to the geographies of joy that manifest where we are trained not to see them. Remember: we need to keep watch of our own pleasures.” (49-50)

SLIDE 5:

  • Kablusiak – “Looking at Facebook” (2019)
  • “(Scrolling through tweets while my bladder emptied, it occurred to me that straight men my age likely don’t partake in this form of multi-tasking. Standing to pee seems like a relic of a bygone era; nowadays we maximize excretory time. Yet another unanticipated confluence of the gay agenda and late capitalism.” (89)

SLIDE 6:

  • Kablusiak – “Life Is Okay Sometimes” series (2014)
  • “The biopower of each and every ‘faggot’ hurled at me at the grocery store, at the university, in northern Alberta, courses through my veins, making my body feel too much like a body, a feeling I’ve wanted to evade my entire life.” (57)

SLIDE 7:

  • Dayna Danger – Metis/Salteaux/Polish artist, Treaty 1 territory – “Masks” series (2016)
  • “To be a bad girl is to be one of the most furious things in the modern world. To be a bad girl is to be one of the most admonished things in the modern world. A bad girl is she who has rid herself of the brutalities of socialization.” (44)

SLIDE 8:

  • Dayna Danger – “The Outlander” (2013)
  • “Our fury is animalistic. [….] I have faith in the emancipatory power of rage and little else.” (44)
  • “A tree screams in the forest-forgive me, not a tree, but an explosion of girls, an apocalypse of girls.” (78)

SLIDE 9:

  • Diane Obomsawin – Quebec-based Abenaki cartoonist and filmmaker – “I Like Girls” (2016)
  • “We… sleep on my twin-sized bed, as though the next day were a Sunday and there were only Sundays from here on out.” (56)

SLIDE 10:

  • Natalie King – Anishinaabe artist based in Tkaranto – no title or year
  • “When two bodies embrace they become a window. Gender is what’s heard when wind touches glass. Remember: by the time sound reaches the flesh, innumerable bursts of light have already shot through us.” (82)

SLIDE 11:

  • Natalie King – no title or year
  • “NDN youth, listen: to be lost isn’t to be unhinged from the possibility of a good life. There are doorways everywhere, ones without locks, ones that swing open. There isn’t only now and here. There is elsewhere and somewhere too. Speak against the colonially of the world, against the rote of despair it causes, in an always-loudening chant. Please keep loving.” (111)

SLIDE 12:

  • Natalie King – no title or year
  • “With hints of a world-to-come everywhere we are and have been, a red utopia is on the horizon!” (9)

Works Cited: Belcourt, Billy-Ray. A History of My Brief Body. Columbus, Two Dollar Radio, 2020.

“The Case for Nothing” – How to Do Nothing – Jenny Odell

Like a lot of artists, when that first lockdown hit and I couldn’t go to my job at the virtual reality arcade, I found myself scrambling to use my time wisely. I was supposed to go to a 2-week residency in Hungary in April 2020, but since this was obviously cancelled, I tried to reconstruct the lockdown as a “home residency period”. Despite how freaked out and upset I was feeling, I felt the need to sign up for as many Zoom workshops as possible, write and record a new album, and finally start trying out yoga. I kept asking myself, “When am I ever going to have this much free time again?”

A few weeks passed. There was no sign of the endless free time coming to an end. I was stuck in a bedroom that was 2/3rds bed. The Zoom workshops took up a couple of hours each day for a month or two; I wrote and recorded a new album; I made some new drawings; I wrote a short play. But because I still had free time, I figured I wasn’t being productive enough. Like Odell's super-flexi work environment, 24/7 of "what you will" turned into 24/7 potential productivity. That question–“When am I ever going to have this much free time again?”–was a finger wagging in my face.

Jenny Odell: “What I’m suggesting is that we take a protective stance toward ourselves, each other, and whatever is left of what makes us human—including the alliances that sustain and surprise us. I’m suggesting that we protect our spaces and our time for non-instrumental, noncommercial activity and thought, for maintenance, for care, for conviviality. And I’m suggesting that we fiercely protect our human animality against all technologies that actively ignore and disdain the body, the bodies of other beings, and the body of the landscape that we inhabit.”

As the months went by and the weather got nicer, I started going on “silly little mental health walks”, as the girlies called them on Instagram. I walked to the park almost every day and watched the goslings grow up. I watched different flowers bloom. I started getting into birding (but I never got as into it as Jenny Odell) after a pigeon took a crap on my head. I was noticing things I had never noticed before, and my own ignorance surprised me. It wasn’t until that first lockdown–over 7 months after moving to England–that I realized European robins are different from North American ones. What I did with all of that free time was start getting to know the spaces my body occupied, and the other bodies that I shared those spaces with. Like Teju Cole says: “to divert my attention away from the stupid news and towards something life-giving and lasting.” Instead of taking pictures of the meals I was making, I took pictures of every cat I passed by.

Odell mentions something about the ultimate project of “living a good life”, which is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Churning out masterpieces isn’t on the list of what it takes for me to live a good life. Getting the blue checkmark on Instagram or Spotify isn’t, either. But petting all the neighbourhood cats and dogs, feeling the sun on my skin, and making art whether it’s good or not, are.

“Learning the Grammar of Animacy” – Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer

In 2021, the first book I read was Braiding Sweetgrass. I read it mostly in my chilly bedroom in a shared house in south Manchester, snuggled under the pink duvet while the frigid January rain drizzled down outside my window. It was the first book on a reading list based around nature writing, the outdoors, and walking. In the deep of the first full winter lockdown, I read about going outside instead of actually going outside.
The chapter “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” is one that stuck in my brain. Having lived in southwestern Ontario for most of my life, I often thought about language–especially naming–as a colonial tool. Moving to England was jarring. When I told people I was from “London, Canada” I would usually be met with laughter. How silly it is that there could be a London, Canada! Do those Canadians still wish they were British? 
I took the bus to Salford on one of those drizzly winter days to see what the Salford Quays was all about. The names I noticed there were surprising. Streets were named after North American cities, like “New York Street”. (The multilevel irony of New York Street in Salford is just… *chef’s kiss*.) Even more surprising were the bays and basins, which were called “Huron”, “Ontario”, “Erie”. Slave-harvested cotton from the American South would be transported up to the Great Lakes, where they would be loaded onto ships that eventually docked in Manchester, the heart of the textile manufacturing industry during the Industrial Revolution. I wonder if any Manchester residents see those names and link them to their Iroquois roots or the cross-Atlantic slave trade, in that way that we immediately link “London” to England.

I’m thinking of the work that I’m making about this train-human relationship, and how automotives are gendered “female” by the men who love them in order to heterosexualize their desire. Kimmerer writes about the grammar of animacy within the Potowatomi language to illustrate an Indigenous worldview that protects the non-human. It makes me laugh to think how this is used in the English language to protect men from queerness when they’re doting over their ’68 Mustangs.

Spring came early in Northeastern England in 2021. With “Learning the Grammar of Animacy” in mind, I started asking, “Who’s that?” when I passed a bird I hadn’t seen before on a walk along the Mersey River. “Who’s this?” I’d ask the flowers and trees whose names I still haven’t learned. I perched on a gritstone escarpment on a section of the Pennine Way in Calderdale and felt the warmth of the rock through the butt of my pants, warmer than my own body.
I took a lot of pictures on those spring walks in Northeastern England: of trees, rocks, cats, drystone walls, sheep, rivers, houseboats. Like Kimmerer, I didn’t grow up speaking my ancestral language (Kapampangan); but unlike Kimmerer, I haven’t tried to learn it. I don’t know what Kapampangan grammar is like, or what a pre-Spanish Filipin* worldview is like. But applying the grammar of animacy to English (beyond gendering cars) is, I think, a way to shift to a worldview that suits me better than the colonial one I’ve inherited. It’s certainly widened my experiences of being outside, among so much aliveness.

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Anna

Notes on Unmonumental: The object of the 21st Century

This paper seems to reduce sculpture and its history entirely to the realm of the monument without considering the function of the monument outside of material terms, and without considering the function of sculpture historically in non-material terms. In these conditions, all sculptures become monuments, and all monuments become sculptures. I fail to recognize how this is true and especially in a contemporary context. I understand that this is my personal opinion and that it ultimately comes down to definitions of art. 

I would argue that the statues, especially the ones that have been recently torn down all around the world, are not inherently art. I can understand that technically, their materiality utilizes sculptural processes, and I understand they may have been considered a work of art when they were first erected, however, I believe they have outlasted their artistic lifespan and have now transitioned into the realm of artifact. It is my opinion that all art eventually goes through this process at varying degrees and that most monuments are created as a kind of artifact, to begin with.

Reducing all large-scale sculpture as monumental is equivalent to saying that all foam-carved theater props are considered art. I am resistant to the idea that all things that utilize sculptural techniques are considered within the artistic field of sculpture because implying this seriously undermines the value and function of art generally, and sculpture as an artistic field is and has always been more than the technical application of materials.  

In a world where we are constantly being bombarded by garbage of every kind, from all directions, it makes sense that art would also reflect this, however, I would like to argue that the amount of trash in the world right now is a kind of monument of our time, and the impermanent nature of the work in the text reflects a troubling material relationship we have with the world. I am always happy to witness a contemporary sculptural work with great care and consideration taken both technically and conceptually. I not only believe there is still space for this kind of sculptural work in our contemporary context, but I also consider building something to last in our current cultural climate itself as an act of resistance.

Notes on Awkwardness By Amy Sillman 

The term awkwardness implies a sort of friction, and when experienced, it emphasizes the nature of our assumptions and what is considered appropriate and comfortable. Awkwardness is a tension that acts against dominant modes of perception which can surface in various forms, and has the ability to outline and expose these dominant tendencies. In this article, Awkwardness is used as a term to describe ideas about art that goes beyond the usual clumsiness experienced in daily life. It points towards a larger investigation of the process of creating work and a questioning of what it is we are actually looking for, both formally and conceptually. I relate more to the conceptual process.

There are several metaphors used in this article that reference the digestive processes of the body, the distribution of nutrients, and the transfer of energy, which all correspond metaphorically to the practice of art-making. I believe that the most sincere artists who produce work, do so because they are possessed by an inherent curiosity about the world, and art-making becomes an essential tool of exploration. This practice of curiosity is in itself, from my experience, at most times, an extremely awkward situation. 

To exist in a reality necessarily founded on basic and collective assumptions, there is comfort in the ability to anticipate the future. There is a required trust that your leg will support your body with every step you take if you are to walk freely and without hesitation. My artistic practice, when it is at its best wanders into these uncomfortable spaces where it becomes impossible to anticipate outcomes, and on a day to day, when immersed in a project, it is unlikely that I will have a clear sense of what kind of work is required. This state of being is incredibly stressful, unpredictable, and awkward in the classical sense, but it is also incredibly exhilarating, generative, highly intuitive, and requires a great degree of attentiveness. 

The article describes a zone that is conventionally uncomfortable, yet “feels right” creating a place for art. This is an interesting place because it suggests a realm of infinite possibility, yet it is still intrinsically bound to our psychological and material world. A state of awkwardness can only be awkward if it stands in contrast to the dominant perspective. It is this combination of the potential limitlessness situated within limitations that for me characterizes the work of art.  

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Paul

How Should Art Reckon with Climate Change

By Zoë Lescaze

1/9 – 2006, very recent popularization of climate change as an issue. Impact of Al Gore film on popularization of climate change? I remember watching as kid in school, marked by the drama of the storytelling. Wasn’t he in front of an audience (~live action, they react? Maybe my own memory reaction).

1/9 – rise of climate ‘conscious’ art production, maybe due to extreme politics maybe extreme weather. Climate ‘conscious’ vs. climate ‘addressing’? Connotations of the more active latter term?

1/9 – Stephanie Smith concerned that imbibing art productions with surface level ethical value, i.e. climate ‘conscious’ makes it easy for us to say that the issue is being addressed. Re. holocaust monument/anti-monument. Climate conscious art productions can take the place/act as a stand-in for our own consciousnesses, making it easy to forget the necessity of seeking meaningful change. The art productions stand in place of meaningful change, while enacting none of it. 

2/9 – “alarmist works that function as little more than propaganda.” Value of changing ideology re. propaganda? Does it work, does it invest in later change. Maybe no. 

2/9 – Library of Water, Roni Horn. Collecting artifacts, the stuff, and bringing it into the exhibition space. Medium is the message etc. Her non-climate addressing intentionality. Glacier graveyard. Or opposite cryo-storage (whatever it’s called), thawing glaciers in contained environments in order to one day freeze them again, instead of freezing people to one day thaw and give them new life in the science fiction future.

2/9 – ‘the resulting works are not demands for immediate action but ones that expand our psychological capacity to act.” Right, investing in future action through foregrounding what is going on. Does Lescaze then believe in these tactics? As she says, the scale has changed compared to the AIDS crisis. The forces at work are even less visible, take place over time-scales larger than our regular imaginative abilities… what works can invoke this time scale? Thing to look for. Think nuclear storage and communicating radiation danger into deep future.

4/9 – Falls of the Kaaterskill. Painting, ‘untouched beauty’ etc. made timeless by the addition of indigenous figure. Painter subtracted the tourist viewing platform. Commodification of lands into views. Tourist views made to be out of time. But they are manufactured.

5/9 – emergence of art addressing pollution and development, 2nd half 20th century.

5/9 – Liminal Lacrimosa, Mary Mattingly. Expression of glacial (in the sense of actually relating particularly to glaciers instead of broadly expressing very large slow moving time scale) in concrete forms through drips and tear catching urns of Rome (why Rome?). What does it mean to be glacial? 

5/9 – regionalization of climate change belief. Climate change as existing in public knowledge or belief based on politics, convenience to existing lifestyle and identity formed/entangled with that lifestyle (maybe not lifestyle, maybe economy. Lifestyle is a recent invention).

5/9 – “collaboration between strangers” as necessary to effectively combat climate change.

5/9 – artists seeking ways to reduce climate impact. Shipping via sea instead of air. Action fostered through shame?

6/9 – impossible contraction, irreconcilable difference between art world and climate action because of the extreme overindulgence of high art collectors and consumers. True, but they’re thankfully not the whole picture. 

6/9 – art fairs as comically over-consumptive. A parody of the works they present? 

6/9 – wait a minute. We’re talking about galleries and collectors here when we talk about shipping. This has nothing to do with the work being made. New Yorker might take for granted the high art market and collectors as the de-facto art world but I do not. Talking about art and talking about collectors are two different things. 

7/9 – have a good look at Robert Adams’ “New West” photo series, 1974.

7/9 – ok ok, museums and their corporate sponsors.

7/9 – individual billionaire sponsors, their immoral actions, and their positions on boards and trusts of museums and galleries. They are apparently actively contributing to taste-making in the arts sector. People watch what these institutions put out. 

8/9 – Lescaze calls for greater outrage towards the sponsors and board members whose corporations are actively contributing to the climate crisis. Agreed. The list she expounds is terrible. But, does this have specifically to do with the creation of works at our level on the Canadian side? To what extent are we able to make work freely while relatively outside of the direct sponsorship of these people? I’m not sure. The internet definitely spreads the influencing power of these institutions. 

9/9 – John Cage slowest possible organ work. Expressing long time scale, forcing us to relate to those a long way down the road from us. Placing a possible future out of a doubt of future at all. An expression of belief that there will be a future, or a challenge to make sure that there is one? A reason added to make sure there is one?

9/9 – for the museum guy, it (the organ) forces a notion of hope, imposes a notion of hope.

Summary/Response: 

The function of artworks to create public consciousness, or to take the place of public consciousness around climate issues. AND, one possible route to expressing climate crisis, i.e. expressions of climate change time-scale that impart a notion of responsibility towards the future.

Though the article jumps between the production of artworks, their expressive and consciousness making capacities, and the world of collectors (seemingly to rightfully point out the terrible people and their corporations that still hold too much sway over boards of galleries and museums), the main function of the article is to map out one possible route of making meaningful additions through artwork to addressing the climate crisis. 

While simplistic works that mirror the crisis by representing forest fires and floods can easily and only replace meaningful reflection on the crisis (in the way of some monuments to things that we would rather not think about), works that express a timescale and necessary cooperation with future unborn generations may actually create a climate-conscious responsibility in the viewer/caretaker. John Cage’s “Organ/ASLSP,” while not specifically presenting the climate crisis or what it looks like, is a work that can only be realized through collaboration with future generations because of its time scale. Maintenance and chord changes of the organ must be undertaken by people of the future. Therefore there must be a future, and therefore we in the present must reflect on how our input influences the possibility or impossibility of that future, whether it will be there at all. Forced collaboration with the future is one way of activating a present caretaking of the conditions that will make that future possible.

 

Dowsing for Remediation with Alana Bartol

By Valérie Frappier

1/3 – Alana asks how we as white settler relate to the land. Especially in ways that are reciprocal. What does she mean by this, reciprocal in the sense that we relate to the land the land relates to us? I.e. how the land changes us and we change the land? Her and I are looking for the same thing insofar as looking for ways in which we relate to the land. I am looking for images and texts which manifest the ways/roots we did not realize held such deep sway in creating our fundamentally extractive relation to the land. Is Alana seeking actual artierlative methods of relating to the land, i.e. non extractive ones?

1/3 – for her dowsing is a reciprocal (as it we both benefit?) act with the land, undoes ways of owning land, the classically western thought projected onto land. LIDAR and magnetic surveys are doing to, rather with working with the land. Especially western ways of acting upon land through cataloging those things we want to take out. 

1/3 – “digging beyond the narrative of compulsory extraction”

1/3 – Alana is jarred by Crowsnest pass interpretive centers as they put on display an untricial attitude towards the content which they describe. This one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian history is presented without mentioning that the mine collapse is most likely due to the creeping of tunnels too close to the surface of the mountain slope. 

1/3 – “what coal mining has meant for the land, water, and more than human species of this ecosystem while considering how this extractive legacy haunts our present.” How does it haunt our human present? I would challenge Bartol to remember the human practitioners of coal mining and other extractive processes—what happens to them? Should this even be a question in the face of the severity of the climate crisis? I might say yes.

1/3 – dowsing as a method of prospecting for coal?

1/3 – “an appropropriate muse” found in Martine de Bertereau (Baroness de Beausoleil) because she is both a pioneering woman (pioneer feminist, feminist pioneer), while also a pioneer of mining. This is appropriate because Bartol has profited from the same capitalism that has been born out of extraction. Contradictions between the feminist and the prospector. Good and evil? The settler (pioneer) and capitalist go hand in hand (a place to challenge her perspective here?).

2/3 – Bartol selects the witch, through de Bertereau (because of her imprisonment for witchcraft), as an embodiment of both capitalism and our ability to find a connection with the earth. A double pronged symbol/muse. “How we fall prey to system of power (the “bad witch”), yet how we also have the ability to heal by rebuilding our connection to the natural world (the “good witch”).

2/3 – “the paradox of our present, clutching to exploitative processes we know have killed and contaminated us.”

2/3 – Bartol collects core samples and rocks from these places. I actually had coal from crowsnest also. How to we as artists use these materials in our work to call to attention the imperative of change away from extractive processes? How do we collect these objects when the impulse to collect and museum-ify objects is a specifically colonial one? Do we create a reciprocal relationship to land when we collect the refuse of extraction to communicate the depth and pervasiveness of our extractive mindset at work, so that we might change it? 

2/3 – review Grassy Mountain Coal project. Was it approved? I believe not. Or still in talks? Could we say that Bartol’s works had any sway over the decisions of local townspeople in Crowsnest? That’s a whole other question. The extent to which post-extractive works are made available to those who live at points and sites of extraction. For whom are these works made? Who actually gets to see them? In what discourse do they actually get taken up? (Think of the satellite images of the tar sands that are purchased and hung in oil exec. offices.)

2/3 – open pit coal mining in the Rockies, the removal of 1976 legislation that banned mining on the eastern slopes of the Rockies (the most visible slopes), and this article failing to mention that very particular fact about that ordinance (the view, the tourist view). Bartol’s exhibition was at the University of Lethbridge–where is this exactly? Also the linking from the exhibition to the webpages of activist, indigenous and community groups, their significant role in the fight.

2/3 – Grassy Mountain was eventually disapproved, the 1976 legislation was put back in place. But that doesn’t mean coal mining doesn’t happen, it’s just kept invisible.

2/3 – inviting visitors to the museum to take packets of native plant seeds to spread over the grassy mountain site. But also remediation being facilitated by non-native plants, i.e. mullein that can actually take heavy metals out of the ground (what happens then when the plant dies? They go straight back into the earth?) Does this point to another layer of irony, we the settlers, the mullein remove the contaminants in the name of remediation, but does it do anything? Can we accomplish anything through our acts of remediation while we thrive on the refuse of extraction—or is the land back (back to native plants) ultimately the better route (land back).

Artworks to look at: orphan well adoption agency—the roles of satire and fiction. The witches hands alongside collected objects/artifacts. 

Teju Cole collates musings on the everyday and an exploration of image context and space in his new book

by ALICE ZOO

3 – Impassable distance in time. The ability of photography to capture a specific time, stamped in the photo or in the metadata of the digital image (or also in our minds as viewers—all photos are a snapshot of time). Tying a photo of anything taken at the same moment as a collective change, occasion, thereby tying the things together.

3 – Diverting attention away from something that he didn’t want to occupy his mind, US elections. The project was first disseminated through instagram (the project is the instagram?). Cole posted every day. The routine attention he gave to this project kept his mind off the election that he didn’t want to think about. The kitchen just happened to be there? Why the kitchen? Why the fruit? Is it specifically the ‘everydayness’ that the kitchen represents? Or other histories?pasts being brought into play here?

4 – “nothing will be moved… the operation of chance” is deciding where the objects are in the room etc. Right but so what? The photograph mediates always, the compositions are dictated more by the angle and framing than by the arrangement of the objects. Nothing random here. Cooking with this project in mind also makes you bring out the nice dinnerware, the ugly old cookpots—whatever is your fancy, there’s an aestheticization at work.

6 – Invoking our imaginative force. The pictures don’t show much, Zoo says they ask us to imagine the cooking, the ‘what else is going on,’ which is what still life can do so well. Still life suggests the wider context, the wider ‘life’ going on around the still objects, the moments and movements that were necessary to land them in the places they now sit. 

8 – ‘de-skilling’ the photographs. Coles pulls away from skill to try to clear the path to emotional access. A more direct connection or appeal to emotion when the images aren’t complicated by skill?

8 – The many ‘yous.’ Cole addresses us through many ‘yous’ in the accompanying essay. Do his yous mirror the ones we imagine at work in the kitchen?

9 – Inwardness as openness. Cole cooking for himself during pandemic-instituted isolation became a way to relate, even offer to the outward, inaccessible kitchens of others. A mirroring of activity to create imagined proximity?

13 – ‘Aliveness in a period of time.’ The inevitable interpolation of life among still life. The clutter of life here evoked through a list of medical reports and symptoms of Cole’s illness while making the project. I guess a simple document of a moment? Radical everydayness as a counter to the monumentality of the elections and the pandemic? Asserting the everyday as a humanizing, relatable force?

13 – Documentation of everydayness creates a calendar of points of contact. As a reader Zoo states that we can ask how Cole’s body is now, where the pots are now, how everything has moved and shifted since the photos were taken. These are actual pots, maybe in his kitchen still, maybe the thrift store, maybe broken. The transience of objects and their fates. Look at them go. Wonder where they are. Archeology. What we can know from a broken pot.

16 – Mass adoption and success of photography. Cole is interested in challenging the easy capture of content through photography. Make the compositions weird, make the content not obvious. A good antidote to the deluge of advertising photography, the very pointed stuff trying to tell us things. 

Timothy Morton’s Hyper-Pandemic

By Morgan Meis

2 – 2013. Morton proposed the hyper-object as the next decider of human life. These hyper-objects are the collective plastic in the ocean, all the carbon in the atmosphere, all the radioactive nuclear waste. According to Morton, these hyper-objects will decide the course of future human lives. I agree? We have to adapt to dealing with them, grappling with their destructive force (as the hyper-objects grow, even as we can’t always measure them, as they loom over us, getting bigger) as the consequences of their existence ripples across our lives. Poisonous things, venom spreading through veins.

2 – Hyperobjects are “massively distributed in time and space.” Time, evoking the fact that they have been made and are growing along in time, hopefully one day shrinking in time also. If we can scrub some carbon out of the atmosphere, will carbon lose its status as a hyperobject? What about other materials that we don’t consider as actively beneficial or poisonous? All the magmatic rock collected on earth. I guess everything has a force. Cultural baggage to all the blades of grass on earth.

2 – ‘fourteen million tons.’ A numbers game. These objects can be measured in mass, but the magnitude of millions of tons is beyond representation or imagination to us. 

2 – Longevity. This stuff will outlive us by many many years. The impossible slowness of nuclear half-lives. That’s a part of the hyper status. 

3 – Ecology as fusion, openness, interpolation of many things… alright entangled. 

4 – Jeans T-shirts Mazda 3 and they. The banalness. A disappearing act. Me too.

4 – Flipping the script and planet of the apes. Nearing climate disaster Morton evokes the weirdness of things, rather than the sublime (like the sublime), to strike awe in us. Awe here is generative of respect, not tame-ability. 

5 – Weird sentences and the awe they inspire. A healthy amount of mystery goes a long way to make people wonder. Making people wonder can generate their respect, and also their disgust. Some things need to be qualified, other things can be poetry.

5 – Cats as transgressors of agrarian private land divide. Borders. We let them go where they want. For Morton this evokes the nature we still wish to be a part of. Let it wander about. Representational of the freedom we wish we had? To move around unimpeded by fences. Even our between yard infrastructure is not prohibitory to cats. They can always jump the fence. Climb stuff. We never wanted to make anti-cat-movement infrastructure, or cats can always get past it anyway?

6 – Ecology everywhere. We live in cities mostly now. Never get out enough to the woods etc. To live ecologically we should see the interrelatedness of all the critters in the city and the materials they thrive on and against.

7 – Oil as transgressor of the boundary between nature and not nature. Comes from the earth but is of industry and plastic. 

8 – O.O.O. , Object Oriented Ontology. Philosophy concerned with all the vastness of stuff colliding and reacting, compressing and spreading. All too big to see at once, always slipping away through time? Everything all at once is way too much to know. This strikes awe. Holy cow there’s so much in a given second. Object oriented ontology as evocative of the terror of time getting away? Car tires on pavement. Waves crashing mid Atlantic. Wow. 

8 – Confronting reality as acknowledging that something will always be missed out of every encounter. There’s always too much. There’s always God out there in the vastness (sublime), but in this case the vastness is the objects that make up our world, not the up and away and heavenly. All right here. Playing Piano for Dad playing inthe background makes this reading very grandiose. I like it. 

8 – “there is no outside—just the entire universe of entities constantly interacting, and you are one of them. 

8 – Does the vastness here described encourage ecologically oriented action? Planet saving action? Or is the vastness pulling us, leaning us into the crash-course, the fatalist drive, the pull of self-destruction, all that’s named inevitable. 

9 – Polyurethane magic. Sick.

9 – Emotional commitment to plastic.

9 – Narrative format of this article is great. The stage setting, the humour allowed for in the in-person visit. The stuff around. The veteran submarine, the yellow sulphur pyramid.

9 – How to cultivate responsible attachment to hyper-objects? In the case of nuclear waste, Morton suggests storing it above ground and visible, so that we might care for it and be responsible. Hiding things away makes us forget, pretends to us the disappearance of their scary forces. They’re still there, only concealed. 

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Evgenia

Notes on Queer Mycology By Patricia Kashian

Queer theory is not necessary related to just sex or human relations, but it’s an idea that all relationships are constructed socially. Social constructions may or may not serve us. 

Fungi as organisms that form symbiotic relationships between species challenge our concept of an individual. 

Entire groups of fungi are asexual: multiple reproductive structures of different types within one body. How to organize/categorize them?

How does queer theory enhance scientific knowledge system?

The illusiveness of the scientific goal to be objective. Embrace transparency and the idea that we are deeply intertwined with life with culture and subjectivity.

Mycophobia  (gross/dangerous/do not touch)

Mushrooms are associated with death and decay. Fungi are uniquely implicated in death. Mushrooms are seen as perverse agents of disruption – fundamentally different (LGBTQ experience)

Formation of capitalism – mycophobia – commodifying organisms

Mushrooms are hard to cultivate (untamable creatures!), cannot be controlled or dominated. Fungi is a disruptive pathogen in monoculture (a capitalist tactic of control) to isolate organism from their natural ecologies to maximize their output. However, fungi thrive in monoculture environment (wheat) becoming antithesis for progressive agriculture production. 

Fungi – uncontrollable (underworld). 

People fear what they cannot control. 

Academia – an exclusive environment, where social science is investigated through a particular cultural lens. (western colonial perspective/homogenous understanding of the world)

Classist ideas like Lichens “as peasants of the plants”. (Queer, women, ppl of colour not worthy of being in the space)

Weeds – immigrants (Lou Ferguson)

Science as an equal opportunity. An investigative, methodological tool for everyone, regardless of their institutional domain, class, gender, race etc.

Scientists are to reflect on their power privileges and responsibilities that come with those. 

Scientists need to be in touch with “subjective elements of the work”.

Capitalism attaches incentives to inquiry, drawing people away form integrity. 

Institutional Capitalist Science.

Traditional ecological knowledge – culturally embedded. 

Science and believes can coexist. 

Pseudoscience – investigations without integrity in pursuit of money. 

Fungi are understudied. It’s ok top advocate for conservation of their habitat based on emotional arguments. 

How fungus migration is effected by climate change?

Amanita – considered non-native, but as fungi mostly live in mycelium state under ground, it is unknown if they are not present in the soil in other habitats. 

Conditions that make the mycelium fruit matter.

Fungi are rarely listed as endangered and threatened species. 

Extractive consumerism – deeply linked to consumerism in capitalist culture – engaging with the land through extraction of resources. 

What is the impact of large-scale foraging? Largely unknown (but can be predicted…)

Ethics of care!

How denying things as they are in confining them to limited categories of understanding we assist in their extinction.

Most species of fungi have not been named. 

Taxonomy – naming is not stamping, but including it into discourse. 

Naming as a sign of respect. (harder to harm things/bodies you now by their name)

Hard to advocate for nameless organisms that perish!

Conservation strategies to allow beings to live their lives, regardless of their “usefulness” to humans. The right to exist and flourish extended to more-than-human world. 

“Beyond human worldview as oppose as post-human” – me

Discussion Prompts:

Since mushrooms are mediators and connectors of many structures within one body,

how can a queer mycology theory help you to understand your connection to the community? What symbiotic relationships do you find integral to your practice?

Inspired by mushrooms’ innate ability to resist commodification and control, what subversive strategies do you employ in your practice or which ones would you like to incorporate in the future?

How can the motto of academic environment and science as an equal opportunity be incorporated into sharing knowledge in contemporary art practice? What responsibilities do we have as artists/researchers in accounting for our subjectivity?

Conservation strategies regardless of the organism’s usefulness: 

Think of things/beings/processes considered useless by your immediate community that you are incorporating/advocating/appreciating in your practice.

Fun one:

How the naming convention of “false” in mushrooms perpetuates our capitalist consumer philosophy of other living organisms’ usefulness to us?

What is a false painting/ false sculpture / false writing / false breakfast or false walk?

How does the grammar of “it” doesn’t serve you? 

Come up with your false names for mushrooms and start spreading the word about their unique ways of being.

GAME
HEADS OR TAILS OR DISRESPECTFUL MYCOLOGY

Guess whether the name is a real mushroom or made up one.

Come up with your own false names for mushrooms and start spreading the word about their unique ways of being. 

Notes on How to do Nothing by Jenny O’Dell

This hits home.

……..

I feel so intrinsically reverberated with the ideas and references in this book. Not to mention that the issues of attention economy are hard-felt in our immediate and global community a very acute way. I have been fighting the same battle, thinking, creating, awkwardly taking longer and walking a convoluted path as an unofficial everyday motto in search for sustainability. 

……

Public spaces are under constant capitalist pressure to be “productive”.

Unproductive public spaces are sparse and threatened like artist-run centres. 

Time treated as a commodity, too expensive to do nothing.

Groundedness requires actual ground!

Doing nothing is to hold yourself still, so you can perceive what is actually there. 

Connectivity is a rapid circulation of information among compatible units/agents. Nether of them would change throughout this process.

Sensitivity is difficult, awkward, ambiguous encounter between different bodies. Both entities might come away from the encounter different than they went in. 

The difference between connectivity and sensitivity is time.

……

Doing nothing is as essential as a pause between the notes. Holding space with time as a connecting tissue between the agents.

Doing nothing is awkward, introspective, reflective, attentive and at times hard. Hard because we are conditioned to productivity. However, doing nothing is not a leisure activity, as leisure can be camouflaged as productivity as well, creating the all-too-well known technique of masquerading the perpetual fresh-squeezed juice machine of value as care.  

…….

Kinship – the glue of assemblages of kin, a symbolic configuration of different kinds of beings maintained though the practice of care. 

Using technology to create a mere access to physical reality. 

Digital art about the physical world.

What does it mean to create digital worlds when the physical is in the process of being destroyed?

Groundbreaking has a sinister literal meaning. 

Survival by appearing useless. 

Perhaps being misunderstood is not such a terrible thing after all. It could be a survival strategy. 

Resistance-in-place is to make oneself into a shape that cannot be easily appropriated by the capitalist value system.

To inhibit somewhat fuzzier or wobblier ideas:

  • of maintenance as productivity
  • the importance of non-verbal communication
  • the mere experience of life as the highest goal

Bioregionalsm is about how life forms are interconnected. 

Citizenship in the bioregion becomes familiarity with the local ecology and commitment to stewardship. 

What economy does to the eco-system, attention economy does to our attention. 

Production destroys the soil, until nothing can grow. It extinguishes one species of thought after another, hastens the erosion of attention. 

Productivity that produces what?

Success? 

Successful in what way, for whom?

 …..

Perhaps it could be fruitful to avoid clear structures in writing as a form of resistance against capitalist, productivity oriented language in favour of walkthrough a forest kind of meandering of an essay.

…..

Choices: escape the world/politics vs remain in place but escape the framework of attention economy.  

Create space of refusal! What does it look like?

What does it take to afford refusal? – learning to redirect and enhance attention. 

Identity: not a personal brand, but an unstable, shapeshifting thing, determine by interactions with others and different kind of places. 

Meaningful ideas require incubation time and space!

Awareness as a seed of responsibility. 

Patterns of attention is how we render reality for ourselves. They have a direct influence on what we feel is possible at any given time. 

Shit happens by Amy Sillman

Rachel de Joode: ‘(makes squish gesture) IV’, 2015, painted carved foam // © Rachel de Joode

How form can match the feeling or a condition – of funny, homely, lonely, ill-fitting, strange, clumsy things that feel right.

The dissatisfaction with all things perceived as beautiful, curated, perfected and resolved comes from the same place as the satisfaction with all things that reflect our experience as a breathing, walking, seeping body. Humanity is a wrong word. More like “all the shit that happens all the time, everywhere, now and then” and “this is best it can do, but it happens to be the best”.

President Donald Trump meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on March 17, 2017.

Awkward lives in that space. It feeds on our desire to be honest with ourselves, extending it outward. (Outkward?) How far? You will see. You may wish to control it, but fortunately for you, it merely controls your urges to be right. And maybe you are, but perhaps the cake of right needs one unexpected flavour that will take it from the dignified desert to a conversation starter.

the subject no longer entirely in control of the plot, representation peeled away from realness.

However, many figured this out long ago and are relentlessly pursuing the awkward for the perceived authenticity that it attracts. Those are often easy to spot as the trying-to-hard conundrums and wannabe calculations. 

Awkward fashion photography as a media hit

The awkward is an untameable beast that is best kept wild. It will always find something to feed on.

Rachel de Joode

a form that ‘feels right’ without knowing why

Awkward/honest but unbeknown. 

Emma Larsson

the process of trying to figure something out while doing it.

Awkward as backward but also against the established order. Even if that order has been established by yourself. Awkward as a trickster revealing you under the composed you.

people use ‘awkward!’ after a faux pas, a moment of tension between the ideal and the real, where what’s supposed to happen goes awry.

Recent trends for all things ugly, awkward and backwards say a few things about how we are feeling with the current order of things. The image has not evaded this trend, it may actually started it. Maybe the internet? As a place for all things clumsy and revealing, maybe less so now, then in the 90’s. Perhaps awkward is timeless.

Finding a form is building these feelings (in this case, dissatisfaction, embarrassment and doubt) into a substance.

Erwin Wurm, Double Ear Head, ceramic, glaze, 2018

The urge for authenticity is at its high. And so the search begins. Perhaps the most satisfying part of this search is its uncanny space of occurrence. It certainly can happen in the studio, deep into the making, but it can also resurface elsewhere. Often the event is documented (maybe even posted for the world to see), like a discovery of a new specimen and the excitement that it brings. The awkward is now firmly categorized and evaluated. 

Awkward in the cage

I am tired of seeing the awkward in this sad state. I much rather see the reflection of awkward, the glimpse of a story, visually undocumented, my brain filling in the gaps. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the curated awkward in the form; there, what I see, is a documentation of an encounter with the wild beats that it is. A tense standoff where the animal wins. 

Awkward in the wild

Unmonumental:
The Object in the 21st Century

Ask the Dust by Massimiliano Gioni

The disappearance of the pedestal as it gets absorbed by the sculpture itself.

Jim Lambie

Sculpture entertained more than a dangerous liaison with the realm of death: it was a substitute for life, a from of placebo.

Works that are seeping and oozing the precarious fragments of old monumentality while occupying a modest space of private proximity.

Resilient urban-trash flora growing steady against the hostile environment they are very comfortable inhabiting.

Metaphoric state of paranoia and internal conflict between acts of revolt and retreat to personal privacy.

Tom Burr

Third world Arte povera.

Objects that “fight for your attention.” The chaos has subsided by now. The need for visual clarity is more pronounced as we are bombarded with Information and visual stimuli. 

Anti-heroic art ridicules the old canons while beheading its authority by eliminating it completely.

Against the very idea of permanence. Proclamation of fragility while emphasizing mortality and passing of time. The themes of memory and nostalgia with fragments of the stories lost in time and almost confused with its history.

Carol Bove

A deconstructed modernism. Revised, fragmented, unclothed and presented back in its vulnerable state, private and ridden of its authoritarian status.

Iza Genzken

The tendency to retreat inside while a more private view is maximized in the attention to detail and a micro perspective.

Multi-dimensionality and layers of complexities in the literal form overlap with undertones of civilization doom and exhausted society from their own devices. Critique of the global economy that is told with a tired voice, not defeated but scratchy from repeating itself. 

Shinique Smith

While radically different in the formal terms, the grammar of minimalist sculpture is complementary to the logic governing earthworks; it aims to attain a sense of timelessness. Assertive, almost inevitable, and thus monumental. 

These works exude transitionality and uncertainty.

Gedi Sibony

A lot has happened since Massimiliano Gioni wrote the piece, since the Unmonumental exhibition. Fifteen years of acceleration in the direction of the immediate crisis on a global scale. The radical shift that the works achieved from the legacy of monumental sculpture are now grown into a different kind of beast. 

Life of a Craphead, King Edward VII Statue Floating Down the Don River, 2017

The installation art today is still grappling with the historical connections it has to monumental sculpture and the ideas of permanence, but it has taken on a fundamentally different ephemeral quality. It’s painstrickenly close to disseminating into the corporeal. Not all, but its feet have been dipping in it for quite some time now. Contemplating its own reflection, it too has concluded that being timeless is more than outdated it is dangerous. The irony is that the metaverse clings uncomfortably close to the old hierarchies of the cannon, with much of the nuances seeming to evade that space. Perhaps like an enfant terrible, it is still playing with guns and horses in the wild west of the ephemera. 

Metaverse gallery, you can’t touch anything but certainly can almost smell the old stink of hierarchy
London design studio VATRAA stacked thousands of water bottles to create its Plastic Monument Installation.

A monumental scale of our current pollution problem.

VATRAA, photo by Alessandra Terranova
Pierre Huyghe, Variants, Norway, Permanent installation

Huyghe’s work is permeating the physical and digital space, effecting one another. The island has been scanned to become the environment of a live simulation. It is simultaneously an island and what that island could be in an alternate reality. A fictional narrative gives a set of rules and prompts, played out by an artificial neural network that generates unpredictable mutations in the simulation, of what is present on the island, animate or inanimate, sounds or things, such as trees, trash, animals, or humans.

Occasionally, mutations exit the simulation and manifest physically on the island where they sustain or decay, contaminating the existing reality with an unknown possibility of itself, progressively modifying the island’s appearance.

Pierre Huyghe, Variants, Norway, Permanent installation

A mirror to our current relationships with physical and digital spaces. But who can do it better, the neural network or humans? Both have a capacity for pulling their blankets on themselves. A very dark, sinister scenario is looming while we play the game.

Installation art now seems to have one foot dangling over the new propositional realities and the other submerged into the depths of connectivity, our past, and an immediate monumental crisis—no pedestals can withstand such a heavy burden. 

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

Seeing a colour

Eye is a recorder, with or without will.

Vision is a liar; one cannot trust it as it always suspects your emotions. 

Sound is much more honest, except honesty is the last thing on my mind.

Words do not look like things they designate – Maurice MerleauPonty

Witnessing a colour change is an event. A change, a chemical reaction, a mental and physical state of being that decided to transcend outwards its hopes and dreams of becoming the other. Some colours are very persistent and, like a progression to any argument, require a heavy spoonful of reason to be swayed to the other side. So what can sustain a colour and convince it to change?

Life-long obsessions:

Fire Red – the one sometimes called tomato red or orange-red or fire-red; a moment before you know, already knowing by the feeling; a childish urgency; an attention-freak of a dancer; a deeply powerful part of yourself; an annoying fast talker; magnetic persistency with mercurial tendencies; one that got away

Warm Yellow – buttery, almost honey sun-licked self-indulgence; a buzzing energy

Terracotta Red – earthy tone that leaves a spicy residue; a copper flare; an oxidized, lived-in intense moment of connection-air and material dance

Deeply Intense Blue or Infantile-light Blue and Fire-Red combinations – like a couple that has been together for a long time

Thinking about colours happens simultaneously as I think of materials – why one and not the other? Biased opinions and feelings become physical spatial implications. Often, when I work with found materials, I honour the colour it comes to me; of course, I choose the object based on the particular texture and colour, to begin with. Needless to say, colour, its origin, change or state of being is very important to me. 

For a while, I realized I was childish enough not to like a certain colour. Akin to hating a particular type of wine. The grape has less to do with it than the caring for methods, the bottled-up feelings you were enveloped in that day or the mood of the landscape on the day of harvest. 

I am learning to recognize my hidden love for green. It was strange that for a nature lover, I never thought to include that colour in my preferences. Upon closer inspection, I realized that this love for green had been the type of relationship I take entirely for granted. Akin to an attentive lover, whose attention with time becomes an everyday occurrence, I, too, have taken my relationship with green to be a given of sorts. My attraction to it started to grow once I became painfully aware of this phenomenon. How predictable of an all-things-red colour lover. 

Colour as a state of being  

I am less interested in a singularity of a human-made object than in a system. The system of connecting the dots, the part as a whole, the interdependencies, reciprocities and incompatibilities. Art objects – a system of powerfully useful sentimentality? Politics of excessive tenderness.

Saturation – satisfaction (as one cannot absorb or take any more drop, fullness)

Colour is information, the overload of which is a dangerous path that leads to resistance. For better or worse.

Children prefer warmer colours (red), they grow older into cooler tones (blue). 

Children are violent and I am childishly addicted.

Something has to be said about cultural preferences and the implications of colour. I do recognize my love for red has partially sprouted from my culture. The deep love and problematics of it all. Where does the other part come from? Do you know where your love comes from? The first one that alters you from the inside?

When something ceases to bring you pleasure, you cannot talk the pleasure back to it. 

What is left once the pleasure leaves? A different kind of conversation. 

Gatherer, not an owner. 

Look for Jason Logan, Toronto Ink Company

Jason Logan’s approach to working with colour is less about its usefulness and more about creating a relationship with it. Discovery, questions, impossible dreams and possible connections. Everything can be a start of a colour. What do you find? What questions one has for it? What colour can be made from a rock? A car part? A nail? A piece of wood? He talks about how nothing is impossible, and a curious question can lead to something unexpected, long-lasting or ever-changing, ephemeral and fragile. Is there a colour that doesn’t change? 

Colour as poetry, contextual and political. 

Owning is about taking space, and gathering is getting to know the space. So my practice is a never-ending getting-to-know-a collection of questions.

A word.

Nonetheless – curious word. 

Synonym: Also but, although, however, still

Perhaps we could use more nonetheless and less of the notnonetheless/somethemore/manyanyway

Anton Alvares

His practice focuses on the design of systems and the creation of tools and processes for producing sculptural objects and architecture.

Anton Alvares

Blue is not a colour, it’s a state, a very convincing one. 

How much of that illusion is a cultural phenomenon and how much is it an embodied experience and its aftermath? 

When does the colour begin, and where does the reflection of colour start?

Nonetheless, within any blue, there is always a bit of red. S

Does an album of written thought perform a similar displacement or replacement of the original thought? But if the writing does displace the idea, if it extrudes it like a lump of wet clay through the hole, where does the excess go? – Chogyam Trungpa

Sometimes it goes into a sound of an utterance, wet, slinky, emotional and incoherent, raw and unedited, captured or left wild roaming the air and filling (feeling) the space around it.

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Danan

Facing the monumental

The talk given by Rebecca Belmore and Wanda Nanibush discusses the works in Belmore’s exhibition, Facing the Monumental curated by Nanibush, first shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2018. In this discussion, they work their way through many of the works included in the exhibition. They talk about Belmore’s affinity and intuition for materials especially looking at how clay shows up in this exhibition. The below work is an image from the performance “Clay on Stone”. Nanibush discusses how with this exhibition they wanted to show Belmore’s more material and sculptural practice. This side of her work is less well-known than her performance practice. They tell stories about the processes and origins of the work, however, the bulk of the talk discusses the political content of the work. Belmore’s work is highly concerned with indiginous, class, racial, and environmental politics. All of these political concerns overlap in Belmore’s work, intermingeled with layers of reference to history, contemporary politics, and art. 

Belmore’s work has always stood out to me for its ability to be overtly political but not didactic. She is able to speak with a political voice but maintains an ineffability and poetics that escapes most highly political artists. I find artists who make an attempt to be politically direct often lose what makes an artwork exciting to me. That is the question, the openness to interpretation and expansive understanding. They fall into a prescriptive one-to-one translation of information into form. The Michael Murphy piece Truth to Power(below) is an example of this pitfall. Reading something like, “there are too many guns in America” or “America has a gun problem”. Belmore on the other hand while still being overtly political maintains layers of meaning and reference that give her work depth and allows us as an audience to find interest/ meaning from a wider range of vantage points. In her work Tower, one of the works in Facing the Monumental, she addresses homelessness, displacement, and gentrification. These themes are signified by many of the same strategies as Truth to Power. In both works, a found object acts as a signifier: guns to gun violence and shopping carts to homelessness. The objects are arranged in a way that also acts as a signifier: the shape of the US map for the US and a vertical stack for an apartment tower or a more general upward building. Even in this simplistic reading of Tower, the nuance is apparent in its far less direct correlation of signifier to signified, leaving more room for alternate readings. Unlike Truth to Power Belmore’s work continues to layer meaning and reference that creates room for a more expansive understanding By looking at the clay component of the work one can see how this work’s reading could shifted to dealing with violence against women. The color, shape, and orientation of the clay have a distinctly phallic shape. In Facing the Monumental, Tower was installed right next to Tarpaulin a work that is also made out of unfired clay and also deals with homelessness and displacement. The recessive and somewhat vaginal form of Tarpaulin counters the upright of the built structure of Tower. This combination could be read as a critique of systematic violence against women by highlighting the patriarchal nature of the structures that cause homelessness. What is exciting for me about these works is the fact that this is only one of many possible readings of this work. In fact, this is really just a reading that I pulled out of a hat and not one that I have felt when seeing the work. These works when shown separately can be read very differently. My personal reading of the work is much more centered around the invisibility of the humanity of the homeless, and a much looser idea of absence, presence, and dislocation. Belmore’s work allows for this breadth of understanding while maintaining its footing in a specific political issue.

Shit happens by Amy Silman

  1. Something that “feels right” not a pursuit of beauty, but not captured by “ugly” something that is “Awkward,” something…
    Ineffability and intuition and feeling and evocation

  1. Amy Silman’s article shit happens uses the imagery of excretion and ugliness to describe an art that hates beauty but is not ugly, she calls this awkward. She says that she is “searching rather earnestly for something I[she] don’t quite know”. I see here a connection to the literary Weird, also something close to the sublime. Again not quite the sublime but it’s kin, something found in the unknown that we as artists can sink endlessly into. The Weird comes to me through this text in the overlay of the familiar and the unfamiliar. It is not a liminal space, not a space between the known and the unknown but where they overlap, It is an “awkward” unknowing of the known. Mark Fisher in the “Weird and the Eerie” talks about the Weird as being found in this friction between the known(real) and the unknown(weird) and I think that the “Feels right” that Amy Silman and her friends are looking for are also found in this overlap.
  2.  
  1. I wonder if Amy Silman likes horror movies or books. The visceral the excretory the funny and the “thing that is familiar and not familiar”. The Thing, a movie that is about the familiar no longer being familiar, it is also about the visceral and the excretory. Is The Thing about what it is like to be an artist? no probably not. But let’s entertain the idea. For context: creature awakened in ice, infects the population of the remote camp, can’t tell who the monster is, gore and chaos ensue, trust is broken and none escape. Maybe in no one escaping The Thing, they never find the “just right” which would mean that The Thing is not about what it is to be an artist, but what it is to fail as an artist. 
  2. Kafka and abstraction, trying to figure it out while doing it. Abstract painting as Amy Silman would have us believe is a process of trying to figure out how to do it while doing it. I think that waking up as a bug one day would also require a lot of figuring out. I am neither a bug nor an abstract painter and I wonder which I would find to be more awkward. Which would I more speedily figure out? The body changes all the time, though admittedly not so drastically or inconveniently as waking up a gigantic insect. However, might my transformation from a child have prepared me in some way for my metamorphosis into an insect? In Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa’s experience of being a bug is not entirely dissimilar from some of the more severe bouts of childhood akwardness. Would some of my experiences as a child have transferable skills to be a bug?

How Should Art Reckon With Climate Change?

This article in the New York Times written By Zoë Lescaze takes on the very large question of how art is to deal with climate change. The article first addresses the need for this kind of reckoning and goes on to dismiss the didactic and alarmist ways that this has been done siting the example of an iceberg melting in a town square. Probably referring to Ice Watch, by Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing. The installation consisted of a circle of icebergs with a circumference of twenty meters that was installed at the Place du Panthéon during a Climate Change Conference. The article goes on to say that this functions as little more than propaganda and does not address the scope of the problem of climate change. This is probably true, however, I would say that there is a need for this, as well as the more eloquent and nuanced work that the article goes on to address. There needs to be constant alarm. Staying with Eliasson’s example, while this work is unable to address the scope of an issue as huge and nebulous as climate change very few things can achieve anything approaching that. The simple shorthand of the iceberg as a signifier of climate change still has a place, we need alarms.

The article goes on to discuss the relationships between depictions of landscape and our imaginings of landscape siting the sublime romantic paintings and contrasting them with more recent depictions of industry’s encroachment into the landscape. The article also addresses the contradictions of a contemporary art world that is trying to address climate change while being very environmentally unfriendly. Art fairs and shipments are extremely wasteful and have a large carbon footprint. Also looking at the contradictions in the funding of art institutions coming from BP and other major polluters. I think that criticism of funding this is more valid as it is a much greater contradiction than the use of airfare and inefficient shipping practices. For one this isn’t even an art-specific problem it is part of our much larger complicity in the systems that are driving climate change, systems that we as individuals and even professionals cannot functionally escape. There are great reasons to be critical of art fairs and it is essential to reduce waste and carbon emissions, however, the onus must always be on the major polluters, governments, and large corporations we need to use resources to combat the organizations who are doing the vast majority of the polluting. To squabble over personal responsibility plays into the hands of the organizations changing the climate.

Ending on John Cage’s Organ²/ASLSP, a concert on an organ begun in 2001 that will run for 640 years the article leaves us with a piece of work that is better than any other that I have seen, it anchors this discussion both of art and climate change and climate change more generally in the wider context of intergenerational time. It does not need to make a specific external reference it creates a microcosm of long-term thinking and responsibility. We cannot help but think of this existential threat of climate change, it is both humbling and hopeful.  

Dowsing for Remediation

In this article, Dowsing for Remediation, with Alana Bartol, written by Valérie Frappier, the artist Describes a body of work that invesitigates the historical resource extraction in the south of the alberta rocky mountains. 

The absence of mention of the ongoing coal mining only a handful of kilometers away struck me as an unaccoutable omission. It is hard to imagine that Bartol was unaware of these gargantuan open pit mines just over the BC border. One of the issuses that I see with this omission is that the focus on closed mines and the looming spectacle of a renewal of mining in the region. This makes this seem like this is an issue of reckoning with our past, ignoring the ongoing extraction that is happening in the very next valley. They talk about sacrifice zones, my conjecture here is that the moratorium on coal mining in the alberta rocky mountains made room in the alberta public’s conscience  for the sacrifice zone in the north namely the tar sands and other open pit mines. They were able to impose tis moratorium whil not even stoping open pit mining in the region of the southern rocky mountains. Just over the alberta border in very much the same region the mining continues, separated by whatis little more than a bureaucratic line in the coal. In a sort of slight of hand the governments of BC, Alberta, and Canada were able to fain consevation while continuing destructive extraction practices. 

The content of Bartols work seems to focus largely around reclamation as she says “You can’t restore soil after you remove it. You can’t restore a mountain after you literally take the top off it. And you’re not going to restore the vegetation. You’re not going to restore all the complexity of that landscape.” I have worked in the active mines in BC doing Reclemation for years, personaly planting tens of thousands native shrubs, trees, and grasses. There is even a strong possibly that this reclamation work was happening at the same time that Bartol was in the next valley. Working in these mines(five of them) I saw this extraction first hand working everyday in the mines I heard the daily blasts and watched the trucks haul coal freshly ripped out of the ground. Bartol is right these places will not be returned to their natural state. However, i think it would important to be aware of address the ongoing work that is beeing done. The reclamation work that Teck is doing on their mine sights is at times comically pathetic, literally planting little tufts of grass on a talings pile the size of a mountain and where a mountain once stood. I think that these reclamation actions seem in a large part a way of to permit to continue destuctive extraction processes. To rehabilitate tecks reputation more than the landscape. How ever there are people who really care and who are trying to bring the landscape back to a place where it can effectively function as an ecasysem. These reclamation efforts, some of them extremely similar to bartols own, are fraught with contradiction but are also of extreme relevance to bartols work.

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Catherine

Mushroom Forage – Oct 5, 2022
Artist’s Conk spores… making more artists!


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, prof, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Drawing of Sweet Grass (Image credit: pngwing.com)

Learning the Grammar of Animacy

In Potawatomi 101, rocks are animate, as are mountains and water and fire and places. Beings that are imbued with spirit, our sacred medicines, our songs, drums, and even stories, are all animate.

Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Kimmerer explains what drew her to botany—it was the desire to learn the language she heard in the woods
  • In learning Botany, this was different than the language of the woods
  • In science, language is of seeing, naming objects, categorizing them—she describes it as being constrained by our knowing
  • In contrast to scientific language, she describes Potawatomi, and many Indigenous languages, where there are very few fluent speakers because of government schools, residential schools where it was forbidden and punishable to speak one’s language
  • Kimmerer describes the loss and her desire to learn and reconnect with Potawatami
  • Much of the words are verbs – Examples of verbs include to be a bay, to be a hill, to be a Saturday.
  • Doesn’t assign masculine/feminine forms, way of speaking of living world is different from inanimate world
  • Animate beings aren’t referred to as ‘it’, an object

Language reminds us, in every sentence, of our kinship with all the animate world.

Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Language mirrors the animacy of the world
  • Embedded within language is a reminder of our kinship with all the animate world
  • Language itself is a tool for respecting animacy
  • Words and language are the heart of culture, holding thoughts and a way of seeing the world

Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teachings of Grass

It is not the land which is broken, but our relationship to the land.

Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • In this chapter, Kimmerer shares the teachings of grass through a study she and her grad student Laurie took on about sweetgrass
  • They were asked by basket weavers whether different ways of harvesting might cause the leaving of sweetgrass, noticing some areas had healthy, replenishing amounts of sweetgrass and others didn’t
  • The chapter is written in subsections that mirror technical writing: intro, literature review, hypothesis, methods, results, discussion, conclusions, acknowledgements and references cited
  • Tight format of scientific thinking
  • Problematic exclusion of knowledge outside of scientific canon, western scientific canon is only truth in this type of institution
  • There’s pushback against the study in the form of a dismissive thesis committee who criticize that there isn’t valid scientific theory to support such a study and claims the answer to the proposed research is already known
  • They do the study anyhow where they compared plots of sweetgrass where half was picked in accordance to the traditional way of harvesting, that you only pick half.
  • by pulling up the roots and half was picked by pinching just above the surface of the soil
  • Compared this to control plots where no sweetgrass was picked
  • Results show that picking sweetgrass stimulated growth, didn’t matter how it was picked,
  • Reciprocal relationship between humans and sweetgrass developed over long long time of cultural use, where disturbances were needed for sweetgrass to thrive

THE HONOURABLE HARVEST

  1. Never take the first one (And that means you’ll never take the last)
  2. Ask permission
  3. Listen for the answer
  4. Take only what you need
  5. Minimize harm and benefit the plant
  6. Use everything you take
  7. Be grateful
  8. Share what you’ve taken
  9. Reciprocate the gift

Sustainable harvesting can be a way to treat a plant with respect, by respectfully receiving its gifts.

Sustain the ones who sustain us and the earth will last forever.

Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Reciprocity – more expansive idea than just sustainability, which is still focused on ownership over what we call resources
  • Reciprocity – earth not only sustains us but we have capacity and responsibility to sustain her in return
  • Mutual flourishing rather than just continuing to take
  • We humans have gifts that we can give in return for all that is given to us – there’s a generative and creative way to be a human in the world, of knowing your gift and how to give it, on behalf of the land and of the people.

Some Terms

AnimacyPotawatamiPuhpoweeMishkosScientific Method
State of being alive and animate

Grammatical and semantic feature existing in some languages, expressing how sentient or alive the referent of a noun is
pow·tuh·waa·tuh·mee

Algonquian language spoken in Southern Ontario in Canada, and in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kansas in the USA

In 2012 there were nine elderly speakers
Force that causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight
Rising, emergence, growth
No such term in Western science, represents an understanding of a world of being, unseen energies that animate everything
Potawatomi word for ‘grass’

Sweetgrass = wiingaashk  = Hierochloe odorata
Process of establishing facts through testing and experimentation

Reflections

  • Colonial and misogynistic fingerprints on science – personally experienced/witnessed
  • Human-centric worldview vs more-than-human
  • Influence of language on how we understand and perceive the world
  • Relationship with our materials and lived experience of materials –> parallels of rocks and photography; stills that are compressions of time
  • How does this affect art practice? Some of my materials (rocks) are taken from the land. Does this do more harm to disturb the ecosystem? Thinking about the Honourable Harvest from the Teachings of Grass and importance + practice of asking for permission AND listening for the answer.
  • Came across this beautiful animate rock when I was collecting in the Algonquin Highlands, looking for stones that already had stress fractures in them, and when I saw this one “piecing” itself back together with moss and lichen, I wanted to collect it! A few times repeatedly, I reached out then stopped myself, wanting to have this ‘object’ that encapsulates so much of what I’m thinking about and working through in my practice and also fighting the compulsion to have/own/collect it! Felt wrong to remove the rock and better to leave her be, seeing this rock + moss + lichen in the act of putting herself back together in a new way. Asking for permission, hearing “no”. So I did a photo instead.
Canadian Shield, near Derrick and Rachel’s Cottage (not collected).

“We are in a time of new suns” by Adrienne Maree Brown

Adrienne Maree Brown is described as “a student of complexity. A student of change and of how groups change together. A “scholar of belonging.” A “scholar of magic.”” and I love that one’s identity can encapsulate the dynamism of being, knowing, learning.

What caught my attention in this podcast (I read the transcript first, then listened to her voice) was her thoughts on spirituality, the spiritual background of her childhood being a more direct and action-based, practice-based spirituality that transitioned from evangelical Christianity. Her parents were an interracial marriage in the 70s making a world unto themselves that didn’t exist, brought their family out into nature, in parks, in the mountains to look at the world.

Gratitude and compassion were the spiritual practices that threaded throughout. Being amazed by the world, to travel, be curious. Encountering intense racism, there was compassion for the struggle of the other person. The recognition of this short time we have to imagine/create how to make more possible, transform beyond the constructs and toward community, liberation and justice.

Teachers are in the natural world. Her discussion of mushrooms as understanding that nothing needs to be wasted–that everything can be used if we understand what that is. Nature teaches that when something needs nourishing or when it’s done and complete, it needs to be processed back into the whole.

Illustration by Robert Ingpen, from “Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children”

The idea of vitality having endings in it resonates. I think a lot about impermanence, both in my practice as well as in living (though these aren’t really separate). When my older daughter was two years old, I wanted to learn how to talk with kids about death. At that age, it’s abstract, but many kids are intuitive and understand/experience loss even when they can’t describe what they’re feeling. My readings into how to talk about death in age-appropriate ways were instigated not by the death of close family members or friends at that time, but by the deaths and loss portrayed in Disney movies we were starting to watch together.

  • · Frozen – Anna and Elsa’s parents die in a shipwreck as they search for answers to the origins of Elsa’s magic

· Lion King – Mufasa dies at the hands of his brother while Simba watches and believes it to be his fault

·  Bambi – Bambie’s mother is shot by a hunter

· Every tug-at-your-heart Pixar/Disney movie such as Up, Toy Story 2 (“When She Loved Me”), Finding Nemo/Dory, Wall-E, Inside Out (Bing Bong), Big Hero 6…the studio knows what they’re doing!

Many parents I spoke with brushed death under the table or denied it when trying to explain to their kids what happened in these movies. The desire to protect others from pain is understandable.

In the podcast, Adrienne Maree Brown continues on, that the beautiful miracle of life happens because we live in cycles, not in perpetuity. Holding onto things when it’s time to let it die puts us in a precarious position.

This is actually one of our biggest issues right now is we’re so scared of death. And so we think about how do we make people live forever, and how do we look young forever, and do all this stuff instead of being like, Oh, no. How do I get good at dying? How do I get to where I’ll be at peace when my time comes, because there’s other generations that need to survive off of the resources of this place?

Adrienne Maree Brown

There are some good books to read with kids about death. The idea of learning about life cycles from the natural world (which we are a part of) often brings me to a passage from the book “Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children” by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Eingpen.

There is a beginning

and an ending for everything

that is alive.

In between is living.

Bryan Mellonie and Robert Eingpen

This phrase is repeated throughout the text of the book, alongside illustrations of plants and animals (including people). Beautiful reminders that dying is a part of living just as being born is. Books on grief that are written for children are apt for adults too, given how much we tend to turn/run away from death and loss.

Letting go is a practice, one I’m reminding myself to do and am exploring in my grad project with the repair of stones. I think my artistic practice is becoming one of learning to let go, which is hard to do for someone who desires certainty and is a self-described perfectionist.

To learn to let go, I was taught by a friend and spiritual teacher to open up my palms, facing upward to the sky. We receive joy but don’t grasp onto it, letting it go out into the world. We do this similarly for grief and hardship, to open our palms upward. It sits there but it can also go out into the world. It reminds me of the idea of reciprocity that Robin Wall Kimmerer shares. Mutual receiving of gifts with the world, which in my mind includes joy and sorrow, and the mutual letting go of it too.

The practice of letting go encompasses more than death and loss. It also provides an active way to counter our compulsion to “own” the natural world and her “resources”. We receive with joy and gratitude, and let go with compassion and gratitude to be, as Adrienne Maree Brown puts it, “put back into the whole”.

The artwork of Motoi Yamamoto calls this practice into mind. Yamamoto is an artist born in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture in 1966. He graduated from Kanazawa College of Art in 1995 and currently live in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. A primary part of his practice is salt drawings. For this, he creates large installations of patterns on the floor drawn in salt, taking several days to several weeks to draw them.

Motoi Yamamoto creating a salt installation. Image source: www.motoi-works.com

“Labrynth” by Motoi Yamamoto. Kunst Station St. Peter, Cologne / Solo Exhibition ; SALZ / 2010. Photo by Stefan Worring. Image source: www.motoi-works.com

His choice of salt stems from its use in funerary customs in Japan. Salt represents purification and cleansing. Salt is also needed by the human body to survive. Yamamoto lost his sister in her 20s to brain cancer in 1994 and his wife of over 25 years passed away in 2016 from breast cancer. Yamamoto writes, “I keep creating so that I will not forget memories of my family.”

Motoi Yamamoto creating salt drawings. Image source: www.motoi-works.com

For his “Return to the Sea” project, on the final day of these exhibitions, the artist works together with viewers for whom the work resonates to destroy the work, collect the salt and return the salt to the sea, “to the natural cycle once more” (Yamamoto). Since 2006, thousands of people have participated in this project helping return salt to seas around the world.

“Return to the Sea” project by Motoi Yamamoto. Image source: www.motoi-works.com

“Return to the Sea” project by Motoi Yamamoto. Image source: www.motoi-works.com

“Return to the Sea” project by Motoi Yamamoto. Image source: www.motoi-works.com


“How Should Art Recon with Climate Change?” by Zoe Lescaze

“Great art […] connects us to what might yet be possible.”

Attributed to Rainer O. Neugebauer

Science suggesting anthropogenic climate change has been around for decades before climate change was getting mainstream traction

I learned of and studied climate change beginning in 1996 when I started my undergrad in the sciences

There’s been a big lag in acknowledging, believing, addressing climate change

Bill McKibben noted the indifference from culture sectors for climate change in relation to other crises such as AIDS

Notes that outpouring of art has had political effect on addressing AIDS

There’s more support now for environmentally conscious art; I think this may be related to climate change and its impacts making it more into mainstream media and consciousness, and cultural production is reflecting that

As with other forms of climate action, there’s challenge that some exhibitions and artworks are addressing climate change because it’s trendy to do so, akin to greenwashing

Some artworks seen as agitprop: without naming names, author referenced an Olafur Eliasson work as agitprop that I actually find quite powerful! Ice Watch is the installation referred to in the article by Lescaze, where pieces of ice cast off the Greenland Ice Sheet were collected and shipped to Copenhagen to mark the publication of the 5th IPCC Assessment Report.

A project by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing marking the UN IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report on Climate Change. City Hall Square, Copenhagen. October 26–29, 2014 .

Listening to the sounds of ice. Image source: https://olafureliasson.net/icewatchcopenhagen

Harvesting ice floating in Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland. Image source: https://olafureliasson.net/icewatchcopenhagen

This type of work is compared with quieter works that don’t necessarily intend to be commentary on climate change, but end of being so, eg. Roni Horn’s Vatnasafn/Library of Water, which I found subtle, quiet and beautiful.

“Vatnasafn / Library of Water” by Roni Horn. Image source: https://www.west.is/en/service/library-of-water

The cylindrical forms are evocative of ice cores, collected for reconstructing past climate conditions:

The dark band in this ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) is a layer of volcanic ash that settled on the ice sheet approximately 21,000 years ago. Credit: Heidi Roop, NSF” Image source: https://icecores.org/about-ice-cores

Although environmental destruction has occurred since at least the Industrial Revolution, article notes that explicitly environmental art depicting degradation didn’t really happen until around 1960s

Prior to that, painters depicted the landscape as “timeless, immutable and impervious to human influence.”

Thomas Cole helped popularize the natural world as an idealized and sublime landscape

Romantic landscape paintings = The Picturesque = nature unspoiled by human intervention

“In the Mountains” by Albert Bierstadt, 1867.

It makes me wonder if this idyllic thinking and image-making contributed to the delay in climate action

Visual depictions can instigate action, a tenet understood by photojournalists for eg, photographing humanitarian crises in order to bring attention to these and give them a voice

Tenet that people take action for that which they care about, some photographers who are dedicated to depicting nature to show its beauty and degradation, hence helping people care

Example is SeaLegacy whose “mission is to create healthy and abundant oceans, for us and for the planet.” The organization was co-founded in 2014 by Cristina Mittermeier, who is a pioneer of the modern conservation photography movement, and Paul Nicklen, the renowned National Geographic polar photographer.

What lies beneath the surface of the thin blue line?

This is the story that SeaLegacy tells. This is the story that sparks a global conversation, and the story that inspires people to act. We believe that producing powerful media and art that gives people hope is imperative. Hope is empowerment. Hope is a solution. Hope is a game changer.

SeaLegacy

“Suspended Grace” by Paul Nicklen (sperm whales sleeping). Image source: https://twitter.com/sea_legacy/status/1365043175287627776

Their approach is interesting because it recognizes the impact of visual storytelling in rallying support and instigating action.

SeaLegacy works with our council of experts to identify projects that together are building healthy and abundant oceans. We invest in community-centered solutions and rally global support for projects through our massive media footprint.

SeaLegacy

SeaLegacy 2018 Impact Report (pages 10-11). Source: https://www.sealegacy.org/our-work

Example of Mary Mattingly’s “Limnal Lacrimosa” achieves something I aspire to—art that connects, fosters dialogue and creates understanding amongst people with varying perspectives, worldviews, experiences.

I loved learning about John Cage’s organ work “Organ2/ASLSP” that started in 2001 and will end in 2640

There’s so much faith and hope in humanity that people will keep the work going and that we’ll not have destroyed ourselves by then!


“Chromophobia” by David Batchelor

“Chromophobia manifests itself in the many and varied attempts to purge colour from culture, to devalue colour, to diminish its significance, to deny its complexity.” (David Batchelor)

Purging of colour has long history in Western culture and intellectual thought

Colour has been object of extreme prejudice in Western culture

Chromophobia is loathing of colour and fear of corruption through colour

Accomplished two ways:

  1. Colour is associated with some ‘foreign’ body such as, the feminine, oriental, primitive, infantile, vulgar, queer, or pathological—regarded as alien and hence dangerous
  2. Colour is consigned to only being superficial, supplementary, inessential, or cosmetic—a secondary quality of experience therefore not worthy of serious consideration

Since Antiquity, colour has been systematically marginalized, reviled, diminished and degraded.

David Batchelor

Batchelor brings up that the virtuous whiteness of the West conceals the terrors of the flesh and the corruption of the Western ideal of the classical body–one that is “pure, polished, unembellished, untouched and untouchable white.”

It made me think about the insidious ways that this virtuousness “erased” bodies with darker skin tones through the racial bias of photography.

In the history of photography and film, getting the right image meant getting the one which conformed to prevalent ideas of humanity. This included ideas of whiteness, of what colour — what range of hue — white people wanted white people to be. 

Richard Dyer

Colour film in the 1940s and 50s was developed for light skin tones–this was the dominant consumer market at the time.

So when film companies were defining what an idealized skin tone would be, it was that of a lighter skin tone.

Shirley Card: For decades, photo labs used an image of a white woman to calibrate colours for printing. Accuracy of colours in photos was largely based on this skin-tone. The ‘Shirley Card’ was named after its original model–one of Kodak’s employees named Shirley Page. Subsequent cards with other models took on this name of being a ‘Shirley Card’ as well.

Shirley Card, 1978. Image credit: New York Times (Courtesy of Hermann Zschiegner)

Photography is not just a system of calibrating light, but a technology of subjective decisions.

Sarah Lewis

For many decades, the chemical solutions used to develop colour film left out the chemical solutions meant to bring out reddish, yellow, and brown tones.

Shooting film for lighter skin tones hence looked good, darker skin tones didn’t look good, especially noticeable in photos with people of lighter and darker skin tones—person with darker skin tone would lose features in their faces, except for whites of eyes and teeth.

1960s and 70s: Although Kodak received complaints from parents about graduation photos not capturing colour contrast in diverse groups, the main force of change was due to demand from wood furniture companies and chocolate companies, because photos taken for advertising weren’t rendering differences in tones of wood and milk/dark chocolate.

!!!

It was never black flesh that was addressed as a serious problem at the time.

Earl Kage, Kodak’s former manager of research and the head of Color Photo Studios

In 1990s, designers started to make film and tv cameras that balanced lighter and darker skin tones individually, dual skin-tone balancing technologies.

Around same time, Black Shirley card developed, and Latino Shirley card, and multiracial Shirley cards.

Kodak’s Multiracial Shirley Card, North America. 1995. Image credit: New York Times (Courtesy of Dr. Lorna Roth, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)

Problematic colour rendering of darker skin tones included reproduction of facial images without details, lighting issues, facial skin colours that look ashen, strong contrast of skin with whites of eyes and teeth.

This would cause some people to retreat from having their photos taken, because couldn’t get an accurate likeness.

Development of Kodak Gold Max film, advertised as having greater dynamic range, resulted in consumer market film that was “able to photograph the details of a dark horse in lowlight”–Kodak’s coded way of saying their film could now photograph darker skin tones that it hadn’t been developed to do before.

What lingering and ongoing effects has this had on representation of diversity in media? Learned preference for lighter skin occurs in many parts of the world and starts early, influenced by media representation.

Syreeta McFadden–a writer and English professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York–writes about erasure, about how it was impossible during her youth to capture a decent likeness of herself so she started retreating from situations involving group photos being taken, knowing that “the lighter you were, the more likely it was that the camera–the film–got your likeness right.”

They’re called Shirley cards, named after the first woman to post for them. She is wearing a white dress with long black gloves. A pearl bracelet adorns one of her wrists. She has auburn hair that drapes her exposed shoulders. Her eyes are blue. The background is grayish, and she is surrounded by thre pillows, each in one of the primary colors we’re taught in school. She wears a white dress because it reads high contrast against the gray background with her black gloves. “Colour girl” is the technicians’ term for her. The image is used as a metric for skin-color balance, which technicians use to render an image as close as possible to what the human eye recognizes as normal. But there’s the rub: With a white body as a light meter, all other skin tones become deviations from the norm.”

Syreeta McFadden, in “Teaching the Camera to See My Skin”

Chalking it up to inadequacies of the photographer, rather than deficiencies in the performance of the film emulsion, she discusses how she adapted to film technology, like other African-Americans did: ensuring the subjects were well lit (so as not to underexpose their skin tones), buying more expensive lenses with wider apertures to let in more light, using professional-grade films that could shoot under lower light conditions at faster speeds.

In the 1990s, McFadden herself began using black and white film instead of colour, where brown skin “didn’t look so off against white skin” and she could “capture blackness without producing a distortion of it.”

She references a 2013 exhibition by artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light, where they explored racism in film photography by photographing the countryside in South Africa using Polaroid’s vintage ID2 camera and 40-year-old film originally designed for white skin. This ID2 camera was used by authorities in South Africa to photograph black people for passbooks, which black citizens were required to carry with them when travelling outside of designated areas. The camera featured a flash boost of light, which enabled it to expose film for people with dark skin tones–a tool of racial segregation and enforcement of the apartheid era in South Africa.

In Broomberg and Chanarin’s exhibition, photographs instead depict the beautiful flora and fauna of the South African countryside “in an attempt by the artists to subvert what they say was the camera’s original, sinister intent” (David Smith, The Guardian, 2013).

I.D. 2 (2012) by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. Image credit: Phaidon
I.D. 17 (2012) by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. Image credit: Phaidon
I.D. 10 (2012) by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. Image credit: Phaidon

McFadden begins using colour film again in the 2000s, using Fuji film, which she says “still struggles with a bias toward lightness in its color standard. But it does seem to be more forgiving to darker skin.”

The absence of our likeness accurately rendered in photographs is one more piece of the construct of white supremacy. Film stocks that can’t show us accurately help to control the narrative around appearance, and shapes our reality and the value of our lives in American society. If we are invisible, we are unvalued and inhuman. Beasts. Black bodies accepted as menacing, lit in ways that cloak our features in shadows.

Syreeta McFadden

McFadden primarily shoots in colour now, aiming to retrieve what the camera and photography obscure.

From “Teaching My Camera To See My Skin”, BuzzFeed News, 2014. Photos by Syreeta McFadden. All Rights Reserved.

References

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/lens/sarah-lewis-racial-bias-photography.html
  • https://www.vox.com/2015/9/18/9348821/photography-race-bias
  • https://www.openculture.com/2018/07/color-film-was-designed-to-take-pictures-of-white-people-not-people-of-color.html
  • https://syreetamcfadden.com/
  • https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/syreetamcfadden/teaching-the-camera-to-see-my-skin
  • https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2013/january/28/new-show-explores-racism-in-photography/
  • http://www.broombergchanarin.com/text-racism-of-early-colour

“Shit Happens – Notes on Awkwardness” by Amy Sillman

No longer making things for truth or beauty, while ‘negative aesthetics’ doesn’t quite describe either what a lot of artists are doing

Awkwardness is form that matches feeling or condition of “funny, homely, lonely, ill-fitting, strange, clumsy things that feel right.”

“Perhaps this is particular to abstract painting, where you often don’t really ‘know’ what you’re doing, and so you are doomed to work in between hoping and groping.” – I love this! Working within the realm of trying to grab what may be *just* out of reach.

Amy Sillman says just having a body is a daily comedy—our body is a “loose baggy monster” we find ourselves in, a “laughable casement” that farts, has ankles that swell and has rolls of fat jutting out, it excretes, and eventually our “loose baggy monster” dies.

“Pretty in Pink” by Michelle Bui, 2019.

A series that comes to mind is Michelle Bui’s work in her exhibition Mutable Materialism at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, BC this past summer. Michelle Bui is an artist whose photographic still lifes are described as having both painterly and sculptural approaches, are mainly comprised of everyday objects that are seemingly unremarkable.

“Baby’s Breath” by Michelle Bui, 2019.

Her photographs are sort of beautiful and sort of ugly, but also not beautiful and not ugly. The compositions are absurd forms made up of straws, flowers, sausage casings, and upholstery foam, for example, that are placed in positions where they are precariously balanced, confrontational, looking uncomfortable and photographed at the moment when they are about to collapse or perish.

“Oyster” by Michelle Bui, 2021.
“Mikado” by Michelle Bui, 2022.
“Le Membranes (Boyaux)” by Michelle Bui, 2021.
‘Mutable Materialism’ by Michelle Bui, 2022, installation view, Yaletown–Roundhouse Station, Vancouver, in collaboration with Capture Photography Festival and Contemporary Art Gallery. Photo credit: Rachel Topham Photography

Situated in the public sphere, Michelle Bui’s photographs employ the visual language of advertising and are enlarged to a scale reminiscent of billboards. Evoking the senses, they stir up awkward feelings of unsettling seduction.

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