“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Environmentalist Art as Constructivism

I've been posting quite a bit on object-oriented ecological art, so it's only fair to see the other side of the coin: constructivism. This is what most environmentalist art is, these days. (When I use the term environmentalist I mean fixation on some kind of reified concept of “the environment.”

Naum Gabo

It's beautiful isn't it? It really is. A beautiful mesh. A machine for changing your mind.

Now look at this one:

Marije de Haas

It's art as geography. Full of information (Diana Liverman, geographer, liked it a lot when I saw it with her the other week). It plots each Cape Farewell participant's reactions to various environmental factors (hilariously, reactions to digestive issues are included—see if you can spot them). Bigger circles indicate bigger reactions. It's about relationships between humans and environment. It's a wonderful mesh of stories and experiences. It contains its own metalanguage within it, its own autocommentary. It's a map. It's designed to reorient you, to upgrade your thinking. Based on facts we (think we) already know. To upgrade your thinking to accommodate this new set of relationships with the facts.

Like a Wordsworth poem, which talks about strangers in terms of the narrator's encounter with them. Like a Wordsworth poem, which baffles our need for closure with swathes and swathes of blank verse (the most prose-like form available at the time). Like a Wordsworth poem, a map of traumas, a biography or series of autobiographies.

A very sophisticated version of the same thing the 350.org folks are up to. Or the guys in the Pacific who held a cabinet meeting underwater. Educational, advertorial, PR, concept art. Relational and correlationist.


Permapoesis said...

still new to your blog tim, i'm really impressed but also quite ambivalent about the cascading of content, of relentless posting, of nonstillness. i wonder, can all this stuff hurtling so rapidly into space time, so quickly, so as to disorientate, to impress anxiousness, as normative, be ecological? is this just syncing into the world of a trillion billion spores per second, an unstoppable sporulating, digi-hyphae-objectivity (biomimicry) distribution, or is this human level overload? my friend, ian robertson, posits 'the unavoidable fact of everything' (blog), which is what i get here in the excitement of your blog (high energetic inputs), but its busy groundlessness seems too crude-oil expansive – the problem i have with reified, urbane post-modernism – it belongs nowhere. you seem to be conjuring 'ecology' from such an abstract place (without the soil), but i acknowledge this is just as easily a question of temperament as momentary fossil energy inputs.


Timothy Morton said...

There's nothing wrong with mental speed per se. Your mind is supposed to go fast. What is wrong is aggression, and you can be aggressive very s-l-o-w-l-y.

Permapoesis said...

my son, zephyr, goes to a buddhist school. sadly though, it’s still a school. our hands are invisibly stained, our ears muffled, our eyes blind in participation of technoculture and its eternal bombardments.

call technoculture 'ecology', call it 'nature', it doesn't really matter, global depression rates double every decade, following or leading (i’m not sure which) the rates of deforestation and warming.

buddhists, poets, artists, countless others have commented or built practice and thought around stillness and silence, something people born into the west typically find difficult to do. writing haiku is the mind working fast and resting, all at once. i'm not sure youre doing this here.

to my mind this hurtling (noise) is both excitement and trauma; innovation and abuse, which is what i find here on your blog, noise not absent of aggression (mine or yours).

Ruth Solomon said...

Hello Tim,

I am liking this site very much- the slightly dry humour on the verge of colllapse- that collapse not something to even try to avoid but part of the grasp and composition- the meshing- and the interest in being really involved in that. Here is a link to a blog entry I wrote in my bodyouare blog: http://bodyouare.blogspot.com/2010/05/buckling.html

It may have some connection to some of what you put forward re intimacy of collapsed distances and possible diff way of learning/composing out of that.
I work with special needs- I Am special needs! we are all in collapsing categories.. could
be the only place to find "stillness" as potential.