“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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marina Zurkow: "Haunting, Enchantment, and Leaky Ecosystems"

At Rice today (slides to follow!):

Permian Basin: NM plus TX, major amount of oil 
drawings to trouble her own bias; drove around West Texas January 2011
deep connection to oil 
dark polemical apocalypse of sketches needed to be discarded
in order to connect; to be honest about intentions and be open to what you would find
friendliness; metta; Pali; maitri = benevolence, good will, active interest in others
metta meditation: may all beings be protected from harm, be happy, be healthy, be free from suffering
>> brahmaviharas
we think we’ve lost a time of enchantment
but is affective force of enchantment >> modern world; cultivate generosity?
“a comportment that can be fostered through deliberate strategies”
(Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life”)
to be struck
one must be enamored with existence
Latour ANT--objects are part of social networks, endure translations 
nonmodern world not culture versus nature
is this a nonessentialist animism? 
beyond anthropomorphism: human as weaver of morphisms (Latour)
not making the world in our own image
passive and vibrant binary; places below threshold active power; “lively streams of chemicals” << landfill
Stanislavski; “what if” “What if were in the same situation as my character?”
to imagine a nonhuman umwelt; what does nonhuman sense? what does it want? 
is a gross change of relations desirable and possible? 
how can enchantment help?
Zurkow found the sinkhole using Google Satellite
steadily growing since it opened in 2002
not that exceptional but anthropogenic; flushing too much water << oil drilling
“ecological collateral damage”
geological force of humans; small eg
Earl Williams; local naturalist; “all nature abhors a vacuum”
Veronique Rossier; software that treats all the elements as actors including the water, clouds, rocks
then times of day and year <> probability >> animation
one minute of screen time = one hour of our time

somewhere between real natural history and flights of invention
Jack Collum “Nature is slow, people get bored”
nature is incredibly boring when you’re in it! 
hazmat workers << YouTube like choreography
rotoscoping; tracing over video

map of what is below the big empty
what does a drill bit see? 
modern visualization tools are rather lifeless and flat
looking at infinitely receding rock strata
deep time -- earth having a history
the liquidity of rock

The Inside Story of Modern Gasoline (1946) >> her piece
loop (nb nb!)

repeatable structural unit: -mer; polymers
PMA, PVC, PS, PU,  PIB [rubber],  HDPE,  LDPE
nurdles; tiny plastic resin beads, precursors of things
mimicking plankton; consumed
microplastics outnumber zooplankton 6 to 1
persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
endocrine disruption
immune disfunction
nurdle eating turtles; bottle eating babies
plasticity of petrochemicals >> Jesus candles and water bottles
>> Petroleum Manga
vertigo; endless amounts of things <> manga
strange notion: hydrocarbons want to become
by becoming plastic hydrocarbons can live forever
printed with solvent ink on Tyvek, made from HDPE (thermoplastic)
plastic regrind: objects ground back down into pellets
book on petroleum manga coming out soon! 

Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne, Critical Design FAQ 10 “But isn’t it art” 
“we expect art to be shocking and extreme; critical design needs to be closer to the everyday”
“if it is regarded as art it is easier to deal with; but if it remains as design it’s more disturbing”
so why not put design directly in your mouth? 
Mark Dion “we live, breathe and eat our field of investigation”
food doesn’t shout I am an art project
>> Outside the Work
BU sustainability exhibit
hydrocarbon formation <> kitchen techniques
Berg iceberg water: they will go to waste anyway (!) is their argument
honey plus maraschino cherry dye (processed in bees); taste like twizzlers
“it was amazing, and awful” 

Immortal Plastics New York May 1-4
trained hydrocarbon assessors! examining hang tags on clothes etc 
to ascertain total amount of personal plastic
leave with inventory and jar of plastic containing the weight of what they came with
people love strange rituals in which they quantify themselves
performance art or DIY science or sloppy green nonprofit
SUM QUOD ERIS; QUOD ES, IPSE FUI (Petrus Alfonsus) [haha, the name]

The Thirsty Bird, 2012

Some steps towards haunting and enchantment
to ask with imagination and bodies what we want of them and what they want of us (Bennett)

“Queer Ecology”; working with intimacy
Marina Zurkow makes a list of directives: 
put the questions in your body
Get it all over you, make it personal and intimate
don’t scale up, possibly make it replicable
ruffle it, trouble it
invite questions, rifts, holes and escapes
use wonder as a gateway to complex relations
use complex relations as a way to induce wonder
make time do funny things

Q: How did you get in to the community? 
A: I was very truthful at Wink, and we had meetings where we laid guns down at the door as it were. I sent everyone links to the work. I hooked up with a secret eminent domain activist. She was very paranoid. I was suspect no matter who it was, right or left! I’m very clearly an invasive species when I do these projects. 

Q: Can you talk some more about the responses to the works? 
A: My work is all online and so for me to explain my work seems banal. I want to extend my intentions. I get a lot of responses along the lines of “you leave so much to interpretation” as if that’s a bad thing. There is a need for a solution like agitprop or propaganda, which I’m totally not for in my practice. What the value proposition is in even engaging with enchantment. Can art really contribute to paradigm shifts? I don’t really have answers. 

Q: Thinking about enchantment. What is the relation to haunting? Is haunting a means or is it its own goal or moment? 
A: Haunting tends to have more negative connotations. There is a lot of value in haunting. Emptying your bag into a bin. Eating and encountering petrochemicals. I was haunted by accumulating all my plastics in my living room. Enchantment tends to be lulling. Bennett issue. A lot of my work was positioned after a crisis in the past; there was a calm to it. People criticized me for creating too much around these issues. I don’t feel fully articulated about it. 

Q: How did you get into this? Connections with other people working in this area and 1970s? Last time there was all this interest. Beuys 10 000 oaks and so on. 
A: I follow threads. They are not really linear. 2006 was a watershed. I have a studio in Brooklyn, sub-garden level. My studio started flooding from excessive rain. I had to swab the studio. It was so vivid; the water ended up under my computer chair. I then received hurricane evacuation maps. Inconvenient Truth came out. You can’t hide anymore. The petroleum thing was a whim. I can’t believe I’m still working on it--it won’t let me go! Talking with DiverseWorks about making a mesocosm in West Texas...I’d have to think more about the 70s connection. 

Q: I have a question about time. Human time, geological time; but also machine time, computational time. Does this time bridge the human and nonhuman aspects? Or does it make it even more artificial? 
A: I don’t think it bridges. I think of it as another kind of time functioning. Is it even or uneven? 
Q: I don’t know. 

A: I refuse to deal with machines. Bogost on cameras--I lose interest! I privilege living in a way! It’s almost like a blind spot. 

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