“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

Friday, March 30, 2018

My friend Rune with some great words on dark ecology and VanderMeer

...in Danish, scuse the translation:

The film operates here both psychologically and biologically and physically in a form of 'dark ecology', as the ecophilosopher Timothy Morton has called it. Because according to dark ecology, everything is constantly changing, including the subject, it's unwise to try to distinguish between the hidden one on one side and the world out there on the other side.

As Morton points out, "we" should not, as in earlier and more traditional ecological purposes, elevate "the natural" (plants, animals, moles and rocks) to a noble design as something pure and unchangeable. Instead, we should completely drop the idea of "the natural" and instead look at the world as one big and always variable size, which is not only in constant motion, but also always is "us" and vice versa.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

New Translation of Charbonneau

...into English! Coming out with Bloomsbury. Here's my endorsement:

The ecological emergency is so systemic and so vast that the human imagination—the feel of our thinking powers—is frozen like someone afraid of heights, terrified of her capacity to visualize what seems to be a tragedy or a nightmare. One response is to freeze the future, the idea that things could be different, as around the world people consent to fascist-paranoid politics that relieve them of the burden of thinking and visualizing. Christian Roy’s lovely translation of Charbonneau’s masterpiece is like allergy medicine that allows us to un-freeze, and for the sake of all lifeforms on Earth, staying fluid in the struggle is now exactly what William Blake meant by “mental fight.”

Hyperobjects Exhibition in Marfa, Texas starts in two weeks!

Here's what I've written for the guide:

Will All Artists Please Come to a White Courtesy Telephone
Timothy Morton

Art has one foot in the past, and one foot in the future. All the decisions, deliberate and not deliberate, that a host of things made--we could call this host the author or the artist (historical era, economic system—these two are often included, ecosystem not so much quite yet). Then again, just what exactly is this work of art? What is it “saying” (and so on). Such questions trail off into a kind of quietness we might call the future. Threateningly gentle, it haunts the machinations that brought us to wherever we’re calling “here” at the moment.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? (As my old Oxford tutor Terry Eagleton was fond of saying.) At whatever scale we zoom out to, we aren’t in control as humans at all—not even on the ones we inhabit, not in control as much anyway, because the whole point of inhabiting is that it’s unstable, it’s in motion (hint: it has to do with time). There is at every scale not a smooth transition but a dizzying whirlpool of spinning disco ball lights illuminated by lasers, that feeling of uneasy relative motion, moving while still, stillness in movement.

Ecological awareness just means being aware that things happen on a bewildering variety of scales all at once, and that what that looks like on one scale is very different on another scale. What looks like a boiling kettle to my human eyes looks very different from an electron’s point of view: suddenly finding that you’ve teleported to a higher orbit isn’t the same as the smooth, chattery-sounding phenomenon we call boiling.

And once you become aware of the idea that there are all these extra scales, you begin to notice that some scales are so big or so small (that also includes “long lasting” or “fleeting” too) that all we can mostly do is report and observe—or, if you like, undergo or endure. Perhaps things we call fate or chance or destiny or karma are just effects of entities that happen on scales we can’t do much with right now except report and observe. And maybe sometimes undergoing such things, scary and passive as that sounds, might help open up the possibility that things could be different—the future. Assuming, that is, that the way things are right now doesn’t work so great—for instance we are now aware, because we have the recording apparatus to help us (such as supercomputers) of global warming and the mass extinction that it’s causing.

These scales are where the hyperobjects live: entities that are so massively distributed in time and space that we humans can only see or deal with little pieces of them at a time—they might not even look as if they’re present or real, especially if we find that we’re inside them or are parts of them (such as being a part of the biosphere).

They’re almost invisible precisely because they’re so huge and powerful and immersive (we have them inside us, radiation for example). They’re scarily to-be-observed or to-be-endured. They require very special kinds of awareness and handling, the kind that we’re not well socialized to cope with, but which, in the case of global warming, we must cope with.

Sounds like a job for art to me.