Category Archives: buoys

Before and After

This week, as we continue our summer meditations on the splats and spasms of human supremacism, we simply relay information regarding a laudable exhibition assembled by curator Randy Jayne Rosenberg. Titled Ethics, Excess, Extinction, the exhibition took “meat space” within the El Paso Museum of Art until this past May, yet is still available for online perusal via Artworks For Change, for whom Ms. Rosenberg serves as executive director.

Rosenberg’s curatorial statement is excerpted below, with two pinged images from the contributions of Gale Hart.










Let the Daydreams Grow

As much of the world continues to boil and burn in a La Niña heat wave, we stay with the theme of how literature responds to climate change. A DP correspondent steered us to Amy Brady’s consistently engaging Burning Worlds column in the Chicago Review of Books, and in particular to her interview with poet Megan Hunter regarding her first novel, The End We Start From.

Hunter’s replies to Brady are excerpted below, followed by a passage from Ernst Bloch and an image from the studio of Antii Laitinen.


On making dystopia personal:


On floods at the beginning and at the end:


On finding the scraps of hope:



From Ernst Bloch’s introduction to The Principle of Hope:


And finally, a drowned selfie:



America Embodied

An article in The Intercept directed our attention to an extraordinary series of documentary photographs by artist-attorney Debi Cornwall, published in a book titled Welcome To Camp America. Among her images, we visit the “stage sets” of Guantanamo Bay within the vast security theatre of the surveillance state.

The images are freely viewable here, documenting a lounge chair in a room wired for visual media, rewards for compliant detainees; a prayer rug, with an arrow on the floor indicating the direction of Mecca; a sales display stocked with cigarettes, titled “Military Privileges (Kools)”; and a plastic toy floating in an empty swimming pool.

The projected play of normal life obfuscates the severely damaged or destroyed biographies at the heart of the state of exception, a fictionalized distortion that psychologist Robert Jay Lifton has characterized as “malignant normality”.

Towards the end of an interview published elsewhere, Ms. Cornwall  poses the question:

For the six and one half years of DP, we have proposed the latter.


Elsewhere in the semiotic swamp of malignant normality, for those who have not yet viewed the bizarre “trailer” for the Trump/Kim “Summit Movie”, we urge consideration here:




Symbolic In Their Afflictions

During a time when American children are increasingly subjected to toxic psychological and physical traumas, including clinically suspect behavioral drug regimes, we turn to pediatrician Nadine Brooke Harris with excerpts from a recent interview following the release of her book, The Deepest Well.

Dolls are from the studio of Amber Groome, where safety pins signify the opposite of safety.

On the added risk of ACEs rooted in the experience of poverty:





About her dolls, Amber Groome writes:

“Each doll that I make is one of a kind as well as handcrafted. They are symbolic in their afflictions. For me, my dolls are a testimony to the trauma and sorrow of being female and living with mental illness. When I create the dolls, I become absorbed and preoccupied with internal conflict as well the private depths of my childhood and psyche. The dolls are adored and loathed by me at the same time. I prefer to have them viewed in large quantities so they appear to be even more obsessive and detailed in nature.”


Key for symbols:

Hearts exposed-vulnerability
Hearts with glass shards-religious, devotion
Pins and Needles-affliction, self-mutilation
Safety Pins-opposite of safety, inflicts pain
Doilies and Lace-femininity
Pines Cones-Nature
Pills-being dependent on medication


On the Brink

Having been within twenty feet of a North Atlantic right whale while sea kayaking, we can attest to the magnificence of this severely stressed and endangered creature. From the website of Whale and Dolphin Conservation:



North American WDC executive director Regina Aasmutis-Silvia expanded on the crisis in a recent Living On Earth interview, excerpted below:







The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has developed an “on call” buoy that would at least mitigate the problem of fixed-line entanglements:


Partan and Ball call their new device an “on-call” buoy. It looks like a giant spool of bright orange thread. On land, the 3.5-foot-high spool with 2,000 feet of line wound around it weighs 340 pounds, but in water, it’s buoyant and floats near the bottom attached to the lobster traps. With a timer or an acoustic signal, the device can be activated to unspool its line and float up to the surface for retrieval.

“Our system is to try to store the vertical line on the seafloor—keeping the lines out of the way of large swimming animals—until the fishing vessel crew releases it and is on site and ready to haul it in,” Partan said.



The technology is listed as “patent pending”. Will it be too little, too late? Unfortunately, we will know the answer to that question within the next few years.

Of Plankton and Plastic

In the wake of recent research documenting the transformation of the world’s oceans into plastic soup, we turn to artist-scientist Mandy Barker, who writes:

“The aim of my work is to engage with and stimulate an emotional response in the viewer by combining a contradiction between initial aesthetic attraction along with the subsequent message of awareness. The research process is a vital part of my development as the images I make are based on scientific fact which is essential to the integrity of my work. The impact of oceanic waste is an area I am committed to pursuing through visual interpretation and in collaboration with science, hoping it will ultimately lead to positive action in tackling this increasing environmental problem which of current global concern”

In her most recent project, Barker uses John Thompson’s 19th century research into plankton as a conceptual template for proposing a new class of organism, “hatched” from degrading plastic debris. As Barker notes, plankton actually ingest plastic microfibers, thereby entering the food chain. We are what we eat.





For more on microfibers, we urge consideration of the below video, from the producers of The Story of Stuff:




Forgeries of the Self

Now comes Henry Farrell, in excerpts from an essay exploring key themes wired from the brain of Philip K. Dick, an essay that is included in the Global Dystopias issue of Boston Review. Our title descends from an essay by PKD himself, in a passage cited by Farrell:

Images are from the fecund studio of Senga Nengudi.









In the midst of the Sixth Extinction, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that the future looks absolutely splendid: for the forgers of the self.


Strange Loops

Here in New England, home base for DP navigations, we have gyrated in recent days from weather conditions one would expect in mid-July two days ago to yet another “once-in-a-generation” Nor’easter snow dump. In Northern Europe, our correspondents report near-Arctic conditions, while in the Arctic scientists record temperatures a full thirty degrees above the norm.

All of this loopy, weird weather represents what climatologist Jason Box referred to in a recent interview  as a “signature” of climate change:

The greenhouse effect has been enhanced by human burning of fossil fuels. That’s elevated atmospheric CO2 almost 50 percent now. OK, so that’s heating the planet. And it’s the Arctic that is warming at twice the rate of areas to the south as a consequence of this.

And there are feedbacks that allow the heat to stay in the Arctic. And when the sea ice, which has lost half of its thickness in the last 50 years, moves away from the shore, we have an ocean surface that is about 30 degrees Celsius warmer than the surface would otherwise be of the ice. That releases heat into the atmosphere. And there’s something called the lapse rate feedback, which allows that heat to get trapped near the surface in the atmosphere. It allows it to warm up further.

So, there’s an interaction between the loss of Arctic sea ice that’s been retreating—it’s now at record low, it’s about the area of Alaska below its average—the interaction of that heat release with warming in the lower atmosphere, that reinforces the slowdown of the jet stream, the polar vortex. They’re the same thing. And what’s normal is the jet stream, polar vortex, to have a circular shape around the Arctic. But the warmer it gets, the Arctic, the more wavy that structure becomes, and the jet stream starts to meander more. And those meanders, they get locked in. This is a signature of climate change, a more persistent wave pattern, which is now driving extra heat into the Arctic, that wasn’t possible before, and allowing more heat out.


Now comes philosopher Timothy Morton. In an essay contributed to the exceptional research/art organization Sonic Acts, Morton sketches the outlines of a well-riddled theory for our twisted present. An excerpt below, with a painting from the wonderfully weird imagination of  Kristine Moran.





Pepper Loves You

Who is Pepper? From the SoftBank website, we read:

Pepper is a human-shaped robot. He is kindly, endearing and surprising.

We have designed Pepper to be a genuine day-to-day companion, whose number one quality is his ability to perceive emotions.

Pepper is the first humanoid robot capable of recognising the principal human emotions and adapting his behaviour to the mood of his interlocutor.

To date, more than 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan are using Pepper as a new way of welcoming, informing and amusing their customers. Pepper also recently became the first humanoid robot to be adopted in Japanese homes!

Wow! Japanese homes! Yet there is even more to gush over:

Pleasant and likeable, Pepper is much more than a robot, he is a genuine humanoid companion created to communicate with you in the most natural and intuitive way, through his body movements and his voice.

Pepper loves to interact with you, Pepper wants to learn more about your tastes, your habits and quite simply who you are.

Pepper can recognise your face, speak, hear you and move around autonomously.

You can also personalise your robot by downloading the software applications that take your fancy, based on your mood or the occasion. Dance, play, learn or even chat in another language, Pepper adapts himself to you!

Your robot evolves with you. Pepper gradually memorises your personality traits, your preferences, and adapts himself to your tastes and habits.



What could possibly wrong?


Last week saw the release of a report on potential malicious uses of AI, the result of a collaboration among fourteen institutions and twenty-six distinguished authors. We urge careful review of the entire report; the conclusion is excerpted below.



Our own view on the dangers of AI will be familiar to longtime DP readers. Our ability to invent clever technologies accelerates while the development of moral consciousness and empathic conscience degrades, resulting in an ever-deepening discrepancy that, if left to its own lethal devices, will eventually terminate in a world without us. In the words of Gunther Anders:

Erasure of the Unseen

Now comes the estimable Rebecca Solnit elucidating how degrees of power shape, distort and often obliterate what experiences, and whose experiences, become publicly visible and acknowledged. The entire essay is worth close consideration; a couple of brief excerpts below, with images from the studio of Lesley Dill.





Though Solnit focuses mostly on sexual abuse of women by more powerful men, we would suggest that the identical dynamic applies to a more distant form of violence. Jill Stauffer, author of Ethical Loneliness: The Injustice of Being Heard, directed us to a remarkable analysis of drone warfare in an essay titled Phenomenology of a Drone Strike, in which Nasser Hussain traces how the military power to obliterate “unseen” civilian bodies becomes inscribed within the perceptual parameters of the weapon itself:

“We have become too accustomed to seeing from the air, which violates all the familiar geometry and perspective of our mundane, grounded vision. The exhilaration of the bird’s-eye view, or the god’s-eye view, so palpable in early accounts of flying, stems from the possibility of outstripping human limitations. But in another respect, aviation is very much tied to the modern mode of seeing, because from the very beginning it has been linked to photographic and cinematographic representation. Shooting a film, or focusing on a target, are not cheap puns, but reminders of a shared genealogical origin. Indeed, this way of looking is so naturalized that we forget that seeing through an aperture produces a particular and partial visual construction.

Aerial vision at once expands the range of view and hones in on a perceived target. But this focus inwards, this claim of precise aim, is not just one among other ways of looking. Rather, the accuracy of the drone’s eye structures more than vision; it shapes the way we think about, talk about, and evaluate a bombing. We focus on the target, the moment of impact. We dispute how contained or collateral the damage was, how many civilians died alongside the chosen target. These questions begin to eclipse all other questions about the global military apparatus that makes the strike possible or about civilian injury that goes beyond body counts.”



“Inequality makes liars of us all.”