In this time of divisive agony, the three simple words of our title are worthy of sustained meditation.
The people, united.
For example: The people, united against Climate Emergency; the people, united against Covid-19; the people, united against White Supremacism. Yet here we are, a country of highly armed splinters, awaiting combustion into a firestorm of violence.
Meanwhile, south of our borders in Chile, we are witnessing an exemplary embodiment of the creative potential of a people, united. By an overwhelming majority, Chileans have initiated a process to replace their draconian state-of-emergency Pinochet-era Constitution with a new system of governance that will more accurately reflect the needs and dreams of — un pueblo, unido.
Now comes Chilean-American Ariel Dorfman writing in a recent essay, suggesting that possibly we might take up such a challenge ourselves, and conceive a more perfect union as our body politic spins and heaves.
Brief excerpts below, with an intervening link to an extraordinary video that we recommend watching at least once a day between now and the end of November.
Good questions, all.
Thanks to all who responded with such sacred rage and support for last week’s post, in which we amplified the voice of Amazonian indigenous leader Nemonte Nenquimo; this week we bend an ear to another voice that echoes Nenquimo in its urgency, yet from a different location in the Global South: Australia, following the horrific 2019-2020 burn season, known as “Black Summer”.
Now comes Joëlle Gergis, writing from the front lines of the deepening Climate Emergency in a recent essay, excerpted below. Images are relayed from the site of artist Giuseppe Licari, documenting an installation dating from 2016, titled Contrappunto.
About his work, Licari writes:
My work explores the socio-economical, cultural and political practices that intervene on, and alter the form of contemporary natural landscapes around us. Subject both of science and art, the landscape functions both as a mirror and as a lens: in it we see the space we occupy and ourselves as we occupy it. With my work I abstract and re-interpret landscapes engaging in an open-ended investigation of transferring the physical experience of a territory away from the locus of its original existence via discrete or bold interventions.
My aim is to confront the public with nature’s omnipresence, creating new spaces of sensorial and social experiences. Intending to provide the audience with an active role in my work I use a variety of techniques and media, such as installations, performances, workshops and public art, to better address the needs of each idea. The heterotopic landscapes I create constitute places of memories in which the emotions of single individuals become inevitably part of a collective experience.
This week, reeling from relentlessly alarming data such as temperature change in the deep ocean, quadrillions of plastic fibers in the single state of California, and reports of the “dying sea ice” in the Arctic, we simply relay a voice of Amazonian indigenous leader Nemonte Nenquimo (pictured below) as she addresses the ignorant “leaders” of her region and the world in a recently published letter, excerpted below.
This week, we bend our ears once again to the voice of esteemed elder Joanna Macy, in passages brought to our attention by DP correspondent Janet Coster, as found by her within Bill Plotkin’s Nature and the Human Soul. Images of Smithson’s drawings in the conceptual vicinity of Spiral Jetty added by DP.
We are indebted to faithful DP correspondent Janet Coster, co-author of the deeply revelatory The Lure of the Ring, for sending us two quotes from Joanna Macy, as relayed from Bill Plotkin’s Nature and the Human Soul.
We further relay the first quote below, to be followed by the second next week. Image added by DP.
ALLISON SAAR, HADES D.W.P. (2016)
Next week: Widening Circles.
As wildfires continue their hungry devastation across California and Oregon, we have been re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a spare yet powerful novel that we have always thought of as an anticipatory documentary narrative, describing a near future now in the process of presenting itself.
A favorite passage:
NOTHING TO SEE
And the closing passage:
Now comes faithful DP correspondent Jon Swan with a few Chekhovian thoughts on life in the pyrocene. Captions to widely circulating images added by DP.
TINY HOUSE FOR WOOD DEMONS
This week, we stay with Elaine Scarry and the Boston Review, via a 2011 interview following the publication of her book, Thinking in an Emergency. Her thoughts (excerpted below) resonate all the more strongly nine years later, within the context of our deepening ecological and political crisis. Images are self-explanatory.
During this week of commemoration, being 75 years since the United States dropped two bombs on overwhelmingly civilian populations in Japan, we turn to Elaine Scarry in the pages of the Boston Review.
The entire essay is worth a close read; excerpts below, with archival photos added by DP.