Category Archives: buoys

Family Pictures

Now comes a montage of text and images from a project by artist Steve Locke, first exhibited in 2016 at the Gallery Kayafas  in Boston: “the Family Pictures we have long pretended did not exist.”

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The exhibition included a Reading Room that included the following texts:

 


This History of Terror

This week, we stay with the voice of Bryan Stevenson, founding director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. In excerpts from an interview on PBS in 2016, Stevenson outlines the genesis of EJI’s powerful proposal for a National Lynching Memorial. Images are taken from the concept video, which can be — and should be — viewed in its entirety here.

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Lost in Space

As various toxic billionaires continue to fantasize about expanding their contact networks and Twitter feeds into the universe, we turn to a revealing author/reader exchange published in the New York Review of Books. The images, relayed from an exceptional series of paintings by Jeremy Geddes, have been added by DP.

Let’s begin with an excerpt from author/physicist Freeman Dyson, who closes his October, 2016 review essay with the following ecstatic vision of our “escape” from the planetary cage:

When we first read the above, particularly the last paragraph, we thought the former Princeton physicist must be in some sort of perverse competition with Stephen Hawking, the prize being free tickets on the Bezos Express. We filed it away in our ever-expanding Annals of Hubris and Delusion, for future reference.

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Thus were we relieved to see a thoughtful response in the most recent NYRB, jointly submitted by the distinguished mathematician Simon Altmann of Oxford; Sa’id Mosteshar from the London Institute of Space Policy and Law; and Alan Smith, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory:

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We note in particular the astute observation that what earthbound humans think of as “life” may not include whatever other life may exist elsewhere in the cosmos; surface area, starlight and food surely do not exhaust the possible parameters for “life”. While Dyson’s foolish insistence on such narrow requirements are surprising, coming from a scientist of such long and varied experience, his response casts an even dimmer light on the issue of human encroachments elsewhere in the universe:

To construe the issues concisely raised by Altmann, Mosteshar and Smith as “a clash of cultures”, thereby placing himself beyond substantive intellectual engagement, constitutes an astonishing, willful misreading. Yet the dramatic shift in his views regarding human identity at loose in the universe between his original essay and the above response is even more astonishing.

In the original essay, Dyson describes humans as “midwives” and active “creators of a living universe”; highly evolved beings making a conscious science-driven decision to send “Noah’s Arc seeds” into infinity. But in his response to the letter, humans are suddenly reduced to being merely “part of nature”, thus “free to evolve and diversify” — just like a virus or fungus. What’s more, those who voice ethical, environmental or philosophical objections to such a darkly determinist view of human existence clearly do not understand the basic expansionist nature of all life. Fine for gathering taxes and pushing paper, but no room on the Bezos space train for such dolts and ditherers. Oh my….

Finally, while Dyson in all his blustering arrogance hardly warrants analysis of his painfully weak grasp of Shakespeare, he might do well to meditate long and hard upon other words from Twelfth Night, as spoken by the fool, Feste: “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.” 

WHITE COSMONAUT


Wild Law

Two highly significant environmental justice victories over the past year flow from courts extending legal rights to two rivers: the Whanganui in New Zealand, a living ancestor to the Maori people; and the Ganges, together with its main tributary the Yamuna, sacred to all Hindus. The decision in favor of the Maori emerged from one hundred and forty years of negotiation, and was cited as a critical precedent by the court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

Extending from Thomas Berry’s ideas of nature-based jusrisprudence, we excerpt the 2011 manifesto for earth justice, Wild Law, by Cormac Cullinan:

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In a related story, we take note of a clueless tourist and former Playboy model named Jaylene Cook, photographed in her birthday suit in front of Mount Taranaki, considered a sacred burial ground and ancestor by the local Maori. We will not compound Ms. Cook’s naked ignorance by reproducing the image here; it has gone toxic-bacterial in the meme-swamp formerly known as the world wide web.


At the Heart of Things

Now comes the voice of Paul Kingsnorth, with an excerpt from an essay recently published in Orion magazine, The Axis and the Sycamore:

Paul Kingsnorth is a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, with its strong emphasis on conceiving new forms of storytelling as a way of reimagining the world, outside the toxic bubble of human supremacy. The word-coupling “dark mountain” descends from a Robinson Jeffers poem:

Man is not in the persons but in the 
Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the 
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain 


Toxic Dominion

We are indebted to a faithful DP correspondent for steering us to an excellent 2014 lecture presented by Eileen Crist, in which she articulates a concise overview of what she calls the Human Supremacy Complex, or toxic anthropocentrism.

Professor Crist begins with a reference to an October, 2013 article published in The Economist reporting on a clot of jellyfish inside cooling pipes at a Swedish nuclear reactor, a report that swiftly mutates into an infomercial for a new technology named with the perverse acronym JEROS: Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm. According to its creator, JEROS will chew through even the most exhuberant clot of jellies, and thus keep our nuclear reactors humming.

The entire lecture is linked below, followed by a montage of her slides that convey a useful summary of core questions and arguments. The final image is taken from The Herd, an installation project by Tasha Lewis, whose studio we shall revisit in future posts.

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THE HERD

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If we refuse to learn how to live responsibly within this “community of unique and exquisite  beings”, clinging to the delusion that no matter what ruinous consequence we inflict upon the natural world, our clever technologies will always save us: we shall be obliterated.

Though JEROS robochops jellyfish into mush, it will take more than robot swarms to chew through the lethal clot of our own hubris and arrogance, such that we might embrace the “abundant and ravishing” planet, “inhabited with respect.”


The Shattering Wonder

This week we return to the work of David Abram, in his masterful recuperation of embodied knowledge, Becoming Animal; excerpts from the introduction below, interwoven with images from the studio of Morgan Bulkeley.

WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS

SPRING AND RUMBLINGS

VENUS AND SPATS


Look Under Foot

Faced, or rather footed, with an absurdly early mud season here in New England, we excerpt an essay by John Burroughs first published in The Atlantic in 1908. The images are from a series of dirt paintings by Donald Bracken.

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Radical Wisdom

Digging more deeply into the theme of the sentient forest, we turn to an essay by ecologist Suzanne Simard published in 2015 by SGI Quarterly, excerpted below. The images are from the studio of Jorge Mayet.

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The Sentient Forest

Despite copious evidence to the contrary, many technologically advanced humans cling to the belief that they embody the pinnacle of evolutionary biology. Once we accept the possibility that such deadly arrogance is misplaced, we might open our selves to the living world beyond and beneath us, and learn from far more evolved beings such as trees in their forests, or what survives of them after hundreds of years of human extraction.

Consider the following excerpt from Peter Wohlleben’s pioneering book, The Hidden Life of Trees. Images are pinged from the trailer for the important new documentary, Intelligent Trees.

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Many humans suffer from the delusion that whatever they senselessly eradicate can be replaced with clever inventions, like — in the most recent perverse iteration — robobees. Scientists like Wohlleben and Suzanne Simard blaze a different path, one long embraced by surviving remnants of indigenous cultures, those the “advanced” humans have not obliterated. Guided by a deeper understanding of our living world, can we find the courage and wisdom to follow it?

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