During a week that has starkly exposed the ethical and spiritual crisis of our times, and as we continue to consider the implications of fresh data confirming the accelerating death spiral of anthropogenic climate breakdown, let us bend our ears to the soulful voice of Terry Tempest Williams, presently Writer in Residence at the Harvard Divinity School.
Below, excerpts from a recent interview, with images from Bear Ears country.
DP commends Harvard Divinity School for taking the lead on forthrightly and compassionately engaging with the deep ethical and spiritual crisis that threatens to envelop us, as human supremacism comes up against its own inherent limits, and as toxic neoliberalism begins to cannibalize itself, having exsanguinated, commodified, consumed and evacuated everything else.
This week, we note the death of fellow desperado philosopher Paul Virilio. Below, a montage of excerpts from a 2012 interview, bristling with ideas that have become ever more urgently relevant, as the world careens into dark spirals of toxic algos and avatars.
The images are details pinged from the extraordinary gunpowder paintings of Cai Guo-Qiang, featured at a recent exhibition at the Prado.
Virilio writes in Open Sky that one day the day will come when the day will not come; that day has come for him, in this fleeting iteration. May his ideass reverberate through the cosmos, jamming the fear.
Now comes law professor Fania Davis, with excerpts from prescient remarks delivered at the 10th Annual Howard Thurman Convocation in San Francisco, way back in 2005. Is it not high time to hear her words with fresh ears?
Images are from an intermedia installation titled Flow: Web of Interconnection, created by Beth Racette and Barbara Westfall.
That perilous future has arrived.
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.
YOU DON’T PICK HOW THEY ARE KILLED
BEFORE AND AFTER
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:
SELF-PORTRAIT ON THE SWAMP
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:
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:
ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
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 with glass shards-religious, devotion
Pins and Needles-affliction, self-mutilation
Safety Pins-opposite of safety, inflicts pain
Doilies and Lace-femininity
Pills-being dependent on medication
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.
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: