Living the Fall

Now comes Greta Erlich with some of the most insightful and moving words ever written about glaciers, as wildfires continue to rage through the Siberian Arctic, in the midst of a record-shattering heat wave.

Her entire meditation can be found in the pages of the exceptionally worthwhile Orion magazine. Excerpts below, with images from Basia Irland’s revelatory Ice Books project.

 

 

 

 

 

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About her Ice Books, Basia Irland writes:

River water is frozen, carved into the form of a book, embedded with an “ecological language” or “riparian text” consisting of local native seeds, and placed back into the stream. The seeds are released as the ice melts in the current. Those who contribute to or participate in the Ice Book launches are determined by the location. Along the Nisqually River in Washington, for example, Nisqually Tribal Members, salmon restoration specialists, musicians, fifth graders attending WaHeLut Indian School, students and professors from Evergreen State College, Forest Rangers, all joined in the ice book launches. Participants in New Mexico on the Rio Grande have included artists, farmers, acequia majordomos, college students, professors, hydrologists, Pueblo members, and hundreds of interested watershed citizens.

Ice Receding/Books Reseeding emphasizes the necessity of communal effort and scientific knowledge to deal with the complex issues of climate disruption and watershed restoration by releasing seed-laden ephemeral ice sculptures into rivers. I work with stream ecologists, biologists, and botanists to ascertain the best seeds for each specific riparian zone. When an ecosystem is restored and the plants grow along the riverbanks they give back to us by helping sequester carbon, mitigating floods and drought, pollinating other plants, dispersing seeds, holding the banks in place (slowing erosion), creating soil regeneration and preservation, acting as filters for pollutants and debris, supplying leaf-litter (for food and habitat), promoting aesthetic pleasure, and providing shelter/shade for riverside organisms including humans.

 

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The Absent Emergency

In his recently published Being At Large, philosopher Santiago Zabala writes: “In the age of alternative facts, facts have also been framed, that is, stripped of all the interpretative, institutional, and social support they once could count on.”

Navigating an ever-expanding bog of information, detached from contextual grounding while being relentlessly politicized or infused with ideology requires a new sort of engaged hermeneutics to disrupt the authoritarian “call to order”.

Excerpts from a recent interview below, with images relayed from Nancy Cohen’s extraordinary installation, Hackensack Dreaming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On her website, Nancy Cohen writes:

This installation is in no way meant to reproduce the landscape, my inspiration and reference point. I want the viewer to move through “Hackensack Dreaming” discovering and finding connections – compelled by the beauty and the strangeness. Thinking simultaneously of the made and found worlds – of nature (whatever that might be in an artist’s studio in 2014 in urban New Jersey) – a viewer might hopefully become temporarily lost in the contradictions and visual experience.

Such is the magnificent art that keeps up slogging through the info-bog here at DP.

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On Stolen Land

Now comes the voice of NDN Collective President Nick Tilsen, speaking in resistance and rejection of the planned presidential “independence celebration” on lands sacred to the Lakota.

Excepts from yesterday’s excellent Democracy Now interview below, with images relayed from the NDN website. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A more detailed press release from the NDN Collective, on behalf of the Lakota, can be found here.

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In 2016, Mathew Shaer, writing in that noted organ of radical communism The Smithsonian Magazine, provided informative texture on white supremacist “artist” and rumored Klansman Gutzon Borglum:

Dedicated 75 years ago this month, Mount Rushmore was intended by its creator, Gutzon Borglum, to be a celebration of not only these four presidents but also the nation’s unprecedented greatness. “This colossus is our mark,” he wrote with typical bombast. Yet Borglum’s own sordid story shows that this beloved site is also a testament to the ego and ugly ambition that undergird even our best-known triumphs.

In 1914, Borglum was a sculptor in Connecticut of modest acclaim when he received an inquiry from the elderly president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, C. Helen Plane, about building a “shrine to the South” near Atlanta. When he first glimpsed “the virgin stone” of his canvas, a quartz hump called Stone Mountain, Borglum later recalled, “I saw the thing I had been dreaming of all my life.” He sketched out a vast sculpture of generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and was hired.

The son of polygamist Mormons from Idaho, Borglum had no ties to the Confederacy, but he had white supremacist leanings. In letters he fretted about a “mongrel horde” overrunning the “Nordic” purity of the West, and once said, “I would not trust an Indian, off-hand, 9 out of 10, where I would not trust a white man 1 out of 10.”

 

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Body of Proof

We had intended to explore the ominous acceleration of the Great Melt presently in play throughout the Arctic Circle, yet another voice caught our ears, and held them: that of Caroline Randall Williams. Author of the exceptional hybrid text Lucy Negro Redux, Williams addresses the issue of Confederate monuments in today’s NYT.

Excerpts below, with an interwoven image relayed from Stephen Haye’s installation, Cash Crop, about which we have more to say in a future DP.

 

 

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Through a range of forms and voices, Lucy Negro Redux explores the possibility, if not the likelihood, that the “dark lady” so vibrantly brought to life in Shakespeare’s sonnets was of African descent. The book has since been adapted for the stage by the Nashville Ballet, with an informative documentary précis below:

 

 

We close with a few words from the text:

“I am a potato, a beetroot. Not a precious bird or jewel, but a dirt-dug tube. Rustle me up, rub me all over, and I will muddle your interiors with flecks of brown earth.”

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A Gaudy Illusion

On this most auspicious Juneteenth, we relay the voice of Tamara Winfrey-Harris, author of The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America.  Excerpts from her op-ed below:

 

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The reference to Ellison descends from his unfinished novel, Juneteenth:

“Words of Emancipation didn’t arrive until the middle of June so they called it Juneteenth. So that was it, the night of Juneteenth celebration, his mind went on. The celebration of a gaudy illusion.

 

We are reminded of another Ellison quote, this one from Invisible Man:

“The clock ticked with empty urgency, as though trying to catch up with the time. In the street a siren howled.”

 

With that siren still howling, we close with the voice of Martha Redbone singing, No More Auction Blocks:

 

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Everything Hurts

This week, we turn to Harvard history professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad, whose The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Urban America was re-released in 2019.   Exposing the weaponization of crime statistics against black Americans, Muhammad meticulously documents how we arrived at this historic breaking point within the endless cycles of failed reform.

Below, excerpts from an interview on Democracy Now; images are George Floyd’s airborne words, inscribed against the sky as directed by artist Jammie Holmes, whose work we shall explore more thoroughly in a future DP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time For A Reckoning

This week, we bend an ear to the lucid voice of Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery Atlanta, home to what is in our view the most important and most powerful work of public art in North America: the National Memorial to Peace and Justice.

The entire New Yorker interview is worth a close reading; except below, with images relayed from the website of EJI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAISE UP!


A Modern-Day Lynching

Now comes distinguished civil rights attorney and founder of the Racial Justice Network, Nekima Levy Armstrong, in response to the police killing of George Lloyd, a response that cuts to the heart of the matter with just a few sentences of searing truth set against the brutal exercise of police power:

 

 

In the midst of a pandemic caused by a pathogen that has a particularly nasty impact on human lungs and on communities of color, we invite careful consideration of the following transcript:

 

 

Finally, outraged by this repugnant and wanton act of murder, and by all the implications and histories tangled within, we relay a statement released by Frank Chapman, Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression:

 

 

WHITE STRIPE FOR A MODERN-DAY LYNCHING

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Reclaim the Darkness

Among the many vulnerabilities exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, surely the catastrophe created by the neoliberal commodification of elder care must rank among the most acute, with devastating losses suffered within nursing homes, including both residents and caregivers.

Now comes Lynn Casteel Harper, presently Minister of Older Adults at The Riverside Church in the City of New York and author of On Vanishing: Mortality, Dementia and What It Means to Disappear. Released during the early days of the pandemic as it spread throughout the United States, the book offers a luminous exploration into the gradually descending darkness of dementia, advocating for alternative elder care practices that support those afflicted to “vanish well”.

Excerpts from a recent interview below, with masks relayed from the website of William Utermohlen.

 

MASK WITH RED NECK

 

 

MASK WITH BLUE EYES

 

Hear hear!

 

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The Untouchables

Now comes Naomi Klein with a lucid analysis of one possible though not inevitable outcome from the Age of Covid-19, a post-pandemic shock doctrine that would retrospectively confirm Black Mirror as an anticipatory documentary rather than an exercise in the dystopian imagination.

The entire essay is worth close consideration; a brief excerpt below, with an image (caption added by DP) from the studio of Jakub Geltner.

 

FLOCK DOCTRINE

 

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Thus at exactly the time when we need to connect more deeply to the realities of the natural world, while also connecting with each other in more compassionate and immediate ways, the hubristic pseudo-titans of Silicon Valley invite us into a world of perpetual surveillance, behavioral algorithms and learned helplessness.

After all this grief and suffering, they propose to accelerate the Great Acceleration to warp speed, an appropriate tempo for such a warped, narcissistic and nihilistic vision. Shaped by terror of fleeting mortality, their wish to live in an untouchable world discloses a puerile refusal to acknowledge limits. At a time when we humans need to do (and be) less and then less again, their shallow understanding insists on more always more.

This too shall crash.

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