Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forgotten victims of Sandy, the ultimate Fish Story

In 2010, I began a series of images about the impacts of oil on water.
What we often cannot see beneath the translucence of afflicted waters is all the life gasping to survive:

"Oil & Water" detail of artists book cover
Date of Work: 2011
Size: 11.25" x 11.25"x 3/4”
Description: Etched plexiglass box containing 12 digital prints on Japanese Digital Niyodo Kozo paper
Notes: Detail of "Oil & Water" artists book shown in “One of a Kind,” an exhibition of unique artist's books at Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge MA and in Unbound – An Exhibition in 3 Chapters, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, curated by Heide Hatry.

This may be the ultimate fish story: what is happening to the waterways of the Tri-State region.
Something more to bear in mind as we all check on each other and worry about the election outcome- the ecological impacts of this disaster are substantial: all our local waterways, which so many have worked so hard to clean up, are now pulluted with gasoline and other toxins. Fortunately, this has occurred after most birds have migrated THIS time but there are plenty of other critters who had no place to escape to, inc all the fish in these systems. This is, incidentally, why Fish Story is sited in Memphis, at the confluence of these new weather patterns.

I will probably keep adding to this post during the day. But for now, what is on my mind, besides the misery & death of many people as a result of Hurricane Sandy, are all the animals that depend on the now polluted waters of rivers in the affected bioregion: wild birds, fish and all the other critters we don't think about at times like this.

Ariana Huffington has spoken about how this has sharply focused priorities for humans, from a human point of view:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/hurricane-sandy-downgraded-election_b_2044095.html

But I wonder & worry about the biological infrastructure driven by biogeographic factors such as this storm, that we depend upon more than most of us know.

The way I see things, we are now in a global showdown between Mother Nature and Big Fossil Fuel industries played out, incidentally in the USA but affecting everyone: 

"The jet stream ... is becoming “wavier,” with steeper troughs and higher ridges. Weather systems are progressing more slowly, raising the chances for long-duration extreme events, like droughts, floods, and heat waves. ... jet stream configurations that led to heavy snows in the Northeast and Europe during recent winters. " -source: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/arctic-warming-is-altering-weather-patterns-study-shows

This will also affect airline traffic because flight paths will be interrupted by changing wind patterns.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Denial is not just a river in Egypt; paradigm changes

I am sure that Hurricane Sandy is a Democrat and a better politician than anyone else. Governor Cuomo, Democrat of New York, just said in his public address, that, "anyone who is denying the dramatic change in weather patterns' (that the impact of Hurricane Sandy is not about climate change), is denying reality." 

Here's a good run down of the relationships between Hurricane Sandy and climate change: 


http://grist.org/news/superstorm-sandys-climate-change-connection/

Is anyone out there listening? Thomas Kuhn, scientific historian and physicist, famously wrote in his seminal book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" pub. 1962, that what changes a paradigm of thinking is the preponderance of evidence that accumulates while the old style thinkers die off.


Meanwhile, needless to say, there is lots we can do once certain folks take their heads out of the sand. Fortunately, not everyone has their head in the sand. Even Gov. Christie, of New Jersey, a Republican, has praised Obama for his appropriate responses. Too bad there have to be so many casualties before we get to our new paradigm, from the ten people who died in this hurricane to all the fish in the local waterways, now threatened by oil and other pollutants from overwhelmed systems.


I read & appreciated Paul Greenberg's "4 Fish" on how we have come to farm and domesticate the world's wild fish for my dissertation research. His essay explains why oysters might be one of our best friends in future storm events. At the recent Restore Americas Estuaries conference (RAE) I attended, there were a lot of sessions on oysters. So maybe us humans can learn how to live in this world we've altered so dramatically, after all.



http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/opinion/an-oyster-in-the-storm.html?smid=fb-share

The paradigm change suggested by Greenberg and others working on oyster restoration, is that nature is not simply our combination larder and toilet, but our indispensable hospital and retirement plan. The big shift is in how we experience our power in relation to nature's power. If I were a betting woman, I might take a bet on who speaks more eloquently: the climate change deniers or nature, in the Halloween guise of Hurricane Sandy.

Steve Paxton, Simone Forti, Joseph Pilates and negotiating the space of trigger point theory as aesthetic activism

"Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism" is the title of my dissertation with the Zurich Node (Z-Node) of the Planetary Collegium at the University of Plymouth, UK. In a series of five chapters, I describe a holistic approach to understanding the space of environmental degradation and resilient restoration with an original theory I've written briefly about elsewhere. My plan is to develop this into a book as soon as I can put the PhD behind me. Meanwhile, from time to time, scraps of my past remind me where my ideas came from, as Steve Paxton's recent appearance at MOMA:




I first met Steve Paxton in person, in 1970 in a workshop he did at Ace Galley in LA with Alex Hay. Steve & I were close that summer and I loved his work, esp when I saw it for the first time in 1966 in the Armory "9 Evenings," as part of EAT. Steve Paxton brought a deliberate appreciation of athleticism into the dance world.because he had once taught gym classes in high school. He was part of developing contact improv movement, no doubt inspired by football and basketball, which Simone Forti then sought to develop even further, as what she once described during rehearsal at UCSD I was part of, as a virtuosity of that technique. In Simone's approach, she was recapitulating the historical trajectory of how ballet developed from fencing in the seventeenth century. These two approaches were mirrored in what Joseph Pilates called, "controlology," based on watching animals and doing yoga.

The New Dance movement at Judson Church in the sixties, fostered by the late Rev. William Moody was not just a series of performances, it was an expression of a zeitgeist of those times as much as Fluxus and Happenings. As individuals, Judson was a group I began to know personally just before leaving NYC for California in 1968 and then early in my career in So Calif: including Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Steve Paxton, Alex Hay, Simone Forti, briefly Rauschenberg, etc.

"Joe," as he was known to his many students, was not at all interested in what has popularly evolved as a set of calisthenics. He was interested in creating a system of movement, highly sensitized to the environment of movement, which therapeutically reshaped the body's learned distortions, as from conventional sports training and ballet.

Photography by Payson Stevens, 1967 shortly after the death of Joseph Pilates, illustrating how the body naturally moves in the environment, with spatial awareness, when all aspects are equally developed by his training.

What I've spoken about briefly to colleagues and occasional interviewers at various times, is how some of my performance ideas for how to understand the space of a potential restoration site that has been degraded, are grounded in movement studies. I trained in ballet and did dressage from childhood before beginning work with Joe.

Observing animals and doing dressage opened me to Joe's ideas during the years of work with him when he was alive. It also gave me a unique perspective on Jill Johnston's brilliant writing for the Village Voice, which I devoured every week for her expression of the relationship between dance and experience of the city as a Happening in those years. I was lucky to experience all that simultaneously.  New Dance was very connected to  Joseph Pilates' thru the sixties, as part of the zeitgeist in the air, even tho few of the New Dancers even knew of his work. What I gleaned from those years was later realized for me in my performance group, the American Ritual Theatre (1969-1971) and those ideas became integrated into my practice.

It was around that time that I also also met & became close to Allan Kaprow and many of the other Fluxus folks, as, Peter Van Riper and Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, etc. I would TA for Allan Kaprow @ Cal Arts in the early seventies and went thru many years of intense discussion with him as I hashed out where the ideas of movement and Fluxus artists began and ended in my thinking. What I absorbed from these great innovators, took seed, has stuck with me and grown over all these years, was  a relaxed but highly sensitized relationship to space in the broadest possible sense. I think this is the same quality of awareness we might bring to environmental resilience in the anthropocene.

To my regret, I didn't hear about Steve presenting his work @MOMA until yesterday, because I fly out tonight to present at the Restore Americas Estuaries National conference:

https://www.estuaries.org/conference/

I will also miss Steve's video this evening but highly recommend it to any of my readers.

So if anyone else out there can get to MOMA tonight, enjoy for me too!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frankenstorm meditation; the fast Fall phase of global warming

Caladium and Carageenan leaves before the "monster" storm

At noon, October 29, 2012, the storm center was still hours away
but the Hudson River was already looking like an Atlantic Noreaster.
By the end of the day, they were predicting gusts of 80 mph in Manhattan.

In 2007, when I began working with Jim White, now the director of INSTAAR, he remarked that then, we were in the slow phase of climate change and global warming. That would last three years, until 2010.

Ever since then, I've watched the weather get more erratic, the storms get more intense. The night before the storm, the were talking about a storm dynamic which may outclass anything we've ever seen on the East coast, not just for the relationships to barometric lows but because 2 storms have converged to create the 800 mile "monster" storm, which is projected to affect 60 million people with 11 foot storm surges. October 29, the day the storm rolled in at 38 mph, they were talking about a convergence of 3 storms, 1000 miles across and 15' surges. As I thought about that Sunday, I listened to Judy Collins singing Leonard Cohen's "Priests," about how, "...they will trample on the grass." Climate change is certainly going to trample some things on the ground, as Hurricane Sandy will.

The fish stories I'm collecting are like the fallen Fall leaves, above: stories of what Proust might call, "les temps perdue (lost times)" of worlds that will be swept away with our indecisiveness this past decade and the decade before, as we have exacerbated all the worst effects of global warming.

Note from wikipedia: In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past (FrenchÀ la recherche du temps perdu) is a novel in seven volumes by Marcel Proust. His most prominent work, it is known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory, the most famous example being the "episode of the madeleine."

A fish story from Linda Weintraub:  


Eight golden coy fish and I live under the same roof.  Their home within my home is an indoor pond that is located just inside the front door. They are the greeting party for  visitors - literally! My guests may shake my hand or give me a hug when the walk through the door, but their attention is quickly diverted to the school of fish swimming directly towards them, waving their pretty fan-shaped tails and beckoning with their big, black eyes. Two fish that are particularly gregarious. They are fond of getting their bellies rubbed, but their pleasure depends upon folks who don't mind dipping into their waters.
The description in the paragraph above has recently become incomplete. The new component involves a fat fish, not 'fatty fish'. This chubby fellow has been causing my guests great distress, which is more accurately described as gasps of grief instead of glee. This occurs when they see a round fish belly floating beside seven sleak fins. Visitors presume that fish is dead. It isn't. It has become so fat it takes effort for it to stay right-side-up. When it relaxes, it floats upside-down. 
This seems to offer a vivid parable for prevailing environmental imperatives:
         - Staying straight is complicated by bloat
         - Managing excess is taxing on you and on others.
        -  TRIM DOWN

Linda Weintraub is an artist, author, curator, and art educator. Her most recent book is a college eco art textbook entitled TO LIFE! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet published by the University of California Press

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fish down under

From my friend the artist Bonita Ely in Australia, who apparently spared the local fish:

Hi Aviva, 
Here is my fish story.

My daughter, Marina was living in Perth some years ago & took me to Stradbroke Island for a day excursion where we hired bikes (cars are not allowed) & rode to a fabulous rock shelf to snorkel and look at the wonderful fish. She is a scoober diver so this was the soft option for Mum. First I had to get the wet suit on which was quite a feat. Rollling around the beach trying to get the thing over my arse reduced me to pulverising, blinding, hysterical laughter. After recovering my composure, flippers were applied to feet, and we made our way like two buffoons to the water's edge, where clowning took precedent over any serious negotiations of rough terrain, stepping over the rock pools and slippery outcrops to get to water deep enough to float on. 

And float is the operative word. 

With goggles impeding my vision, flippers impeding my footfalls, plus the wetsuit's crazy buoyancy, the actual snorkelling rapidly finished me off for the day. Very few fish hung around long enough to be looked at, and my behaviour confirmed in my daughter's assessment, for the umpteenth time, her mother's total incompetance when it comes to any sportive activity.

Cheers,

Dr Bonita Ely
Asoociate Professor,
Co-ordinator, School of Art PhD Program
Co-ordinator, Sculpture, Performance and Installation Dept.,
College of Fine Arts,
University of New South Wales,
PO Box 259, Paddington,
NSW 2021, Australia

Cheif Investigator and inaugural member of  the Environmental Initiative for Environmental Art (ERIA) at COFA, the SPI's research organisation

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fish Story in a wider context

Gene Turner is on the "Gulf to Gulf" team and one of our science collaborators for Fish Story. When the launch announcement for Fish Story went out this morning, he was moderating a RAE panel, "Why we restore- an exploration of values," with Robin Lewis, an international restorationist with the Coastal Resources Group, myself and Bill Shadel of the American Littoral Society. In the background, as he introduced the panel, Gene was running this beautiful PPT, which I'm temporarily inserting as a movie until I can get Gene's permission to upload it to vimeo:

video

As I was uploading this, the following fish story came in on facebook:


i was 12 my goldfish died but when it happen i thought it was just sleeping at the top of the greeny tank. An ever lasting sleep 3 days later the tank was empty my mum flushed lil fishy down the toilet.

Twilight at week's end of the RAE conference in Tampa. It seemed
to me, before news of Hurricane Sandy, that perhaps a big storm was coming,
 in more ways than one.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Today's Fish Stories

I have been receiving a bucket full of fish stories, they seem to run a rorschach gamut of human relationships to "nature," esp childhood encounters with goldfish and the mostly heartless behavior of parents when the fish died.

Beth Carruthers sent me this link:

http://www.luluperformingarts.ca/Elementsfestival_Fish_on_Air.html

As I have been gathering these little gems, like sea shells on the beach, I have been involved in an ongoing exchange with colleagues about the definition of ecological art and what we valorize and teach others in our culture. I think these fish stories speak between their lines, to what we valorize.

Most of the contributions, so far, are awaiting permission for attribution. Some have been related in person with firm requests NOT to be attributed or repeated because the implications were so personal & painful. Who knew our relationships with fish could reveal so much? The following stories are about life, death and consumption. The first came in tonight with a proud name tag from a young friend I've known since her childhood in Vinalhaven, Me.:

"At camp, I didn't want to impale worms on hooks, but had no trouble catching fish, watching them die, and cleaning out their guts.  I suppose I felt that I'd eat the fish, taking it's life for mine, but I wouldn't be eating the worm.  I noticed that dandelion stems looked sort of like worms, and set about collecting some, to the scorn and/or amusement of bigger girls and counselors. A friend and I set out in a canoe (also "wrong" -- we were supposed to fish from rowboats, not canoes, but no rowboats were available).  We baited our hooks with dandelion stems -- and promptly caught two large catfish.  There was an ongoing fishing contest during the two weeks of the camp session, so we dutifully brought our catches to the weighing station to be checked in.  At the final campfire, when prizes were announced, my friend had won first prize for the largest fish, and I came in second.  Everybody wanted to know what we used for bait.  By the way, our vegetarian catfish were delicious, and fed our whole cabin.
OK?

Fun idea!
Fine to publish, just credit me.


Leila Daw, Artist"

And also from Cecilia Girz, Vinalhaven, Me.:

"My water sports have been limited to swimming, canoeing, and sailing, but my husband, who had fished in Alaska, took our children fishing at the small lake near our Colorado mountain home. The homeowners association would stock the lake with trout, and that afternoon, on the shore of Rock Lake, our kids couldn't contain their excitement at having caught their first fish. Even though it was a small fish (no more than six inches in length), I scaled, gutted, breaded, and fried it for supper.

Full of bones, flesh permeated with the taste of algae, we gagged trying to swallow that fish. To this day, I don't know why or how a fish could be so bad. And, it knocked any future inclination for fishing clear out of those poor little kids.

                    You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.

  - Mark Twain"


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fish Story Launch and first responders

These are the first stories in response to today's launch of Fish Story:

From Mo Dawley:


On Oct 24, 2012, at 2:32 PM, Mo Dawley wrote:
I was resting by a small pond one day at Beechwood  Farms Nature Reserve near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when I happened to notice two fish swimming together near the water's edge. One of the fish was having a hard time staying afloat without beginning to lean sideways as if on its way to turning belly-up. Each time the fish began to lean, every few seconds the other fish gently guided its companion upright with the side of its body or with a gentle nudge with its nose. It was the first time I had ever seen a fish practice loving kindness.

Mo Dawley
Pittsburgh PA
from Susan Knight: 


      When our families got together at a cottage on Spring Lake in Michigan    
      my friend Jack and I fished off the dock and from an aluminum rowboat with   
      a nine horsepower motor.  On simple bamboo poles we pulled up bluegill, bass, perch and turtles.               
      We noted their size and color and most of the time threw them back. When a hideous looking fish took our bate we excitedly brought it up to show our parents.  It was a bullhead.  Perhaps it was the fish’s menacing face and whiskers; perhaps it was its sinister color and scaleless body that determined its fate.  We bludgeoned it with shovels.

      Susan Knight



This was the launch:
Memphis BluegillGhost of bluegill past Aviva Rahmani, 2012


Tell me a fish story


    Artist Aviva Rahmani, guest artist Susan Leibovitz Steinman, the Gulf to Gulf team and friends invite you to add your fish story to the Fish Story project, part of Memphis Social, May 2013 in Memphis, TN, a citywide exhibition and presentation of art and cultural events at the intersection of art and social issues. We are beginning a new fundraising campaign to launch this fresh phase of Gulf to Gulf. We invite you to consider donating your financial support to the launch of Fish Story. Your tax deductible donation will go to planning and implementing an ambitious community project. Please circulate this invitation to colleagues to help us expand our support base. Detailed information on how to submit your story and contribute financially is at the end of this letter.  

    Right now, we are collecting fish stories, images and experiences for web publication.Your story may open a point of entry for our new friends in Memphis. Depending on your support, our wish list includes: a series of visits to the Memphis community; several webcasts for public discourse, including one on-site in May; a dedicated collection website; local workshops and gatherings to analyze and assess our experiences; a "fish-in" on the banks of the river; an installation and evening events with a nationally streamed webcast and breaking ground on an agreed upon local "trigger point" site of restoration, to affect the future of fish and people!



Here is Aviva's fish story:

I remember the only time my Father invited me go fishing with him. It was a sunny, warm day. I was four. In our rowboat out on the water, he had a can of worms, from which he pulled a fat candidate with one hand, while lifting a hook with the other. Suddenly, I realized he meant to thread the sharp, steel point through that small, soft, helpless creature's body and I began shrieking, sobbing uncontrollably and inconsolably, as, shocked and confused, he stared into my face. That was how I first learned where dinner came from. - Aviva Rahmani, October 2012
    Our November goal is to send Aviva to Memphis, to meet people, deepening our research phase, connecting land and water, people and fish. She will document her observations with photography, drawings, maps and text and post them on line. Please visit her new blog for progress reports: http://pushingrocks.blogspot.com/.

 Do you have a fish story to share?
    Please send your fish stories and related material to Aviva @ ghostnets@ghostnets.com, with the subject line: fish story and indicate whether you give permission for publication. Fish Story is being created for Memphis Social at the invitation of curator Tom McGlynn of Beautiful Fields. Memphis Social is sponsored by apexart. Fish Story is part of Gulf to Gulf, a fiscally sponsored project of Artspire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Art (NYFA). NYFA is a 501©3, tax exempt organization. Contributions to Gulf to Gulf for Fish Story are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. To donate please visit our page here:http://artspire.org/DirectoryDetail/tabid/95/id/143/Default.aspx 
Thank you for your participation and support!
Sincerely,
Aviva and the Gulf to Gulf team
                                                                                                                
The Gulf to Gulf team includes:
James Bradley, technology consultant, Executive Director at WebServes, New York, NY http://webserves.org/ 
Emily Caigan, Director, Legacy Arts Management, www.legacyartsmgt.com 
Daisy Morton, studio manager to Aviva Rahmani, Vinalhaven ME
Aviva Rahmani, ecological artist, University of Plymouth and INSTAAR affiliate Vinalhaven ME and New York, NY: ghostnets.comavivarahmani.com 
Susan Steinman, Director of WEAD, ecological artist, Berkeley, CA:http://www.steinmanstudio.com/ 
R. Eugene Turner, 'dead zone' and wetland ecologist, Distinguished Research Master and Professor, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA: http://www.oceanography.lsu.edu/turner.shtm 
James White, paleoecologist, Professor of Geological Sciences, Fellow and Director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO: instaar.colorado.edu/index.html.

 We would like to thank Louisiana State University and University of Colorado at Boulder for their ongoing support of the Gulf to Gulf project.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Invitation to a party


Questions I plan to ask our Restore Americas Estuaries audience in half an hour & opening statement:

How many people think restoration is a global problem?
How many people think restoration is a team sport?
How many think we need some new paradigms?
How many believe a few determined people can change the world?
Ecological artists have been trying to crash your party for decades. So today, I’m going to take a different approach & invite you to OUR party.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wetlands, fish and RAE on the night of the last Presidential debate

I have spent the day in sessions for the Restore America's Estuaries (RAE) national conference here in Tampa, Fla., around the corner, figuratively speaking, from the Presidential debates and both have been on my mind all day. That is, I have been thinking about the health of and challenges to American estuaries as reflected in the conference and the implications for fish. Many, many innovative and important projects are being implemented around the country despite terrific obstacles. And many are in danger with the threat of a new round of cuts.

While admiring the successes, for example from Low Impact Development (LID- basically permaculture on urban steroids at the service of stormwater filtration), which I took an excellent all day workshop on yesterday, with Larry Coffman, I have also been thinking about the implications of the coming elections, should Obama lose or even if Obama wins again in this debate or ultimately, for the presidency. The reason my thinking has been pivoting around implications for fish between estuaries and the presidency during this conference, has been that I'm about to launch the formal announcement for a new project, Fish Story. Fish Story is a project about how the fate of fish speaks to the environment and people. I believe the team I have assembled for this project can address many of the gaps I've heard about so far at RAE. Those gaps are about what I think only art can supply: framing, connection and context to build a narrative for people that they can use to take ownership pf their own environment.

Fish, are, as I've written in earlier posts here, indicator species. And they are in trouble everywhere in our world. And they are in trouble because of how people think about our environment, a manner of thinking that is also relevant to how we make our decisions about leadership and why so many wonderful environmental restoration projects encounter resistance. I think a lot of that thinking brings people back to a sense of powerlessness rather than empowerment. I suspect many fish feel the same way.

This morning, Majora Carter, a MacArthur fellow, delivered our keynote address.

http://www.majoracartergroup.com/

Majora is a black woman from the South Bronx, NYC, who has been able to leverage her experience to help disadvantaged youth by engaging them in empowering environmental restoration work. Her accounts of her  enormous accomplishments were delivered with modesty, compassion and honesty, qualities I admire greatly. During the Q&A, I asked her about her interest in working with ecological artists. She made the point in response, that it spoke volumes, that ecological artists put the terms environment/ ecology in front of our description of ourselves. I think that's true and a generous observation. I was also further, personally delighted when she said she'd be happy to talk more with me about my new project, Fish Story.


Majora's is a model of leadership and ecological engagement for economically disadvantaged young people that I want to explore for Fish Story in Memphis. That aspect of the project, is something I am also hoping my collaborator, Susan Steinman Leibovitz will particularly pick up on because her expertise is in social practice ecological art. My own expertise is more on the science side. But I am at least as concerned about the young black & brown people in Memphis as the disadvantaged fish in the Mississippi. I'm also not sure there's a real distinction between them, not only as condemned to powerlessness but as systemic indicators of globalized distress.

Majora's position is clear: restoration is inevitable work which either political party must complete because it makes good economic as well as social sense. Because she sees that there is no alternative, she is convinced that both candidates must also see that that is true.

The rest of the day was about restored seagrass beds, the possibility of developing a certificate program for restoration work through the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) and raising money for restoration projects. In the evening, I studied the poster sessions on display for various projects.

The constant refrain in everything I heard & saw however, was how easy it is to destroy the littoral zone (between land and sea), how hard and expensive it is to repair that damage and how fragile even the modest push back achieved by ambitious restoration projects can be. The consistent subtext in every session was the question of what will happen to our environment, should the Republicans be in a position of power to cut the legs out from under even that modest success by defunding federal agencies such as NOAA. There are two more days to go with RAE for me to reflect on these ideas and what I learn. Those two days will also be the first two days after this last debate.

8:59 PM EST So, the last debate is about to begin. In the past two debates, I noticed that the outcome could be predicted from the body language in the first few minutes. They walked out on the stage very much as equals. How will they walk off and how will that walk be perceived?

11:PM EST
O: 48
R: 40
According to CNN.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Restoring wetlands, Tampa, Florida

I'm winding down Day 1 of 5 at the Restore Americas Estuaries conference (RAE) here in Tampa, Florida:

https://www.estuaries.org/conference/

and I had a fabulous time today with the RAE Tampa Bay Watch:

www.tampbaywatch.org

In a few hours, about 80 of us planted about 10, 000 spartina alterniflora plugs in a restoration workshop. Apparently it was the last plug planting for the Cockroach (named for what the first settlers thought blue crabs look like) Bay project. Cockroach Bay began their restoration work in 1987. When they began, it was an ugly sand quarry and a moonscape. Today's work completed a big milestone for this most major piece in the restoration of Tampa Bay's 400 square miles of open water and 2000 miles of shoreline, so actually an interesting example of what I would call applied trigger point theory.

Blue crab carapace


This evening I am heading out to a special estuaries workers yoga class and then I'm off to the glamourous task of doing my laundry- I fell out of the canoe, slipped in the black mud 3 additional
 times).  And remarkably, I have preserved my manicure.



On the bus out to & back from Cockroach Bay, I sat next to Jeff Benoit, Pres of RAE and learned a lot about this important organization and how they have survived the shrinking federal budget for wetlands restoration, despite their essential role in so many environmental issues today. We also talked about engaging ecological artists in restoration and using social media for outreach. I told him that what I think ecological artists offer land managers includes imaginative framing and a captivating narrative. We approach & organize restoration work totally differently than land managers. I didn't add but will presume it will be obvious in my Wednes. presentation here, that we also make unique connections. About social media, I suggested he not try to make it perfect, just leave it raw. Raw is it's own style, most economical and actually, most accessible an has worked well for me without any marketing. The Gulf to Gulf webcasts on vimeo have been download from 58 countries..



Friday, October 19, 2012

Preparing for launch

Bluegills run about 4 lbs and their undoing is that they are competitive,
so, easily seduced by food lures.
This is the image I created today for the formal launch of Fish Story, planned for Monday. Before the launch, I will be waiting for feedback on what has been assembled from all my team partners. The launch will happen while I'm in Tampa to present at the Restore Americas Estuaries conference. The title of my PPT is, "Why would you need an artist for successful estuarine restoration?"

Steve Paxton, Simone Forti, Joseph Pilates and trigger point theory


Me in a tree, on the right in a skirt: the early California years.
Photography by Fred Lonidier at Pauline Oliveros' wedding.



"Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism" is the title of my dissertation with the Zurich Node (Z-Node) of the Planetary Collegium at the University of Plymouth, UK. In a series of five chapters, I describe a holistic approach to understanding the space of environmental degradation and resilient restoration with an original theory I've written briefly about elsewhere. Understanding how to embody an experience of space is an integral to that theory as systems theory or Geographic Information Systems science (GISc). I plan is to develop that thesis into a book as soon as I can put the PhD behind me. Meanwhile, from time to time, scraps of my past remind me where my ideas came from, as Steve Paxton's recent appearance at MOMA:


I first met Steve Paxton in person, in 1970 in a workshop he did at Ace Galley in LA with Alex Hay. Steve & I were close that summer and I loved his work, esp when I saw it for the first time in 1966 in the Armory "9 Evenings," as part of EAT. Steve Paxton brought a deliberate appreciation of athleticism into the dance world.because he had once taught gym classes in high school. He was part of developing contact improv movement, no doubt inspired by football and basketball, which Simone Forti then sought to develop even further, as what she once described during rehearsal at UCSD I was part of, as a virtuosity of that technique. In Simone's approach, she was recapitulating the historical trajectory of how ballet developed from fencing in the seventeenth century. These two approaches were mirrored in what Joseph Pilates called, "controlology," based on watching animals and doing yoga. 

The New Dance movement at Judson Church in the sixties, fostered by the late Rev. William Moody was not just a series of performances, it was an expression of a zeitgeist of those times as much as Fluxus and Happenings. As individuals, Judson was a group I began to know personally just before leaving NYC for California in 1968 and then early in my career in So Calif: including Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Steve Paxton, Alex Hay, Simone Forti, briefly Rauschenberg, etc. 

"Joe," as he was known to his many students, was not at all interested in what has popularly evolved as a set of calisthenics. He was interested in creating a system of movement, highly sensitized to the environment of movement, which therapeutically reshaped the body's learned distortions, as from conventional sports training and ballet.

What I've spoken about briefly to colleagues and occasional interviewers at various times, is how some of my performance ideas for how to understand the space of a site that has been degraded, are grounded in dance. I trained in ballet and did dressage from childhood. 

My own experiences observing animals and doing dressage opened me to Joe's ideas during my six years of work with him when he was alive. It also gave me a unique perspective on Jill Johnston's brilliant writing for the Village Voice, which I devoured every week for her expression of the relationship between dance and experience of the city as a Happening in those years. I was lucky to experience all that simultaneously.  New Dance was very connected to  Joseph Pilates' thru the sixties, and what I gleaned was later realized for me in my performance group, the American Ritual Theatre (1969-1971). Those ideas are still integrated into my practice.

It was around that time that I also also met & became close to Allan Kaprow and many of the other Fluxus folks, as, Peter Van Riper and Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, etc. I would TA for Allan Kaprow @ Cal Arts in the early seventies and went thru many years of arguments as I hashed out where their ideas began and ended in my thinking. But what I absorbed, has stuck with me and grown over all these years, has been a relaxed but highly sensitized relationship to space in the broadest possible sense. 

To my regret, I didn't hear about Steve presenting his work @MOMA until yesterday and because I fly out tonight to present at the Restore Americas Estuaries National conference:


I will also miss Steve's video this evening but highly recommend it to any of my readers. 

So if anyone else out there can get to MOMA tonight, enjoy for me too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

We believe

I believe climate change is real. Dying fish believe climate change is real. The USA is beginning to believe. In fact, we believe these truths to be self-evident. We have the proof from the Yale- Georges Mason work emerging from the Center for Climate Change Communication directed by Ed Maibach:

Good news from CCCC: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in September 2012.
Some key findings from the report include:
Americans' belief in the reality of global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012.

http://climatechangecommunication.org/sites/default/files/reports/Climate-Beliefs-September-2012.pdf

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fish tales, teams and dominance patterns

 
Fish in the Mississippi River are indicator species for the health of a far larger
biogepgraphic region that surrounds the river.

1: PM

In less than an hour, we will have a Gulf to Gulf webcast session for the team working on Fish Story.

That team for Fish Story, includes:

James Bradley, media provider, Executive Director at WebServes, New York, NY http://webserves.org/
Emily Caigan, Project manager for “Fish Story” West Hurley, NY
Daisy Morton, studio manager to Aviva Rahmani, Vinalhaven ME
Aviva Rahmani, ecological artist, University of Plymouth and INSTAAR affiliate Vinalhaven ME and New York, NY: ghostnets.com, avivarahmani.com
Susan Steinman, Director of WEAD, ecological artist, Berkeley, CA: http://www.steinmanstudio.com/
Eugene Turner, dead zone biologist, and Distinguished Research Master and Professor, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA: http://www.oceanography.lsu.edu/turner.shtm
James White, paleoecologist, Professor of Geological Sciences, Fellow and Director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO: instaar.colorado.edu/index.html.
We will also be joined by Memphis Social curator Tom McGlynn who invited our participation.

There are going to be a number of important topics I hope we will address but I am still considering the lessons learned and considered about framing from last week's CT event. The two Sunday workshops that stuck in my mind, were the one on creating narratives in social practice, with Suzanne Lacy and Jodie Evans and the one Steve Lambert did about advertising and public art. The latter was intended to define points of entry with a community, how to listen and how to shape a work out of the input. It was mostly a discussion of how to listen, which I'm all for. The most important take away that I related to, was to look for the gap, the paradox, the intersection where values can be aligned. 


In working with scientists, finding that mystical point of entry is the most delicate and important part of my work and aligns with "trigger point theory," that small place I always look for, where hope can start to grow for environmental restoration. The trick in Fish Story will be to align that point of entry with the aspirations and concerns of people I may meet there.

Steve's workshop had us doing a deceptively simple exercize of making columns for old behavior (in this case, gutting the environment) and new behavior (finding ways to live resiliently with the rest of the natural world) and then breaking those two columns down in terms of the benefits and barriers each option convey. So, for example, an old behavior might be that it's easy to overfish and the ease is the benefit. The barrier to fully enjoying that old behavior to change is the fat that if we continue, there will be nothing left to exploit and deplete. The barrier to new behavior is just changing behavior and the difficulty of that change. People don't usually like something easy suddenly made more difficult. Steve reminded us that it's not just about the community we work with, it's also about not allowing ourselves to get burnt out.

In both workshops, the presumption was that an artist is invited in by a community to avoid the critique of "parachuting in" and then leaving. Suzanne and Jodi emphasized that building a good rapport for a project with integrity can take a year or more. But the third workshop workshop I participated in last Sunday, about the landslide caused by fracking in Taring Padi, assembled a memorializing action in one week, which has taken on a life of its own there. So these are 3 diff approaches to developing and sustaining social practice projects. What they all have in common is finding how & where to align an artists agenda with the community where the work will be presented. In the case of "Fish Story," it's not going to be just about those 2 agendas (art & the community), it's also about land management and what science can tell us about what is happening there. And then there's my agenda: to find a trigger point in environmental degradation to effect healing change ... without imposing myself  .... by finding ways to give voice to the voiceless on the ground. Not just fish. The people who want a world with fish.

So the critique of the first two social practice approaches above, is that they both, in effect, manipulate people to effect what a predetermined good may be but that "good" remains anthropocentric, human dominated. So how do I negotiate for the fish? How to I find the voices that speak for the fish among the people in Memphis? That search appears on the surface to argue for an inversion of familiar dominance patterns and by doing so, finding the path to speaking for the fish. It seems like a layered paradox to even consider that challenge. So that is the "little" gap/paradox I hope we will explore today.






4:PM

We had the meeting. I'm in absorption mode. The scientists are open and supportive. Gene showed us a picture of a 300 lb alligator gar which must have been 20' long, caught using a net & held up by a sports fisherman. 

Susan commented at the end of our meeting, "it's (Fish Story) so unlike you. It's so anthropocentric!!" I replied, "well, you can't do much restoration without a few people." I guess that's my paradoxical point of entry. Maybe the question now, is what behavioral change might make a difference, where in Memphis? Jim & Gene commented about how Memphis has seen itself as the center of the world because of it's historical position on the river. So what I might be looking for, is whom can tell me where might be the trigger in that center?


1910 Photo of 10' Alligator gar, author unknown