Monday, December 30, 2013

What is the universe telling me about the New Year?

Fish are still the key.
They are the canaries in the waters of the world and the trigger point species to re-organize our life on earth. As fish go, so will our waters and ultimately life on earth for humans.

USDA map of where contaminants are killing fish in the continental USA

Friday, December 20, 2013, I decided to run away from my home in New York City, to Vinalhaven Island, Maine, also my home. What prompted my flight were two events:

1. I was imminently completing the final draft of my PhD dissertation, subsequently sent to my supervisors December 22. It is about how attention to fish must be the trigger point guiding restoration work.

My PhD dissertation, "Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism," uses Ghost Nets and Fish Story as the micro and macro case studies to apply an original methodology to identify why, where and how to focus restoration work. 
Ghost Nets
site analysis pencil and pastel on white ash 10"x7"

2. My cat died Monday, December 16. As a person deeply grounded in my relationships with animal Others, this was a small but devastating loss of a companion of twenty years. Cats. Fish. Same story of loss.
Lilith December 15, 2013

Lilith in the Summer Garden August 2013

I left on the bus up the coast Monday December 23, for a 14 hour trek North, anticipating ten-days of a blank mind punctuated by white snow and some ice. My goal was to empty my mind of all content. My only social anticipation was the possible opportunity to sing with the local church choir, where I usually sing every Sunday when I'm home on the island.

The bus was late leaving Boston and late by thirty minutes arriving in Rockland, the mainland town where we catch the ferry to the island. The thirty minute delay meant we missed the last (4:30 PM) ferry of the day, had to take another ferry to a neighbor island and then a skiff back to Vinalhaven in icy rain, before catching a ride and driving another 45 min. home. As I type today, we have come to the end of another icy rain storm here, the end of which was a scant dusting of snow.

That icy traverse wasn't the biggest surprise of my escape. The biggest surprise was conversational. Conversation has always been a big part of my practice, in many forms, so that wasn't the real surprise. It was the serious environmental content of those conversations and that I was having them at all. After all, I was on vacation. On the leg out of Manhattan, I sat next to a young woman from Duke University who is just starting her forestry career and looking forward to working on community resistance in the Amazon. On the leg up from Boston, I sat next to an acquaintance from the island who has a home in the midst of the worst fracking in Pennsylvania. Since I've gotten to the island, i've had two separate serious conversations with fishermen about the impact of C. maenus (European green crabs) on the fisheries industry.

And then, this past Friday, I was invited to contribute work to an exhibition that is a conversation with the past and the future of women in art.

Portfolio of images for Nina Yankowitz' video for "Widening the Frame," an exhibition commemorating the first museum show of women artists in New York City. The 1973 original was, "WOMEN CHOOSE WOMEN," at the New York Cultural Center. These were selections from 7 works in the seventies, all of which dealt with observation and conversation over time. In each case, a narrative description that accompanied the images explained the conceptual structure and intention behind each work. These projects can be seen in greater detail at 
So what is the universe telling me about this vacation? If I parse the word vacation, it implies a vacating. I did physically vacate New York City but apparently, vacating my passionate commitments wasn't what was meant to be. I did expect to be replenished by rest and have been but I am also being replenished by learning how many others are willing to commit their lives to resisting what is happening to the earth at the hands of oligarchical, extractive and ecologically heedless industries- from oil and natural gas to shipping concerns who dump invasive ballast inshore out of laziness, resulting in the impacts of invasive species.

Meanwhile, other artist friends are keeping me posted about the on-going effects of the Fukushima disaster on the earth's oceans:
This video was then contested by my colleague, the artist Erica Feilder with another series of links:

Complexity of Ocean Currents

Wind Map of the US

Animated map of nuclear explosions

Article Addressing 28 fallacies about the Fukushima

Air Currents Around the Globe

But then I did my own research and found an article contradicting those arguments for hope:

Eve Andree Laramee, also an artist, to whom I defer on matters of radioactivity suggested the following report:

Instead of vacating what concerns me, I am being replenished and reinforced, shoring myself up for the next phase of my work. There are important connections between the ideas I fleshed out in the decade of the seventies and what I'm working on now: ideas about how we include others in our awareness and how we perceive the natural world. Going forward, I think I will put some clothing on that flesh, albeit that clothing may be tattered and torn with grief for what has been lost.

This past year gave me lots to think about concerning how the pieces of our planetary life fit together. Work on my PhD dissertation has been an opportunity to reflect in depth on ideas and research on what is affecting life on earth today. The story of fish from Gulf to Gulf, Fish Story, was the story of our relationship to the world's waters. How we depend upon the sea and inland waters where fish live, even as we poison and destroy life there, is about our disassociation from the consequences of short-sightedness. This vacation has reminded me that none of us can turn away much longer, even on vacation. My take away is that the universe is telling me that there's no turning away from knowledge, even on vacation. There's only going forward together, with the fish. And perhaps that's the hopeful part for the New Year: there are more of us now. There is a fragile basis for hope for the fish ... and us.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Year coming, tasks to tie up

‘If we can re-green the earth by 36%, we can survive global warming,’ - 2013 James White, paleoecologist, Fellow and Director of INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder, on the occasion of Fish Story, Memphis, part of Memphis Social, curated by Tom McGlynn

However. Is 36% of the earth available to re-green and how?

“The earth was lost by increments, it can be restored by increments,” - 1997 Wendi Goldsmith,  CEO and founder of the Bioengineering Group with Aviva Rahmani, ecological artist, Affiliate, INSTAAR and researcher at the University of Plymouth, UK, on the occasion of completing bioengineering to restore the Ghost Nets salt marsh.

(Rahmani 2013)

In 1997, after several years of collaborative preparation, Goldsmith daylighted the Ghost Nets site: a "pocket (rocky intertidal) marsh," typical of the upper half of the Gulf of Maine. At some point, one of us said, "the environment was lost by increments. It can be restored by increments." Years later, after I had attributed that quote for years, to Wendi, I thought she said, no, "you said it." Then she corrected me, that she HAD said it.

I think the confusion arose because her quote was synchronous with my developing trigger point theory. The two ideas converge. Wendi had the part about increments of restoration. I have contributed the part of where and how we choose to target and prioritize those increments.

White has calculated how much restoration is required of us. It is also correct that, so far, we don't have enough places to restore to mitigate climate change. However, with as many people as now inhabit the globe, if everyone adds an increment that could be a trigger point, the impossible may become possible. At least, that is my holiday wish for the earth.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fish, Creative Time and Place

Fish are not central to social practice art but perhaps they should be because they are the canaries in the mines of water and food. Without fish, we may not have either soon enuf. It seems fish and artists are being de-corporealized into cans and service silos, the better, perhaps, to consume us to the very last bite.

Every year, Creative Time (CT) hosts a conference on social practice in the arts. It is a "place" in art discourse. It is also a bit of a discursive hothouse, this year without any opportunity for formal back & forth between audience & presenters. So at lunch, yesterday, I took a bit of a walk in Washington Square Park and saw some art with a little less baggage.

The air and the music (Debussy) cleared my mind and I walked away humming.

This year, the CT theme was place-making and gentrification. As last year, there were some controversial aspects to the event. One for many, was the shutting down of a talk by Lucy Lippard to hold to time constraints and another, for me- in contrast- was the long rant that was not cut off by Invincible. More controversial, to me, was the relative absence, except for Lippard's talk, of thoughtful address to the anthropocentric paradigms that seemed to be dominating the discourse. What much of the controversy has been about on Facebook, has been whether artists, like fish are being commodified to the brink of survival and to what extent, Creative Time may be complicit in that process. The reason for that suspicion was that the very valorization of large-scale social practice works, such as a recent ambitious event by Suzanne Lacy, can corporatize the art process while making the suffering and struggles of disadvantaged peoples both high art fashion and that marginalizes and excludes more modest practitioners. Ironically, historically, when money rules, there has always been a "high" art that appeals to the prevailing 1%. In this case, the 1% are those who are the best-educated, gentrified art world. Except this time, instead of casting in bronze, we are casting for the poor.

And how does any of this change essential systems that generate poverty? Not so clear. What I am very sure of, is that when we marginalize the environment in order to place humans at the center of the world, all life suffers, including and especially, poor humans. There was a great deal of discussion about displacing the poor for artists and then making room for the 1% but very little, except for Lucy's talk, about displacing the natural world with built human infrastructure. extrapolating from the displacement of nature and Lucy, we are displacing our water and food sources, which is why I always come back to fish. 

There was no opportunity for Q&A in the CT format therefore these questions could not be asked publically. There were various formats for informal gatherings, however, including, after the aftermath, on Facebook.

In response to the shutting down of Lucy Lippard on Martha Schwendener's page and a format without Q&A I wrote:

I was there and just on the point of shutting Lucy down and formatting: I also found it shocking that she was shut down, esp given audience response. What made it even more distasteful was how the last presenter was allowed to ramble on forever in a long rant with a lot of incoherent rage. Nato Thompson had said in the beginning, that he wanted us all to consider framing our listening in terms of intent, content, context, production, distribution, and documentation (which seemed very corporate) but at the end, there was no wrap up except an invite to socialize at Judson. When I went there, the noise, crowd and drinking was too much for me and I went home. Today I'm trying to decide what I think and finding it difficult. It's informative to read the threads from you, Martha Schwendener and Mira Schor who weren't there. The experience of being there, I'm sure was very diff than watching but the lack of opportunity for audience participation, even on the level allowed last year, felt deadening and made it harder to have a clear take away. There were many good moments, inc Joshua Decter (sorry I didn't say something yesterday). The Palestinian question esp seemed very heavy handled to me and ethically questionable at the beginning and the end. It's often hard for me to distinguish between exhaustion & depression (over my impression that plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme) and yesterday I felt both. But when I think about the most moving presentation, Laura Jo & her collaborators, I now question the whole set up, which put the three people of color on display, as they cried and the audience silently witnessed. I noticed that afterwards, they walked thru the lobby and no one approached them nor did they seem to want to be approached. That was of a piece for me with watching an elderly black woman trying to walk home with her groceries before the opening of Suzanne Lacy's piece last week & being turned away by (an also black policeman under orders and clearly upset by having to follow those orders). Last night, I wondered if I should have thanked Tallant, Hourani & Forte at that point but they seemed very self-protective and it felt wrong. My biggest take away was from my conversation with Mierle Mierle Laderman Ukeles to the effect, as I wrote on my own page, that we were watching a gentrification of social practice, in which yes, Suzanne seems to be quite active and about which, as Mierle said, "it's scary." It has apparently become another BIG industry except most artists going into or accessing social practice will not make any more money than all the artists who are not represented by Gagosian Gallery. Another comparison, ironically, is to the very gentrification artists pioneer with real estate, from which neighborhoods are displaced. It's painful to consider the implications of this kind of commodification of ethics and disadvantaged communities at the hands of art entrepreneurs.

On my own page I wrote:
Fascinating day 1 of 2 with old friends & new @ Creative Time today- some terrific work in Zimbabwe & Caracas, Venez. Will post more later. My only caveat so far is that ecological art is still being treated like, at best, the vegetable garnish on social practice art instead of being recognized for its indispensable interdependence. Made notes that will inform my diss and Kitty is pleased I'm home for the night.
The second day of Creative Time had some amazing highlights and some deep lows. Yesterday the most moving presentation was about the courageous defense of Giza Park in Istanbul to "save a couple trees." Today, besides brilliant presentations by Rebecca Solnit and Lucy Lippard, the Annenberg Prize was given to Laurie Jo Reynolds with prison activists Sally Tallant, Khaled Hourani and John Forte, the last three of whom stood silently for many minutes with the audience standing as well, to bear witness to the numbers of years 2 of them and a son had spent in horrendous conditions.

Sally Tallant, Khaled Hourani and John Forte bearing witness to their own pain and loss
before the standing CT audience.

Some lows: conversation with Mierle Ukeles to the effect that social practice is being gentrified; no Q&A except in informal, segregated social venues and some painful conflation of ahistoricity and deskilling at the end. I wrote a much longer comment on my responses on Martha Schwendener's page (which makes me wonder if I should separate my professional & personal pages) but my take away this AM (Sunday) is that the entire experience felt virtually disembodied because except for Mel Chin's brief comments about green making him go red with anger and presentations, like Rick Lowe's on urban farming, there was little mention of ecological issues. I don't recall the term global warming being used even once for example. Lucy's format-truncated talk was the closest we came to an in depth analysis of the relationship between environmental issues and place-art-making. The term biodiversity was mentioned a couple times but fairly abstractly. There was a lot of friendly networking in the lobby but in the end, that seemed a means towards self-promotion rather than the kind of forum for cutting edge ideas I might have hoped for and left me feeling a bit hungry for depth. The food we were served seemed to have the same affliction: elegant without much substance. I don't mean to sound down because there were many wonderful presenters who can be accessed at their site. However, at a time when the earth as we know it is crying for help, what I heard was some tremendously anthropocentric thinking.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fish Story update

Yesterday, Gene Turner, Jim White and myself assessed what we learned from Fish Story in a "Gulf to Gulf" webcast. I will load that in the next week, along with responses to our questionnaire to our audience.

Meanwhile, I am putting finishing touches on an article about the project. On FB, I wrote:

I took time from my diss revisions to rewrite the conclusion of an article coming out in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (ESAS) on Fish Story: 

"In conclusion, we observed that the tributaries are indeed a critical part of the Mississippi water basin puzzle but so are people. Trigger points for change in the Mississippi watershed will require not only the sustained efforts of ecological restoration scientists working on the Wolf River but far more extensive plans for public education about and engagement in restoration. That engagement must include the regional participation of young people who will inherit the mistakes of their elders, particularly from the inner city areas of Memphis. Fish Story was a modest initiative towards accomplishing the long term goal of devising strategic responses to environmental damage in the Anthropocene era. This project provided a beginning to effect the 36% greening White calculated might be imminently required of all human kind. Our experience was that art may play a significant role in changing necessary public paradigms for thinking and behavior. It was an incentive for further research and experimentation to build on lessons learned."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I've always let my dreams determine my life

I woke, as from a nightmare. I dreamt I ran into another artist in the supermarket, sobbing because her state had repealed gay marriage. I told her that since Jim White & I had been doing our "Gulf to Gulf" webcasts on global warming, I'd sobbed many times over seeing our projected unpredictable, awful consequences of global warming come true in the world and over the missed moments caused by the interactions of complex agents; that my jaw has dropped and continues to drop over how these independent agents can trigger unpredictable change: how climate change causes migrations, causes the rise of hate groups; how it causes poverty, drought and independent crazies responding to heat and despair who become semi-successful pirates and hackers who ruin other people's lives. And then I woke up, thinking and that's why I'm completing my dissertation on "trigger point theory as aesthetic activism."

Later, I added:

I started intentional dreaming as a very young child, when I had nightmares of pursuit and death. Over several years, I trained myself to dream that I confronted the pursuers and fought back successfully. Eventually, I got to the point where I not only survived but rescued others. Later, in my twenties, when I heard of how the Senoi people used their dreams, I went further, to "bring something back for the tribe." I have made an effort to do that ever since. What I do is slightly diff than intentional dreaming because I allow for the mystical aspect.

Now my task, defined by the University of Plymouth, from whom I would receive my PhD, is to translate and parse a practice based on dreams, crossing each T and dotting each i in terms any academic might clearly understand. They detail that task as follows:

"Central to the success of a practice-informed research are the categories of "reflection" and "contextualization." A rigorous analysis of one's own work is a very demanding endeavor, both personally and from an academic point of view. However, subjectivity (one's own art work) can form an excellent basis for questions that have directly arisen from one's own work processes. It is therefore important to look at one's own artistic process as a type of theoretical research.

"Reflection" as in "looking back" also includes a degree of "post-rationalization that should be explicit in one's writing. It is useful to keep a working diary to record artistic research methods and findings as one progresses with the practical work during the Phd. This record should also include the theoretical readings and influences from other artists in one's field and/or related fields.

"Contextualization" of one's own artistic work into a "school," a "trend," a "movement," is a hard one- it is however, absolutely essential in an academic work of PhD-standard. To achieve contextualization, one must be familiar with one's artistic or design community. What is the historical background to the community? Rigorous research is necessary here. "State of the Art" groundbreaking experiments, borrowed methodologies and aesthetic trends must be written about seriously. The reaction of the audience and the critical reception of ones own and of related works in the field must be formalized."

A little bit of reality leavened dreaming.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fish and life

Notes on the first page of the Introduction to my dissertation. Notations in black by my second supervisor,  Dr. Jill Scott. My glosses on her notes, in conversation, in red.
I am on the last months of my dissertation writing for my PhD. It has been an intellectual marathon.

I have had two premises in this work. One is that art can see things about restoring fish habitat in the Anthropocene that scientists cannot. And so, it was worth it to put that in words, to provide credible arguments, data and citations because the life of fish is also our lives.

The second premise was that that research process is art in itself, a performance event, an art life exploration that can redefine our perceptions of ourselves.

Both these premises are about redefining what art does and how it might be seen. The seeing is as important as the definition.

My conflict is over whether I made the right decision four years ago, when I began this process. The argument for not doing it at all, is a familiar one: that art should speak for itself, wordlessly. I am ambivalent about that argument. On the one hand, i would like nothing better than to paint wordlessly, to assemble sculptural assemblages, installations, collages; record sound, write stream of consciousness. But I also have this sense of obligation- co-dependence?

People often simply can't "see" what's under their noses because it doesn't fit their preconceptions over what art is, should be, can be .... and so we explain. But isn't that the role of the critic? I am not taking the role of the critic.

I am taking the role of The Thinker.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How do we negotiate the Anthropocene?

Tomorrow, September 27, 2013 at 6:30pm
21 Ludlow, St.. NYC NY

I am very pleased to share the stage tomorrow night with esteemed colleagues:
Garry Golden, professional Futurist, moderates a panel that includes Aviva Rahmani, Peter Fend, Eve Mosher and Susan Goethel Campbell
The new IPCC group completed its first of three international meetings yesterday. The final report is due for publication on Halloween 2014. It is already being critiqued for soft-pedaling the danger and challenges of climate change. As with the Soviets beginning drilling in the Arctic, despite the Greenpeace resistance, China is continuing to build coal plants & the US is fracking like crazy. It is going to be very hard to turn around this ship. The argument is that soft-pedaling alarms no one, so there is more chance of dialog. That looks like appeasement from here. I am back in NYC from Maine, trying to negotiate a terrain of deadlines to contribute what I can to the broader conversation. It is a bright shiny Fall day in NYC and this is exhausting but optimistic work. For a couple decades, I've taken the approach that as performance artists, endurance events that require artists to sustain difficulty, makes us into avatars of the earth as we know it: trying really really hard to survive with tools that are old.
This encaustic painting over a Google Earth view of the Wolf River for the Fish Story project, is about fish habitat in Memphis, TN. It interprets how periodic flooding from tributaries of the Mississippi River could affect suburban residences of the outskirts of Memphis but open new channels for fish passage. (Rahmani 2013)

Panel Discussion: Changing Environments
Aviva Rahmani will join Peter Fend, Eve Mosher, Susan Goethals Campbell, and Moderator Gary Golden for the Artist and Scientist Panel
Friday, September 27th at 6:30pm.
21 Ludlow Street
New York, NY 10002 (LES)
Hours: Thursday-Sunday,12-6 PM
Subway: F to East Broadway

The CENTRAL BOOKING panel is going to be an awesome group. What I find most intriguing is that the moderator, Garry Golden, is a futurist. I hope that means our discussion will look forward realistically rather than more woe-is-me-ism or pollyannaism. I understand there's still a ton of education to be done. But I also think those of us in the field really need to hear about concrete, transdisciplinary tools at this point.  This is going to be a dry run for me, for the SER presentation. Both will synopsize the science behind Trigger Point Theory for the first time.- Aviva Rahmani

SER2013 World Conference on Ecological Restoration: 
Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future
Aviva Rahmani will present "Trigger Point Theory; 
an idea model for large landscape restoration in the Anthropocene"
Tuesday October 8th 10:30am-12:30pm  
Session 1.02 Restoration Ecology at Large Scales II
Chaired by Dawn R. Magness
Hall of Ideas F
Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center
Madison Wisconsin

"Triggering Change: A call to Action." published in Issue 48 Vol. 24, Spring/Summer 2013 of Public Art Review can be viewed online: 

"Fish Story Memphis; Memphis is the center of the world" will be published  

online for the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.  

Here is more information on the event tomorrow night:

Panel Discussion: Changing Environments

Admission: $5

As part of CENTRAL BOOKING’s ongoing panel series delving into the confluence of art and science, we are pleased to present the accompanying discussion to the exhibition Un/Natural Occurrences. Comprised of members from the arts and sciences communities, the panel will discuss issues regarding the changing state of both the global and local environment. Gary Golden, professional Futurist, moderates a panel that includes Aviva Rahmani, Peter Fend, Eve Mosher and Susan Goethel Campbell in our newly opened OffLINE event space of the gallery.

Un/Natural Occurrences features the work of 25 artists and collaborators. These are artists who are searching for more than the obvious in either bringing to light past and current indiscretions, warning against a catastrophic future if unheeded, working with the scientific community on possible solutions and sometimes just telling it like it is. We view this exhibition as a bookend to Natural Histories, which launched CENTRAL BOOKING’s initial space in 2009.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pocketbooks and Fish

Yesterday, my assistant, Daisy Morton found this slightly battered black and white print from 1969:

The score and another shot of this work are on my website.
On my FB page I wrote, "In 1969, I was the director & founder of the American Ritual Theatre in So. Calif. and this was a shot by Fred Lonidier of my performance work, "The Pocketpiece Piece," with Claudia Bader, Barbara Zakarian and myself in Claus Von Wendel's studio, Del Mar, CA. Unearthed by assiduous archival excavation thanks to Daisy Morton." 

That discovery wasn't the whole story.

  • After studying this image, I realized this performance version (one of many in Universities & colleges thruout Calif I performed then) was performed in the UCSD Art Gallery that same year. It was in that same period, that Pauline Oliveros & other faculty from the Music & Art Dept.'s asked me to start a Dance Dept there and John Stuart, the then provost, secretly threatened me with arrest if I was ever on campus again, because of my anti-war and pro-feminist speeches at rallies. I also created "Synapse Reality" and "Meat Piece" at this time. When Stuart threatened me, Newton Harrison urged me to go Angela Davis's route publicizing what happened and I did try by going to Stanley Grinstein in LA but I couldn't rally the support or my own conviction (I was 24 and somewhat naive). It was shortly afterwards that I met Allan Kaprow and started at Cal Arts, following another path in the woods.
  • I may have taken a different path forward after Stuart's threat, but this image and that performance bear on Fish Story and my current PhD writing because both are about layering unexpected data to discover new knowledge. In the case of the fish, what we need to pat attention to in our layering is not just the loss of the taxa, but all the small decisions globally and personally that result in this loss. What I layered in "The Pocketbook Piece," was the data on rape, divorce and trivia associated with a lipstick, an official paper in the unedited contents of a woman's secret recesses of her pocketbook. What I sought to layer in Fish Story, was the bioregional and international context and relationship to water of built infrastructure, radioactivity and fracking in the world. What I am attempting to layer in my dissertation, are all the ways we can address those systemic horrors.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stockholm syndrome- dodging the connections between sexism, ageism and speciesism

The 90 previous posts on this blog were about fish in Memphis, TN.   As my time has been consumed with completing my PhD dissertation recently, I'm focused on the larger systemic problems that contextualize our relationships to other taxa and species, like fish.

Apparently, the world just dodged a bullet over Syria. The most interesting part of the last week about that dodge was that perhaps the world doesn't want "strong men" anymore. We all just want peace. And yet, most of us haven't quite let go of our fantasies that we can have it all- or be connected to someone who does. That is what I want to write about in tis post. Not the having but the fate of the have nots and the glimmer of hope I have tonight that all is not lost.

Other people have a human partner. I have my dissertation and my cat.

The following are some notes that won't go into my dissertation on the relationships between Stockholm Syndrome, sexism, ageism and speciesism. Stockholm Syndrome, refers to the empathy evoked for bank robbers in 1973 when they captured employees.

As the dominant species, it's interesting to consider all the ways, as a culture, we have come to identify with the captors of this culture, whom are more powerful than the dying cultures and species that are collateral damage of the Anthropocene.

I would say the "bank robbers" these days are the large corporatized banks bank rolling extractive industries at the expense of Indigenous Peoples, people of color, women and other animals, many of whom are just fodder for a greedy few humans. That may be critiqued as classist, even, socialist. I don't intend it that way. The robbers I have in mind have simply taken greed and selfishness to an extreme. I accept that a measure of dominance and hierarchy is natural to most human species. Just not to the extent we see it operating today.

Yesterday, I wrote on FB in response to a recent article on Feminism and advancing the careers of young Western academic women:

"Ageism is a very serious problem for men and women and terrible for the economy because so much skill & wisdom is tied up with older people. This article is excellent for women up to the age of 35. It ignores the darkest side of the feminist mystique, which is how both men and women deal with ageism in relation to women. The competition not only with sexist standards from men but the often poisonous competition from other women who discount anyone, for example from the baby boomer generation is devastating. This is too complex a problem to address in a comment but it is not only totally ignored in this article but implicitly, women over child-bearing age have been utterly erased by the content because they are irrelevant and inimical to it. However, I promise you, every woman struggling today with the implications of being young, and attractive while ignoring how sexism is tied up with ageism will struggle twice as much tomorrow with the professional implications of being old and unattractive. Thank goodness for Diana Nyad."

The article I referenced, from the Chronicle for Higher Education, was:

This morning in the ecodialog, artist- educator Beverly Naidus posted links to two recent articles on racism:

My response was:

"Thank you for bringing these articles to our attention. I almost wrote a post yesterday on racism, sexism, ageism and the environment that might have over-lapped some of these points. It was on my mind because of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which I linked on my FB page. I've also been writing about racism in my dissertation and refer to some of the same information about Yellowstone referenced in the Sun article. It's difficult for me to take time to write at length here about this now because of my disseration but I do think it's a critical issue.

In Memphis, for Fish Story, I worked very hard to engage the inner city and found it very challenging. Memphis is interesting about racism because the demographic is so blatantly physicalized. However, I think it is very hard for most people to see the connections, no matter how blatant, between environmental ethics and environmental damage because the connection between social data & hard science is often subtle and complex. These articles do a good job of making those connections. 

I've tried to reference these points in my diss. writing, without making it the main focus, only because there are so many related ideas I reference. One of the points I do try to make clearly, however, is over assumed patterns of dominance that are very intractable. As I referenced on my FB page, the painful dynamics of competition (generally) are rarely honestly confronted. I think that plays powerfully into a discourse on racism/ sexism/ ageism. I believe there is a privileging in our society of a very narrow, narcissistic view of the acceptable messenger for critical ideas: white, thin, youngish, preferably male or male identified. I reference that as Stockholm Syndrome."

It is almost 4:AM now in Maine, where I'm writing the end of my final draft for my dissertation. Earlier,  I was corresponding with one of my diss advisors, about the context for my thinking. I wrote about my thinking:

" (I argue that) ... the Anthropocene is a closed system model in which "nature" doesn't stand a chance. ... If it's true that the Anthropocene is a closed system, we need to erase one set of information and do the work of introducing another set of information to change the entropic nature of the system we've created."

The erasure I'd like to see, is the notion that humans, and top dog humans at that, are entitled to the center of the world. Only because in the end, that doesn't even work for the top dogs. With the suggestion that the world may not have to go to WW III to control Assad, that none of us can stomach one more strong man, there is hope for all the other dysfunctions in life.

And with that, I'll return to my diss writing and then to sleep. I am now writing my conclusion, the discussion of what makes a complex adaptive model to effect trigger point theory as aesthetic activism in the Anthropocene.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another's Fish Story

Alan Sekula's ""Fish Story" told the industrial, marine side of how humans treat the sea. R.I.P.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Another painfully sad Fish Story

Earlier today, I was  studying a promising report from Shelby Farms Park Conservancy on restoring the bottom lands forests of the Wolf River in Tennessee. Then I saw the following discouraging report, on the heels of another report, of a Polar Bear who had died of starvation because the melting ice flows are now too far away from their food sources. I hope there were at least some Alaskan bears around to feast on this die-off:

Posted: 05 Aug 2013 08:22 AM PDT
Unusually hot, dry weather in Alaska is wreaking havoc on fisheries, as thousands of fish perish in overheated waters. Last month, 1,100 king salmon died on their way up to the Crystal Lake hatchery due to water temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and lack of oxygen. That’s the bulk of the 1,800 adult salmon that were expected to return to the hatchery this season.
Earlier in the summer, another hatchery lost hundreds of grayling and rainbow trout in a Fairbanks lake where water temperatures reached 76 degrees. Alaska’s heat wave broke records last week, with 14 days straight above 70 degrees in Anchorage and 31 days of 80 degrees in Fairbanks.
Officials cited a number of factors affecting the fish, but observed that the die-off coincided with the hottest weather of the season. While die-offs are not uncommon, Doug Fleming, a sportfish biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, suggested the magnitude of the die-off was surprising.
“And so, getting through till Wednesday which appeared to be the hottest day, then on Thursday I was conducting an aerial survey just to get a grip on how many fish may have been killed by the warm water, not expecting to see a large die-off but some, and I was shocked to see the numbers of fish that we lost,” he told the Associated Press.
Besides the sheer heat, lack of rainfall is also contributing to the die-off. Many streams are too low to accommodate the fish waiting at the mouths, which essentially suffocate as more fish get backed up. The enormous salmon die-off in July was partly because large numbers of fish were trapped at the shallow Blind Slough rapids.
Alaska’s commercial fisheries are among the largest in the world. Salmon is the state’s largest export product after oil and natural gas.
While Alaska’s heat wave is expected to subside soon, the state has warmed up twice as fast as the rest of the nation in the past 50 years, and climate change is worsening extreme weather. Wildfires raged through subarctic forests as late as Friday, consuming more than a million acres and prompting emergency evacuations across the state. Thawing permafrost is also sinking villages, threatening fish stocks and water supplies that the communities rely on to survive.
The post Extreme Heat Is Killing Off Thousands Of Fish In Alaska appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One word at a time

Chapter 3 of 5, on urgency, for my PhD dissertation is done. I am working on Chapter 4, on mapping. My journey of a 1000 miles, one word at a time, to confirm whether trigger point theory can work progresses. I will write about Fish Story and Ghost Nets.

All Spring I prepared for Fish Story, driving myself physically. It was as much of a performance as the research events that culminated with the canoe trip, installation and webcast in Memphis in May.

Now completing my dissertation is the another demanding performative challenge, working 12-14 hours a day on difficult thinking and writing. 

These events are flip sides of the same problem: addressing climate change by pushing myself past my limits, past Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, to research and implement models for solutions. The Spring preparation and culmination for Fish Story was mostly about physical exertion and endurance. Now, it is another kind of endurance these long hours using my mind and being at the computer.

Both are about doing what the times may require: extraordinary efforts to answer the Anthropocene. I find this very difficult but believe it is very necessary. There will be a point when I will come back to Fish Story Memphis and "write" the next chapter. Now, I only have to complete my fourth chapter revisions, that will describe how maps can be a performative score to find our way forward to the trigger points we may need to activate.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Walking with Fish in Memphis

"Many practitioners of ecological art use walking as a strategy to either engage audiences or to research a site. It is an attractive methodology because it is simple, economical and heuristically inclusive. Richard Long, a British walking artist, whose practice began in 1967 with an iconic work, “A line made by walking,” in which he traced and retraced his steps until he had worn a line in the grass field, close to London, is often cited by other artists as an inspiration to their practice, that often includes references to sound. Long has referenced the importance of listening and hearing during his walks. On his website, part of his statement refers to, “The music of stones.” - excerpt from the third chapter of my dissertation 2013

When I was 11, I walked for hours in the woods near my home, not far from the Hudson River, every afternoon, after school, with my dog, in all seasons. I was trying to learn to walk soundlessly on dead leaves, as I imagined Hiawatha might. Sound has a taste, a smell, a tactile quality on the skin. Each season the leaves had a different sound when I failed to be soundless. Crackly in the Fall, soft in winter, tiny in Spring, warm in Summer.

When I was 18, every morning en route to Parsons School of Design, in four inch heels, I walked from Grand Central Station to my first class, practicing what I learned in Joseph Pilates Studio, moving thru the crowds swiftly, smoothly but balanced, aware of each detail of my environment and synchronizing every part of my body without any extraneous movement, breathing deeply and rhythmically. I didn't know that was a performance.

When I was twenty-two, directing my own street theatre group, the American Ritual Theatre, I watched my dancers move slowly, deliberately through Eucalyptus trees on a far ridge East of San Diego that was still undeveloped country, passing between the pale trunks like fluid vertical ghosts between pylons. That was a performance without an audience. Another time, dressed all in silver and wearing silver body paint, we walked slowly thru the streets of the city of San Diego.

From 1990-2000, I walked the paths of the Trigger Point Garden in the Ghost Nets restoration, learning the sounds of each microhabitat as it gathered entropy and adapted to itself.

When I walked the same paths yesterday morning, with my sister, we remembered what the site looked like when I began: a plant here and there on barren slopes while we passed beneath boughs of spruce and dogwood and heard the distant sound of the tide. In the sound of the tide, I imagined fish swimming.

In my mind, as my pages dissertation add up, I walk the Wolf River, from the Ghost River to the Mississippi river, hearing the unfamiliar sounds I recall from May in Memphis and marking in my mind, "here," "here," and "here." Here, would be trigger points to intervene and reconnect the broken pieces of habitat. There, I would hear fish swimming upstream.