Artists have often been called the canaries in the mine of things to come. Fish, are the canaries in the sea of what we've done to the planet. So where are the systemic solutions coming from these days and how do I plan to conflate canaries and fish? How do you actually implement love?
I think for many generations, solutions have come from science and art and that is what the Fish Story team is also trying to consolidate for May. Monday night I met with James Bradley, who is developing what will become our collection point website. Tuesday morning, I met in a Gulf to Gulf webcast session with Gene Turner and Jim White to talk about how Memphis may be Maxwells' Demon (the place where physics predicts that unexpected events might turn systems around) in the kinds of crisises we face now. and I do think it's about love.
Today in New York City, I am attending the College Art Association annual conference http://conference.collegeart.org/2013/, with thousands of shades of gray canaries in the international art world in the same square footage of urban space. And what do they think about the shape of things to come and our present crisises?
Well, like the rest of the world, they are divided but many of us are talking about it and doing so across platforms. That's a kind of love.
Don Krug, who was not at the conference but teaches at the University of British Columbia, recently posed the question to the ecodialog list serve (a collective of about 100 international ecological art practitioners & affiliates), 'what does it mean to think about sustainability, to ask what "thinking" means?' That is a question his University is asking: "how do you teach sustainable thinking?" So he asked, what does thinking mean? His post followed a post I had asked yesterday about strategies for collaboration. I believe collaboration is at the heart of any solution for the future we will find. Several people answered in detail, including artists David Haley, Alyce Santoro, Eve Laramee and Shai Zakai. I think artists who are thinking strategically about collaboration are the forerunners of what the whole world needs to do: to think creatively about how we (and fish) might all survive. This is how I followed that thread up and tied it together in social networking (FB) with events at the CAA:
I think the question Don posed about sustainable thinking and the Q&A about collab I posted yesterday in the ecoart list serve are of a piece. I think those of us grappling with strategic answers are fulfilling the cutting edge task artists (and scientists) have often fulfilled: to solve the big problems with new thinking.
Below, I've posted the text of my description of CAA events yesterday which relate to these questions. For those of you unaware, the CAA is the largest professional organization for the arts in the world. It meets annually, bi-or tri-annually in NYC:
- "Several people were upset with Robert Storr's talk at the CAA convocation tonight, a rant about denial in the art world. I found it bracing. Martha Rosler took a pic of the audience when she accepted her award. The session on earning a living was good. The one on Darwin was not bad. I'm really too obsessed with my dissertation, however to be appreciative of much else. Rob spoke to the fact that we're in a post-capitalist society that can no longer support it's population, particularly of artists in the ways in which artists, esp of the baby boomer generation, have been supported. Also that people being educated as artists today are being prepared for a world that has vanished. Later, Ellen Levy & I went out for a bite and discussed the talk and its relevance to the PhD programs we're involved with. Storr railed against the unsubstantiated hyper-abstracted "opinions" & jargon people become attached to (ie., post-capitalism) without doing the work of knowing history and meanings. I think he's on to something there and the dissertation process requires people to learn to back up their babbling (and practice).
'The criticism of Storr's talk was that it was a rant against the Octoberists and nothing new- that he had to provide a solution if he did a critique. I'm not sure about that. Hal Foster, one of the awardees, deliberately walked out when he began speaking, apparently because they've had a running feud for decades. It's clear to me that few of the sessions this year address really fundamental issues. The session on earning a living was packed, inconclusive and didn't address the realities Rob tried to hit head on. I didn't go on to the reception @ the Guggenheim, but perhaps it was discussed in more depth there. Certainly, as I wrote, the issues reference what Ellen & I talked about later: whatever is happening in the art world reflects enormous global (human) self-inflicted wounds with many consequences and responsibilities none of us, NONE OF US (I think) are prepared for."
But this is not the end of the story. There are several more days to the conference and many more conversations will take place. Conversations on social media will continue. What is of interest to me, is how we can talk about, exchange ideas about what is at stake and how we will solve these issues none of us (I think) are prepared to solve. That is also the goal of Fish Story, for the third largest watershed in the world.
There is a long ways to go still from here to May, when Fish Story will launch: logistics to nail, funds to raise, nodes of connection to activate, thinking to clarify and for me, a dissertation to write. It used to be that folks would say about options, that there were plenty of fish in the sea. No more. Not in the sea and not in our rivers. I wonder if there may, however, be plenty of ways we might work together to (lovingly) solve the problems we've created?