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.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Paying attention

“What happens when you pay attention to anything, especially routine behavior, is that it changes. Attention alters what is attended.” (Kaprow 1990)

I am at a stage in writing my third dissertation chapter, where I must honestly, openly and thoughtfully consider each of the other artists who have been personally consequential in my life. Yesterday, Newton Harrison and I had a long talk. Today, I am rereading Allan Kaprow's essays. Meticulousness feels like a psychological flaying alive, being on an intellectual wrack and being turned inside out. All this for just a few paragraphs of text.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On the performance of being cocooned on my bed for three months under the tray that supports my computer for 12 hrs at a stretch 7 days a week to complete my dissertation

My dissertation is a mediation event about relationships with the natural world. It is about a theoretical approach to environmental degradation and it is being written on a beautiful island in Maine from the Ghost Nets site.

Dawn July 6, 2013

The performance artist Marina Abramovic who sat across from strangers all day in 2010 has nothing on me. She sat. She just sat during museum hours @ MoMA. She had an audience, company across the table and lines of admirers. I am not sitting. I am doing my writing lying down. I have my cat, facebook, email, the phone and the TV with reruns of Law & Order & NCIS. When my cat's not by my side, she patrols the garden.

I am lying down on my bed to avert the low blood pressure that comes with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This is an endurance event. 6 weeks into this performance, my neck is a wreck. My hair is falling out. I have chronic, blinding eye strain and my hands, arms and shoulders are practically in spasm most of the day from the constant typing. I am mostly serene and stubborn about getting thru this.

Work station

I am on the 16th page of 50 of my third chapter of 5.

I am doing this to seriously ask if art can change the environmental world of the Anthropocene.

My routine is punctuated by meals and brief walks in my garden.

Each day when I walk in the garden, I watch the subtle changes as flowers bloom and then fade, shifting the palette, textures and trajectory of the eye.

I make an effort to interact with the world beyond my research strewn bed on the average of 2 hours a day. That means I get in my car and join friends to do something, like sing Sunday mornings in the local church with the choir. Yesterday, I accidentally killed my car battery, so today, I did not sing.

But in the early morning when I went downstairs, I startled a beautiful Doe having brekkers on my pansies.

The Doe is the beige smear in the middle as she ran away, but then pauaed to look back at me.

When I walked down to the garden, nothing seemed much the worse for wear.

Whatever pansies she'd eaten looked like they were only dead headed.

Walking back to my house, I stopped in my vegetable garden and I gathered some berries for my own breakfast and then went back to my cocoon.

Each day, I encounter a new group of ideas, the personalities behind them and the work that emerged. My task is to see past my opinions, to humbly & carefully examine the premises, context and results and connect links between the arguments I'm making, the research I've done and what remains to be presented. 

Then I consider how this relates to Ghost Nets and Fish Story. It makes my head hurt and my brow furrow. That is a performance.

I fully expect to spread my wings and fly like a butterfly when I'm done,