Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fish Story progress report

Eight days before I leave for Memphis. I have 30 pages in a dedicated notebook, each committed to a different aspect of the work there, from the participant list at Crosstown Arts Tuesday May 7 to a list of what needs to be packed.

I spent most of today tracing the path of the Wolf River. It was in preparation for painting on a 12 yard x 9'  roll of black paper that should arrive tomorrow. I also worked on drawing the metallic shapes of the fish I'll be cutting out and attaching to the paper. It's wondrous to study all the subtle differences between species, to read about their natural history and infer the intelligence in the dead eyes of the trophies held up by fishermen.

Detail of mock up sketch for installation at the Memphis College of Art opening May 10, 2013
I'm stepping up my training for the canoe trek, having strengthened my foot that went out a few weeks ago. I can take more weights with my reps and seem to have more stamina. But I'm considering buying a cheap waterproof camera for the trip in case I capsize.

My singing was coming along until about a week ago, when I did a recording of the song I'll sing at Crosstown.  I've slacked off a bit since then and need to step up my practice time.

The webcast is coming together with the right participants for May 11 and my thinking is beginning to self-organize. I'm thinking about it now as less of a summit than a conversation with whomever is there about observations. I imagine much will change, however between now and then.

Last weekend, I designed some T-shirts for one of the Rockethub gifts, a limited edition of $75. each in either black or white and sold the first one to the artist Deborah Kotaka. I'm finding it difficult to keep priming the pump to raise money while creating the work but this was fun to do.

My assistant, Daisy Morton has been following up our contacts in Memphis, to be sure I let everyone know what we're up to and we all have a chance to connect and share our thinking about the region. I'm looking forward to the entire experience.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fish Story numbers on the eve of Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22. We have a ways to go to make Earth Day an event that reflects a realistic response to the anthropocene. There's hope but it will be a challenge for us all.

This past week, I attended an event at the Temple of Understanding at the United Nations, on the crisis- emergency of global sustainability. My take away, was that the scale and imminence of our environmental crisis is even more hazardous than I'd previously thought: that without emergency intervention over the next few years, by 2050, most of the human population (up to 8.5 billion people) would likely perish from inter-related exigencies.

Those figures are based on 2009 and 2011 calculations respectively from Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, 2009 and Professor Joachim Schellnhuber, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Two of the presenters Thursday, were Ian Dunlop and Tapio Kanninen, both members of the Club of Rome. Both are optimistic about the human prognosis- if we act in emergency mode.

Slide from Ian Dunlop's presentation at the UN Temple of Understanding.

I discussed with them how ecological art, as Fish Story could contribute to the solution. My thinking behind Fish Story has been that if people are stuck on these massive problems, to just focus on fish. People care about fish on their dinner plate and at the end of a hook. Fish bring us to water quality which depends on habitat and that comes to restoration. Fish Story is a restoration plan based on working backwards from global warming to the individual. That is where the promise of empowerment lies: in individuals, working as part of larger communities, who can re-green our planet.

April 8, 2013 I had asked our Fish Story team member James White the following question:

if we had a time frame for when we might totally turn over to alternatives and the carbon "cost" of that time lag, how much might that "cost" be "off set"  by how much potential restoration to mitigate the impacts until we're totally off fossil fuels? For example, if the total turn over is 2030, how many millions of acres of increased green (forests, wetlands, prairies, etc- even increased tundra as the ice melts, despite the loss of albido?) would be required to offset the carbon impact of using that much fossil fuel (I know it would probably be astronomical but I'm curious whether there could be even a ball park assessment.)?

These were his numbers:

On Apr 8, 2013, at 12:13 PM, James White wrote:

There are no simple answers to this, but here's the best I can do:

We emit globally about 10 BMT/yr of  carbon (billion metric tons per year) in FF burning and deforestation. In 20 years, that would mean about 200 BMTs.

There are about 550 BMT of carbon in all plants above ground, and 1,500 BMT below ground (in soil carbon), so you need to add about 2% to the living global biosphere every year to offset the above. In 20 years that would mean you need to add 36% to the living biosphere to offset FF's and deforestation, or you'd need 1/3rd more biosphere in 2030 to do the offset. Its less if you can figure out a way to speed up the transfer of carbon form the living bits to the soil carbon pool.

The obvious problem is where do you find 1/3rd more land, nutrients, water, etc. to make this work? Neither easy nor clear…

Finding that 1/3 is what Fish Story will start doing, in Memphis, in just two weeks.

Dunlop is the former senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell, past Chair of the Australian Coal Association and Australian Greenhouse Office Experts group on Emissions Trading 1998-2000, current chair of the Australian National wildlife Collection Foundation and Deputy Convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil, advising on governance and sustainability.

Kanninen is a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Project on Sustainable Global Governance at the Ralphe Bunche Institute for International Studies at the graduate Center of the City University of New York and past Chief of the Policy Planning Unit of the UN Department of Political Affairs (1998- 2005) and Head of the Secretariat of Kofi Annan's five Summits with regional Organizations. He recently authored the Crisis of Global Sustainability

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Twenty-one days to Memphis- how are the Magnolia blossoms doing?

The resilience of Magnolia blossoms has been undeterred by the vagaries of climate change in New York City.
I'm doing Fish Story in Memphis because I believe we can identify at least one point in that location, whose restoration can affect the entire bioregion. Fish are the key to those locations. Where they thrive, there is hope for the region. Where they falter, all the challenges of the anthropocene loom. Perhaps, where the Wolf River once met the Mississippi River we will find one of those critical points. Memphis is in an important bioregion. It includes the third largest watershed in the world, the largest in North America. The mississippi is the sixth largest river in the world. Both, and the fish that live there, are  endangered by global warming, factory farm pollution, dredging, tributary diversions and the destruction of edging habitat long waterways.

The premise of trigger point theory (my dissertation topic), is that it is possible to identify small points of blockage, like acupuncture points on a human body, where activating that blockage can yield to energetic flow. My goal in Memphis next month is to identify those points.

There are twenty one days till Fish Story begins in Memphis. A Rockethub crowd funding campaign was launched last week to support this work. I am working on a press release. I am exhausted, excited, worried and optimistic. I am exhausted by the preparations, excited about the potential, worried about everything that could go wrong and optimistic about what lies ahead: the people, the opportunities, the learning.

The Fish Story team is remarkable, particularly the two scientists I work with. Dr. James White, paleoecologist and Dr. Eugene Turner, a wetlands biologist.

White was among the first scientists sounding alarms on global warming and writing on the effects of vegetation to remediate climate change. Turner is a Gulf of Mexico dead zone expert who has been working on the effects of the BP spill. 

Fish Story is an investigative experiment couched in an endurance performance.
May 4, Dr. Turner and I will canoe the pristine Ghost River, headlands of the Wolf River, a former tributary of the Mississippi River, with the Wolf River Conservancy. We will be photographing fish habitat along the way.

May 7, we will gather at Crosstown Arts (see April 11 Post) with high school students. Our goal will be to create some maps of relationships between what is known and what is felt about connections between the waterways that fish depend upon. I will explain the ideas.  We will play the Anthropocene Game (see January 23 Post). I ask people to sit, relax, close their eyes and let me sing to them, acapela in French, Faure's "Au Bord de L'Eau." Then we will make maps of what we know about fish in Memphis.

May 7-10, I will install work from those experiences at the Memphis College of Art.

May 11, we will project a webcast in the installation room at the College, to compare different parts of the country and possibly the world and the issues they are facing about climate change, animal habitat, particularly for fish and the implications for humans.

A month ago, I began training for these events. I have continued to move ahead with my dissertation writing, clarifying the ideas I will bring to the table there. I have stepped up my singing lessons and my voice is in better shape. Today I recorded the Faure song for the event at Crosstown Arts, even tho I plan to sing live. I have been going to the gym to build my strength and stamina. Several times I've collapsed from the effort and half way thru, hurt my foot by inflaming osetoarthritis. I just can't whip myself into shape the way I might have even twenty years ago. I soldier on and get stronger. I have always considered my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS see January 12 and March 1 Posts) to be a useful metaphor for the issues the planet faces under the duress of the Anthropocene. That is, if we can't continue to function as a healthy systems so we must discover how an unhealthy system builds resilience despite continued stressors, and thrive.

A recent article on the resilience of collapsing systems, indicated that the rate of recovery for fragile systems can be enhanced by proximity to healthier systems. In other words, if one system fails, be sure to reinforce a neighbor. So in Memphis, we will start with the healthiest section, the Ghost River. In New York City, the days when I can't rain or even sing, I think. When my reserves build back up, I venture out, nourish myself with the exquisite spring unfurling of magnolia blossoms and resume the training that will prepare me for the lessons Memphis has to teach us.

Senselessly, in the face of so much to be healed, came news of the bombings in Boston at the marathon finish line.
But no matter what, the promise of spring is that hope cannot be denied.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fish Story Talk and Artmaking Workshop in Memphis, TN

Organizer - Aviva Rahmani, ecological artist, as a part of Memphis Social at Crosstown Arts
Address: 427 N Watkins St, Memphis, TN 38138
Phone:(901) 507-8030
Transit: Ncleveland@Autumn 
Monday, May 6, 6 - 7:30 pm  
Where do the lives of fish and people meet in Memphis? An evening of talk and artmaking will map the answers! Middle and high school students and community members welcome. The results will become part of a public exhibition at the Memphis College of Art. Please reserve your place. Refreshments will be served.
 Suggested donation to cover materials and refreshments: $30.
registration details-
more info-
Memphis Social calendar of events: 

Memphis has several special environmental and economic challenges. Some of Memphis' specialness is because of it's location along the Mississippi River, downstream of agriculture and upstream of the Gulf of Mexico. Could bringing together a small group of young people and adults, to share and map their experiences of the natural world, bring about some of the environmental changes Memphis might need?  

Some opportunities for change are in the health of local fish. Fish need clean, cool water. Healthy habitat for fish means a healthy environment for people. Together, we might find a way to make things better for fish, water and ourselves. The evening will include a brief talk, refreshments, The Anthropocene Game, a game to help us think differently about challenges for Memphis, making drawings about that need for change, a short period of meditation and music and a wrap up discussion. 

The result will be a map of our group insights, which will be shown publically at the Memphis College of Art, opening May 11, as part of Memphis Social. This may be the start of a longer project in 2014, which would include canoeing the Wolf River with a group of students.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fish Story live campaign of Rockethub!

Fish Story is now a tax deductible campaign on Rockethub and the first funding is coming in!!

This culminates years of thinking and planning on the Gulf to Gulf webcasts to get us to the point where we can invite the public into a process of doing something about climate change. Now, as the donations pile up to take the ideas into the next phase of concrete reality, it all feels magical and full of the air of promise.

Change can start now and will gather momentum in Memphis next month. Dear Readers, please tell your friends and colleagues about this project. You can make an immense difference. Speaking for my team, I am very, very humbly and profoundly grateful.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Counting down to Fish Story

In a matter of minutes, I expect to get a video trailer from Kathleen Sweeney. It will be the heart of our Fish Story crowd funding re-launch campaign tomorrow on Rockethub. Meanwhile, I want to put in a plug for my colleagues' Yvonne Senouf & Corinne Weber's Project.Nero launch. I am hoping they may also guest appear May 11 in the webcast event that will close Fish Story, Memphis 2013. I find it immensely inspiring, exciting and hopeful that so many artists are working on river issues now because I think they may be a key to resilience in these times of climate change.

In 27 days, I will be back in Memphis, ready to begin the series of events that will comprise Fish Story. May 4, Dr. Eugene Turner and I will canoe the Wolf River to the Ghost River wetlands, headlands to the Wolf, documenting fish habitat. We will be joining a group from the Wolf River Conservancy.  

A little earlier today, I sent Emily Halpern, at Crosstown Arts Gallery, a description of what we will accomplish May 6 in the gallery, with young people. I will post that here ASAP. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow, my work will be in the AC Institute One of a Kind IV show, curated by Heide Hatry. The Oil & Water artists book I am exhibiting plays on a single image, taken in 2008, before the BP spill but after Katrina. It was the impact of thinking about and seeing New Orleans after these events, that began the journey that will take me to Memphis next month.

Page 3 of 12 pages of Oil & Water unique artists book, encaustic on digitized print on Hosho paper  in plexiglass box. Aviva Rahmani 2013