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.