Friday, October 31, 2014

A Collapse of Time Part II

The hope

Sunday October 26, the second day of the Techno-Utopianism & Fate of the Earth conference was more hopeful, despite the dire news of the first day. I had come away on fire over how critical the American election will be next week. Scroll down to read more.

Vandana Shiva
Coming into the conference on the second day, my greatest worry was the steady drip drip of news about the global proliferation of failed states, under the confluent pressure of over-population, dwindling resources to support life on earth as we know it, such as clean water, and the need for rapid adaptation to radical biogeographic change. As a citizen, I have no faith that Republicans have the courage, wisdom or intellectual integrity to cope wth any of those pressures. As a teacher, what nagged at me, were a series of conversations with my students this past Fall, about how daunting life is now and how even more daunting, the world may be that they will confront on graduation. They will live deeper into the twentieth century than I will, well into the brave new world of the Anthropocene we have created for them. I worry for them all. A week after the second day of the conference, I’m not sure whether the worries that had carried over from the day before, were answered.

As an artist, my questions are all about form. What is the best form now to answer the present? Meanwhile, i continued to listen and consider what I heard.

What I heard Sunday, was Vandana Shiva speaking to how indigenous peoples in India had resisted the unconscionable behavior of American corporations. She commented that globalization can only deal with reductionism, which in this case, is reduction to the most simplistic cash profits of shareholders.

Helena Norberg- Hodge, who spoke on food safety, justified extensive travel to spread the word. I am not sure I agree.
Severine von Tscharner-Fleming is an amazing young woman who is organizing organic farmers, even finding ways to work with monoculture and factory farmers to allow, for example, sheep to graze between vineyard rows.
Incidentally, the next day, in a conversation with Ray Weill, I learned, to my delight, that some of those same megafamers are going much lighter on petroleum fertilizers now because they’ve been convinced that organic is less costly in the long run.
Winona LaDuke gave an amazingly moving presentation, that began with the showing of “Honor the Earth,” a 200 mile horseback ride of Indigenous leaders opposing the tar sands pipelines and confronting the police.
Victor Menotti detailed how the Koch Bros $100 billion derives from making sacrifice zones of indigenous lands.
Mzwanele Maekiso, a modest man from South Afria speaking on fracking, gently pointed out that our biggest problem is in-fighting egos over, “my organization/idea is better than yours competitions,” which I also can testify is corrosive to any fragile resistance we might muster.

As I continued to think thru the day about the obstacles we face, I wondered whether the competitive defeatism Maekiso described is even more poisonous than the Koch Bros $100 billion spent on re-electing people whose primary responsibility is to proliferating fossil fuels and nuclear war. If we are competing with each other, under mining each other’s hard work, the Koch Bros can just sit back and laugh while we do their work for free. Sadly, I see too much competition in the art world.

A detail from Hans Haacke's show. Saturday night, I rushed from the conference to his opening and then back to hear more grim news. As gripping as I find this work, and I do, I'm not sure how it contains these painful issues and find it confusing to know when to back off from being didactic. It seems to be a matter of trust.
Dave King gave a fascinating historical talk on the Luddites, explaining how they were never against technology, but rather how companies were using technology to shaft workers rights.

A recurrent theme was how we are not only addicted to fossil fuels (the only smart thing George Bush ever noted), but that the resulting system are grossly inefficient if you factor all the costs, water, etc, etc, for example to produce a pound of beef.
Some one who spoke at the conference described addiction as “you do bad stuff and hang out with dealers.” Amen.

Forgive me if the rest of this summary will be brief, but a series of indigenous rights people described how they are fighting these corporations and their multi-national power with legality. A recurrent theme was that an unjust law must not be obeyed or defended. If people had not acted on that premise, we would still have slavery, women would have no rights at all and so on.

Of course, implicitly there is the fact that we have a series of male Supreme Court justices in this country whom are doing exactly that, defending and demanding obedience to unjust laws such as Citizens United.

As an aside, a point I have made elsewhere at another time, the reason I think we have an apathetic electorate in this country, is that they are suffering from the oligarchic experience of domestic violence. Like any abused and beaten down wife, they have given up and given in to learned helplessness.
There were several references to the Buffalo Treaty which united 11 tribes to affirm their culture and its relationship to environmental restoration.

So will all that be enuf?
We shall see.
Much more work ahead.

As an ecological artist, the trick I hear many colleagues struggling to master, is how far to push relationships between activism and social practice that addresses these issues? Speaking for myself, my own task seems to be to clarify the frame of what I have to contribute, much of which right now, as I complete the last phases of my PhD dissertation on "trigger point theory as aesthetic activism," seems to be about how and what to publish and exhibit from that conceptual endurance event over the year ahead.

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