Sunday, July 24, 2016

On Defiance, Uncertainty, and Empathy

Photograph by Joe Gaffney

Shortly after my last post on this site, I began chemotherapy for breast cancer. I am now halfway through that grueling treatment protocol. Meanwhile, Blued Trees was awarded a 2016 Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in the category of Architecture/ Environmental Structures/ Design, and a wonderful new article was published in the Village Voice on Blued Trees, by Audrea Lim, which included this quote:

"Michael Royce, editorial director of the New York Foundation for the Arts, says there's a strong case to be made that Blued Trees"expands the boundaries of traditional sculpture installations and symphonic orchestration by allowing for a fluid interplay of music and physical experience...with the viewer as participant or observer."

The article makes clear, that in Peekskill, New York, the site of the 2015 overture launch of Blued Trees, the Spectra Corporation defied both good public policy, and legal constraints, to place their corporate profits above safety for millions of people. On the other hand, the article also made clear, that an idea cannot be killed. 

As I negotiate the private process of surviving the medical protocols for cancer treatment, in the midst of creating the Coda movement which will culminate Blued Trees on the American Election Day, November 8, 2016, I am reminded of all the ways humans must publically negotiate uncertainty in the Anthropocene era.

A central thesis in my dissertation, "Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism," circled around the implications for the second law of thermodynamics, of James Clerk Maxwell's nineteenth century idea model, Maxwell's Demon, which posited that the work of sorting information, is a form of entropy. The implications I saw for environmental triage, were that the correct information can effect surprising change, in even the most apparently hopeless situations. In an era of unprecedented uncertainty and risk, the need for clean habitat for life on earth supersedes the disruptive impacts of greed.

In the case of the Blued Trees Symphony, which evolved out of Blued Trees, the surprising information is in the resilience and power of beauty, and empathy, in the face of destruction and greed. Effecting that surprise is the task of art. It is the mission of the Blued Trees Symphony. One tree,  one note in our continental music. One person's struggle to defy despair, is all of our struggle to hold onto hope. That is how I would define empathy.

We now have the legal framework to resist the proliferation of fossil fuel infrastructure poisoning the earth, thanks to the work of the legal team of Gale Elston, and Michael Gentlesk. It will be made available to the Blued Trees painters.