Posts Tagged ‘anthropocene’

Mourning the planet: Climate scientists share their grieving process – from Truthout

February 1, 2015

Dahr Jamail, staff reporter for Truthout and known for his work on Iraq and Afganistan, speaks to scientists working on Anthropogenic Climate Disruption about their emotional responses in this important piece.  Thanks to Truthout for permission to repost extracts.  Jamail starts,

I have been researching and writing about anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for Truthout for the past year, because I have long been deeply troubled by how fast the planet has been emitting its obvious distress signals.

On a nearly daily basis, I’ve sought out the most recent scientific studies, interviewed the top researchers and scientists penning those studies, and connected the dots to give readers as clear a picture as possible about the magnitude of the emergency we are in.

This work has emotional consequences: I’ve struggled with depression, anger and fear. I’ve watched myself shift through some of the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I’ve grieved for the planet and all the species who live here, and continue to do so as I work today.

Continue reading here…

David Borthwick: Review of Estuary, by Lydia Fulleylove, with artwork by Colin Riches

January 5, 2015

David Borthwick, who runs the University of Glasgow’s masters programme Environment, Culture and Communication at the university’s Dumfries Campus, reviews Lydia Fulleylove’s Estuary, a new book of poems published by the excellent Two Ravens.

Estuaries are, as in the title of one of Raymond Carver’s stories, ‘where water comes together with other water,’ fresh into salt, and as estuaries are characterised by tidal influx, where salt reaches back upriver.  They are transitional zones where local systems meet global ones, the activities of the land meet the open sea; indeed, they are also open to the tractive pull of moon and sun, linking them to celestial bodies too.  An estuary is defined by relational forces, then, and this also makes it a profoundly susceptible space.  One might say an estuary is produced through its myriad relations.

Estuaries are profoundly cosmopolitan areas, rich in the symbolism of transition, and this is perhaps why these environments have proven fertile grounds for poets in recent years.  The Severn estuary, in particular, has received considerable attention in both Alice Oswald’s book length A Sleepwalk on the Severn, and Philip Gross’ collection The Water Table (both 2009).  Oswald refers to ‘this beautiful / Uncountry of an Estuary’.[1]  Her ‘uncountry’ is ‘both a barren mudsite and a speeded up garden’.  It is between, untenable, and indefinable, irreducible to notions of rootedness, permanence or stability.  Phillip Gross describes an estuary in terms of its ‘indefinite grounds’, characterised by ‘constant inconstancy’; its ‘indefinable grounds’ and ‘irrefutable grounds’: ‘six hours and the grounds / are remembered.  Forgotten. Remembered’.[2]

Lydia Fulleylove’s Estuary, published by Lewis based Two Ravens Press, adds to but also enlarges this resurgent interest in estuaries.  Centred on the River Yar estuary in the west of the Isle of Wight, Fulleylove’s eclectic book demonstrates in its very form the power of relationality.  The book is part nature daybook—a diary of visits to the estuary, interactions with it over the course of a year—but also a poetry collection.  It also has elements of deeply personal memoir.  One of the book’s strengths is that Fulleylove cannot bracket off her personal relations (an aging father during illness), her job as a creative writing tutor at HMP Isle of Wight, nor indeed the politics which sees one of the estuary’s farms carefully dismantled during her period of residency in the area.  It is all of a part, each element a channel or rivulet in the book’s flow outwards.  This is only added to by Colin Riches’ contribution of artwork at the collection’s centre: pictorial representations of estuary features, animals (domestic and wild), and artefacts.  Many of these have been created using materials from the estuary as their medium: estuary mud, sheep dung, bramble juice.

Colin Riches, 'moon and stream'

Colin Riches, ‘moon and stream’, silt, oil and acrylic

Fulleylove and Riches employ sensory information as a key part of their work here.  In one poem, the artist is observed at work:

Dung, mud, ink. The artist makes

the cow in the winter barn,

legs tucked under like a cat,

tail pressed close. Black eye watchful,

nostrils, ears flared. Long after

she is gone, these marks will call up her absence,

draw her presence out of dark.

This attempt to capture presence is vital, poetic and visual work going hand in hand as a means of representing the estuary faithfully, even as the environment shifts around one with the tide:

cracked mud mud-gasps

river dark glass

look down clouds sky

look up clouds sky

here is river

see sea-river

The stutters and repetitions here enact not only the process of trying to write the estuary, but its own particular and fluid behaviour.  Everything described must relate to the estuary, the estuary itself formed by these relations, and with all being fluid this negotiation even reaches into the language that Fulleylove uses.  The process of rounding up sheep is rendered in riverine terms.  Sheepdogs are:

Swift, slick

they whip round the sheep,

close to the ground. The flock

runs like a river into the pen

any stray rivulet

channelled back in.

It’s done almost before it’s seen.

Colin Riches, 'Reed and River', reed, earth, ink and gouache

Colin Riches, ‘Reed and River’, reed, earth, ink and gouache

What separates Fulleylove’s book from some of the celebrated ‘New Nature Writing’ is that it continually brings the reader back to community, away from the writer’s solitary observations and into the eddies and turbulence of issues affecting wider concerns.  Local writers’ and artists’ groups are taken out into the estuary to experiment.  Farmers’ views are recorded verbatim and inserted into poems.  Most powerfully, the estuary is brought indoors in order to engage prisoners with an external environment they cannot access.  Among the artefacts offered to prisoners are leaves: ‘what the men most want to do with the leaves is to smell them.  A leaf is passed round nose to nose.’  Sensory apprehension again.  The prisoners’ reflections in their own writing are recorded here too.

Colin Riches, 'Last Year's Leaves', mixed media

Colin Riches, ‘Last Year’s Leaves’, mixed media

There is a powerful social justice imperative within the book, from the treatment of the poet’s father in institutional care, to the politics of landscape which places farmland in ownership that cares not for local experience and traditions— and of course to the welfare of those in prison.

Estuary tacitly suggests that all of Fulleylove’s concerns are intimately connected.  Indeed, connection is a recurring motif.  A Schoolgroup is taken to see the last of the farm’s animals as it is transformed from an Aberdeen Angus carcass to food.  The visit is meant to reconnect the children with the food chain because, as Fulleylove notes, ‘we can’t be disconnected from this earth’.

And yet because we are ‘wrapped in layers of distance’ from the nonhuman world, and perhaps from each other, we ignore the interconnections which inform and shape us all.  From the flora and fauna of the estuary, to the farms upon it, and even the prison, relations exist which conjoin to form a relational space.  In short, the estuary, this place, exists only as the total interactivity of these factors.  There is no ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, but a reciprocal set of interactions in which we are all enmeshed.  In Fulleylove’s thoughtful book, the estuary becomes a powerful symbol for relations and responsibilities.

Indeed, in her prologue Fulleylove says that all of the book’s segments exist as ‘as sign of having been there, evoking the relationship with place at that moment’.  The work is, she says, ‘a dialogue’; it is all about ‘the act of paying attention’: using the senses, different materials, extending empathy to the lives of others, both human and non-human.

In a relatively slight book of under a hundred pages, Fulleylove manages to weave together all of the elements of the local environment on the Yar estuary.  Her vision is clear, her work concise and potent.  She is capable of reflecting back and forth in landscape, and in time, in a way that makes the book more than a diary of a specific place, but an exploration of a place’s multiplicity through the seasons, in which every detail is made to resonate, and flow outwards from itself:

I pick one barley stalk from this dry sea

to stick on the white field of my page.

Winter, I’ll look back at slant, hard-packed grain,

like Brent geese streaming in close line.

Colin Riches, 'Estuary Artefact', stone, wool, and wheat stalk

Colin Riches, ‘Estuary Artefact’, stone, wool, and wheat stalk

[1] Alice Oswald, A Sleepwalk on the Severn (London: Faber, 2009), p. 3.

[2] Philip Gross, ‘The Water Table (Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe, 2009), pp 47-48.

Funded PhD Opportunity: Performing Geochronology: Deep Time and Sustainable Futures along Scotland’s Western Seaboard

December 17, 2014

How can creative research investigation into the climatic and tectonic processes operating along Scotland’s Western Seaboard can help to nurture and communicate a sense of the ‘deep time’ involved?  This includes the ‘slow’ temporality associated with glaciations, and the ‘quick’ events of storms and flooding, but also organic temporalities, from evolution to settlement patterns. Such an expanded notion of time is crucial if we are to respond to what Dipesh Chakrabarty has termed the sense of ‘historical confusion’ that climate change presents us with. For Chakrabarty, the uncanny spectre of ‘a world without us’ produces a sense of melancholia and helplessness. One way in which this despair might be countered is by imagining ourselves as planetary creatures whose history has always been entangled with a larger natural history.

This studentship investigates:

  1. How field-based geochronological dating methods can use cultural artefacts (written and image-based, and oral traditions), ranged alongside physical artefacts (e.g. morphologies and sedimentary archives), to outline the extent and impact of particular climatic/tectonic processes along Scotland’s Western Seaboard.
    How this work can be theorised, contextualised and composed with respect to extant artistic practices and theories of aesthetics.
    How an appreciation of the ‘deep time’ involved in Scotland’s changing Western Seaboard can produce 3 site-specific performances/exhibitions/films such that new narratives of place and alternative histories emerge. The student will draw on geomorphological/archaeological data and techniques as creative resources, and will prompt reflection on new ways of communicating science.

A suitable candidate is sought to apply for one of the prestigious Kelvin/Smith PhD Studentships at the University of Glasgow. The studentship is fully funded and the criteria for eligibility can be found by visiting http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/postgraduateresearch/scholarships/kelvinsmith/shortlistedscholarshipprojects/

The student for this project should possess a high quality undergraduate degree (2.1 or 1st), a Masters Degree and/or equivalent experience as an artist. The candidate should be able to work both theoretically and creatively. Evidence of prior work – both academic and artistic – in the proposed research areas (arts, geography, ecology) is crucial for this project. As well as strong academic achievement and excellent intellectual ability, the candidate should have a developed artistic practice and be able to provide a CV listing some evidence of the following: professional performances, screenings, exhibitions, commissions, recordings, and residencies and collaborations with both arts and non-arts organisation

If successful the candidate will work with an interdisciplinary team of scholars on the project from 1 October 2015 onwards. The primary supervisors will be Professor Carl Lavery (Theatre Studies) and Professor Deborah Dixon (Geography).

The Scholarship is intended to support candidates of the highest calibre and as such may be offered to residents of any country provided that the candidate has obtained leave to remain in the UK for the purposes of full-time study.

The deadline for applications is Friday 23 January 2015.

Further details can be found by emailing Professor Carl Lavery (Carl.Lavery@glasgow.ac.uk).

Anthroposcene Evolution

December 15, 2014

James Eckford Lauder - James Watt and the Steam Engine- the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century - Google Art Project

James Eckford Lauder – James Watt and the Steam Engine- the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century – Google Art Project

James Watt didn’t start the anthropocene age, nor is he responsible for climate change, but the invention of the Steam Engine is more than a footnote in history.  The new online journal at www.anthroposcenemanifesto.com (sic) is a platform for research and reflection from social, cultural ecology perspectives.  The introduction reads,

The Anthroposcene Evolution is a dialogue that began at an Environmental Research Network conversation, convened in Glasgow by Alex Benchimol, Hayden Lorimer and Rhian Williams in 2011. As that conversation closed, Chris Maughan suggested that for the arts and humanities  the idea might be better understood in terms of an ‘anthroposcene’, as a social or cultural ecology. All agreed it was an idea that needed to evolve and spiral outwards rather than a manifesto that would solidify and be set in stone. Here-in with many voices, hearts and minds – we establish a evolution of that discourse. In 2014-2015 an international group of contributors have agreed to develop critical variations on this theme for posting and discussion. Some will critique the form of the manifesto itself. We are the first contributors to a this dialogic journal. The membership of this group will change each year at summer solstice.

This online journal embraces all those in the arts and humanities who feel they have a vital role to play in the future. We will establish links to various projects, workshops and exhibitions as this site develops.

 The blog has a series of reports that Tim Collins and Reiko Goto wrote after ‘The Anthropocene: Artists and Writers in Critical Dialogue with Nature and Ecosystems held at the Australian National University, Canberra, June 2014:
1 Introduction, 2 Participants, 3 Images, 4Reflections and 5 Key Points.

 

Art in the Anthropocene | Xavier Cortada

November 30, 2014
Global View of the Arctic and Antarctic on September 21, 2005. Courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

Global View of the Arctic and Antarctic on September 21, 2005. Courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

The introduction to the current issue of the Journal American Art takes as its starting point Astrid, a work by Xavier Cortada. “The works were made in Antarctica, about Antarctica, using Antarctica as the medium (provided to me by the very researchers who inform us about Antarctica).”
The Introduction goes on to open up a series of key issues for both art and for ecocriticism in the Anthropocene. Read on here http://cortada.com/press/2014/AmericanArt

Only Human? 14-16 November

October 29, 2014

Only Human? 14-16 November Poster

Picture after picture [by photographer Chris Jordan] depicts the decomposed bodies of albatross chicks – just bones, feathers, and a beak remaining, and in the middle of each, a multicolored pile of plastic and other debris: cigarette lighters, bottle tops, toy soldiers, and so many other little items.”

“Millions of years of albatross evolution – woven together by the lives and reproductive labours of countless individual birds – comes into contact with less than 100 years of human “ingenuity” in the form of plastics and organochlorines discovered or commercialized in the early decades of the twentieth century.”

Reading Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction by Thom Van Dooren in preparation for chairing a discussion on Sunday 16th November at the Only Human? Festival in Glasgow.  [note: the discussion on Sunday 16th is with the author Thom Van Dooren]

The humanities and creative practices have a role in comprehending the meaning of the anthropocene, where all of the world is affected by one/our species. We have a role in addressing extinction, the end point of millions of years of the evolution of, for example, the albatross becoming itself as a species, and its-selves as individuals. We have a role in challenging human exceptionalism.  Face it, we need to talk about it.


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