For this @whatsnextforearth art call, I turned again to the UK’s Financial Times’s glossy magazine, How to Spend It, a paean to self-indulgence at any cost. Recently the mag had a major story about contemporary art in Marin County (of all places!). But it told the wrong story, featuring a small handful of famous and fortunate artists (and their privileged children), rather than the many talented, hardworking, and undersung artists living and working in Marin.
It pissed me off. It is not cool to turn a real place into a postcard, so I decided to cut the stuff (jewelry, cars, fashion) they are selling in HTSI out of the beautiful photos they printed of Marin.
What would it be like if we had to (or chose to) localize our consumption, if our watches and chairs had to come from where we live, without the option of jetting around the world to buy more stuff (including art)? There would be fewer jewels and Jaguars in the world — and all the injustice they require — that’s for damn sure.
For this Collapse Collage, the theme of Building Community Resilience called to my mind Hands and Eyes — that is, eyes to see the reality of the existential crisis we are in, and hands to get busy building the world we need. The rest of the living world is watching us. Will we do the work, both internal and external, to see the truth and shape our own lives as if we, too, are nature?
In this Collapse Collage, resilience lies somewhere in the sacred geometry of a butterfly’s egg as it meets a floodable Mexican town, where the streets become canals in the rainy season. The ivory figure hails from the Dorset people, a pre-Inuit people of the Arctic who knew how to live within the rhythm of their world; she’s at the center (covering the church at the heart of the village), because we made the mess and need to make the new/old way forward. Watchful Old Turtle is also present, hoping we don’t fuck it all up.
For the bimonthly #whatsnextforearth art call, I was thinking about power — who has it, who doesn’t, and why. Somewhere between consumption, boredom, and survival is a field where we can meet, “out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing,” as Rumi said. “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about,” he writes. “Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”
I was feeling pretty judgemental when I made this collage, but I notice now that the man is empty, and that inside it says “I’m scared.” Humanity is hurting—and hiding— and the only road through is compassion and lovingkindness. I truly believe this on my good days.
For this call, I printed a circular algal mat I harvested from Tomales Bay, using only blue and golden yellow inks. To my surprise, the resulting map of world, complete with continents and seas emerged, befitting the “shifting cultural stories” call far better than If I had planned it.
I only made this print after becoming totally frustrated at my efforts to make a magazine collage that captures the depth of transformation required in our current cultural moment. I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I couldn’t extract a new paradigm from the same old capitalist materials. That algae would save the day again. Lesson learned (again!)
Using a recent issue of the “How to Spend It” magazine that comes with the Financial Times, I looked for pieces of our living world, putting each in relationship to the others and to geological time. I was thinking about polycentricity and new models of power relations — and that was challenging to find in HTSI, but not impossible!!
Formally it was fun to align (aline?!) some of the image lines with the strata of sedimentary rock. I debated whether to highlight or obscure the fold at the center, but decided something about the “spread” aspect of it felt curious in a good way. This one confounded me for a long time, so I ended up taking a more intuitive than planned approach in the end.
In my continuing Collapse Collage series, this one turned into a prayer for awakening. Knowing the dangers we face makes my hope even more active and fervent.
Made from an issue of National Geographic (May 1992).
Each work in this series of Collapse Collages is created from one old National Geographic, in an attempt to understand where we are now by looking at how we understood ourselves then. The dissonance can be loud.
Though I grew up in a liberal-minded home in the 70s and 80s, and my mom in particular was of a “waste not, want not” Midwestern heritage, there was not much awareness growing up about where our “belongings” or privilege came from or at whose expense. We were charitable and concerned about suffering locally and around the world, but it felt distant. I even grew up in the Unitarian Universalist Church, which affirms “the interdependent web of existence, of which we are a part” — but I never learned about systems thinking in school or felt any movement in the culture at large toward depth, meaning, or connection. Instead, Reaganomics grabbed us all by the throat and became the dominant belief system of my lifetime.
This legacy of human and white supremacy, going back 500+ years, is the foundation of modern belief systems, and it has brought us to the brink of global collapse. Telling new stories is our only war through this mess.
Another collapse collage, this on the theme of Economic and Political Systems, part of the June art call by @whatsnextforearth, based on the excellent Think Resilience course of @postcarboninstitute.
Taking a single issue of a National Geographic from my youth (70s/80s), I look for images that relate to this monthly theme to see how it echoes down the years.
These aren’t works of great subtlety; mostly, they reflect my own shock (but not surprise) at the storylines we were fed for decades. I’ve been wondering why my generation has been so asleep at the wheel (not to mention the Boomers!), and it has everything to do with this relentless chorus of conquest and consumption.
As artists, we need to write new stories, create visions of what can be, why we should care, and how to get from here to there. We don’t need to live in a broken world system. We all create culture every day.
This funny little climate collage is me thinking about Pollution, especially in the ocean, where carbon dioxide and methane from fossil fuels and radiation from nuclear meltdowns weave with the waters and life forms into a complex soup of being.
The images, from 1970s National Geographic magazines, are: an ad touting how nuclear energy can help us “defuse” the next oil crisis; a diver surrounded by a halo of fish; a drawing of an enormous sea creature, now long extinct.
How do we relate to the ocean? Where does our waste go? Why is the heat on in my house right now, even though I’m not cold? These are the questions we must be asking ourselves and each other every day.
Climate, race, resource extraction, and ecological systems form a complex web of energy production and consumption that poses existential risks to much of life on earth. 80% of multi-celled creatures on earth are nematodes, tiny soil worms that create healthy soil, while impoverished men in Madagascar dig soil out by hand looking for sapphires and Peruvian women sort asparagus for export. We stand at a crossroads, the same one hundreds of slaves stood on in Alabama for the largest auction of humans in US history. Will we learn to see energy systems clearly and use them wisely for the benefit of all beings, or will we continue to divide, chop, exploit, exterminate, and pollute? The revolution will not be televised.
This is the artifact of a walk in the Tideline as Timeline series, in which I led people along the future shoreline (in red) of their neighborhood — this walk-in San Mateo.
The light blue “waves” denote the current shoreline we crossed Hwy 101, which will be underwater before too long, b cause much of this area was built on infilled salt flats.
Each slip of paper records a conversation between pairs of walkers in response to prompts on their relationship to place, their role in the story, and their responses to a climate disrupted future.
This is from a series of small salt maps, though this feels like more of a portrait. I’m using salt and slide dyes, rust, and other chemical agents to investigate the unpredictable and impermanent nature of the world we’re co-creating.