FOP


Turning Points
05.12.2014, 10:30 am
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“Arisa had come to Tokyo to perform a sort of ritual. A necessary ritual, though perhaps no ritual is unnecessary, it must be done because that is what a ritual is.” — from “Breakfast” by Toshiki Okada

“We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.” — from Dark Mountain Manifesto

“The fair wind failed.” — Caroline Bergvall, from Drift

“As far as she was concerned, Tokyo was gone, but only because she had loved the city, living here, and because if none of this had happened she would still be living here and because it hurt to admit that Tokyo could never be home again, that was why, without fully knowing it, but half consciously, she had flicked a switch in her head, quietly substituted one thing for another, making it a matter of the city, of Tokyo’s disappearance.” — from “Breakfast” by Toshiki Okada

“I’m not just cooling off, you know. I discovered that if I really let myself spin, it was like I was getting…purified. If I was feeling depressed, I would feel better, as if the depression flew off somewhere as I went around and around. Like I was in a salad spinner. So I began to spin faster and faster. Pushing the limit, you know?”  — from “Pink” by Tomoyuki Hoshino

red_crestFOP/smudge sakura wave crest design (inspired by Japanese mon/)

For eight years we’ve used travel and movement as our primary “studio” practice form, and over the last four weeks we’ve moved through various landscapes and built environments in Utah and New Mexico, punctuated by walks into the surrounding landscapes. In addition to experiencing incredibly vast and enduring geologic forms, we’ve also seen the continuing effects of a severe drought, recent and enormous forest firestorrential flash floods, uranium tailings piles and ever-expanding suburban sprawl into remote and water-scarce landscapes. And, after eight years of making work related to the significant and far-from-resolved accumulation of  nuclear materials in the United States, you might say we have become less than optimistic about the likelihood that “solutions” or even a general attentiveness to these complex realities will be recognized in the near future. This all has become coupled with our  acceptance that humans exist within a geological reality that is truly indifferent to our survival, even as it, itself, is shaped by human presence.

In the face of these realities, what might compel any human not to simply give up or to simply carry on protesting, mapping or describing the dire circumstances we’re in the midst of, but instead, to sincerely accept what is typically described as “loss”— and then still attempt to write fiction, draw, dance, pause or move with this deeply affecting awareness of irrevocable change?

If a particular human is not up for pretending things are any better than they actually are, and if they aren’t invested in keeping “busy” enough to keep up the pretense of being able to design their way out of present circumstances, then what might they be up for?

What if we started making work that merely draws us closer to these uncomfortable inklings of big, fast, irrevocable changes, instead of away from them? Maybe such work would no longer be about audiences, publics or institutions.  And it certainly would not be about recognition and understanding.  If we’re no longer making work to communicate “meaning” with others, maybe we’re doing nothing more and nothing less than making this work as way of attuning our individual selves and daily lives to the reality of what’s now in the midst of unfolding around us?  Maybe we’re making work that springs from turning and facing the question:  What does it take to be with what is right now passing into disappearance, or perhaps is already forever gone?

Such work wouldn’t be about education, “turning the tide”, waking up to a new consciousness, nor calling to action. Rather, we’d like to imagine a growing number of creative people attuning to different registers of the current material realities of daily life and offering images/sensations/words from their deeply felt experiences of those realities—from places and times where this bare reality strikes deep. AND then, instead of turning away from these highly inconvenient and disturbing sensations and thoughts, what if they took the time and did the incredibly hard work to make something from within such sensations and thoughts, without expecting any outcome (especially any company) in return?  Perhaps because they must, perhaps because it couldn’t be otherwise, because doing work in such a way and without expectations of outcomes might be what it takes to “go sane” in the Anthropocene.

During our current residency, in addition to spending as much time as possible outdoors, we’ve been attempting to catch-up on some reading. Incredibly, a few pieces have aligned with and further provoked the emerging ideas we outline above. Paul Kingsnorth’s profile in the New York Times Magazine and links to his earlier Dark Mountain Manifesto appeared at just the right moment in our process last month. Kingsnorth was quickly followed by our reading of two mind-blowing pieces of fiction in issue 127 of Granta dedicated to the topic of “Japan.” Toshiki Okada’s “Breakfast” and Tomoyuki Hoshino‘s “Pink” ushered us into a different psychological space (a space of going sane?) for a span of days from which we still haven’t fully returned. What might have been most disruptive about these pieces was the sinking sense that reading their work wasn’t drawing us into fiction, but into contemporary reality. What we take to be “now” is actually the quickly dissipating momentum of the past.  Many human cultures are still riding on that momentum, emotionally, politically, economically, cognitively, aesthetically, as we try to navigate the changing present.  But the difference, or alter-future, now arriving all around us, can’t be engaged from that version of “now.”  As more and more artists offer hyper-real-sensation-al encounters with the material realities of our contemporary circumstances, perhaps the dissonance between no longer viable versions of “now,” and newly merging versions at the hands of such artists, will lessen. In support of that “perhaps,” Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Arrival Gates,” in the same Granta issue and Caroline Bergvall’s new book Drift, are also highly recommended.

In early May we had the rare (for us) opportunity to attend a Native American Feast Day in New Mexico. As outsiders, we had little access to information as to what symbols or dance gestures might mean.  But what was quite clear to us, was the fact that many humans have been continuously attuning themselves to the forces of the planet for thousands of years.  Physical processes of attunement are inherently coupled with mental and spiritual attunement, and they can create an inner space that, paradoxically, allows one to “leave” one’s narrow perspectives of “here” by attuning deeply to “here.”  We started to think that attuning to the immediate events of unfolding change in order to sense widely “out” from “here” and into the massive, interconnected forces that compose change itself might be the most vital skill/capacity to cultivate within our contemporary moment.

On the other side of these experiences, we’re left with a weighty sensation. The release from naive or false hopes that big fast material planetary changes upon us might be reversed, ushers in an ability to create highly vital works that embody a psychological state that is actually OF this change — that is itself within this change, nothing less or more.  This release feels like a maturation. We are among the first humans to accept that material realities that afforded our evolution on this planet have irrevocably passed — and we are still living.  Authors/artists/humans who share this sensibility are no longer attempting to “save the planet” or ourselves from anything.  We’re no longer “seeking solutions” or attempting to imagine creative responses to our carbon problem or rising sea levels. There is nothing that can resolve or erase what some realize is already here.

Instead, we’re charged with the imperative to navigate and adapt to change as it unfolds. We’re finding that on the other side of this acceptance are days filled with gratitude. We expect less, and we’re able to be newly aware of and accepting what’s here (and not here) already, right now. It’s very likely that events we build expectations for will be cut short, not go according to plan, or even disappear altogether (be it the last almond from California, the last can of tuna or gallon of gasoline or potable water). It is we humans who have ensured the untimely disappearance of incalculable affordances within a remarkably short span of time. Each day is laced with beauty in its inevitable passing. There’s a rolling wave of gratitude, with a still center, that acknowledges there’s more to come and that this isn’t only about us — as individuals or as a species. From here, we begin to imagine appropriate rituals. We become humans in-the-midst of redesigning our lives to be with the changes as gracefully as possible as we tune-up our inner selves.

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We’re sincerely grateful to the Center for Land Use Interpretation and the Santa Fe Art Institute, whose support over the past month have afforded us the space and time to begin new directions. Thanks too, to Ruth Ozeki and Oliver Kellhammer for passing off Granta Issue 127 at just the right time.



Relay Continues, Look Only at New Mexico
05.07.2014, 11:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

front_exhibition_web

The relay of the exhibition of our project, Look Only at the Movement, has now arrived at the third of its five venues — the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI). The show runs through June 12th. While in Santa Fe we have been graciously welcomed and hosted as artists-in-residence at SFAI.  We are happy to announce a public gallery talk in conjunction with the exhibition at the Art Institute on May 12th. All are welcome!

We’re especially honored to have the show open here given the depth of atomic history in New Mexico, ranging from the Manhattan Project and Trinity Test to the ongoing environmental challenges facing the clean-up of Los Alamos and uranium tailings around the state. Perhaps most relevant to our work is the recent closure of WIPP, a key site for our project, due to a radiation leak — something  we never could have predicted when we began this project nearly three years ago.

back_exhibition_web

In addition to welcoming responses to our work at upcoming artist talks, we also invite visitors to relay comments in the traveling response book as part of the exhibition.  We look forward to receiving local feedback about the project. As we have expressed in our statement for the project, by looking only at the movement of nuclear waste, we have tried to redirect polarized discourses that often “cloak” nuclear materials. We encourage new angles of civic exchange by inviting audiences to engage with contemporary material realities that are simultaneously of us, and far beyond us.

We’re also pleased to pass on a link to a recent interview of smudge that discusses the project.  It was conducted by Sara Jacobs and Emily Gordon and appears today in BOMB magazine online.

 

 

 

 



On Change #6: Culture at a Crossroads
04.25.2014, 11:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Truck transporting TRU waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in 2012, still from Look Only at the Movement

For the next three weeks, smudge/FOP is based in Santa Fe, NM. While here, we’re catching up with the local New Mexican news, which includes the latest updates on “the radioactive puff” released from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) last February. In case you’re not familiar, WIPP is our nation’s only geologic repository for nuclear waste and specifically handles transuranic waste, not the high-level waste produced through nuclear power generation. The high-level waste continues to accumulate and shelter-in-place at hundreds of sites around the country.

The WIPP facility has been closed since the incident on February 14, 2014. Since then, there’s been scarce information about what happened and what has been done to address the accident (updated EPA reports can be found here). Wednesday night we tuned in to a live-stream town hall meeting from Carlsbad to learn the current status of the “recovery” (what caused the release stills appears to be a mystery) and to hear  a representative from the Department of Energy (DOE) disclose that the accident was entirely preventable, and had resulted from a long list of inefficiencies including poor of training, faulty design, disorganized protocols and lack of preparation. (download the full EPA report here)

93_WIPPcontainers TRUPACT-II containers in parking lot outside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in 2012, still from Look Only at the Movement

What we found most notable was a remark describing worker culture at WIPP as being “more akin to that of a traditional mine than that of a nuclear facility.” Apparently most workers had no previous work experience in handling nuclear materials or nuclear waste storage. We find this surprising, given the extraordinary ways in which WIPP differs from a mine, perhaps most fundamentally in its mandate for isolating the enclosed materials from the environment for 10,000 years.

Yet, we can empathize with the workers, designers and engineers of this facility. There is no precedent to follow for maintaining deep geologic repositories for radioactive waste in the United States, especially those nested 2000 feet deep within enormous salt deposits, though there are less than encouraging examples to consider in Germany.

It seems important at this moment of change at WIPP that its workers be trained in the highly nuanced and complex skill sets required for preventing and handling nuclear accidents.  It also seems important to remember that right now, we are always, already, handling materials that exceed our human capacities to shepherd them into their — and our — deep futures.   We’re at the very beginning of an extremely long-term project (millennia, at minimum) of stewardship. We’re past the point of reversing our actions, so we must adapt  and attempt to meet these material realities — while recognizing that when we work with nuclear materials we’re engaging complex events of change that set themselves apart from other activities, such as mining, in exquisitely potent ways.

chihuChihuahuan desert along Highway 285 in southern New Mexico, still from Look Only at the Movement

 

 



Edge States: Wendover Launch
04.19.2014, 12:20 am
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image_7residency support unit and Exhibition Hall 2, CLUI Wendover, UT

We’re happy to announce the opening of Look Only at the Movement in Wendover, Utah.  Wendover is located 2,292 miles west of New York City via Interstate 80. The  work can be found in Exhibition Hall 2 of the CLUI Wendover complex, directly next door to the Enola Gay Hangar on the Historic Wendover Airfield. The show is free and open to the public through summer 2014. The nuclear legacy of the area continues into the present:  the Clive Facility, the nation’s largest low-level waste site and included in our video piece, is also located about 50 miles east of Wendover (sign up for a tour here).

Each time we return to Wendover we’re reminded of the potent juxtapositions that are highly specific to this particular place.  They never cease to fascinate us and draw us back   (World War II history, contemporary casino culture, salt playas, empty endless roads, edgy contemporary art, a town divided between two States, to name a few). While here, in addition to installing our work and sharing the informal “opening” with an inspiring group of art students from Montana, we’ve had time to explore and experience some of the vivid contrasts this particular place in America offers.

image_4exhibit Hall 2, CLUI Wendover, renovated back of Enola Gay Hangar in background

image_10

 

image_12the semi-official opening, shared with students from Montana State University and faculty members Mellisa Raglan and Jim Zimpel

panoramapanorama of installation inside Exhibit Hall 2

image_9renovations to the Enola Gay Hangar

flatsview of Wendover and Bonneville Salt Flats

smithsSmith’s parking lot foreground, Nevada geology background

sunsetsunset over salt flats, 4.18.14, 8:15 pm MST, 63 degrees, 4mph wind

 

 



Forays: Into the World
03.21.2014, 4:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

still_spread_FINAL_webvideo stills, from Look Only at the Movement, smudge studio 2013

We hope you can join us next Wednesday, March 26th at 6:30pm at the Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch. One half of FOP/smudge studio (Jamie Kruse) will be joined by  Andrew Beccone and Dillon de Give. We will be in conversation with Proteus Gowanus co-directors Tammy Pittman and Sascha Chavchavadze. The topic for the evening is  “Artists Out of Context: Forays into the World.” We’ll be discussing what it’s like to be Brooklyn-based artists creating work that engages disciples and places other than art communities.  Jamie will share some of the experiences and motivations behind Look Only at the Movement and how this travel-based project activated various forms of media, research and performative response. She will also address how upcoming screenings of the work aim to make the reality of nuclear waste transport along U.S. Interstates a point of connection among audiences in disparate geographic locations.



On Change #5: The Puff
03.01.2014, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

WIPPvideo still, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, smudge studio 2013

We’ve been watching the story for days now, though it’s far from making headline news. On February 14, 2014 radioactivity was detected in the open air above ground at our nation’s only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico. We’ve written about WIPP several times on this blog, most recently during the production of our video project, Look Only at the Movement, for which we traveled the same Interstate highway routes that transuranic waste in our country travels — to WIPP.

What did make it into news “mentions,” if not news headlines, is the “puff” of radioactive materials that was released, which included plutonium and americium. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years.  And, workers at WIPP were exposed.

WIPP was designed to contain waste underground inside the Permian salt dome beneath WIPP for 10,000 years.  But some of the waste escaped this week, 10,000 years early.  February’s puff constitutes a change in containment status worth noting.

When such inexplicable “puffs” of radioactivity enter the atmosphere (or ocean currents), it’s worth revisiting Timothy Morton‘s discussions of hyperobjects. It’s the accumulation and free-ranging movements of uncontainable hyperobjects that, alongside human actions, co-create our contemporary moment.

There is no away to which we can meaningfully sweep the radioactive dust. Nowhere is far enough or long-lasting enough. What must happen instead is that we must care consciously for nuclear materials …the future of plutonium exerts a causal influence on the present, casting its shadow backward through time. All kinds of options are no longer thinkable without a deliberate concealment of the reality of radioactive objects.” – Timothy Morton,  Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World



On Change #4: Mobile Huts
02.24.2014, 5:04 pm
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shantiesphotos Eric William Carroll via the Walker Art Center

We’re continuing research on what it means to inhabit change. We’re particularly interested ephemeral structures that provide shelter while being responsive to changes unfolding in the surrounding environment.

This week we learned about two notable projects. First, the Art Shanties project in Minnesota. Here, artists have created upbeat and wildly different reinterpretations of the traditional fishing shacks that dot frozen lakes in Minnesota every winter. The Art Shanties encourage community among frozen lake fishermen and art-lovers.

Also notable are two architectural models of a historic three-by-three square meter hut at Kyoto’s Shigamo Shrine. Both huts refer to Kamono Chomei’s home. The Japanese recluse immortalized his tiny house in a famous piece of literature written over 800 years ago called the Hōjōki  (translated as “An Account of My Hut”). If you’re not familiar with this ancient work, one highlight reads:

I leave my span of days for Heaven to determine, neither clinging to life nor begrudging its end. My body is like a drifting cloud—I ask for nothing, I want nothing. My greatest joy is a quiet nap; my only desire for this life is to see the beauties of the seasons.” – from, An Account of My Hut, by Kamo no Chomei in 1212, translated by Donald Keene.

Chomei intended for his hut to be mobile and enable him to relocate in response to the volatile political events in Japan that were affecting his life.  A traditional model of the house has graced the Kyoto shrine for some time.  This past winter, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma offered an ephemeral, modern interpretation, also located on the shrine’s grounds.  It’s composed of cedar, magnets and plastic sheeting.

hutsChomei’s hut by Kengo Kuma (image by Rei Niwa) and the Shrine’s original model of the hut with an oversized protective roof (image via GreenShinto.com)




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