Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Caroline Bergvall, Tokyo, Tomoyuki Hoshino, Toshiki Okada
“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
FOP/smudge sakura wave crest design (inspired by Japanese mon/紋)
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 fires, torrential 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.
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.