[-empyre-] Representing change

AAR ghostnets at ghostnets.com
Sun Jul 24 11:33:41 AEST 2016

Thank you again, Christina, for organizing this very interesting forum, and everyone for such thoughtful posts. I spent some time looking through Beatriz’ and Tif’s websites, and will look forward to reading what you post. This link is on my website, but to make things easy, here is a short film from last summer, about the launch of my present project, the Blued Trees Symphony:  https://vimeo.com/135290635 <https://vimeo.com/135290635>.

I will present how three projects in data visualization might cross over into Feminist concerns, and then segue to discuss questions about my current work. The three projects are all concerned with how habitat degradation impacts systems. The Blued Trees Symphony addresses the problem of how to stop fossil fuel proliferation, but structurally, as sculpture, it functions to protect watersheds, by protecting the trees that knit soil and habitat to hold water. The sites have been chosen by a combination of where landowners have invited interventions, and an analysis of where intervention might have the greatest biogeographic implications, for example Peekskill, NY, where the expanded pipelines for fracked gas will pass near the Indian Point nuclear facility. In the inception of this project, I was brought in by a group of anti-fracking activists,all of whom are women, several of whom were simultaneously dealing with cancer. I was reminded over and over how often women are at the forefront of environmental activism, and how often those women and their families are directly experiencing the impacts of living in a toxic world. As I referenced in an earlier post, this has been particularly true in indigenous communities globally.

The design premises in the Blued Trees Symphony, were based on an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perception of space and sound, grounded in environmental science. The score for implementation was synesthetic, making each painted tree one note in the whole work. This is a multi-dimensional experience of space I consider closer to how women experience life, rather than the more familiar siloization of knowledge into divisions of labor that supports capitalism. Arguably, women, who are generally tasked with familial relationships understand how ridiculous it would be to apply that specialization to all of life. The mapped relationships between trees in the Blued Trees Symphony were then transposed as a new score, which became part of the copyright registration, but also was performed as music at ISCP, un Brooklyn Dec, 15, 2016.

In an earlier work Fish Story, water was also my primary concern, in that case, the relationship between the Mississippi Water Basin and impacts on the Gulf of Mexico, tracked and reflected in the health of native fish. The events for this work were developed in a series of webcasts with collaborating scientists, Dr. Jim White of INSTAAR, and Dr. Eugene Turner of LSU. The conversational, and relational documentation, were very grounded in how women approach collaboration, as personal experiences of relationship. Some of the mapping for that project was done with google earth, some in freehand paintings, and some with GIS work. In the GIS, I experienced some empowerment from the technological challenges in rendering data visualization as scientific analysis. The default I was resisting, was to let the men exclusively own the hard science, and retreat into the softer sciences and an illustrative role. Our conversations resulted in a mathematical premise, that restoring the earth by 36% could mitigate global warming (www.gulftogulf.or <http://www.gulftogulf.or/>g). That conclusion was rendered in drawings that were included in my dissertation. I apologize for not having those available as links.

More recently, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and have been journaling the Feminist implications of my experience of the medical establishment on FB. I can invite all of you to friend me on FB. I have been tracking some of my progress thru that system. Most recently, I did a series of formal head and shoulder portraits, another form of data visualization, that presents me as a person living with the transformations to my body in a spirit of joy and defiance. In those posts, my point of view is that biopsies, mastectomies and chemo trivialize and isolate the devastating pain, damage to a woman’s self-image and body from cancer treatments, particularly to the brain (chemo routinely destroys brain gray matter). I have been making corollary connections between the issues embodied for me in this medical process, and the same issues on a continental scale, of habitats and communities being forced to cope with toxicity in the Blued Trees Symphony

My current thinking about the implications of working on the Blued Trees Symphony project, is that it uncomfortably straddles several spatial arenas, each of which has greater conceptual freedom in situ, than secondary presentational options. Those arenas include: activism in the environment, applying legal premises in courtrooms, and more recently, presenting artifacts from those spaces in conventional gallery venues. As an artist whose work is about holistically changing things on the ground, and effecting policy change, as I near the end of the Blued Trees Symphony project, I struggle with how to best represent what has been a continental scale installation in the confines of gallery spaces. Previously, when the work was assembled as an indoor performance, it was organized along symphonic and installational lines. It seems to me that performance works do engage an audience more directly than the observation of objects in a gallery, as will occur in the upcoming group show, “Earth SOS,” a group show that will open at the Flomenhaft Gallery Sept,15, I have mixed feelings about the interest in exhibiting the physical artifacts, as, photographs of the painted trees, the scores, and mappings that established copyrights for the work as sculpture. I find myself wrestling with how to present those artifacts without resorting to tropes that allow the audience to have a  passive, or even complacent relationship to the problem of the continued proliferation of fossil fuel systems. As an activist Feminist artist, I resist works that permit passivity in any way, and yet I know that contemplation is a whole other level of activism. That very point of discomfort is a familiar place for me as a woman, and possibly, exactly the most productive place to be.

Just thinking out loud here, and looking forward to reading what others will post.

Thank you for reading.

“What the world needs is a good housekeeper.”
Aviva Rahmani, PhD
Affiliate INSTAAR, University of CO. at Boulder
Watch “Blued Trees”:  https://vimeo.com/135290635

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