where is the cyclonic change?
Zombie environmentalism and cyclonic change
Zombie environmentalism. Phrase. /’zombi In|vaIren’ment(a)lIz(e)m/ A trend in early 21st century relations with the natural world. It can be divided into three different aspects.
- The behaviour of individuals or groups in society which is willingly or unconsciously uncaring of the natural world and the consequences of individual or collective behaviours. The conduct of politicians and policymakers ignoring what is coming straight for them.
The man down the road who uses a leaf blower to clean his garden and footpath and blows it into the gutter: not my property, not my problem.
- Our apparent attraction to the dark side — polluted conditions make for sexy art. The ruin, the wasteland, the beauty in ugliness (as long as you don’t have to live there).
- A certain tendency in some environmentalists that since disaster has come, it’s time to build your survival shelter and batten down the hatches.
Some idea of change coming out of disaster. The tremendous force of a tropical cyclone is destructive in the extreme. But after the storm the world is rearranged. The fast|slow|complex solo exhibition was based around cyclonic change. Leonardo’s deluge drawings:
“The series of drawings by Leonardo of a mighty deluge are among the most enigmatic and visionary works of the Renaissance. Modest in size and densely worked, each shows a landscape overwhelmed by a vast tempest. The drawings were probably made for his own satisfaction rather than as studies for any project.”
Jane Bennett quotes Michel Serre at length about a
“strange logic of vortices, spirals, and eddies, and this logic encompasses politics as much as physics, economics as much as biology, psychology as much as meteorology; it recurs at all scales and locations. Serres, here, follows Lucretius, posits but one …process, that of [quote] “flood and fire, of plethora and exhaustion, of vertical growth and sudden fall, of accumulation and drought, in which history…rises and descends, as if on the high seas under the movements of the hurricane.” [endquote] It is one vortical process, though it can be parsed theoretically into stages: first a “fall” or conative impulse of matter-energy, then an aleatory swerve that produces crash encounters between protean bits, then a stage of confused turbulence, then a congealment or crystallization of matter into bodies, then a decay, decline and dissemination of the form. And finally: a new fall, a fresh swerve, a different configuration of turbulent forces, another set of formations, a different rate and sequence of decay and decline.”
pages 118-119 of Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Barrett-Lennard, J. (2014). Working it out along the way… fast|slow|complex. Fremantle: Lethologica Press.
Abstract for Catastrophe & Creativity Symposium 23 Oct 2012
A recent trend in twenty-first century relations with the natural world has been a ‘darkening’ in the tone of debate. The popularity of the zombie as a cultural symbol points towards our apparent attraction to the ‘dark side’ where polluted environmental conditions make for ‘sexy’ contemporary art. Disengagement with the consequences of individual or collective behaviours can be seen both within and outside of environmentally conscious thought. To counter this tendency of retreating from disaster and ‘battening down the hatches,’ I mobilise resilience, complexity and contingency in my visual arts practice. In February 2013 I will be showing a solo project called fast|slow|complex at the Spectrum Project Space, a project that brings together waste and wastelands, disaster and recovery. Drawing from process-based and socially engaged art practice, specific parallels between personal and societal consumption are linked by combining exploration of the urban wild of abandoned lands near the artist’s home, with a personal reassessment of the deluge of things central to modern consumer lifestyles. A central visual motif in this project is the tropical cyclone as a natural and devastating force and as something that is changing its character as part of global warming. The critical question under consideration is, within the shadow of critical environmental conditions, whether destructive change can lead to productive developments. The paper invites an aesthetics of action in the face of the inevitable uncertainties inherent in an ecological world view.