TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN (work in progress)

 

In the introduction to her 2015 book In catastrophic times Isabelle Stengers describes how brief interventions into a sort of “business as usual” discourse on climate crisis, can offer productive shifts that impact listeners on a deeper level. On this, she states: “Intervening demands a certain brevity, because it is not a question of convincing but rather of passing “to whom it may concern” what makes you think, feel, and imagine.” (15)

“To whom it may concern” addresses a general audience, yet it also refers to those who are concerned, and rightly so given the context of this publication and Stengers’ assertion that we are (quote) “exceptionally ill-equipped to deal with what is in the process of happening” (15).

I was struck in this same book by Stengers’ description and use of the term Gaia - to bring together “livings things, oceans, atmosphere, climate, and soil.” This living planet indeed should be thought of as an entity and assemblage of relations worth knowing — and — perhaps we should consider that it knows us as well. The anthropocene is, after all, the assertion that human activity has fundamentally altered all geologic and atmospheric strata on earth. Gaia must indeed know us very well.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

 

In the introduction to her 2015 book In catastrophic times Isabelle Stengers describes how brief interventions into a sort of “business as usual” discourse on climate crisis, can offer productive shifts that impact listeners on a deeper level. On this, she states: “Intervening demands a certain brevity, because it is not a question of convincing but rather of passing “to whom it may concern” what makes you think, feel, and imagine.” (15)

“To whom it may concern” addresses a general audience, yet it also refers to those who are concerned, and rightly so given the context of this publication and Stengers’ assertion that we are (quote) “exceptionally ill-equipped to deal with what is in the process of happening” (15).

I was struck in this same book by Stengers’ description and use of the term Gaia - to bring together “livings things, oceans, atmosphere, climate, and soil.” This living planet indeed should be thought of as an entity and assemblage of relations worth knowing — and — perhaps we should consider that it knows us as well. The anthropocene is, after all, the assertion that human activity has fundamentally altered all geologic and atmospheric strata on earth. Gaia must indeed know us very well.

As Anna Tsing, Donna Haraway, Jason Moore, and others have commented, the timeline for the anthropocene begins not with humankind as such but with the advent of modern capitalism.

My excursions into the snow were prompted by a desire to discover, to know, to fit into a place. I endured slight physical discomfort but was comfortable in another way, on edge, accepting, and hoping to take something in without actually taking anything away. 

 

I’m not proposing meditative excursions as grand solution but rather as one method through which I am attempting to make encounters which might inform me. There exists a precedent and artistic lineage of environmental art, meditative practice, and walking — the results however — will always be personal. In this way such acts might best be framed as methodology rather than artistic creation practice.

The city is to nature what technology is to the mind.

Anna Tsing describes how we might renew our conception of progress to account for its expiration. Quote “Progress is a forward march, drawing other kinds of time into its rhythms. Without that driving beat, we might notice other temporal patterns. Each living thing remakes the world through seasonal pulses of growth, lifetime reproductive patterns, and geographies of expansion.” (Tsing 21) 

By recognizing the biases created by the limitations of the visible, and attuning oneself to alternate temporalities, deep knowledge may be uncovered through embodied experience bringing forth connections across time and place.

Perhaps the most dangerous feature of the anthropocene is the idea that it is an easy “game-over” narrative. Haraway takes issue with this, for her “Staying with the trouble” means holding open space which might (quote) “delay extinction in ways that make possible composing or recomposing flourishing naturalcultural assemblages.” (Haraway 2016 p.42)

This video diptych entitled Playing Dead is a meditation on the prospect of non-existence. It is playful yet morbid. The play implies fiction, I’m not really dead, I’ll come back to life. But I hope the experience stays with me. More snow will fall, and melt. I can picture it, remember how it feels when it lands. So much changes over time, but not everything. Experience can endure. I made myself vulnerable to the cold, to be touched by it, not aiming for some super natural experience, but open to knowing and being known.

​© 2012 - 2019 by Emilie St-Hilaire

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