All Hands on Deck
There was a sticker in the '80s on the refrigerator at Woody Creek Tavern in Aspen, CO, former haunt of Hunter S. Thompson. It read "This planet's history. Let's party." At the time, this dystopian message didn't overwhelm–it was a political jab, a nihilistic joke. Nowadays, it wouldn't even stand out among the end-of-the-world scenarios being produced on film and video games for our entertainment. There is a growing ennui offered for people across the globe to simply accept (or deny) an inevitable apocalypse. It should be no longer possible to ignore the basic scientific facts, as first hand and through the media we're witnessing evidence of sea change and rising temperatures, widespread extinction of species, drought, floods, shortages of fresh water, crop failure, war.
What can be done to change the outcome of our planet in crisis? First of all, a milestone has been reached in the scientific community. Geophysicist Brad Werner, professor at UCSD, presented a talk to 20,000 scientists at the American Geophysical Union's 2012 fall meeting, titled "Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism." He has asked other scientists to join him in going beyond the laboratory to demonstrate in the streets.
"Environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades, and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups, .......pushes for changes in the dominant culture that favor transition to a stable, sustainable attractor."
It is possible for art to change the course of history at this moment. Art can give life to the facts, make the issues tangible, engage the senses, target beyond the rational brain to reach the emotions, helping us to understand complexities, revolutionize, turn the status quo upside down. "We Shall Overcome" became the anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement and has continued to be sung and to grant courage to pro-democracy and civil rights protests around the world. Its roots were from gospel, folk and labor traditions; the current words we sing were written by Louise Shropshire, a descendant of sharecroppers in Alabama. Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, published in 1962, inspired generations to action,
becoming the bedrock of environmentalism. The film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was a tipping point that changed a generation, as through dark comedy the immediate possibility of nuclear holocaust became vivid.
A highlight in the media this year was a spoken word broadcast. The twelve episode podcast Serial was downloaded over 68 million times. Listeners heard a non-fiction investigation into the murder of a high school student by another student who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. Whether his sentence will be overturned will ultimately be determined through the court system, as the Maryland Court of Special Appeals is a change agent in the case. A new witness for the young man's innocence has come forward after 15 years, because they heard the broadcast.
Imagine if next year Serial, the podcast, investigated the reasons behind the rising waters of climate change, and 70 million people decided to act.
Artists and cultural workers have long been involved with social practice, taking art out of their studios, out of museums and galleries and into the commons. Public art, performance art, land art, soundscapes, social media art have changed our generation. The Bread and Puppet Theater, the radical political activist theater in Vermont, has been ongoing for fifty years. Their outdoor puppetry, mask and pageantry performances have made an indelible mark on communities around the globe. The giant puppets that routinely appear at public protests are descendants of Bread and Puppet.
Waters are rising along coastlines around the globe. Artists, writers, poets, actors, musicians, filmmakers, scientists are rallying their individual and collective energies to think, collaborate, dream, unlocking the challenge of how to gain public trust, how to change policy, change minds, stop the market from devouring the planet's resources, convince people to pull back on consuming fossil fuels, put pressure on political power by mass action.
The dialogue we need will be generated by all of us, engaging communities to act. We are the lamplighters of our century, illuminating one solar LED light at a time. Can we risk not striving to meet the challenge?
Cohiba Cuban Cigar Box Camera (Castro's brand)- wood, tape, tin, light sensitive silver paper
Globe Camera- tin globe, pinhole pierced at Captiva Island, Florida, fish can, tin, tape, light sensitive silver paper
Mermaid/Merman Matchbox Camera- sourced from Rauschenberg scrap box, paint, tape, tin, light sensitive silver paper
Dutch Biscuit Camera- tin, paint, tape, light sensitive silver paper
English Mint Tin Cameras- tin, paint, tape, light sensitive silver paper
The pinhole cameras are repurposed objects created to view the rising waters and disappearing landscape of Captiva Island. Rather than face an overwhelming tide of information and scientific fact, focus is through one infinitesimal point of view at a time. These are unique photographs with long exposure times made with lensless cameras, using light sensitive silver paper negatives.
The pinhole camera ensemble:
Calusa Camera- 800/1000 thousand year old Calusa Indian lightening whelk shell, tin globe bank sourced from the Rauschenberg scrap box, ball jar lid, tin, black foil, tape, light sensitive silver paper
©1979-2016 Laura Sindell
Web Authoring: Todd Metten