Arquivo da tag: Arte

Uncertainty in Brazil, Vitality in Its Art (New York Times)

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Biennial art exhibitions were founded in the 1890s at almost the same time as the Olympics, and they serve a similar purpose: to bring attention to the cities that host them and the nations that participate in them. But where the Olympics are still a rather contained affair, art biennials are proliferating like art fairs, becoming homogeneous and forgettable.

The 32nd São Paulo Biennial, through Dec. 11, consciously tries to buck this trend by positioning itself as locally sensitive and globally pertinent. And its timing is perfect. On the heels of the Rio Olympics and the impeachment of Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, the exhibition embraces, rather than denies, the problems of the region.

Organized by Jochen Volz, the show includes 81 artists from 33 countries. Its title, “Incerteza Viva” — translated as “Live Uncertainty” — refers to political instability, climate change, huge disparities of wealth, migration and other international problems, but also suggests art’s ability to thrive in the unknown and suggest visionary solutions.

This is particularly true on the first floor of the pavilion built by Oscar Niemeyer, which showcases Brazilian art with an international context: The artist Bené Fonteles has erected a “terreiro,” or ceremonial structure made of clay with a thatched roof, in an attempt to connect traditional Brazilian practices with contemporary art ones.

Objects used by an indigenous shaman sit alongside photos of Marcel Duchamp and John Lennon and Yoko Ono and a copy of João Guimarães-Rosa’s novel “Grande Sertão: Veredas” (1956) — in English, it was “The Devil to Pay in the Backlands”— a masterpiece of modern Brazilian literature. (Incorporating archaic dialects, it has been compared to Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake.”)

One of the most beautiful works in the Biennial is Jonathas de Andrade’s “The Fish” (2016), in which he filmed fishermen in the mangroves of northeast Brazil who still use traditional methods like nets and harpoons. For the video, Mr. de Andrade had the fishermen hold a caught fish to their chests, as if cradling a baby, until it takes its last breath.

At the São Paulo Biennial, the artist Bené Fonteles has erected a “terreiro,” or ceremonial structure made of clay with a thatched roof, in an attempt to connect traditional Brazilian practices with contemporary art ones.Credit Leo Eloy/Estúdio Garagem/Fundação Bienal de São Paulo. 

The video is a shockingly intimate depiction of life, death and the relationship of predator and prey — but also a reminder of our connection with other species — a fact that gets lost in the hyper-industrialized world.

The Brazilian director Leon Hirszman’s films from the 1970s documenting rural laborers singing as they work expand upon this idea. Mr. Hirszman describes the songs, which relieved boredom and shaped the rhythm and movements of the work, as “endangered” cultural products. You can’t sing, after all, over the sounds of industrial machines — or in your corporate cubicle.

Folk art and craft-based practices, often seen as an antidote to digital culture and social media, have been very popular on the biennial circuit in recent years. Folk-inspired art here includes Gilvan Samico’s prints influenced by mythology and carving in northeastern Brazil, and the visionary 1950s and ’60s work by Oyvind Fahlstrom, a Swedish multimedia artist who championed concrete poetry — a visual way of finding liberation through patterns of words and typography. The neo-hippie installation by Wlademir Dias-Pino, “Brazilian Visual Encyclopedia” (1970-2016), is a wild compendium of collages made with found materials.

The Biennial organizers stress that “Live Uncertainty” was intended to interact with the surrounding Ibirapuera Park, a habitat for indigenous tribes before the Europeans arrived. But even nature is a contested term these days, especially in Brazil, where the rain forest and grasslands were seen as obstacles to be conquered. Even Niemeyer, the architect whose futuristic buildings are scattered throughout the park, originally planned to pave over the area in an attempt to tame (if symbolically) Brazil’s unruly wilderness.

The exhibition includes installations by Pia Lindman and Ruth Ewan, which incorporate live plants, and Eduardo Navarro’s sculptural megaphone, which twists out the window to let visitors talk to a palm tree. Brazilian wood — often seen as “exotic” and hence harvested to the brink of extinction — earns a category of the Biennial unto itself.

Carolina Caycedo’s excellent video looks at how river development has affected communities in Brazil’s interior. In Rachel Rose’s video, an astronaut, David Wolf, describes how it’s harder to acclimate to Earth, with its overwhelming smells of grass and air, and gravity, than to outer space.

Jochen Volz, the curator of the São Paulo Biennial, which continues through Dec. 11.CreditNelson Almeida/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images 

 

What started in the ’90s as “identity art,” the idea that an individual’s identity consists of multiple factors, including gender, race, ethnicity, class and sexuality, has now blossomed into investigations of “the post-human,” which could mean a robot or an extraterrestrial.

Lyle Ashton Harris provides some grounding of these cultural shifts in his beautiful assemblage of photographs from this American artist’s journals intertwined with video. Much of his archive is from the late ’80s and ’90s, coinciding with landmark events such as the Black Popular Culture Conference in 1991, the truce between the Crips and the Bloods in 1992 and the Black Nations/Queer Nations conference in 1995.

Cecilia Bengolea and Jeremy Deller’s video highlights a competitive dancer in Jamaican dancehall music culture, echoing the importance of popular music and identity that reverberates throughout the show.

Another tic of biennials is their expansionist tendency: Tired of the white cube, artists and curators would rather inhabit shops, hospitals, schools. This seems like a democratic move, but it often functions in just the opposite way, expending a huge amount of viewers’ time and energy.

“Live Uncertainty” remains mostly — thankfully — in the pavilion. One outside work included William Pope.L’s roving performance with a small contingent of local dancers, which took place over three days. Performers moved through the city in costumes inspired by debutante festivals. They made a sharp contrast with demonstrators who were springing up, too, protesting the president’s impeachment.

Biennials are now given the impossible task of making sense not only of contemporary art but also contemporary history, politics, philosophy, economics, the environment and beyond — all the while remaining sensitive to local culture and cognizant of global developments.

With this tall order, “Live Uncertainty” does an admirable balancing act, arguing for the vitality of indigenous knowledge and experience, and of wisdom drawn from the people who inhabited this hemisphere long before Europeans arrived. Given the current climate of uncertainty in Brazil, this makes more than a little good sense.

Hit Steyerl | Politics of Post-Representation (Dis Blog)

[Accessed Nov 23, 2015]

In conversation with Marvin Jordan

From the militarization of social media to the corporatization of the art world, Hito Steyerl’s writings represent some of the most influential bodies of work in contemporary cultural criticism today. As a documentary filmmaker, she has created multiple works addressing the widespread proliferation of images in contemporary media, deepening her engagement with the technological conditions of globalization. Steyerl’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions including documenta 12, Taipei Biennial 2010, and 7th Shanghai Biennial. She currently teaches New Media Art at Berlin University of the Arts.

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Marvin Jordan I’d like to open our dialogue by acknowledging the central theme for which your work is well known — broadly speaking, the socio-technological conditions of visual culture — and move toward specific concepts that underlie your research (representation, identification, the relationship between art and capital, etc). In your essay titled “Is a Museum a Factory?” you describe a kind of ‘political economy’ of seeing that is structured in contemporary art spaces, and you emphasize that a social imbalance — an exploitation of affective labor — takes place between the projection of cinematic art and its audience. This analysis leads you to coin the term “post-representational” in service of experimenting with new modes of politics and aesthetics. What are the shortcomings of thinking in “representational” terms today, and what can we hope to gain from transitioning to a “post-representational” paradigm of art practices, if we haven’t arrived there already?

Hito Steyerl Let me give you one example. A while ago I met an extremely interesting developer in Holland. He was working on smart phone camera technology. A representational mode of thinking photography is: there is something out there and it will be represented by means of optical technology ideally via indexical link. But the technology for the phone camera is quite different. As the lenses are tiny and basically crap, about half of the data captured by the sensor are noise. The trick is to create the algorithm to clean the picture from the noise, or rather to define the picture from within noise. But how does the camera know this? Very simple. It scans all other pictures stored on the phone or on your social media networks and sifts through your contacts. It looks through the pictures you already made, or those that are networked to you and tries to match faces and shapes. In short: it creates the picture based on earlier pictures, on your/its memory. It does not only know what you saw but also what you might like to see based on your previous choices. In other words, it speculates on your preferences and offers an interpretation of data based on affinities to other data. The link to the thing in front of the lens is still there, but there are also links to past pictures that help create the picture. You don’t really photograph the present, as the past is woven into it.

The result might be a picture that never existed in reality, but that the phone thinks you might like to see. It is a bet, a gamble, some combination between repeating those things you have already seen and coming up with new versions of these, a mixture of conservatism and fabulation. The paradigm of representation stands to the present condition as traditional lens-based photography does to an algorithmic, networked photography that works with probabilities and bets on inertia. Consequently, it makes seeing unforeseen things more difficult. The noise will increase and random interpretation too. We might think that the phone sees what we want, but actually we will see what the phone thinks it knows about us. A complicated relationship — like a very neurotic marriage. I haven’t even mentioned external interference into what your phone is recording. All sorts of applications are able to remotely shut your camera on or off: companies, governments, the military. It could be disabled for whole regions. One could, for example, disable recording functions close to military installations, or conversely, live broadcast whatever you are up to. Similarly, the phone might be programmed to auto-pixellate secret or sexual content. It might be fitted with a so-called dick algorithm to screen out NSFW content or auto-modify pubic hair, stretch or omit bodies, exchange or collage context or insert AR advertisement and pop up windows or live feeds. Now lets apply this shift to the question of representative politics or democracy. The representational paradigm assumes that you vote for someone who will represent you. Thus the interests of the population will be proportionally represented. But current democracies work rather like smartphone photography by algorithmically clearing the noise and boosting some data over other. It is a system in which the unforeseen has a hard time happening because it is not yet in the database. It is about what to define as noise — something Jacques Ranciere has defined as the crucial act in separating political subjects from domestic slaves, women and workers. Now this act is hardwired into technology, but instead of the traditional division of people and rabble, the results are post-representative militias, brands, customer loyalty schemes, open source insurgents and tumblrs.

Additionally, Ranciere’s democratic solution: there is no noise, it is all speech. Everyone has to be seen and heard, and has to be realized online as some sort of meta noise in which everyone is monologuing incessantly, and no one is listening. Aesthetically, one might describe this condition as opacity in broad daylight: you could see anything, but what exactly and why is quite unclear. There are a lot of brightly lit glossy surfaces, yet they don’t reveal anything but themselves as surface. Whatever there is — it’s all there to see but in the form of an incomprehensible, Kafkaesque glossiness, written in extraterrestrial code, perhaps subject to secret legislation. It certainly expresses something: a format, a protocol or executive order, but effectively obfuscates its meaning. This is a far cry from a situation in which something—an image, a person, a notion — stood in for another and presumably acted in its interest. Today it stands in, but its relation to whatever it stands in for is cryptic, shiny, unstable; the link flickers on and off. Art could relish in this shiny instability — it does already. It could also be less baffled and mesmerised and see it as what the gloss mostly is about – the not-so-discreet consumer friendly veneer of new and old oligarchies, and plutotechnocracies.

MJ In your insightful essay, “The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation”, you extend your critique of representation by focusing on an irreducible excess at the core of image spam, a residue of unattainability, or the “dark matter” of which it’s composed. It seems as though an unintelligible horizon circumscribes image spam by image spam itself, a force of un-identifiability, which you detect by saying that it is “an accurate portrayal of what humanity is actually not… a negative image.” Do you think this vacuous core of image spam — a distinctly negative property — serves as an adequate ground for a general theory of representation today? How do you see today’s visual culture affecting people’s behavior toward identification with images?

HS Think of Twitter bots for example. Bots are entities supposed to be mistaken for humans on social media web sites. But they have become formidable political armies too — in brilliant examples of how representative politics have mutated nowadays. Bot armies distort discussion on twitter hashtags by spamming them with advertisement, tourist pictures or whatever. Bot armies have been active in Mexico, Syria, Russia and Turkey, where most political parties, above all the ruling AKP are said to control 18,000 fake twitter accounts using photos of Robbie Williams, Megan Fox and gay porn stars. A recent article revealed that, “in order to appear authentic, the accounts don’t just tweet out AKP hashtags; they also quote philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and movies like PS: I Love You.” It is ever more difficult to identify bots – partly because humans are being paid to enter CAPTCHAs on their behalf (1,000 CAPTCHAs equals 50 USD cents). So what is a bot army? And how and whom does it represent if anyone? Who is an AKP bot that wears the face of a gay porn star and quotes Hobbes’ Leviathan — extolling the need of transforming the rule of militias into statehood in order to escape the war of everyone against everyone else? Bot armies are a contemporary vox pop, the voice of the people, the voice of what the people are today. It can be a Facebook militia, your low cost personalized mob, your digital mercenaries. Imagine your photo is being used for one of these bots. It is the moment when your picture becomes quite autonomous, active, even militant. Bot armies are celebrity militias, wildly jump cutting between glamour, sectarianism, porn, corruption and Post-Baath Party ideology. Think of the meaning of the word “affirmative action” after twitter bots and like farms! What does it represent?

MJ You have provided a compelling account of the depersonalization of the status of the image: a new process of de-identification that favors materialist participation in the circulation of images today.  Within the contemporary technological landscape, you write that “if identification is to go anywhere, it has to be with this material aspect of the image, with the image as thing, not as representation. And then it perhaps ceases to be identification, and instead becomes participation.” How does this shift from personal identification to material circulation — that is, to cybernetic participation — affect your notion of representation? If an image is merely “a thing like you and me,” does this amount to saying that identity is no more, no less than a .jpeg file?

HS Social media makes the shift from representation to participation very clear: people participate in the launch and life span of images, and indeed their life span, spread and potential is defined by participation. Think of the image not as surface but as all the tiny light impulses running through fiber at any one point in time. Some images will look like deep sea swarms, some like cities from space, some are utter darkness. We could see the energy imparted to images by capital or quantified participation very literally, we could probably measure its popular energy in lumen. By partaking in circulation, people participate in this energy and create it.
What this means is a different question though — by now this type of circulation seems a little like the petting zoo of plutotechnocracies. It’s where kids are allowed to make a mess — but just a little one — and if anyone organizes serious dissent, the seemingly anarchic sphere of circulation quickly reveals itself as a pedantic police apparatus aggregating relational metadata. It turns out to be an almost Althusserian ISA (Internet State Apparatus), hardwired behind a surface of ‘kawaii’ apps and online malls. As to identity, Heartbleed and more deliberate governmental hacking exploits certainly showed that identity goes far beyond a relationship with images: it entails a set of private keys, passwords, etc., that can be expropriated and detourned. More generally, identity is the name of the battlefield over your code — be it genetic, informational, pictorial. It is also an option that might provide protection if you fall beyond any sort of modernist infrastructure. It might offer sustenance, food banks, medical service, where common services either fail or don’t exist. If the Hezbollah paradigm is so successful it is because it provides an infrastructure to go with the Twitter handle, and as long as there is no alternative many people need this kind of container for material survival. Huge religious and quasi-religious structures have sprung up in recent decades to take up the tasks abandoned by states, providing protection and survival in a reversal of the move described in Leviathan. Identity happens when the Leviathan falls apart and nothing is left of the commons but a set of policed relational metadata, Emoji and hijacked hashtags. This is the reason why the gay AKP pornstar bots are desperately quoting Hobbes’ book: they are already sick of the war of Robbie Williams (Israel Defense Forces) against Robbie Williams (Electronic Syrian Army) against Robbie Williams (PRI/AAP) and are hoping for just any entity to organize day care and affordable dentistry.

heartbleed

But beyond all the portentous vocabulary relating to identity, I believe that a widespread standard of the contemporary condition is exhaustion. The interesting thing about Heartbleed — to come back to one of the current threats to identity (as privacy) — is that it is produced by exhaustion and not effort. It is a bug introduced by open source developers not being paid for something that is used by software giants worldwide. Nor were there apparently enough resources to audit the code in the big corporations that just copy-pasted it into their applications and passed on the bug, fully relying on free volunteer labour to produce their proprietary products. Heartbleed records exhaustion by trying to stay true to an ethics of commonality and exchange that has long since been exploited and privatized. So, that exhaustion found its way back into systems. For many people and for many reasons — and on many levels — identity is just that: shared exhaustion.

MJ This is an opportune moment to address the labor conditions of social media practice in the context of the art space. You write that “an art space is a factory, which is simultaneously a supermarket — a casino and a place of worship whose reproductive work is performed by cleaning ladies and cellphone-video bloggers alike.” Incidentally, DIS launched a website called ArtSelfie just over a year ago, which encourages social media users to participate quite literally in “cellphone-video blogging” by aggregating their Instagram #artselfies in a separately integrated web archive. Given our uncanny coincidence, how can we grasp the relationship between social media blogging and the possibility of participatory co-curating on equal terms? Is there an irreconcilable antagonism between exploited affective labor and a genuinely networked art practice? Or can we move beyond — to use a phrase of yours — a museum crowd “struggling between passivity and overstimulation?”

HS I wrote this in relation to something my friend Carles Guerra noticed already around early 2009; big museums like the Tate were actively expanding their online marketing tools, encouraging people to basically build the museum experience for them by sharing, etc. It was clear to us that audience participation on this level was a tool of extraction and outsourcing, following a logic that has turned online consumers into involuntary data providers overall. Like in the previous example – Heartbleed – the paradigm of participation and generous contribution towards a commons tilts quickly into an asymmetrical relation, where only a minority of participants benefits from everyone’s input, the digital 1 percent reaping the attention value generated by the 99 percent rest.

Brian Kuan Wood put it very beautifully recently: Love is debt, an economy of love and sharing is what you end up with when left to your own devices. However, an economy based on love ends up being an economy of exhaustion – after all, love is utterly exhausting — of deregulation, extraction and lawlessness. And I don’t even want to mention likes, notes and shares, which are the child-friendly, sanitized versions of affect as currency.
All is fair in love and war. It doesn’t mean that love isn’t true or passionate, but just that love is usually uneven, utterly unfair and asymmetric, just as capital tends to be distributed nowadays. It would be great to have a little bit less love, a little more infrastructure.

MJ Long before Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations reshaped our discussions of mass surveillance, you wrote that “social media and cell-phone cameras have created a zone of mutual mass-surveillance, which adds to the ubiquitous urban networks of control,” underscoring the voluntary, localized, and bottom-up mutuality intrinsic to contemporary systems of control. You go on to say that “hegemony is increasingly internalized, along with the pressure to conform and perform, as is the pressure to represent and be represented.” But now mass government surveillance is common knowledge on a global scale — ‘externalized’, if you will — while social media representation practices remain as revealing as they were before. Do these recent developments, as well as the lack of change in social media behavior, contradict or reinforce your previous statements? In other words, how do you react to the irony that, in the same year as the unprecedented NSA revelations, “selfie” was deemed word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries?

HS Haha — good question!

Essentially I think it makes sense to compare our moment with the end of the twenties in the Soviet Union, when euphoria about electrification, NEP (New Economic Policy), and montage gives way to bureaucracy, secret directives and paranoia. Today this corresponds to the sheer exhilaration of having a World Wide Web being replaced by the drudgery of corporate apps, waterboarding, and “normcore”. I am not trying to say that Stalinism might happen again – this would be plain silly – but trying to acknowledge emerging authoritarian paradigms, some forms of algorithmic consensual governance techniques developed within neoliberal authoritarianism, heavily relying on conformism, “family” values and positive feedback, and backed up by all-out torture and secret legislation if necessary. On the other hand things are also falling apart into uncontrollable love. One also has to remember that people did really love Stalin. People love algorithmic governance too, if it comes with watching unlimited amounts of Game of Thrones. But anyone slightly interested in digital politics and technology is by now acquiring at least basic skills in disappearance and subterfuge.

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

MJ In “Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy,” you point out that the contemporary art industry “sustains itself on the time and energy of unpaid interns and self-exploiting actors on pretty much every level and in almost every function,” while maintaining that “we have to face up to the fact that there is no automatically available road to resistance and organization for artistic labor.” Bourdieu theorized qualitatively different dynamics in the composition of cultural capital vs. that of economic capital, arguing that the former is constituted by the struggle for distinction, whose value is irreducible to financial compensation. This basically translates to: everyone wants a piece of the art-historical pie, and is willing to go through economic self-humiliation in the process. If striving for distinction is antithetical to solidarity, do you see a possibility of reconciling it with collective political empowerment on behalf of those economically exploited by the contemporary art industry?

HS In Art and Money, William Goetzmann, Luc Renneboog, and Christophe Spaenjers conclude that income inequality correlates to art prices. The bigger the difference between top income and no income, the higher prices are paid for some art works. This means that the art market will benefit not only if less people have more money but also if more people have no money. This also means that increasing the amount of zero incomes is likely, especially under current circumstances, to raise the price of some art works. The poorer many people are (and the richer a few), the better the art market does; the more unpaid interns, the more expensive the art. But the art market itself may be following a similar pattern of inequality, basically creating a divide between the 0,01 percent if not less of artworks that are able to concentrate the bulk of sales and the 99,99 percent rest. There is no short term solution for this feedback loop, except of course not to accept this situation, individually or preferably collectively on all levels of the industry. This also means from the point of view of employers. There is a long term benefit to this, not only to interns and artists but to everyone. Cultural industries, which are too exclusively profit oriented lose their appeal. If you want exciting things to happen you need a bunch of young and inspiring people creating a dynamics by doing risky, messy and confusing things. If they cannot afford to do this, they will do it somewhere else eventually. There needs to be space and resources for experimentation, even failure, otherwise things go stale. If these people move on to more accommodating sectors the art sector will mentally shut down even more and become somewhat North-Korean in its outlook — just like contemporary blockbuster CGI industries. Let me explain: there is a managerial sleekness and awe inspiring military perfection to every pixel in these productions, like in North Korean pixel parades, where thousands of soldiers wave color posters to form ever new pixel patterns. The result is quite something but this something is definitely not inspiring nor exciting. If the art world keeps going down the way of raising art prices via starvation of it’s workers – and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to do this – it will become the Disney version of Kim Jong Un’s pixel parades. 12K starving interns waving pixels for giant CGI renderings of Marina Abramovic! Imagine the price it will fetch!

kim jon hito

kim hito jon

Brazil’s Mediums Channel Dead Artists. Is It Worship Or Just Delusion? (NPR)

AUGUST 12, 2015 4:39 AM ET

Valdelice Da Silva Dias Salum, 77, says she channels the spirits of famous painters to create her artwork.

Valdelice Da Silva Dias Salum, 77, says she channels the spirits of famous painters to create her artwork. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

Unlike most art exhibitions, this one starts with a prayer.

A heavyset 77-year-old woman with girlishly pinned blond hair stands behind a table. An array of colored chalk and oil paints fan out in front of her. She puts her head in her hands and concentrates.

Her demeanor changes.

Then, to the sound of eerie music, she begins to draw. Her hands are nimble and decisive, and very quickly, something begins to take shape: a face with a bright green 19th century hat.

After 18 minutes and change — they timed it — she is finished. She signs the work, “Renoir.”

The woman who is painting is actually called Valdelice Da Silva Dias Salum.

She tells me spirits began manifesting themselves around her when she was a child. But it wasn’t until years later that it really began to get frightening, kind of like the movie Poltergeist. The TV would suddenly switch on; the radio would blare at full volume.

Salum drew this picture in 18 minutes and signed it "Renoir."i

Salum drew this picture in 18 minutes and signed it “Renoir.” Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

She says the spirits of long-dead painters were trying to make contact: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas.

Salum says she grew up poor and illiterate. She didn’t even know who these painters were. She says she had no artistic talent. But the spirits selected her.

All this might sound odd outside Brazil, but here it is fairly common and widely accepted.

Salum follows Spiritism, which is basically a religious offshoot of the 19th century practice of communicating with the dead via table-rapping and seances. Spiritism is hugely popular in Brazil, with more than 4 million followers.

Spiritists believe in Jesus’ Gospel, and in reincarnation. They believe that the dead can communicate with the living through mediums — and not only communicate, but create through the living, too.

“I don’t know what they are going to do and what they are going to paint,” Salum says. “I’m totally enveloped by them. I don’t have a sense of time passing.”

Unique Challenges

It’s not only paintings that get channeled.

At a Spiritist bookstore in downtown Sao Paulo, I’m shown five books — including one by famed Brazilian spiritist Divaldo Franco — that carry Victor Hugo’s name.

It’s a Saturday and the place is packed with readers and books. There are more than 220 Spiritist publishing houses in Brazil.

One of the star authors is Sandra Guedes Marques Carneiro. Her books have sold more than 250,000 copies. She writes romances — of a kind. Her latest is called Salome, and she tells me she thinks it’s a “sign” that I am interviewing her. The book is about a female journalist who travels to the war-torn Middle East and then comes to Brazil — kind of like me.

Carneiro emphasizes that the books are basically religious texts. The spirits are writing to try to bring about enlightenment and understanding to the earth. It makes the message more entertaining if it’s wrapped in a good love story.

Her spirit author, for the record, is called Lucius, and he has a huge following — so much so that other author mediums channel him as well.

Alexandre Marques edits and publishes the work of his wife, Sandra. He says this part of the publishing industry presents some unique challenges.

“We don’t have a way of commissioning books,” Marques says. “They come from the other side to us.”

Another difference from traditional publishing? Editing.

Surprisingly, Marques says it’s actually easier to edit a dead author than a living one. Apparently, the dead are less defensive about the integrity of their work.

“The spirits are easier going, actually,” he says.

Still, it’s a labor-intensive process. It is pretty difficult to get approval for your edits from a spirit.

“We send the suggested alterations to the medium,” Marques explains. “The medium consults the spiritual author. They answer if they agree or not.”

Spiritual Copyright

This all gets into some strange legal ground. There was a case in which the widow of a famous dead author sued a medium for royalties because he was supposedly channeling her dead husband’s spirit and writing new blockbusters.

We consulted a lawyer who’s an expert in spiritual copyright. Renata Soltanovich says that as long as the consumer who buys the work understands that it’s been channeled through a medium, it’s not fraud.

Salum says she created these paintings under the influence of the spirits of (from left) Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet.

Salum says she created these paintings under the influence of the spirits of (from left) Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

Back at the painting exhibition, Salum is channeling another dead painter. I’m not an art critic, but the paintings, in my opinion, are not ready to be hung in the Louvre.

I ask her why her works don’t quite match the standard of some of the originals.

She explains it’s hard for the spirits to cross into the corporeal world.

“It’s because of my lack of knowledge,” she says. “They are using me as an instrument, but I am weak.”

In the end, she says, it’s all about faith.

12 Reasons To Love Nudity And Celebrate NYC Bodypainting Day July 18 (NSFW) (Huff Post)

 Posted: 07/16/2015 8:15 pm EDT  Updated: 07/20/2015 1:59 pm EDT 

You don’t have to strip down to your birthday suit to celebrate NYC Bodypainting Day, but it’s something you might want to consider. Here’s why:

  • 1
    It’s Free
    Michael Loccisano via Getty Images
    Just come down to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th Street at 2nd Avenue) on July 18. Full details at Bodypainting Day 2015.
  • 2
    All Are Welcome
    Andy Golub
    You can volunteer to be a model, artist, volunteer or just enjoy the show.
  • 3
    People Of All Races And Colors Will Be All Colors
    Andy Golub
  • 4
    It’s Clothing Optional (Sort Of)
    Andy Golub
    If you want to model, you have to take it all off. But if you just want to enjoy the show, you’ll need to put something on. Your choice.
  • 5
    It’s A Great Way To Enjoy New York City
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Once the models are painted, they’ll parade from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (47th and 2nd Avenue) to the United Nations.
  • 6
    It’s About Free Artistic Expression
    TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images
    Artist Andy Golub didn’t change New York City nudity laws, but he did influence how they were enforced. If you’re naked in a public space because you’re creating art, it’s legal. Thanks, Andy!
  • 7
    It’s About Body Acceptance
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • 8
    It’s A Great Way To Meet People
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • 9
    You’ll Definitely Fit In
    Andy Golub
  • 10
    It’s Art
    Andy Golub
  • 11
    And, of course, The Body Is Beautiful
    Michael Loccisano via Getty Images
  • 12
    . . . In All Its Forms
    Buck Wolf

Listen to the Weird News Podcast for a full conversation with Golub, Aponte and Alston-Owens.

Slamming the Anthropocene: Performing climate change in museums (reCollections)

reCollections / Issues / Volume 10 number 1 / Papers / Slamming the Anthropocene

by Libby Robin and Cameron Muir – April 2015

The Anthropocene

Today’s museums are generally expected to use their objects and collections in ways that extend beyond exhibitions. Theatrical events, for example, can provide important complementary activities. This particularly applies to public issues such as climate change and nature conservation, which are often framed in scientific and technical terms. An exhibition is expensive to mount and demands long lead times, but a public program is ‘light on its feet’; it can respond to a topical moment such as a sudden disaster, and it can incorporate new scientific findings where relevant.

One way to make such debates inclusive and non-technical is to explore through performance the cultural and emotional dimensions of living with environmental change. Violent Ends: The Arts of Environmental Anxiety, staged at the National Museum of Australia in 2011,is an example of a one-day event that used art, film and performance to explore anxieties and public concerns about climate change. The event opened with the Chorus of Women, who sang a ‘Lament for Gaia’, and it concluded with ‘Reconciliation’, both works excerpted from The Gifts of the Furies(composed by Glenda Cloughly, 2009).[1] The performance presented  issues that are often rendered as ‘dry science’ in a way that enabled emotional responses to be included in discussions about global warming. A legacy of this event is a ‘web exhibition’ that includes podcasts, recordings and some of the art, including that of a leading Australian environmental artist, Mandy Martin, whose more recent work we discuss further below.[2] The curators of the event, Carolyn Strange (Australian National University), Libby Robin (National Museum of Australia and Australian National University), William L Fox (Director of the Center for Art+Environment, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno) and Tom Griffiths (Director of the Centre for Environmental History, Australian National University), are all scholars  with active partnerships in the arts and the museum sector. Violent Ends explored climate change through a variety of environmental arts. Since 2011, we have seen many comparable programs, in Australia and beyond.

banner image for the Violent Ends website

Thunderstorm over Paestum, after Turner, Wanderers in the Desert of the Real, 2008, used in the banner for the Violent Ends website ©Mandy Martin

In this paper, we review some recent international museum and events-based ideas emerging around the concept of the Anthropocene, the proposition that the Earth has now left the Holocene and entered a new epoch: The Anthropocene (or Age of Humans). The Anthropocene is defined by changes in natural systems that have occurred because of the activities of humans. It is an idea that emerges from earth sciences, but it is also cultural: indeed the geological epoch of the Holocene (the last 11,700 years) marks the period in which most of the world’s major civilisations and cultures have emerged; it includes both the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions. To assert that the planet has moved ‘beyond the Holocene’ is to assert that humanity (indeed all life) has entered a new cultural and physical space that has not been previously experienced. Questions of how humans live in a planet with changed atmosphere, oceans, land systems, cities and climates are moral as well as physical. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described climate change as the greatest human rights issue of our times.[3]

The Anthropocene epoch is defined by material evidence of human activities that have affected the way biophysical systems work. The stratigraphers (geologists) who decide if the new epoch should be formalised are seeking evidence of human activities in the crust of the earth, in rock strata, as this is the way boundaries between geological eras, epochs and ages have been traditionally defined.[4] Paul Crutzen, a Nobel-Prize-winning atmospheric chemist and the author of the original proposal to name the new epoch the ‘Anthropocene’, has focused on global systems, particularly evidence such as CO2 levels in the atmosphere (showing the burning of fossil fuels) and pH factors in the oceans (showing acidification caused by agricultural outfalls).[5]

Perhaps the most important question is not whether the Holocene has ended but, if it has, how are people (and the cultural systems that have evolved in the Holocene years) to live with such change? The idea of an uncharted new Age of Humans has attracted considerable attention from creative artists, museum curators and scholars in the environmental humanities.[6] Even as the stratigraphers debate the end of the Holocene, global change is upon us, and the creative sector has tackled these questions in its own way. One art and ethnographic museum, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, hosted the most recent scientific meeting of the International Commission on Stratigraphy in October 2014.[7] HKW, with its mission to represent ‘all the cultures of the world’, recognises that the ‘people’ focus of the Anthropocene demands debate that is both cultural and scientific, and that is concerned with more than just the people of the West. The HKW Anthropocene Project and Anthropocene Curriculum have a strong artistic and museum sector focus, which we discuss further below.[8]

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin, October 2014 – photograph by Libby Robin

Environmental humanities scholars of the Anthropocene emphasise the questions of justice (and injustice) embedded in planetary changes. Changes to climate, air quality and oceans, and loss of biodiversity are caused by subsets of humans (not all humanity) and their effects are felt by different people, and of course ultimately all life on Earth. The challenge for the humanities is to enable the voices of the people who suffer from the changes, or advocate on behalf of other creatures, to be part of the conversations that contribute to adapting cultural practices in response. People are already living with rapid change: the so-called ‘Great Acceleration’ of changes since the 1950s includes sharp growths in population, wealth and global financial systems, as well as biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, atmospheric carbon dioxide and inequalities between rich and poor.[9] All these changes together are unsettling, yet people are seeking positive, resilient futures in the face of ‘strange change’. This is a debate where the creative sector – design, architecture, museums and humanistic scholarship – is well-poised to make contributions to ideas for living in a changed world of the future. Artists and scientists alike want a broad-based future, not just one that simply ‘reduces the future to climate’, in the apt phrase of Mike Hulme, one of the world’s leading climate scientists.[10]

The Anthropocene is defined by its materiality. The fossil systems that trace its onset and evolution may be buried under layers of rock, lava or sea, as were the traces of earlier epochs. Stratigraphers seeking ‘markers’ for this epoch look for material that might survive the end of an age of Earth. For example, in the case of the mass extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, footprints in the mud and bones remain, even after the collision of the Earth with a huge meteorite. The ‘markers of the era’ are material, and particularly well preserved if the disaster is sudden and buries them (rather than slow and eroding).  University of Leicester geologist Jan Zalasiewicz and his Anthropocene stratigraphy committee are looking for things that might become ‘buried treasure’, surviving as markers of humanity, after humanity is long gone. They are considering various forms of ‘artificial rock’ – bricks and concrete, for example, are long lasting, human-made and in vast quantities. The group is also considering plastics (manufactured polymers) as ideal for forming fossils that would date this epoch as different from all before it.[11]

The materiality of the Anthropocene makes it of interest to museums, but on a very different scale from that considered by the stratigraphers. One of the alternatives to looking for material change in rock strata is to create cabinets of curiosities in our museums, spaces where objects enable conversations about what is strange change. People now have more ‘stuff’ than ever before and there is ever more waste – what does a gyre of plastic the size of a continent floating in the Pacific ocean (‘the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’), say about the Age of Humans?[12] How could it be embodied as an object or set of objects in a Museum? What are the material objects that complement abstract representations of strata, atmospheric chemical analysis, and graphs trending upwards? The challenge for museums and cultural institutions with a stake in valuing objects is to tell their stories well, and to give them rich context. If we are interested in how objects can entertain, inform and inspire, we need to present them as more than mere ‘stuff’.

The slam

In November 2014, the University of Wisconsin hosted an Anthropocene slam, an object-inspired event that brought together artists, filmmakers, scholars and performers at its campus in the state capital, Madison. The university has, since its inception, avowed a commitment to public intellectual life and the community of Wisconsin state. ‘The Wisconsin Idea’, as expressed by the university’s president, Charles Van Hise, in 1904, is quoted today in the words on the wall of the Wisconsin Seminar Room and on a centenary public memorial on the highest hill on the Madison campus: ‘I shall never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every home in the state’.

‘The Wisconsin Idea’ centenary public memorial

‘The Wisconsin Idea’ centenary public memorial – photograph by Libby Robin

The Wisconsin Idea expresses an aspiration that university work can inform and enrich the ‘public good’ including cultural institutions. The University of Wisconsin takes as its brief to benefit all the citizens of Wisconsin, not just those who have the privilege to be its students. As well as repaying the investment of the state in its university, the public good aspiration has come to hold strong appeal for the state’s benefactors and donors. The Chazen Art Museum in the University of Wisconsin at Madison combines an outstanding collection of modern art and a strong teaching program in art history, including curatorial education, research and leadership programs.

The Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) initiative at the university has also used the support of private donors to develop a range of ambitious programs under the banner ‘Environmental futures’. The film festival Tales from Planet Earth, which has since 2007 successfully screened all over Madison and beyond in a range of venues, including Centro Hispano, a community centre serving Madison’s Latino population, has drawn new local audiences to the university’s programs and has helped to increase diversity within the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. In November 2014, the CHE team, Gregg Mitman, William Cronon and Rob Nixon, among others, hosted a new venture, a very different sort of public event, The Anthropocene Slam: A Cabinet of Curiosities.

The ‘slam’ is a concept that originated with poetry, performance and a competitive spirit. The first poetry slam in 1984 was a poetry reading in the Get Me High lounge in Chicago. Poets performed their words and audiences voted with acclamation for the winners. The community audience was essential. The slams were noisy, theatrical and democratic – very different from ‘high art’ poetry recitation. The Anthropocene Slam borrowed the performance and entertainment idea, asking contributors to ‘pitch in a public fishbowl setting’ an object that might represent the Anthropocene in a cabinet of curiosities. From a large field of applicants, 25 objects appeared in five sessions, involving a total of 32 presenters (several objects were presented by teams). The sessions (held across three days from 8-10 November 2014) were grouped into intriguing themes:

  1. nightmares/dreams
  2. Anthropocene fossils
  3. tales and projections
  4. trespass
  5. resistance/persistence.

The aim was to find objects that might help humanity rethink ‘its relationship to time, place, and the agency of things that shape planetary change’.[13] This innovative scholarly method was designed from the start to be inclusive of scientific, artistic and practical ideas, extending what is usually possible in academic settings. One of its public outcomes was the performance event in Madison.

The slam presentations were complemented by a major public lecture from journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, drawing on her bestselling book, The Sixth Extinction.[14] An audience of more than 500 people from all over Wisconsin came out on a chilly night to hear this fluent and well-known communicator of big ideas explain the thesis that the loss of biodiversity today is on a scale equivalent to the mass extinctions evident in geological strata. The last (fifth) mass extinction ended the era of dinosaurs. The slam created a context for this important lecture.[15]

Another aspect of the slam was the building of a travelling cabinet of curiosities,to exhibit the most popular objects and stories, and to take them to local communities. Like the original Wunderkammer from the 16th and 17th centuries, the cabinet created out of the slam is as much a cabinet of conversations and global connections as one of objects.[16] The purpose of the slam was to discover objects that might travel to a cabinet in another context: the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany, the largest science and technology museum in the world. One item from the cabinet even made it to opening night on 4 December 2014 of Willkommen im Anthropozän, the world’s first gallery exhibition of the Anthropocene.[17]

There will be a more formal reception for the cabinet and its objects in July 2015, in an Anthropocene Objects and Environmental Futures workshop, a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin, the Rachel Carson Center at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), the Deutsches Museum and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm.[18] The cabinet will also be available to travel elsewhere, including to Sweden, where the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory hosted an international variation on the Tales from Planet Earth film festival in 2014.[19]

The ‘call for objects’ drafted by Gregg Mitman and Rob Nixon was rather different from a standard conference or workshop ‘call’:

We are in the midst of a great reawakening to questions of time – across the spans of geological, ecological, evolutionary, and human history. It is a reawakening precipitated, not by a nostalgia for the past, but by a sense of urgency about the future. The Anthropocene, coined in 2000 by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and popularized by Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, is one of the most resonant examples of how the urgency of the future has prompted scientists, artists, humanities scholars and social scientists to engage creatively with the emerging legacy of our geomorphic and biomorphic powers. The advent of this new scientific object – the Anthropocene – is altering how we conceptualize, imagine and inhabit time. The Anthropocene encourages us to re-envisage (in Nigel Clark’s phrase) future and past relations between ‘earthly volatility and bodily vulnerability’. What images and stories can we create that speak with conceptual richness and emotional energy to our rapidly changing visions of future possibility? For in a world deluged with data, arresting stories and images matter immeasurably, playing a critical role in the making of environmental publics and the shaping of environmental policy.

The Anthropocene is just one among many moments in time when new scientific objects have altered humanity’s relationship to the past, present, and future. The coming-into-being of scientific objects such as fossils, radioactivity, genetic mutations, toxic pesticides, and ice cores, to name a few, have precipitated different narratives and imaginings of the human past and the human future. What might a cabinet of curiosities for the age of the Anthropocene look like? What objects might jolt us into reimagining environmental time across diverse scales, from the recent past to deep history? How might certain kinds of objects make visible the differential impacts – past, present, and future – that have come to shape the relationships among human and non-human beings, living in an era of extreme hydrocarbon extraction, extreme weather events, and extreme economic disparity?

… How is the appearance and impact of homo sapiensas a geomorphic force registered in the sediments of history, the objects around us, and the things yet to be? What emotionally layered Anthropocene objects can surprise, disturb, startle or delight us into new ways of thinking and feeling? What objects speak to resilience or adaptation, to vanishing biota or emerging morphologies?[20]

The cabinet also explored ‘future imaginaries’, both ‘utopian and apocalyptic’, considering the ideas of art and science, literature and film, history and policy. This wider Environmental Futures project opened a transnational and interdisciplinary conversation, with a focus on material objects and on the emotional responses (for example, hopes and fears) that they invoked. The challenge for the objects and their presenters was to:

… comprehend and portray environmental change that occurs imperceptibly and over eons of time – and that inflicts slow violence upon future generations – when media, corporate, and political cultures thrive on the short-term.[21]

Cabinets of curiosities

The Wunderkammer started life in German as a ‘room of wonder’, rather than the English ‘curiosity’. The cabinet of curiosities evoked awe. Rather than evoking rational curiosity, a cabinet should enable enchantment, according to political ecologist Jane Bennett:

Thirteenth-century writer Albertus Magnus described wonder as, like fear, ‘shocked surprise’ … but fear cannot dominate if enchantment is to be … it is a state of interactive fascination, not fall to your knees awe.’[22]

‘Awe’ was a word laden with moral and religious overtones in pre-Enlightenment times. In the 21st century, the objects of a cabinet stir questions about the ‘ethical relevance of human affect’.[23]

The rarity of objects in the era of the Wunderkammer added much to their value. In 1500, the average Middle European household had just 30 objects. By 1900, such households contained 400 objects. The proliferation of objects continued throughout the 20th century, rising to 12,000 objects per household in 2010.[24] The sheer number of objects in modern life changes them: they are no longer precious but rather just ‘stuff’, too many to count or care about. An Anthropocene-era cabinet of curiosities rediscovers objects that can stir wonder, curiosity and care, even for a jaded 21st-century viewer, whose home is burdened with an excess of objects. Each object’s story needs to be evocative, remarkable, perhaps even luminous. Even a prosaic object can carry a big story. This can be assisted by a great ‘pitch’ or performance that breathes life into the story.

When objects have lost their stories and their place in the lives of their owners, they are just stuff. When the stories are remembered and embraced with the object, they stimulate memories and reflection. These can even have clinical value for those suffering from memory loss. Keeping the context of the object simple and clear is often better for stimulating memory than cluttering it with high-tech apps.[25]

Restoring enchantment to objects demands retelling their stories, making individual objects special and important to identity again. The slam was a deliberate strategy to foster engagement and to enliven and reinvigorate objects, to sponsor a ‘sense of play’. It was a technique that could ‘hone sensory receptivity to the marvellous specificity of things’ and, above all, that could ‘resist the story of the disenchantment of modernity’, in Jane Bennett’s words.[26] The challenge of the Anthropocene is its scale. It may seem so large and frightening that it makes people feel they can do nothing about it. The performance event is a strategy for keeping open possibilities for adaptive strategies in the face of rapid change, allowing objects to explore facets of a bigger story in smaller, playful ways.

Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects is one attempt to tell human history ‘from out of Africa to the credit card’. He argues for the levelling power of objects: not all societies have text to tell their stories, but objects may survive to speak from cultures beyond the written word. A history created from objects can include the 95 per cent of human history that is only told in stone. [27] While organic objects cannot survive indefinitely, and fragile objects are more likely to be lost than robust ones, the survival of an object is not just physical: it is also testimony to a cultural context where someone cared enough to protect this object – perhaps in a grave, perhaps in a pocket. Small objects may survive better than large. Edmund de Waal’s imaginative memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes, told through his global family’s netsuke collection, shows just how powerful a small and special object can become. Netsuke are tiny Japanese ceramic, wood and ivory carvings (originally merely a functional addendum that enabled men to carry a tobacco pouch on a kimono). The de Waal collection of netsuke moved through generations and over a century of extraordinary international events, holding the family memories across time and space, and encapsulating his family’s history.[28]

If we follow Neil MacGregor’s notion of a museum as a place that enables ‘the study of things [which] can lead to a truer understanding of the world’[29], then we have a particular new challenge to find the poignancy of objects in a time when there are too many of them. Which objects might enchant audiences and museum visitors in a world marked by the proliferation of things? How can we learn to wonder or be curious about ‘stuff’? The answer, in Mitman’s vision, is that we select and perform or present just a few objects, juxtaposed with others that can carry the Anthropocene story in quirky ways. When the idea of global change is too big and abstract for human comprehension, a small cabinet can act as a microcosm to enable an imaginative and active response. Each object is there for its own story. Together in a cabinet they become a chorus of stories.

The object

One of the 25 objects ‘performed’ at the Anthropene Slam and subsequently selected for the Deutsches Museum’s Anthropocene Wunderkammer was a domestic pesticide applicator. The familiar bike-pump-sized pesticide sprayer was a popular household item from the 1920s to the 1950s. In the United States the Standard Oil Company’s ‘Flit’ brand of insecticide became synonymous with the spray pump. Other countries had their own brands: in Australia it was Mortein.

‘Flit’ branded handheld pesticide spray pump

‘Flit’ branded handheld pesticide spray pump, 1928 – Hamburg Museum

The pesticide pump sprayer speaks of a faith in science to improve lifestyles, and the hubris of humanity’s desire to control nature. The sprayer’s genealogy links to both the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions, each a break in time that has been argued to mark the Anthropocene.[30] It is an object born of the demographic shift towards large urban populations, and the demands for greater intensification and efficiencies in food growing that make that shift possible. Until the mid-20th century (the likely date stratigraphers will use for the dawn of the Anthropocene[31]), most older-generation pesticides had been available for hundreds of years. Soaps, oils, salt, sulphur, and more toxic substances, such as those derived from arsenic, lead and mercury, were applied in all manner of ways. It was the social and economic changes of the 19th century, however, that drove sprayer development, as growers sought to cover plants and trees on a larger scale, with more efficiency.

Bellows syringe sprayer

Bellows syringe sprayer, 1874 – The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser

As early as the 1870s, American Agriculturalist reported a French horticulturalist using bellows across a nozzle to disperse insecticide. The article explains that the device and its production of ‘liquid dust’ use the same principles of fluid dynamics as a perfume sprinkler or medical atomiser.[32] A fine spray could cover all of a tree more easily, quickly and without wasting pouring liquid or dusting. By the 1890s the use of portable and horsedrawn pesticide sprayers was so common that the New South Wales Minister for Mines and Agriculture held a field competition in December 1890 at Parramatta to determine the best and most efficient commercial insecticide sprayer. The Australian-made ‘Farrington’ machine was fitted on a cart and could spray 500 gallons per day. Some needed two operators but others could be used by a single person, pumping with one hand and holding the sprayer with the other. The Lowe’s machine had a three-in-one action: it could spray, fumigate and expel a hot vapour of sulphur and steam near its nozzle. Observers noted that cross-winds often wasted the fumigant, so some orchardists proposed enveloping trees in tents that could ensure the expensive fumes were trapped where they were needed. On the day, the most impressive sprayer was a new machine from the United States. It was compact and used compressed air rather than a hand pump to create the hydraulic pressure, so ‘all that the orchardist has to do is stand at the nozzle and blaze away at pest and disease’.[33] It was the fastest of the sprayers in the competition, dressing a tree in just two-and-a-half minutes.

At the same time that chemical companies were advertising pesticide formulas to landholders in the late 19th century, they were adapting agricultural sprayers to deliver chemicals for domestic gardens and inside the home.[34] From the 1920s, when better sprayer design and pervasive chemical industry advertising combined with higher household incomes and campaigns for improved domestic hygiene and ‘mothercraft’, the familiar home pump sprayer became widely used. After the Second World War, the sprayer formulas became longer lasting and more effective, with new synthetic chemicals. Less than two decades later, the public began to discover that the miracle chemicals were not as safe as they had been led to believe.

Performing the object

A ten-minute ‘slam’ format presents a challenge to historians in particular, who by their nature and training, are dedicated to providing context. How much story, information and reflection is possible in ten minutes? The format shaped the form and selection of story – the performance had to provoke and begin a conversation. It would not be possible to explain everything. The invited presenters, Michelle Mart and Cameron Muir, opened their performance by playing characters, two archetypes associated with the use of chemicals in different contexts – domestic, urban, wealthy on the one hand, and industrial, rural and poor on the other.[35]

An immaculate housewife waits at the door to greet her husband

An immaculate housewife waits at the door to greet her husband, 1953 – H Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Corbis

Michelle Mart appeared as a 1950s housewife, a stereotype from the period’s advertising posters come to life, complete with lipstick, pearls and twin-set. She advocated the convenience and virtues of a bug-free household, as images projected in the background showed advertising and stylised scenes of the suburban ideal. Successful domestic management, or orderliness, cleanliness, and wholesomeness: perfect weed-free lawns, insect-free kitchens, and unblemished fruit and vegetables. Mart was the woman who stood on the veranda of a neat, architecturally designed house to welcome her husband home from work. Her home was managed with a pump spray that dispersed DDT through the kitchen cupboards, just like in the military, where officers were photographed spraying DDT down a fellow serviceman’s shirt. Some of the men came home from being sprayed in wartime service to the new peacetime spraying on the suburban frontier.

A US soldier is demonstrating DDT hand-spraying equipment while applying the insecticide

A US soldier is demonstrating DDT hand-spraying equipment while applying the insecticide – Centres for Disease Control Public Health Image Library

Advertising urged homeowners to use chemicals for the sake of the family’s health (some thought polio was spread by the housefly), while another has fruit and vegetables singing, ‘DDT is good for me-e-e!’ Mart’s 1950s character proclaimed she is ‘lucky to live at a time when the wonders of modern technology and chemistry have transformed our lives’, and best of all, the new chemicals are ‘safe for everybody’.[36]

‘DDT is good for m-e-e’ advertisement, Penn Salt Chemicals

‘DDT is good for m-e-e’ advertisement, Penn Salt Chemicals, 1947 – Collector’s Weekly

At this point the second character entered: Cameron Muir was an agricultural worker in a white, full-body chemical hazmat suit, including hood, gloves, goggles and face mask, and carrying a large knapsack pump sprayer adorned with lurid red-and-black warnings about its toxicity. We have moved beyond the innocence of postwar hubris in scientific and industrial expertise, but users are exposed to more chemicals than ever. The agricultural worker character speaks of his brother, who blames the pesticides for illnesses and behavioural problems in his children. He wants to leave the job of spraying but he can’t find work elsewhere. The worker fears local complaints about the chemicals will endanger their relationship with the company employing them.

Woman in Metema community, Ethiopia, using knapsack sprayer

Woman in Metema community, Ethiopia, using knapsack sprayer, 2010 – International Livestock Research Institute

The images projected in the background show the faces of individual agricultural works in developing countries, some of them disfigured by pesticide exposure and light aircraft spraying vast fields. Amidst health concerns and well-informed anxiety about spraying pesticides, industrial agriculture has scaled up again in the 21st century.

Crop duster plane flying over Imperial Valley farms

Crop duster plane flying over Imperial Valley farms, May 1972 – Charles O’Rear/The US National Archives

The object and performance as provocateur

Who owns the story of pesticides? The narrative of triumphant technological progress and control of nature continues to hold influence even in the face of startling costs and unintended consequences. Social and political commentators still attempt to discredit Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring 50 years later, while the chemical and seed industries sell promises of control, simplicity and safety to farmers wracked by the reality of an unpredictable nature and markets. More powerful than earnestness and statistics, Mart and Muir’s performance gave the voice to the Flit spray can and used it to retell the stereotypical narrative of technological progress. Humour, irony and juxtaposition can be more effective than numbers in exposing hubris in the failed narrative. The presentation made its point not just by telling, but by showing. It is a human story. The archetypal characters, images and objects spoke for themselves; each member of the audience actively made their own interpretations and connections.

Towards the end of the presentation, Mart and Muir stepped out of character and spoke to the audience directly, personally. The ‘pitch’ or telling mode was reserved until the object story and its historical frames had been performed beforehand. The background or hypertext for the performance included the bigger scale, Anthropocene stories: since the Second World War humans have released more than 80,000 chemical compounds that no organism had previously encountered in the 3.5-billion-year history of life on earth.[37] This profound change will persist in the geological record and in our genetic legacies. Everyone is still exposed to this chemical soup. Researchers in the Lancet Neurology have declared we are in the midst of a ‘global, silent pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity’.[38] It’s even worse for those who farm or who live in the world’s most polluted places. The presentation ended with a provocative set of images. In the 1990s anthropologist Elizabeth Guillette asked children from the Yaqui Valley in Mexico to draw simple pictures – one group was from the agricultural lowlands, the other from the pesticide-free highlands. The children from the agricultural region could barely form shapes.[39] The difference in the drawings was a striking visualisation of what is largely an invisible agent of harm. It was also an illustration of the geographic inequality of toxic burdens.

The chorus

The domestic pesticide applicator object was one of 25 performed in the Madison Chorus. It has now been chosen to travel on to the Deutsches Museum, where a new cabinet of curiosities will be re-assembled in July 2015 with some of the Madison objects and some new, locally chosen Anthropocene objects. Global changes are everywhere, but human responses are personal, local, and the slam was an event for Madison. Munich is another context: another language, a science and technology museum, and the juxtaposition of the cabinet with a whole gallery of ideas and objects for the Anthropocene.[40] What the Madison cabinet brings is an event and a set of objects that can interrogate the gallery project for the Deutsches Museum and its university partner, the Rachel Carson Center. It also invites local content – objects that have resonance in Munich. The slam-style event works to collect together the object stories and to draw out patterns and sympathies between them.

The Anthropocene Slam created a chorus of objects that worked together in Madison, juxtaposed with each other and the performances of their presenters. In fact, the audience was reluctant to vote for ‘best object’ in each section; these were not solo objects or voices, but rather notes that together created chords of global change stories, stories that were layered together with others. It didn’t make sense to pick out the ‘tenor’ or ‘soprano’ line for special attention. The poetry slam is usually a competition with a cash prize. The Anthropocene Slam resisted the competitive framework. Rather, it invited scholarly collaboration in a playful context. The shift from competition to chorus was its great success, enabling collaboration and partnerships and the reflections arising from some very different objects.

The global and the local

The Anthropocene Slam suggested one way to scale the abstract and global through personal objects. It created an object-conversation that worked for all ages and in intergenerational contexts. Educating citizens about living with global change is not a task for schools alone. This story affects every generation. As the Deutsches Museum has already realised, museums can be partners in this global education, and are ideally suited to intergenerational conversations: grandchildren and grandparents already often visit a museum together.

HKW took the scholarly mission to educate people about the Anthropocene as its focus, as part of a two-year Anthropocene Project. For 11 days in November 2014, HKW created an international ‘Anthropocene Campus’, where its galleries showcased the exhibitions, video documentaries and artworks developed through its Anthropocene Project. Campus participants worked to develop a ‘curriculum’, including textbook and online teaching materials, through seminars and workshops on approaches to the ideas of the Anthropocene. Nearly 30 presenters worked with more than 100 interested participants, doctoral and postdoctoral scholars and practising artists.[41] Most of the presenters came from scientific disciplines leading Anthropocene discussions (especially earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences). Participants included a significant number of designers, museum specialists and visual artists, as well as scholars of earth sciences and environmental humanities. The boundaries between science and humanities dissolved in the intense program; the need to communicate and to teach and learn demanded clear, non-technical language and strong images. The overwhelming thrust of the curriculum materials was to develop human and emotional responses to the Anthropocene, as well as ways to converse beyond disciplinary silos to work together to solve problems and engage audiences.

Thinking with museums

How can we slow down the future to enable a sense of control? What is globally curious? What will we ‘wonder’ at in future? What sort of objects should we collect now for museums of the future? These are all urgent present problems as we imagine how museums will work in the changing circumstances of the Anthropocene. For Collecting the Future, a museum event at the American Museum of Natural History in October 2013, Jennifer Newell, Libby Robin and Kirsten Wehner specifically investigated what communities might collect for community museums of the future in local places that are changing fastest. What objects and stories can travel from depopulating Pacific Islands (where people are confronted with salinising ground water and rising seas) to their new communities in New Zealand or New York? These practical questions about living with climate change can bring communities into museums to use their collections in new ways. Community museums, national museums, science museums and art museums are all members of the Museums and Climate Change network of exchange that emerged from this event.[42]

In Australia, as elsewhere, the arts have been engaging with ideas for imaginative futures through local museums and events. Climarte is one such group that ‘harnesses the creative power of the Arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change’.[43] It is an arts-led partnership including prominent artists, Nobel-Prize-winning scientist Peter Doherty and directors of key galleries, Maudie Palmer (founding director of Heide Museum of Modern Art and TarraWarra Museum of Art) and Stuart Purves (director of Australian Galleries, Australia’s longest and most established commercial art gallery). Australian Galleries will host the 2015 Climarte Festival’s opening exhibition, The Warming, curated by Mandy Martin, who was one of the international artists attending the Wisconsin Anthropocene Slam. The exhibition brings together eight artists from Australian Galleries with 17 additional artists who have been invited to contribute an ‘Anthropocene cabinet of curiosities’, a plinth of objects at the heart of the show. Some of the artists will also pitch their ‘curious object’ briefly at a special event on 3 May 2015, and there will be responses from moderators, Peter Christoff (from the University of Melbourne and formerly Victorian Commissioner for the Future), William L Fox and Libby Robin. The aim is to create an event to inspire new thinking about what the arts can do in a future beyond the Holocene.

The future is often constructed through the lens of economic expertise. For example, the Australian Treasury has issued a 2015 Intergenerational Report that focuses exclusively on the economic burdens that the present generation places on those living in 2055.[44] Sometimes it is earth system scientists, or climate modellers who describe futures – for example, under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios of 2 or 4 or 6 degrees of warming. Yet the future is also about cultural and moral choices, not just economics and environment. The worlds of 2055 and beyond will be more than just climate spaces and economies. The museum sector is poised to treat the future as a ‘cultural fact’, in Arjun Appadurai’s terms. Appadurai writes of a future that includes ‘imagination, anticipation and aspiration’.[45] The future is not just about imagining nature or anticipating economic conditions, it is also about aspiration. While ‘probable’ futures are generated by mathematical models of nature and economics, such models often offer little hope. An alternative is to look to museums, to objects and to the creative dialogues of personal visits and performance events to foster qualitative possible futures. The future is not just a technical or neutral space: it is ‘shot through with affect and sensation’.[46] Science and scholarship alone often lack important sensations for imagining the future: ‘awe, vertigo, excitement, disorientation’. Rather than just measuring change in our world – or denying that there is any – we can take a third way that acknowledges change, including, but not only, climate change. Cultural institutions have an important role in enabling communities to get on with living positively with the changes of the Anthropocene. Culture works through ‘the traction of the imagination’, expanding the possibilities for ways to live with the future as it unfolds.[47]

This paper has been independently peer-reviewed.

Endnotes

1 www.chorusofwomen.org.

2 Violent Ends: The Arts of Environmental Anxiety.

3 www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/21/desmond-tutu-climate-change-is-the-global-enemy.

4 Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N Waters, Mark Williams et al., ‘When did the Anthropocene begin? A mid-twentieth century boundary level is stratigraphically optimal’, Quaternary International, 12 January 2015, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2014.11.045.

5 PJ Crutzen, ‘Geology of mankind’, Nature, vol. 415, no. 6867, 2002, 23.

6 Christian Schwägerl, The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes the Planet, Synergetic Press, Santa Fe/London, 2014; Luke Keogh & Nina Möllers, ‘Pushing the boundaries: Curating the Anthropocene at the Deutsches Museum’, in Fiona Cameron & Brett Neilson (eds), Climate Change, Museum Futures: The Roles and Agencies of Museums and Science Centers, Routledge, London, 2014, pp. 78–89.

7 Currently chaired by Jan Zalasiewicz, who has worked extensively with humanities scholars (at the University of Chicago and the University of Sydney), and has supervised art projects such as the French artist Yesenia Thibault-Picazo’s Cabinet of Future Geology, currently showing at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, until 2016. In 2015 another version of Thibault-Picazo’s work will be part of the Globale Festival in the New Media Museum, Karlsruhe, Germany.

8 Bernd Scherer (ed.), The Anthropocene Project: A Report, HKW, Berlin, 2014; Libby Robin, Dag Avango, Luke Keogh, Nina Möllers, Bernd Scherer & Helmuth Trischler, ‘Three galleries of the Anthropocene’, Anthropocene Review, vol. 1, no. 3,  207–24.

9 W Steffen, J Grinevald, P Crutzen & J McNeill, ‘The Anthropocene: Conceptual and historical perspectives’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A,vol. 369, 2011, 842–67.

10 Mike Hulme, ‘Reducing the future to climate: A story of climate determinism and reductionism’, Osiris, vol. 26, 2011, 245–66, p. 245.

11 Jan Zalasiewicz, ‘Buried treasure’, in Geoff Manaugh (ed.), Landscape Futures: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Inventions, Nevada Museum of Art and Actar, Reno, 2013, pp. 258–61.

12 Susan L Dautel, ‘Transoceanic trash: International and United States strategies for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, 2009, 181–208. This sort of global phenomenon (which grew and changed shape dramatically after the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011) has been very effectively illustrated in museums through ‘Science on a Sphere’ technology created by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Alaska State Museum, Juneau, http://juneauempire.com/stories/050109/ent_435381904.shtml#.VRTsEfmUeCc.

13 From the ‘Call for objects’ (distributed through H-Net online 2013), www.carsoncenter.uni-muenchen.de/download/events/cfps/cfp_cabinet-of-curiosities.pdf.

14 Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014.

15 Crutzen, ‘Geology of mankind’ (p. 23).

16 Oliver Impey & Arthur MacGregor (eds) The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1985.

17 Welcome to the Anthropocene: The Earth in Our Hands (in English). The exhibition gallery opened 4 December 2014, and will run till 2016; Nina Möllers, Christian Schwägerl & Helmuth Trischler (eds) Willkommen im Anthropozän: Unsere Verantwortung für die Zukunft der Erde, Deutsches Museum, Munich, 2014; see also Libby Robin, Dag Avango, Luke Keogh, Nina Möllers, Bernd Scherer & Helmuth Trischler, ‘Three galleries of the Anthropocene’, Anthropocene Review, vol. 1, no. 3, 2014, 207–24, doi:10.1177/2053019614550533.

18 Munich, 5–7 July 2015, www.carsoncenter.uni-muenchen.de/events_conf_seminars/calendar/ws_anthropocene-objects/index.html.

19 www.kth.se/en/abe/inst/philhist/historia/2.45962/2.60531/tales.

20 nelson.wisc.edu/che/anthroslam/about/index.php.

21 From Environmental Futures unpublished prospectus (‘Call for papers’), 2013; see also Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2011.

22 Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2001, p. 5, emphasis added.

23 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Duke UP, Durham, 2010, p. xi.

24 Christof Mauch, ‘The Great Acceleration of Objects’, Plenary panel, Anthropocene Slam, UW Madison, 10 November 2014.

25 Charles Leadbeater, ‘The disremembered’, Aeon Magazine, March 2015, http://aeon.co/magazine/psychology/where-does-identity-go-once-memory-falters-in-dementia.

26 Bennett, Enchantment,p. 4.

27 Neil MacGregor, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Penguin, London, 2012 (1st edn 2010), p. xix.

28 Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, Vintage, London, 2011.

29 MacGregor, History of the World, p. xxv.

30 William F Ruddiman, ‘The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era began thousands of years ago’, Climatic Change, vol. 61, no. 3, 2003; Crutzen, ‘Geology of mankind’.

31 Zalasiewicz, Waters, Williams et al., ‘When did the Anthropocene begin?’.

32 ‘Destroying insects – Bellows-Syringe’, Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 28 March 1874.

33 ‘Death to fruit pests and diseases: Experiments with appliances’, Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW), 13 December 1890.

34 Will Allen, The War on Bugs, Chelsea Green, White River Junction, Vt, 2008.

35 Michelle Mart (Pennsylvania State University) and Cameron Muir (Australian National University), both former fellows of the Rachel Carson Center, Munich, independently suggested the sprayer. They were both among the group selected to present at the slam, and since they had the same object, they were asked to work together on it.

36 Michelle Mart & Cameron Muir, ‘Flit sprayer’, Anthropocene Slam presentation, 8 November 2014, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.

37 Mariann Lloyd-Smith & Bro Sheffield-Brotherton, ‘Children’s environmental health: Intergenerational equity in action – a civil society perspective’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 11, no. 1140, 2008, 190–200.

38 Philippe Grandjean & Philip J Landrigan, ‘Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity’, Lancet Neurology, vol. 13, no. 3, 2014, 330–8.

39 Elizabeth A Guillette, Maria Mercedes Meza, Maria Guadalupe Aquilar, Alma Delia Soto & Idalia Enedina Garcia, ‘An anthropological approach to the evaluation of preschool children exposed to pesticides in Mexico’, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 106, 1998, 347–53.

40 Robin et al., ‘Three galleries’.

41 Scherer et al., The Anthropocene Project; see also Robin et al., ‘Three galleries’, esp. p. 215, doi:10.1177/2053019614550533.

42 Museums and Climate Change Networkwww.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/projects/museums-and-climate-change-network; Collecting the Future event, www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/news-events/collecting-the-future; Jennifer Newell, Libby Robin & Kirsten Wehner (eds), Curating the Future,University of Hawaii Press, Hawaii, forthcoming.

43 http://climarte.org/category/climarte-archive.

44 www.treasury.gov.au/PublicationsAndMedia/Publications/2015/2015-Intergenerational-Report.

45 Arjun Appadurai, The Future as a Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition, Verso, London, 2013, p. 286.

46 ibid.

47 ibid.

Seco e colorido: Grafiteiros vão ao Cantareira em protesto artístico (Conta D’Água)

Em tempos de seca grafiteiros fazem arte-protesto no complexo cantareira e dão medidor de nível de água para a população

Por Henrique Santana, da Revista Vaidapé

2 de março de 2015

Submersos no maior colapso de abastecimento de água da história do Estado de São Paulo, grafiteiros resolveram dar um rolê pela represa de Atibainha, em Nazaré Paulista, para fazer o que sabem melhor: grafitar. A Vaidapé participou da ação do início ao fim e o registro vocês conferem nesta reportagem.

O time foi composto por grandes nomes do graffite da cidade: Thiago Mundano, encabeçador do projeto “Pimp My Carroça”, que estiliza o principal objeto de trabalho dos carroceiros paulistas; Mauro, do movimento Imargem; Enivo, um dos responsáveis pelo polêmico graffite nos Arcos do Jânio, criticado por fazer uma suposta exaltação ao líder venezuelano, Hugo Chavez; Subtu, famoso pelos desenhos de macacos brancos espalhados pela cidade; e Fel, exímio escalador de prédios, que estampa desenhos gigantes edifícios da cidade.

O APARELHO DE MEDIÇÃO

A trupe do spray foi ao Cantareira com o objetivo de fazer um graffite-medidor. As pinturas, realizadas em baixo da ponte da represa de Atibainha , serão usadas de parâmetro para acompanhar o nível da água. “Estamos aqui para ver, de fato, o nível da água do Cantareira, porque não dá para confiar muito no que a gente vê na TV, no que a Sabesb diz, no que dizem nossos governadores. Então a gente veio fazer uma arte para ser um nivelador, para a população que vem aqui também possa acompanhar a situação da água Não é porque cresceu um pouquinho que está bem. O nível está negativo e a gente vai acompanhar por essa arte, que é um jeito de trazer um novo olhar para essa crise hídrica”, explica Mundano.

Torneiras colocadas por Mundano em cactos da represa (Foto: André D’Elia)

Subtu, o famoso pintor de macacos brancos, criticou o desperdício de água e não deixou de lado seu carro chefe, estampando na ponte mais um de seus primatas. “Eu fiz o macaco assim, desperdiçando água, porque o macaco é o ser humano desprovido de inteligência. Então ele é meio burro e tal. É para fazer uma referência a essas pessoas que não se tocaram ainda que a gente está numa crise violenta de água, que continua lavando o carro, que não reutiliza a água. Então é meio que isso, ele tá na ‘gozolândia’, ele tá aqui na Cantareira despejando água da garrafinha”, provoca.

“A gente está aqui hoje, na Cantareira, fazendo o que a gente mais gosta de fazer, que é arte, que é pintar. E hoje tá servindo como um alerta, como uma crítica”, conta Enivo ao falar que a ideia é que os graffites sejam submerso — caso o nível da represa volte a subir.

O protesto artístico surgiu de uma camaradagem que aflorou nas ruas de São Paulo. Apesar dos grafiteiros atuarem em diferentes regiões da cidade, a afinidade entre seus projetos individuais e os roles pelo asfalto quente da terra da garoa fez com que seus caminhos se cruzassem. Enivo pontua que a ação “acaba sendo um encontro de amigos para pintar, mas agora com um porquê”.

ARTE DENTRO E FORA DE CASA

Além do graffite-medidor, a ida para a represa de Atibainha teve outros porquês. Tanto Mundano quanto Mauro irão, no dia 7 de março, inaugurar a exposição “Ver-A-Cidade Mudana”, na galeria A7MA, Vila Madalena, zona oeste de São Paulo. O nome da mostra faz referência ao trabalho dos dois artistas. A ideia é construir um diálogo entre a arte exposta dentro e fora das galerias. Enivo é um dos sócios da A7MA, que abriu espaço para que artistas independentes consigam vender obras para garantir sua subesistência.

“Para a gente, que é artista, grafiteiro, é um prazer e uma missão poder falar disso, seja nas ruas, seja aqui nesse marco, nesse lugar monumental, importante para a sociedade paulistana. E também poder mostrar isso em um ambiente fechado, relacionando toda essa nossa poética em obras móveis que as pessoas podem olhar, podem até levar para casa. Então, na galeria A7MA, a gente vai fazer está exposição e vai relacionar tudo isso: arte na rua e arte dentro dos espaços”, diz Mauro, que também é idealizador de outros projetos, como o Cartograffiti.

Grafites de Mauro e Mundano, lado a lado na represa de Atibainda (Foto: André D’Elia)

Os artistas também vão abordar temas relativos a crise de abastecimento, levando para a galeria o projeto dos cinco grafiteiros no Cantareira. A arte ganha moldes de protesto e navega de Nazaré Paulista ao centro. Do subúrbio seco aos bairros em que o racionamento não veio.

A arte vai ao sertão paulista e os arredores da terra rachada ganham vida. Enquanto isso, os moradores da ‘gozolândia’ central continuam sem ver a cor da falta d’água. Na periferia, por outro lado, a torneira que não pinga já virou rotineira.

Água: crise e colapso em São Paulo (Revista Greenpeace)

Reportagem: Luciano Dantas

Fotografia: Carol Quintanilha

Edição 1, 2014

Desde o início do ano os moradores de São Paulo têm ido dormir sem saber se haverá água pela manhã em suas casas. Por meio de diferentes fontes, reunimos informações para levantar as causas, consequências e soluções para a crise hídrica que atinge o Estado.

Omissão e descaso: a falta d’água era prevista

Marussia Whately, coordenadora do Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) e uma das maiores especialistas em recursos hídricos de São Paulo, dá o seu diagnóstico. Assista:

“O uso do volume morto não é uma solução. Ele seca a represa, os lençóis freáticos e a capacidade do sistema em se recompor. Isso mostra a falta de preparo do governo do Estado para a crise.”

Marussia Whately

Dias difíceis

Desde maio deste ano a Sabesp se utiliza da água proveniente do chamado volume morto do Sistema Cantareira, principal manancial abastecedor da Grande São Paulo, para nutrir a capital.

“…Não há medida que consiga reverter esta situação em menos de cinco anos.”

Antonio Carlos Zuffo

Para o professor Antonio Carlos Zuffo, da área de Hidrologia e Gestão de Recursos Ambientais da Unicamp, o prognóstico é de dias difíceis. Segundo ele, além de enfrentar a escassez, os paulistas terão de lidar com a impureza da pouca água do reservatório. “Os peixes já vêm sofrendo com a falta de oxigênio dos rios e represas, e isso tende a piorar. Com um volume menor de água para a diluição de impurezas, a saída será o tratamento com maiores quantidades de cloro, o que compromete a qualidade da água que abastece residências, a produção agropecuária e industrial do Estado”, explica.

Zuffo acredita que a estiagem dure entre três e quatro décadas, e que a única saída para minimizar os prejuízos a curto-prazo é conscientizar a população. “A água economizada hoje será responsável pelo abastecimento de amanhã”, diz. E garante: não há medida que consiga reverter esta situação em menos de cinco anos.

A seca vira arte

Foto: Marcelo Delduque

Foto: Marcelo Delduque

Na contramão do que pensa a maioria dos moradores do Estado, Marcelo Delduque, morador de Bragança Paulista, não enxerga com tanta estranheza a seca que toma conta da represa que passa por sua propriedade, a Fazenda da Serrinha, já que a barragem foi construída artificialmente na década de 1970 para compor o Sistema Cantareira.

“Quando nasci, a represa não existia. Acompanhei durante a infância o povoado sendo alagado por ela. Por isso, para mim não é estranho ver tudo seco novamente”, conta.

É na centenária fazenda da família que há 13 anos acontece o Festival de Arte da Serrinha, produzido por Marcelo e seu irmão, Fábio Delduque, curador-responsável do evento. O festival propõe uma reocupação poética da paisagem rural por meio da arte contemporânea. É lá que artistas, estilistas, apaixonados e curiosos pela arte se embrenham, a cada ano, em produções artísticas livres e muito criativas.

Hoje a paisagem no entorno da fazenda é completamente diferente de quando a represa comportava seu nível normal de água. Assim, o que Marcelo pode acompanhar é o movimento contrário do qual vivenciou quando criança: o resgate das condições naturais do local, a retomada das raízes da Serrinha.

Curiosamente, o tema do Festival de 2014 foi justamente “Raízes”, e a paisagem do chão de barro rachado, que antes dava lugar à represa, tornou-se protagonista do evento.

O festival de arte da Serrinha propõe uma reocupação poética da paisagem rural por meio da arte contemporânea. (Foto: Carol Quintanilha)

Performance artística na paisagem lamacenta que transformou a represa. Fazenda da Serrinha. (Foto: Carol Quintanilha)

Antes da seca: a represa da fazenda Serrinha é parte do Sistema Cantareira (Foto: Marcelo Delduque)

O festival de arte da Serrinha propõe uma reocupação poética da paisagem rural por meio da arte contemporânea. (Foto: Marcelo Delduque)

Performance artística na paisagem árida que antes dava lugar às águas da represa. Fazenda da Serrinha. (Foto: Marcelo Delduque)

Sistema Cantareira – vista geral do reservatório Cachoeira em sua capacidade normal. (Foto: Instituto Socioambiental)

A represa de Vargem, componente do sistema Cantareira com sua capacidade hídrica já bastante reduzida. (Foto: Luiz Augusto Daidone/ Prefeitura de Vargem)

Racionamento velado

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean euismod bibendum laoreet. (Foto: Fabio Nascimento/Greenpeace)

    Falta de transparência: João exibe a quantidade de cloro contida na água após horas sem abastecimento. (Foto: acervo pessoal)

Morador do Mandaqui, zona norte da cidade de São Paulo, o estudante de jornalismo João Tiago Soares, 32, se queixa da falta de transparência praticada pela Sabesp. “Inacreditável. Até a Copa, tudo correu bem. Dias depois da final do campeonato, sem aviso prévio, o racionamento começou” – relata.

João afirma que no início faltava água por quatro horas durante a tarde e que depois foi faltando água cada vez mais tarde e por mais tempo. “Fechavam os reservatórios por volta das 22h, quando as pessoas se preparavam para dormir. Só abriam lá pelas 04h, quando estavam prestes a acordar”, conta. João diz que sempre que ele ou algum vizinho telefonam para a Sabesp, a resposta é a mesma: estão realizando uma “adequação” no sistema hídrico.

“Os recursos naturais de transformação da água em água potável são lentos, frágeis e muito limitados. Assim sendo, a água deve ser manipulada com racionalidade, precaução e parcimônia.”

Declaração Universal dos Direitos da Água

No último dia nove de setembro, Catarina de Albuquerque, relatora da ONU (Organização das Nações Unidas), declarou que a crise da água não pode ser justificada pela estiagem: cabe ao Estado prever e prevenir a população de circunstâncias como esta. Diante da crise, o recém-eleito governador Geraldo Alckmin continua negando a interrupção do abastecimento – praticada há pelo menos três meses – e descartou a necessidade de racionamento em 2014. Com mais quatro anos de mandato, veremos que medidas ele tomará para tirar a população do sufoco. Nem o cantor Chico Science seria capaz de prever lama e caos tão próximos um do outro.

Mais do que fórmulas e operações, matemática é arte, dizem pesquisadores (Agência Brasil)

segunda-feira, 1 de setembro de 2014

Essa é a avaliação de estudantes do Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada

Nem só de aplicar fórmulas vive a matemática. O arranjo dos números exige criatividade. Mostrar aos estudantes do ensino fundamental e médio a “verdadeira beleza artística da matemática” é a saída para despertar o interesse dos jovens e melhorar o ensino da tão temida disciplina. Essa é a avaliação de estudantes do Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (Impa).

Para Victor Bitarães, 19 anos, mineiro de Contagem, um caminho é a Olimpíada Brasileira de Matemática das Escolas Públicas (Obmep), que rendeu a ele uma menção honrosa, uma medalha de bronze e cinco de ouro, além de participação nos programas de Iniciação Científica (PICs), duas competições internacionais e a atual bolsa de mestrado, antes de entrar para a graduação.

“O ensino de matemática é bem ruim, não é uma opinião só de quem esteve dentro de sala de aula, isso é confirmado pelos testes internacionais que o nosso país também passa, nós estamos nas últimas posições. Eu não diria que a Obmep seria o milagre da educação brasileira para matemática, mas o Impa está implementando algumas medidas, tem a Obmep, tem os clubes de matemática, tem uma série de coisas aí.”

Victor considera a olimpíada um caminho para estimular o estudo e uma mudança de mentalidade. “Porque parece que é um negócio muito difícil, mas não é nada, a matemática é a coisa mais natural do mundo.”

Também no mestrado no Impa, ao mesmo tempo em que cursa a graduação em matemática pela Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio (PUC), Maria Clara Mendes Silva, 20 anos, foi descoberta pela Obmep e pela Olimpíada Brasileira de Matemática (OBM) em Pirajuba (MG). Ela relata que já gostava da matemática do colégio quando se inscreveu na Obmep pela primeira vez, no sexto ano, e ganhou uma menção honrosa.

“O ensino deveria ser mais voltado para coisas que incentivem o raciocínio, no lugar de ficarem repetindo contas e fórmulas”, diz Maria Clara.

Depois da menção honrosa na primeira participação da Obmep, Maria Clara conquistou o ouro nas demais olimpíadas que participou. Além disso, ganhou um bronze, uma prata e três ouros na OBM. A estudante também já participou de duas olimpíadas internacionais, em 2011 e 2012, e diz que se apaixonou pela beleza da matemática. “Eu acho que os resultados são bonitos, é você saber o que uma coisa implica. Eu acho isso bonito, essa precisão, essa exatidão”.

Ela pretende seguir carreira como pesquisadora, mas ainda não definiu a área de preferência. Quanto ao ensino da disciplina no Brasil, Maria Clara tem várias críticas. Para ela, o que se aprende no colégio não é matemática.

“Eu acho que a matemática no colégio é muito mecânica, isso é péssimo, aquilo não é matemática de verdade. Eu acho que à medida que você mostra o que realmente é matemática, que é pensar, deduzir as coisas, fica mais interessante naturalmente. Mesmo que a pessoa não queira ser matemática, ela vai gostar mais se for uma coisa bem apresentada, nem que seja a título de curiosidade.”

Alan Anderson da Silva Pereira, 22 anos, já está no doutorado no Impa. Alagoano de União dos Palmares, Alan começou a participar da Obmep no ensino médio, com 15 anos. Depois de uma medalha de prata e duas de ouro, decidiu cursar matemática na Universidade Federal de Alagoas (UFAL), mas trancou o curso para fazer o mestrado no Impa, já concluído. Ele conta que teve muito apoio e incentivo dos professores para seguir nos estudos.

“Quando lembro do meu professor do ensino fundamental, me sinto inspirado a continuar estudando”, conta.

Especialista na área de probabilidade combinatória, Alan diz que gostaria de trabalhar como professor e pesquisador da UFAL, “para retribuir tudo o que meu estado fez por mim, contribuir para o crescimento da universidade e melhorar as condições de Alagoas, que têm índices sociais tão ruins”.

Além do raciocínio analítico, Alan diz que foi atraído pela beleza artística na matemática. “Tem até estudo que fala que quando uma pessoa olha para um quadro ativa uma certa área do cérebro, e essa mesma área do cérebro é ativada quando um pesquisador resolve um problema ou vê um teorema que ele gosta, a matemática tem um lado artístico também”, garante.

“O que não torna a matemática tão popular é que geralmente só gosta dessa arte quem a faz, acho que é porque precisa ter um certo entendimento que não é direto, precisa de um esforço, mas quando você entende os parâmetros você acha bonito também”, completa Alan.

Para ele, o interesse pela matemática seria maior se os professores mostrassem aos estudantes de ensino fundamental e médio a verdadeira beleza da ciência. “Uma coisa que poderia melhorar a cultura da matemática é se existissem mais pessoas dispostas a apresentar a matemática de um jeito mais bonito. Por exemplo, se os doutores fossem dar aulas ou palestras talvez isso motivaria muito, dar a visão do pesquisador. É mostrar de cima, de cima é bonito, porque você vendo só pelos lados talvez tenha algumas arestas soltas.”

(Akemi Nitahara/Agência Brasil)

Anthropocene aesthetics (Immanence)

By Emil Tsao

April 10, 2014

Cross-posting this piece by Emil from A(s)cene. Taylor’s coral reef art is beautiful. See also the discussion of Donna Haraway’s “String Figures” lecture and Bruno Latour’s 11 theses on capitalism

anthropocene-001-jason-decaires-taylor-sculpture
Last week, Lee led us through an exercise that helped to contextualize the minuteness of the period in which humans (and modern life on Earth) have existed.  Dovetailing off of Haraway’s talk on the Anthropocene (or perhaps Capitaloscene) and her use of visual media and aesthetics to conceptualize and re-conceptualize the term’s significance, this week we will be exploring various aesthetic and artistic interpretations of the Anthropocene (although many of the images may not be constructed by self-proclaimed ‘artists’).  There are some interesting works here, as well as in Making the Geologic Now, which we briefly focused on at the beginning of the semester.

I’d like to draw attention to the living sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor, an artist and coral reef advocate based out of Cancun, Mexico.  Opposing the capitalist “land as commodity” paradigm, Taylor subverts the resource-as-value mentality by installing art pieces, whose inherent value to humans is not economic, but artistic, that actively proliferate life on their structures.  Taylor’s sculptures, which are composed of ph-neutral, environmentally friendly materials, are not just an interpretation of the world, that is a medium for-us, but rather an artwork acknowledging our large-scale presence that also seeks to heal the world’s depleting reefs – a medium for-them.

With scientists estimating that 80% or more of all reefs on Earth will be lost by 2050, Taylor aims to decouple us from the notion that it is our vulnerability at stake in the Anthropocene.  Yes, as Nigel Clark argues, we can succumb to this inhuman nature that is entirely indifferent to preserving our lives, but as Taylor wishes to show, so are the coral reefs.  In Taylor’s piece intitled Anthropocene, an old VW bug is submerged on the ocean floor supporting a fossilized child who appears to be asleep.  The sculpture is hollow with various openings close to the floor, allowing lobsters to make their homes in the structure.  I wonder if these crustaceans symbolize the ancient beginnings of life.

Taylor's Anthropocene
Taylor’s Anthropocene
A structure fit for lobster
A structure fit for lobster

In another piece entitled The Silent Evolution for which he received critical acclaim, Taylor took casts of over 400 humans and installed them in an area over 420 square meters in size.  While this underwater society appears human at first, it is imperceptibly transformed into a marine assemblage until it is no longer familiar to us.  Taylor’s installations remind us of our simultaneous vulnerability (ala Clark) and our unique human qualities, like our capacity to both destroy life and to engender it.  As an aesthetic medium, we are invited to explore the ocean floor and discover these strange objects that evolve over time.  Almost a kind of wild Banksy, Taylor plays off of our land-evolved eyesight, drawing our attention to the new ways that light refracts, and colors/perspectives appear underwater.

 

On View | An Artistic Celebration of the Beauty, Spectacle and Masculinity of Soccer (New York Times)

By BROOKE HODGE

JANUARY 30, 2014, 2:41 PM

“Verona #2,” by Lyle Ashton Harris, 2001-2004. Courtesy of the Robert E. Holmes Collection

“Pieta,” by Generic Art Solutions, 2008. Courtesy of the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans

“Sir Bobby,” by Chris Beas, 2007. Courtesy of the Martha Otero Gallery

“Hondjie,” by Robin Rhode, 2001.

“VOLTA,” by Stephen Dean, 2002-2003. Courtesy of Baldwin Gallery, Aspen

“Samuel Eto’o,” by Kehinde WIley, 2010. Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, Calif.

This Sunday might be the big game, but the Los Angeles County Museum of Art(LACMA) hasn’t forgotten about the other football — or soccer, as we refer to it in the United States. Opening the day of the Super Bowl, “Fútbol: The Beautiful Game” examines the sport through works of art ranging from video and photography to painting, sculpture and large-scale installation.

Timed in anticipation of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, an event as beloved throughout the world as the Super Bowl is in America, the exhibition addresses issues of nationalism, identity, masculinity, hero worship and mass spectacle. “Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait,” a room-size video installation by the artists Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon, is an intimate look at one of the greatest soccer players in history and celebrates the sheer beauty and elegance of the sport. Set to samba music, Stephen Dean’s video “Volta” directs its gaze at the audience, focusing on the pandemonium and organized ritual of the stadium crowds.

Not surprisingly, the curator, Franklin Sirmans, is passionate about the sport. “Growing up in New York in the ’70s, I was a big fan of the Cosmos,” he says. “I’ve played soccer since I was a kid and am always thinking about it. A show on soccer is a perfect platform to introduce complex ideas through a subject that is accessible to all viewers. I’m always looking for ways to introduce ideas of wider cultural significance like sport, spirituality and music into the museum.”

During the show, three of the video works in the exhibition will appear simultaneously on screens in the museum’s Stark Bar, where, beginning June 12, visitors will be able to kick back with a caipirinha and watch the World Cup.

“Fútbol: The Beautiful Game” is on view at LACMA through July 20, 2014; lacma.org.

Link between creativity and mental illness confirmed (Karolinska Institutet)

[PRESS RELEASE 16 October 2012] People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, there being a particularly salient connection between writing and schizophrenia. This according to researchers at Karolinska Institutet, whose large-scale Swedish registry study is the most comprehensive ever in its field.

Last year, the team showed that artists and scientists were more common amongst families where bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is present, compared to the population at large. They subsequently expanded their study to many more psychiatric diagnoses – such as schizoaffective disorder, depression, anxiety syndrome, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia nervosa and suicide – and to include people in outpatient care rather than exclusively hospital patients.

The present study tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level. Since all were matched with healthy controls, the study incorporated much of the Swedish population from the most recent decades. All data was anonymized and cannot be linked to any individuals.

The results confirmed those of their previous study: certain mental illness – bipolar disorder – is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors specifically also were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

The researchers also observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism. According to Simon Kyaga, consultant in psychiatry and doctoral student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.

“If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patients illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment,” he says. “In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavour to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as morbid.”

The study was financed with grants from the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Psychiatry Foundation, the Bror Gadelius Foundation, the Stockholm Centre for Psychiatric Research and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.

Publication

Simon Kyaga, Mikael Landén, Marcus Boman, Christina M. Hultman och Paul Lichtenstein. Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-Year prospective total population study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, corrected proof online 9 October 2012

Interest in Arts Predicts Social Responsibility (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2012) — If you sing, dance, draw, or act — and especially if you watch others do so — you probably have an altruistic streak, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

People with an active interest in the arts contribute more to society than those with little or no such interest, the researchers found. They analyzed arts exposure, defined as attendance at museums and dance, music, opera and theater events; and arts expression, defined as making or performing art.

“Even after controlling for age, race and education, we found that participation in the arts, especially as audience, predicted civic engagement, tolerance and altruism,” said Kelly LeRoux, assistant professor of public administration at UIC and principal investigator on the study.

In contrast to earlier studies, Generation X respondents were found to be more civically engaged than older people.

LeRoux’s data came from the General Social Survey, conducted since 1972 by the National Data Program for the Sciences, known by its original initials, NORC. A national sample of 2,765 randomly selected adults participated.

“We correlated survey responses to arts-related questions to responses on altruistic actions — like donating blood, donating money, giving directions, or doing favors for a neighbor — that place the interests of others over the interests of self,” LeRoux said. “We looked at ‘norms of civility.’ Previous studies have established norms for volunteering and being active in organizations.”

The researchers measured participation in neighborhood associations, church and religious organizations, civic and fraternal organizations, sports groups, charitable organizations, political parties, professional associations and trade unions.

They measured social tolerance by two variables:

  • Gender-orientation tolerance, measured by whether respondents would agree to having gay persons speak in their community or teach in public schools, and whether they would oppose having homosexually themed books in the library.
  • Racial tolerance, measured by responses regarding various racial and ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Eighty percent of the study respondents were Caucasian, LeRoux said.

The researchers measured altruistic behavior by whether respondents said they had allowed a stranger to go ahead of them in line, carried a stranger’s belongings, donated blood, given directions to a stranger, lent someone an item of value, returned money to a cashier who had given too much change, or looked after a neighbor’s pets, plants or mail.

“If policymakers are concerned about a decline in community life, the arts shouldn’t be disregarded as a means to promote an active citizenry,” LeRoux said. “Our positive findings could strengthen the case for government support for the arts.”

The study was based on data from 2002, the most recent year in which the General Social Survey covered arts participation. LeRoux plans to repeat the study with results from the 2012 survey, which will include arts data.

A convergência da Arte e Ciência: Pistas do Passado (Revista Z Cultural)

de Martha Blassnigg – tradução Cleomar Rocha e Júlio César dos Santos
Revista Z Cultural

Este artigo faz uma breve excursão pela história européia da ciência e da tecnologia numa perspectiva antropológica, destacando os valores humanos nas diretrizes subjacentes, imaginação, e atividades relacionadas à mente, como a maioria fundamentalmente constitutiva de toda a colaboração inter-disciplinar e seu impacto sobre a avaliação atual do valor associado às trocas cada vez maiores entre as Artes e as Ciências.

A Conferência Científica Internacional “Rumo a uma terceira cultura. A coexistência da arte, ciência e tecnologia”, organizada pelo Centro Laznia de Arte Contemporânea e o Museu de História em Gdansk, 23 a 25 maio de 2011, começou a discutir como “Atingir a arte por tecnologias científicas desenvolvidas agora no contexto da visão de uma terceira cultura, postulada por John Brockman “. Em vista das críticas e equívocos da problemática “duas culturas” da C.P. Snow, a postulação de uma “terceira cultura” foi criticamente abordada pela agenda das discussões da conferência, em particular em torno de idéias sobre a ciência para a arte e arte para a ciência, o papel, o significado da abordagem colaborativa, revista e criticamente a partir de diferentes perspectivas. A dimensão da interação humana em seus aportes subjacentes, a imaginação e a atividades mentais relacionadas, foi um entre muitos outros assuntos discutidos, o que será destacado aqui como o mais significativo parceiro constitucional, em especial entre as artes e ciências. Este artigo, portanto, concentra-se nas intersecções históricas entre a arte e a ciência e o que isso pode nos dizer, se não sobre a mudança de paradigmas, pelo menos, sobre a mudança em relação aos valores humanos envolvidos na colaboração.

A partir de uma excursão na história da ciência e tecnologia dos últimos dois séculos, fica evidente que o final do século 18 via a Arte e a Ciência ainda intimamente relacionados, como é explicitado, por exemplo, pelo químico e inventor Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), na sua comparação entre o filósofo natural e o estado mental do artista:

A contemplação das leis do universo está conectada a uma exaltação imediata a e tranqüila da mente e puro prazer mental. A percepção da verdade é quase tão simples quanto um sentimento, como a percepção da beleza … o amor da natureza é a mesma paixão, como o amor do magnífico, do sublime e do belo. (WRIGHT, 1980: 199)

Quando o filósofo e historiador da ciência William Whewell cunhou o termo cientista, em 1833, na Inglaterra, o termo foi publicado pela primeira vez, anonimamente, em 1834, na resenha de “On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences” de Mary Somerville, com um comentário satírico sobre a crescente tendência “de separação e desmembramento “das ciências, que excluía filosofia, a menos no que referia aos termos “natural” ou “experimental”1. Ele propôs o termo novamente, de modo mais sério e em seu próprio nome em 1840, em “The Philosophy of the Inductive Science”, dando um nome genérico compreendendo vários campos científicos, semelhante à maneira como ele concebeu o termo artista para se referir às áreas da música, pintura, poesia etc. O que é particularmente interessante sobre a intervenção de Whewell para o contexto atual é que ele concebeu que todo conhecimento tem um ideal, ou dimensão subjetiva; bem como uma dimensão objetiva. O que ele viu como uma antítese fundamental do conhecimento, revelou em todo ato de conhecimento há dois elementos opostos: idéias e percepções. Por contrariar os Idealistas Alemães, bem como os sensacionalistas por sua propensão exclusivista, ele alegou estar procurando uma “via intermediária” entre racionalismo puro e um empirismo extremo.

Whewell (1858, I, 91) denominou ideias fundamentais como sendo: “… não uma conseqüência da experiência, mas um resultado da constituição particular e atividade da mente, que é independente de toda a experiência em sua origem, embora constantemente combinadas com experiência no seu exercício “. Ele reconheceu que a mente não é um mero receptor passivo de dados sensoriais, mas um participante ativo na produção de conhecimento.

É notável que a filosofia da mente reflete na história da ciência no modo como vários processos de produção de conhecimento foram compreendidos e modificados nas metodologias e significados implicados. Embora tenha sido freqüentemente alertado que a condição humana tem de ser reconhecida na sua implicitude em qualquer ato de observação ou de análise (se não na coleção científica de dados em si, e ainda, na leitura e interpretação da informação recolhida), as implicações do papel ativo da mente humana, no entanto, tem sido freqüentemente subestimado. A longa tradição na separação dualista entre a racionalidade como um processo de ordem superior e os sentidos físicos e a mente do corpo como os processos menores relacionados ao instinto deixou seus traços e ainda prevalece. Consequentemente, o dualismo cartesiano serviu predominantemente de modelo para racionalizar a separação crescente entre as Artes e Ciências durante o século 19 com uma presunçosa oposição binária entre o racional e o irracional, o inteligível e o sensível, ou o dionisíaco e o apolíneo, que Friedrich Nietzche (1872) reinterpretou como as unidades da natureza artística, como oposição estética fundamental.

Ao olhar para a interseção entre Arte e Ciência em estudos de casos particularizados, no entanto, muitos dos limites freqüentemente discutidos parecem se dissolver no reconhecimento das tensões produtivas dentro de contradições, paradoxos e incoerências nas práticas cotidianas. A partir dos muitos exemplos que podem ser extraídos da história da ciência, um caso paradigmático pode ser encontrado no fisiologista francês Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), cuja obra se coloca entre as tensões que transformaram a ciência do século XIX dentro do paradigma positivista do século XX. Enquanto um estudo de caso mais completo é desenvolvido em outros lugares (BLASSNIGG, 2009) deve-se notar aqui que os estudos sobre movimento de Marey estava entre a sua capacidade visionária e orientação motivadora que entendeu o movimento como força subjacente para além da atividade executada de corpos em movimento ou substâncias, e o método científico de análise que reduziu essa força de apreender momentos para estudar posições individuais e casos de intensidades.2 A sobreposição de fotografias em série em sua “composite chronophotographs” situaram as tensões entre a calibração instrumental e a expansão da percepção subjetiva por uma ligação rigorosa com uma imaginação visionária e uma consciência explícita das suas implicações perceptuais e epistemológicas. Através de sua combinação única de métodos gráficos e fotográficos, de tecnologias de análise e de síntese, Marey teve sucesso abordando intrinsecamente a ambos: o capturado (análise) e o percebido (em suas tensões entre o experienciado e o sintetizado), em contraste com o paradigma positivista, cada vez mais privado desta totalidade e dinamismo visionário3 enquanto método científico. Esses recursos são evidentes no trabalho inovador de Marey, em que a imaginação desempenhou um papel fundamental tanto quanto a estética, ambos aplicados como ferramentas intrínsecas para complementar o rigor científico e a precisão.

A discrepância entre a análise e a descrição (ou representação visual) do movimento e o dinamismo atual das forças subjacentes de corpos animados que se cristalizam como duas dimensões chaves no trabalho de Marey, que na época também foi discutido pelo filósofo Bergson Hneri (1859-1941), que foi quem identificou a confusão entre a medição do tempo quantificável e do tempo como experiência qualitativa, uma vez que permanece fundamental reconhecer as potencialidades intrínsecas da mente humana que se mantém envolvida. Ele procurou desenvolver uma abordagem pragmático filosófica para abordar a questão da mudança de paradigma anteriormente mencionado nas ciências; inicialmente escrito como uma crítica à posição extremada do idealismo de Kant dentro do idealismo alemão de uma filosofia transcendental, ele tentou se mover através da dicotomia matéria (corpo) e espírito (mente), evitando estabelecer um reino transcendental e sem ter que considerar a consciência como um epifenômeno do cérebro. Assim procedento, os esforços de Bergson resultaram na distinção de duas tendências da mente – intelecto e intuição (antigo instinto), em uma oposição esquemática, que de forma construtiva e colaborativa foram complementando-se mutuamente ao longo do processo evolutivo, como ele demonstra em particular o caso dos processos criativos da mente (BERGSON 1999, 1998). Ao invés de representar uma crítica polêmica ao método científico, ele refletiu sobre o entreleçamento implícito e de contingências entre esses dois pólos dinâmicos e as suas necessidades evolutivas como tendência integradora: “Há coisas que a inteligência sozinha é capaz de buscar, mas que, sozinha, nunca as vai encontrar. O instinto, por si só, poderia encontrar; mas nunca irá procurá-las ” (BERGSON, 1998, 151).

A partir da perspectiva de uma filosofia (ou antropologia) da ment,e Marey e Bergson reconhecem intuição e imaginação como constituintes intrínsecos de sua prática do conhecimento, e viram a arte como uma disciplina importante para manter o movimento em uma posição dinâmica e instável – o próprio princípio da vida como é experimentado e aspirado. Há paradigmáticos exemplos anteriores de tentativas similares para descobrir um acesso mais direto e holístico para os fenômenos observados, em particular nas suas comunicações interrelacionais e representações com e no espectador, como nas obras de Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832 ) e Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), que tanto tentaram mediar e comunicar a experiência de fenômenos de luz e escuridão em seu caráter unificado e alterações transitórias.4 Goethe, mais explicitamente, tinha manifestado a interação entre a intuição e o intelecto de uma forma semelhante a Bergson, pois ele compreendeu a percepção intuitiva (Anschauung) e a faculdade do pensamento (DENK-KRAFT) como duas forças complementares na conformação de qualquer ato criativo que objetiva alcançar uma maior atenção e análise mais completa (NAYDLER, 1996, 120). Não obstante que a resolução de Turner para estas tensões inerentes, como expresso em particular na sua pintura do Dilúvio, tem sido interpretada como uma imagem de desespero, a resolução de Goethe foi vivamente contestada e as intenções inerentes de Marey têm sido negligenciadas ou deliberadamente prejudicadas , suas obras tem sido orientadas por sensibilidades e preocupações interconectadas, embora em enquadramentos muito diferentes e através de metodologias divergentes. As tensões intrínsecas no tratamento do movimento dinâmico no seu trabalho e pensamento indicam a aparente incompatibilidade e paradoxo que Bergson e, semelhante aWhewell e Goethe, situou como tendências complementares da mente humana: o intelecto e a intuição.

A busca de Bergson, no entanto, não só reconhece alguns destes paradoxos irreconciliáveis, mas escava um caminho através do reconhecimento da agência imanente durante o processo perceptivo co-criativo como evento ontológico que interliga apreensão estética e intuição com rigor intelectual. O esforço em direção ao holismo, sem negligenciar a agência criativa e promulgada autodeterminação do participante (seja ele humano ou não humano), oferece-se como uma solução potencial para a dicotomia comumente assumida entre mente e matéria através de uma compreensão pragmática da intuição, que suplementa e, finalmente, contém o intelecto. A fim de manter em vista a constante renegociação dos valores humanos em qualquer prática do conhecimento (no pleno reconhecimento de agência e criatividade como forças motrizes), uma das principais preocupações pode ser identificada nos canais que facilitam a co-construção de conclusões específicas levantados deles mesmos. Estes “conjuntos” com as práticas e experiências do cotidiano através de participação(1) pro-ativa, co-criativa e consciente pode constituir uma verdadeira “ciência compartilhada”, em especial quando se trata de troca de conhecimento através da colaboração. Neste sentido, o binário arte-ciência genérico, talvez entre os muitos binários interdisciplinares, serve como um modelo para aludir ao potencial transformador da dinâmica da troca, como eles aspiram e que Sundar Sarukkai (2009) chamou de uma “ética da curiosidade” em ciência. Ao invés de contar os resultados em termos de diferença (1 + 1 = 2) ou de equalização em terra comum como uma espécie de amálgama (1 + 1 = 1), a equação mais valiosa da arte-ciência pode estar no recorte da dinâmica fusão: 1 + 1 = 3; não como uma terceira “cultura”, no entanto, mas como algo novo e diferente que pode acontecer em um meta-nível como princípio autotranscendente de qualquer colisão materializada. O restabelecimento do sublime como uma qualidade na efetiva atividade da mente humana, ao invés de um “dado” de natureza transcendental em termos de um “absoluto”, fornece uma reconciliação potencial da condição humana de viver entre binários, em um dualismo que não precisa ser necessariamente superado, mas que alimenta a fusão evidente que produz os deleites da mente promulgada por meio de uma responsabilidade de a conceber como um todo. Um dom ativo do amor que só pode ser apreciado na atividade concreta de estar com, no próprio ato co-criativo entre dois elementos, nas seções transversais de qualquer prática com o objetivo de produzir novos conhecimentos ou algo assim, com ou sem o auxílio da tecnologia, o movimento efetivamente criativo da mente que “mentaliza”. Como tal, a polaridade da arte-ciencia pode ser vista em uma gama muito maior de oposições binárias, onde questões semelhantes e dificuldades de comunicação podem ocorrer: nas colaborações interdisciplinares relacionadas a diálogos inter-culturais, a assuntos relacionados a gênero, a trocas inter-nacionais, a relações inter-geracionais etc.

A capacidade de apreciar e facilitar a transcendência disciplinar aparece como o fulcro de que podem inflamar no encontro ciência-arte, mas somente se os métodos envolvidos e as abordagens forem mantidos inteiros numa relação dialógica (ao invés de uma dialética ou uma convergência) que desafiem a unificação e abraçem a diferença na mutualidade (co-sendo). Deixar de lado modelos paradoxais como premissas, para dislumbrar novas visões podem provocar uma fusão onde as relações envolvidas estão sendo transformadas e discernimentos sendo transferidos através de uma troca de conhecimentos que não elimina, mas acomoda diferenças. Um encontro idealizado e produtivo que se orienta potencialmente em direção a uma auto-transcendência responsável, privilegiando o todo . Mentalidade aberta, tolerância, generosidade intelectual, curiosidade ética, modéstia – qualidades essenciais para qualquer encontro na fronteira entre as disciplinas, culturas, nações, ideologias, etc – indicam um papel-modelo que a ciência da arte da colaboração poderia representar no século XXI, para um reconsideração dos valores das Humanidades, que não se restringem aos seres humanos, mas estende seu parentesco a todas as formas de vida. Isto estava no cerne da visão de Henri Bergson de uma nova ciência que abraçava a metafísica por meio da filosofia, especialmente como expressa em sua abordagem para a compreensão da consciência além dos limites humanos em “L’Evolução Créatrice “(1907. Evolution, Creative, 1998) pelo que , pode-se sugerir retrospectivamente, ele talvez deveria ter ganhado o prêmio Nobel da Paz, além do que ele recebeu em 1929, de Literatura. Intuição, entendida como prática responsável auto-consciente e dom ativo do amor , mais que uma visão espontânea, pode servir como abordagem potencial em direção a uma atitude “humanitária” através da escolha auto-transcendente e agência individual para descobrir os domínios que são deliberadamente ou acidentalmente perdidos na tradução. Numa última análise, o principal desafio a ser identificado pode não ser a busca de uma linguagem comum, mas sim o desenvolvimento de competências e habilidades em relação ao entendimento da mente humana de modo a acomodar diferença e contingência em sintonia com os valores selecionados e advogados para orientar buscas futuras.

 

Referências

Bergson, Henri. An Introduction to Metaphysics (tr. T.E. Hulme). Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett Publishing. [1903. ‘Introduction à la Métaphysique’ in Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, January].

______ 1998. Creative Evolution (tr. A. Mitchell). Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. [1907. L’Évolution Créatrice. Paris: Alcan].

Blassing, Martha. 2009. Time, Memory, Consciousness and the Cinema Experience: Revisiting Ideas on Matter and Spirit. Amsterdan: Rodopi.

Marey, Étienne-Jules. 1895. Movement: The Results and Possibilities of Photography (tr. E. Pritchard). London: William Heinemann. [French original: 1894. Le Mouvement. Paris: Masson].

Naydler, Jeremy (ed.) 1996. Goethe on Science. An Anthology of Goethe’s Scientific Writings. Trowbridge: Floris Books.

Nietzche, Friedrich. 1872. Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (The Birth of Tragedy: Out of the Spirit of Music). Leipzig: E.W. Fritzsch.

Sarukkai, Sundhar. 2009. Science and the Ethics of Curiosity. Current Science 97 (6): 756-767.

Whewell, William. 1858. The History of Sientific Ideas. Two Volumes. London.

Wright, C.J. 1980. The ‘Spectre’ of Science. The Sutdy of Optical Phenomena and the Romantic Imagination. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 43.

 

Notas

1 Citação retirada da Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2006. Disponível em http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/whewell. Acessado em 30/05/2011.

2 A Monografia de Marey: Movement (1895; Le Movement, 1894) é particularmente esclarecedora para compreender as intenções subjacentes em seus estudos do movimento.

3 O método científico é reducionista a certos valores e dimensões humanas como uma condição necessária da sua eficaz especialização e quantificação e isto não é considerado um problema – somente é problema se esta redução estiver ultrapassando a perspectiva do todo e, consequentemente, a especialização se mostra como a totalidade, o que não só ocorre nas Ciências mas também nas Artes e Humanidades.

4 A contextualização do trabalho de Marey e Bergson com as ideias de Goethe e Turner, da percepção da luz, é mais plenamente elaborada no artigo: The Delightful (1) Mind and a Case for Aesthetic Intuition: Marey and Bergson in the Company of Goehte’s and Turner’s Conceptions of Light. In: Light, Image, Imagination: The Spectrum Beyond Reality and Illusion. Blassing, M. (ed.) Amsterdan: Amsterdan University Press.

Martha Blassnigg
Universidade de Plymouth

Literatura da fome: projeto promove encontro inusitado (Faperj)

Danielle Kiffer

Para Ana Paula, Glauber Rocha tem estilo similar ao de Artaud, por vincular a escrita ao traço pictórico e reinventar a gramática.

Você tem fome de quê?”. A música Comida, da banda Titãs, já colocava há algum tempo o questionamento sobre as inúmeras fomes que sentimos, que vão desde o desejo de consumir arte à necessidade da própria comida. Porém, é a abordagem do sentido literal da palavra que dá forma a um encontro que parecia improvável: entre os escritores brasileiros Josué de Castro e Graciliano Ramos, o cineasta Glauber Rocha e o poeta, ator e diretor teatral francês Antonin Artaud. O projeto “O corpo extremo: da escrita limite ao limite da escrita”, desenvolvido pela professora Ana Paula Veiga Kiffer, da Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-Rio), analisa a questão da fome e da loucura de Antonin Artaud, usando como referência a fundamentação crítica e teórica dos três autores brasileiros.

Para a professora, que é Jovem Cientista do Nosso Estado, da FAPERJ, poucas semelhanças unem os quatro escritores, além do foco no tema que os reúne. “Todos retrataram a fome, mas de maneiras diversas. Em termos de estilo, acredito que Glauber Rocha é o que mais se aproxima de Artaud, pois ambos extrapolam a escrita e a vinculam ao traço pictórico, reinventando a gramática em suas obras, o que mostra a necessidade de criar um modo de dizer o que sentiam que ia além das palavras”, detalha. Dos quatro pensadores, por exemplo, o único que realmente vivenciou a fome foi o poeta francês, como explica Ana Paula: “Apesar de vir de uma família com boas condições financeiras, Artaud experimentou a pobreza e a fome em diferentes fases da vida. Ele viveu a decadência e a carência material do período entre a primeira e a segunda guerras mundiais na Europa e durante sua internação em instituições psiquiátricas, onde a alimentação era escassa. Durante a Segunda Guerra, época de sua internação, a fome foi utilizada como forma de extermínio nessas instituições.”

Com o romance Homens e Caranguejos, Josué de Castro foi inspiração para o
movimento conhecido como mangue beat.

Uma das primeiras teorias de Artaud que tem relação com a fome é o manifesto Teatro da Crueldade, de 1934. Nele, o autor clama por um teatro e uma cultura cujas forças vivas fossem idênticas às da fome. Ainda nos anos 1930, ele escreveu o poema intitulado A fome não espera, em que denuncia a decadência político-econômica da Europa da época. No poema, Artaud incita o leitor a transformar sua fome em seu próprio tesouro. Como destaca Ana Paula, há, no texto, uma grande semelhança com a Estétyka da Fome, de Glauber Rocha, na qual ele também nos desafia a fazer da nossa precariedade a nossa força. “Artaud é um autor radical como Glauber também é radical. O discurso de ambos não tem nada de vitimização, muito pelo contrário. É, sim, transformador, um estímulo à potência, à afirmação de uma diferença e às características que o povo brasileiro possui. Muitas vezes, de onde muito pouco se espera, há grandes movimentos de superação. Um exemplo que podemos citar, aqui mesmo no Rio de Janeiro, é o caso da Coopa-Roca, uma cooperativa de mulheres da favela da Rocinha, que fez do fuxico sua arte, sua forma de sobrevivência. E tudo com muito sucesso.”

Apesar de não ser mais um assunto discutido na intelectualidade, a literatura sobre a fome, no Brasil, gerou frutos que rendem até hoje. Um grande exemplo vem do escritor e médico Josué de Castro. Uma de suas principais obras e seu único romance, Homens e Caranguejos, publicado em 1967, influenciou, quase trinta anos mais tarde, a formulação do movimento musical mangue beat, liderado por Chico Science e Fred Zero Quatro, na década de 1990,  em Recife. Se Josué de Castro compara os homens, catadores de caranguejo, aos próprios crustáceos, ambos famintos e mergulhados na lama, Chico Science fala do mangue e sua sociedade marginal de homens-caranguejo, juntando na mesma panela musical, funk, hip hop e influências regionais.

Durante suas pesquisas em obras literárias, Ana Paula observou que a relação entre a loucura e a fome é estreita. Em Vidas Secas, de Graciliano Ramos, por exemplo, os personagens centrais da trama que se passa no sertão nordestino brasileiro, sentem tanta fome que passam a delirar. “Pode-se dizer que a fome leva à loucura e a loucura pode levar a um tal estado de abandono e indigência, em que a fome certamente estará presente. Estas duas características estão muito próximas.”

Também a experiência do francês Artaud, durante o período em que ficou internado, tanto no asilo de Rodez quanto em Ivry-Sur-Seine, na França, foi registrada, de forma original e única, em cadernos escolares. “Nestes cadernos, podemos perceber a materialização da fome vivida, que transforma essa experiência em um discurso que traz um novo modo de dizer, que parece tratar a linguagem como algo concreto e material.” Para Ana Paula, a discussão sobre a fome deve ser retomada sob outro ângulo, encarando-a e a outros problemas da nossa sociedade, mas substituindo a vitimização pela superação.