How does distance affect our concept of the anthropocene, (with reference to the Anthrobscene, Plantationocene and Capitalocene) if we understand ‘nature’ as a hyperobject?
Donna Haraway: "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin"
I think the issues about naming relevant to the Anthropocene, Plantationocene or Capitalocene have to do with scale, rate/speed, synchronicity, and complexity.....
...generated the name Plantationocene for the devastating transformation of diverse kinds of human-tended farms, pastures and forest into extractive and enclosed plantations, relying on slave labour and other forms of exploited, alienated and usually spatially transported labour.
It's more than Climate Change; it's also extraordinary burdens of toxic chemistry, mining, depletion of lakes and rivers under and above ground, ecosystem simplification, vast genocides of people and other critters, etc, etc, in systemically linked patterns that threaten major system collapse after major system collapse after major system collapse. recursion can be a real drag...
I along with others think the Anthropocene is more a boundary event than an epoch, like the K-Pg boundary between the Cretaceous and the Paleogene. The Anthropocene marks severe discontinuities; what comes after will not be like what came before. I think our job is to make the Anthropocene as short/thin as possible and to cultivate with each other in every way imaginable epochs to come that can replenish refuge.
[the Anthropocene (and Plantationocene) should be considered a boundary event like the K-Pg boundary, not an epoch..
the suffix "-cene" proliferates! I risk this overabundance because I am in thrall of the root meanings of -cene/kainos, namely, the temporality of the thick, fibrous and lumpy "now", which is ancient and not...(contemporaneity?)]
Jason Moore and Alf Hornborg proposed the term Capitalocene (Capitalocene: Oakland CA: PM Press 2016)
Bearing the Sublime - What purpose can the sublime serve in the age of the Anthropocene?
My artistic practice explores and performs a physical and theoretical investigation of landscapes that could initially be read as beautiful, unadulterated or natural. Looking more closely reveals uncanny traces of industry, agriculture, colonisation, the haunting marks of mankind; scars of the ‘anthropocene’. Bearing the sublime means enduring its historical baggage and then moving it towards a contemporary, perhaps arguably more purposeful reframing.
Synopsis of research
This research will examine the contested liminal spaces between proximity and distance, observation and inhabitation. It will explore places redolent of the dichotomies of the indigenous and ‘local’, global and national.
There will be two strands to my research methodology - explorations of place and digital recording of performances or activations of sites which to me asct as totems or signifiers of the sublime anthropocene. I will explore these contested spaces, working with digital tools. This gives critical distance to perceptually process the experience at a somaesthetic level, and generates simulacra of the sublime for a spectator. I want to explore the extent to which digital tools act as filters for these aesthetic experiences.
In the second strand of my practice, I will translate these experiences into immersive and interactive installations that may include virtual or augmented reality. Through experimentation with this technology I will examine the manipulation of ‘volume loss’ (the intensity of experience diminished through distance) through digital sound, scale and mode of digital visual representation in relation to the body. I will create spaces to explore, activate and research embodied immersion and degrees of mimetic engulfment. Both of these strands will focus not on a politely distanced spectatorship of the sublime, but on my blinded, immersed experience of the world as hyperobject, informed by a critique of anthropocentrism.
My research will locate my practice within several strands of the sublime, which is both a layered and complex theory and shorthand for a type of experience that escapes conventional analysis.
Kant’s model placed the sublime spectator at a safe distance, able to perceive the awe and terror from a remove. I would argue that this serves to distance our awareness of environmental change and entropy, the hallmarks of the anthropocene, but do we need this critical distance to avoid the blinding effects/affects of the sublime?
The research also explores physical explorations of spaces redolent of Burke’s sublime ‘terror’, bypassing distance and mimicking acute stress responses of an anthropocene reading of the world as ‘hyperobject’, evoking the claustrophobic horror of being inside it.
I suggest that digital media acts as a ‘Claude glass’: a metaphor for the distance between body and place, a cipher for the sublime. In performance or activation, I will use an immersive approach to activate the contested space between the incomprehensibly distant and the threatening intimacy of landscape. In installation or immersion for an audience, I will explore these distances through manipulation of the aforementioned ‘volume loss’.
Bodily knowledge and tacit understanding lie at the heart of my methodology. A triangulation of physical mastery or testing, perceptual processing and sensorial engulfment together lead to bodily knowledge of place. Coupled with this is my research into the haunting layers of place: a palimpsest of stories, memories, histories, land use and communities associated with the selected sites. I am keen to raise awareness of the subjectivity with which we view place and remaining alert to the idea of place as a repository of slow violence.
Significance of research
The central aim of this project is to explore new interpretations of ‘distance’ in a contemporary reading of the sublime. The anthropocene era and sublime both date from the beginnings of the industrial revolution when man’s distance from landscape – land sculpted for minerals or deemed barren in capitalist terms – led to a heightened awareness of the eco-aesthetics of environment. The research project will make explicit the intertwined critical continuum of opposition and reflection, simultaneity and juxtaposition between the sublime and the anthropocene, whereby at times they appear as synonyms. I draw upon current discourse on the anthropocene, that humanity has been forced to a self-critical reflection on its place in the natural order. A neglected tool for understanding this is the sublime (Williston 2016).
Using digital tools to trace the ghostly layers of the sublime and the foundations of the anthropocene crisis is apt, given their significant role in capitalist development; the ‘anthrobscene’ or ‘capitaloscene’ (Parikka, Haraway 2015). The research takes up this challenge through practice, a ‘hyperobjective’ engagement with ‘nature’, aiming to provide insights into the various distances within the sublime anthropocene. Perhaps by positive use of the sublime as a way of accessing ‘peak experiences’, one can invoke a greater attunement to common humanity.
Joyfully and playfully negotiating terrible themes.
Activating sites corresponding to themes of the sublime anthropocene with a view to raising consciousness of hyperobjective experiences of climate change.
Positive use of the sublime as a way of accessing ‘peak experiences’, leading to greater attunement to common humanity.
Use of technology to create immersive, bodily experience of the sublime.
Use of digital tools as a way of negotiating distance, foreground and background - degrees of a sublime experience.
Use of digital tools sits uneasily in the frame of slow violence, media archaeology and the hyperobjectivity of rare earth materials.
Bodily exploration invites haunting layers of place - histories, land use, communities, memories
Awareness of subjectivities - people for whom this place is home.
Place as a repository of violence
Mixed reality – blend of physical and augmented
Holo lens Microsoft
Crude camera phone technology prototypes for now
Audio – binaural special experience
gizmodo – VR devices coming out
adobe premier with plug-ins
Computing VR in Plymouth Babbage – game computing – Paul Watson holo lens tech hub community
Meet-up.com – events in area
Blood and Soil – Addressing Arthur
Blood and soil – plains of Phillippi, helmets and javelins unearthed
Bloody footprints in the snow
A test-tube of red body paint and one of white – soil pigments – Darwin’s taxonomy: animal, vegetable, mineral?
The local and the indigenous
Remember the people for whom this place is home
Time – deep – slow violence of the contemporary – acceleration
Halos of radio signal, satellite trash, transmitting or receiving.
Transposing one location onto another
Layers, palimpsest of stories, histories, perspectives, subjectivities
Nationalism stop nationalism now please
What is the inverse of nationalism/colonialism?
Invitation, hospitality, reciprocity, not imposing – not doing things to/at or for a community but with – open borders, non-selective invitation
Addressing the universe
If you could say something to the universe – what would it be?
I offer to the universe…
mapping the field: what are the burning questions/concerns/desires/joys?
celebrating the local is problematic - Nazi slogan Blood and Soil (ref Georgics)
global/Indigenous - invasive species, symbolism of nationalism and isolationism
myth of past as a pristine state
borders - respecters of or not? (plants/animals) Hottentot fig for example
Place is transitory - entanglement - how do we unpack that?
displaced - what is displaced
layering of one experience of place over another
disrupting/disorientation as a positive thing
places that you're removed from become fantastical - hiraeth
psychogeographic - does place become reified? places change, through gentrification/war etc remembered place - altered place
mythogeographic - subjectivity of self and place
push and pull of looking for the nostalgic in a place
adventure of being open to a place
collective responsibility as artists and citizens - particular urgency in current time - is the art superfluous?
how much are we allowed to tell other people's stories? who is the author - do I need permission?
precarity - continuous becomingness
where is the body?
Gnosis - knowing something that’s already there
that was beginning to occur to me in terms of I don’t really believe in nature, I believe in ecology; I think nature is actually a human construct, I think that’s what’s wrong with it. It’s not like I don’t believe in coral, I do believe in coral which is why I don’t believe in nature. And I think that not only is nature a human philosophical construct, an aesthetic construct, it’s also a social construct that is one of the reasons for this violence, is this concept nature actually. And so I think that ecology must necessarily be without nature. And nature is usually taken to mean things being exactly what they are, right? And so eventually over time I realized the deep ontological reason why I don’t accept nature is because things are always exactly what they aren’t. There’s always this gap between what they are and how they appear, and the gap is such that you can’t locate it anywhere in the entities, on the entity or in the entity, it’s just kind of there like a twist in a Möbius strip, it’s everywhere, it’s ortt. It’s a twist, it’s what ortt means, you know, some kind of fairy magic twist to everything. And I think that since there’s no nature there’s no such thing as natural, and so that means that the way I think about ecology has this affinity with queer theory
Vertex+Reflex is a multi-site installation of a sculptural viewing device, coupled with sets of Virtual Reality goggles which enable an audience to appreciate a view whilst at the same time gaining an understanding into the industrial and global demands on their surroundings.
The sculptural device will be an elegantly simple set-up consisting of a sheet of glass and a mirror. These will be on a bodily scale and will sit at angles to one another. Over 2018, the framing device will be situated at a variety of locations along the south coast of the UK – from Dungeness in the East, taking in Selsey, Portland Bill and Plymouth en route to Gwennap Head in the West. Portland Bill will mark the mid-point of its journey.
The vertex will frame a maritime landscape, and will be ‘looking out’. The view will be mirrored and experienced as a peeling, shifting, kaleidoscopic shift of unfurling seascapes, punctuated by container ships, tourists, racing tides and weathers. As the viewer looks out, this perceptual experience is grounded in a shifting 270° (reflex) experience of the collected inland geographical backdrops of these strange and compelling locations, seen with VR goggles, should you choose to turn to face 'inland'.
On Portland, looking forward, you gaze onto the churning race, but glancing to the side could locate you in the 'terra nullius' and shadow of Dungeness’ Power Station or the navigation markers of Gwennap head, destabilising your sense of perception and geographical location.These ‘screens’ play with notions of the sublime, the framing of romantic ‘views’, and the Claude glass, an early observational device, whereby to perceive the landscape one turned one’s back upon it. I am interested in the allure that the sea holds, viewed as a natural, autonomous, anonymous realm. When facing the sea, with your back to the land, you have the privacy of introspection, one’s 1000 yard stare rendering one’s thoughts immutable, unknown. But what are we turning our back on, and are we really?
At Dungeness, you can turn away from the Nuclear Power Station, but you can hear its hum. At Selsey you have an awareness that the land is being reclaimed by the seas. At Portland, the famous race tides chop savagely at each other, the rest of the coastline receding dramatically back from the Bill. At Plymouth, the swirls of the Tamar meeting the sea fight unimpeded by warships and submarines that glide through. At Gwennap head, one gets a real sense of the sea ’turning a corner’, and the expanse of the Atlantic stretching towards America.
Our coastlines bear witness to some of the busiest shipping channels in the world, and are a highly visual metaphor for the model of Globalisation: Containers, Power, Warfare; all of these resources are channelled away, from behind us, through our view, out into the world.
I want to explore whether the sublime can serve a purpose in the age of the Anthropocene, and be used as a tool to widen an appreciation of the facts and realities of climate change. In response to the Anthropocene, Byron Williston comments "... humanity has been forced to a self-critical reflection on its place in the natural order. A neglected tool for understanding this is the sublime (2016).
By immersing ourselves in this experience, challenging our abilities to perceive through the combined use of the screens' vertex and and the VR reflex, can we look out and understand the 'background' of our experience. Jussi Parikka talks about "...Slow violence...a particular rhythm of the contemporary that does not open to immediate experience, yet forms one background of that on a very bodily level too". My aim, with this piece, is to open out both our internal thoughts and contextualise them within a physically experienced appreciation of sites that represent, to me, the 'Sublime Anthropocene'.
Challenge from GC: concentrate on a relatively simple articulation of her problem statement: exploring distance and conducting various experiments that reveal what is behind the viewer/observer.
Understanding the implications of distance within experiences and representations of the sublime. Distances of not-belonging are signature elements of landscape’s distinction as a mode of experience, imagination and presentation…a non-coincidence of self and world. (Wylie 2016)
Examine types of distance - touching distance, digital distance, distance of alterity, infinite indifference of landscape, temporal distance (slow violences), threatening intimacy (both landscape and communication technology) which abolishes near and far (hyperobjectivity)
So what does distance actually mean and how do we define it?
Anything outside of us? An internal emotional state? Something on the horizon?
What does distance actually mean to me, if I accept that there are several forms of distance?
IMMERSED / IMMENSITY
BURKE & MORTON / KANT
Swimming - being sonically isolated, aware of the outline of my skin.
Having a hubbub around me but feeling removed.
Being up high - looking down from Great Gable. Ineffable
Feeling powerless - unable to intercede or touch.
What affect and effect does distance have on a viewer? Do we slide along a scale from being a participant, to being a spectator?
Do we feel differently about what is in front of us as opposed to those things behind us? Uneasy feeling - unsettling, shark in your blind spot.
What affect/effect does this have on the viewer - if they have the choice - where would they look?
How does it make you feel bodily? Are you disorientated, dizzy, how do you perceive those distances, what is happening?