Friday, April 15, 2016

Grief and Hope and Art for Dinner

Our experience of moral pain for our world springs from our interconnectedness with all beings, from which also arise our powers to act on their behalf. When we deny or repress our pain for the world, or view it as a private pathology, our power to take part in the healing of our world is diminished.
    -Joanna Macy

     Macy, Joanna. “Foundations of the Work.” The Work That Reconnects. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. LINK

This quote is from Joanna Macy's "The Work That Reconnects." She goes on to talk about how that pain can be unblocked and lead to constructive integration of grief into life. Likewise the Fierce Lament exhibit and series of events, which I'm excited to be part of, holds a space for acknowledging grief for the state of the environment.

Fierce Lament Curator
and Artist, Camille Gage
As part of the Fierce Lament series of events, curator Camille Gage and I met with some of the Resident Fellows of Institute on the Environment at one of their Fellows Dinners where they discuss various topics. As a Fellow myself, I've enjoyed these discussions that range from news topics to strategic planning. What Camille and I offered was a bit of a departure from the usual conversations but was well received. We proposed to talk about grief and hope and the environment and offer an experiential aspect to the conversation too. Camille and I both believe art has a role to play in addressing environmental issues and both have interest in interactive art that engages participants in a topic or experience.

We talked about childhood experiences of nature, and looked at some readings about the role of grief in discussing the environment and envisioning positive change, and Camille led an interactive activity about a favorite wild place.

In preparing the readings for the event, I was interested to run across this writing by Jan van Boeckel about children's experience of ecological grief and how art might help them navigate their conflicting emotions. He says:

Children are often rather aware of the ecological crisis that is taking place and that manifests itself most dramatically right now through global warming. A common response to this is psychic numbing, a mild form of cognitive dissociation. Art as a therapeutic practice – without being labeled as such – can help children cope with the “idea of crisis”...

and highlights some of the ways art can play a role:

An important aspect of art is its ability to deal with contradictions and ambiguity. For example the effort to find a future perspective and meaning in one’s life and to simultaneously acknowledge the immensity of the challenges we are faced with. The scope and magnitude of today’s environmental crises is hard, if not impossible, to grasp.  

van Boeckel, Jan. “Arts-Based Environmental Education and the Ecological Crisis: Between Opening the Senses 
and Coping with Psychic Numbing (Published in Drillsma-Milgrom, B. & Kirstinä, L. (E Ds.) (2009). 
 Metamorphoses in Children’s Literature and Culture. Turku, Finland: Enostone, 
Pp. 145-164. ).” 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2016. LINK 

Even without crossing into the specialty of art therapy, art may be helpful and therapeutic to children as it has been to humans throughout time as they face difficulties and fears.

I appreciate the Fierce Lament exhibit and participation in this event as a way to spend more time thinking about the role of grief as part of our sense of interconnection with the world around us.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Installed Switch

Sunday afternoon, I headed over to Form + Content Gallery to install Switch with Camille (curator of the Fierce Lament exhibit) and Rosie (exhibit designer/installer). The gallery is intimate and has the feeling of a precious container - like a side chapel in a church complex. The gallery was alive with almost all the artists installing work at once. Installation of Switch went smoothly, with only a few extra holes in the wall behind it. I am always amazed at how placement in a gallery or an intended space completes a piece - like its final outer frame. And how the lighting creates new shadow layers to the work.

Switch reflects a struggle with the effects of power consumption and questions about personal power to make change. As part of Switch, I went on “pilgrimages” upstream from my electric meter to photograph five power plants that represent five types of electric generation I hope will be substantially replaced by renewables: nuclear, coal, gas, oil, and trash incineration. Switch is a ritual object, representing appreciation of the gifts of electricity from these plants, sadness at their/my impacts, and a decision upon opening of the exhibit to switch to wind power. Visitors may carefully operate the switches to experience the work. Switch is part of a series called Power Contemplations.