msb ~079 The ghost of a flea?

The ghost of a flea?  

William Blake's 'The ghost of a flea'
William Blake’s ‘The ghost of a flea’

Of all the images William Blake produced, the strangest and most appealing to me is The Ghost of a Flea (1820). It’s on display at Tate Britain: a small, dark, oddly menacing object, tempera and gold on wood. As this short Atlas Obscura article recalls, Blake claimed the ‘ghost’ itself came to him in one of his visions and “posed for him as he sketched it. He was able to ‘communicate’ with the monstrous being, who revealed that all fleas were inhabited by the souls of men who were ‘by nature bloodthirsty to excess.'” Continue reading “msb ~079 The ghost of a flea?”

msb ~077 Landscapes written in the skin

Landscapes written in the skin  

Hereford Cathedral's Mappa Mundi
Hereford Cathedral’s ‘Mappa Mundi’ – world dream-map

Maps hold me. The collection I marked during my ‘sabbatical’ exploration of personal unknown England. My afternoon with the Hereford Mappa Mundi’s medieval worldview squashed onto a sheet of vellum. First Nations hunters’ dream-maps, recalled in Anticipatory history: “a piece of moosehide as large as a tabletop … ‘Up here is heaven; this is the trail that must be followed; here is a wrong direction; this is where it would be worst of all to go; and over here are all the animals. They explained that all of this had been discovered in dreams.'” My own dreams of floating above unreal landscape-map hybrids, still real years later. Continue reading “msb ~077 Landscapes written in the skin”

msb ~076 Climate data: climate art

Climate data: climate art  

Climate Symphony Lab 2017: noisy data
Climate Symphony Lab; noisy data

A conversation today reminded me of a workshop I joined last year, where we created audio art from climate data. Climate Symphony Lab tapped into public interest in, but confusion with, science to make new ways to internalise what environmental change ‘looks’ (or sounds) like. Climate data: climate art. Actually being in on debates on what to include and exclude, which available technologies to use (instruments, laptops, voices, feet, breath, tearing paper?) was unusual, enlivening and unsettling. It brought a direct, participative responsibility to what can be seen as quite distant, individualist artistic practices — and even more distant, communal practices of science. Continue reading “msb ~076 Climate data: climate art”

msb ~075 A feel for the place

A feel for the place 

Geoff Dyer: 'a feel for the place'
Geoff Dyer: ‘a feel for the place’

Am I wrong to want from a programme called ‘Travel: is it worth it?’ some focus on the climate implications of a lifetime travelling to write? I agree that, while we travel with our preconceptions, travelling opens them to disruption; travellers’ accounts shake and reshape my worldview. But what of my prejudice: mass travel wastes the world faster than it makes it? Who can deny there’s a mass of travel writers? Continue reading “msb ~075 A feel for the place”

msb ~074 Negative Capability revisited: not knowing

Negative Capability revisited: not knowing  

not knowing: youths clashing with police, Paris
not knowing: “located somewhere at the edge of the world”

I’ve enjoyed this article where Paul Tritschler revisits poet John Keats’ idea of Negative Capability via psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion. “Bion said that one discovers truth, the ingredient essential to psychic growth, on the cusp of knowing and not knowing. On the cerebral map, not knowing is located somewhere at the edge of the world.”
Continue reading “msb ~074 Negative Capability revisited: not knowing”

msb ~073 Picture this

Picture this  

Picture Icelandic elements: a photograph by Gareth Goldthorpe
Iceland elements

As recent passages here — TERRA and The Library of Ice — hint, my reading’s had an Arctic preoccupation recently. I’ve never been north of 60o, so my polar regions are imaginary zones. Although reading is intensely visual, photographs still jolt my every-day, word-fed way of ‘seeing’ the distant world. I’ve dabbled in photography, but my brother does the real thing, and I’m envious of his skills and travels. I’d forgotten his recent Iceland trip, my anticipation of his new images and, checking his website, there they were: freshly discovered places that others’ words had been walking me toward. Continue reading “msb ~073 Picture this”

msb ~072 “We will grieve the glacier”

“We will grieve the glacier”  

Andri Snær Magnason: grieve the glacier
Andri Snær Magnason

In his beautiful, stark contribution to Dark Mountain’s new collection, TERRA, Andri Snær Magnason takes us from his family’s Iceland home — “one of the harshest homesteads in Europe … you can only see the next house with binoculars” — into northlands of moss-covered lava fields and geothermal zones. Here, “it is like a window or a wound on the surface, you can feel the power that moves continents and you can feel the hostility.” Continue reading “msb ~072 “We will grieve the glacier””

msb ~071 Knowledge that does not know itself

Knowledge that does not know itself  

questions marks on trees in a forest
Forest of unknowing?

Revisiting Donald Rumsfeld’s sage words on knowns and unknowns, philosopher Mark Kingwell helpfully unpacks different species within Rumsfeld’s missing fourth quadrant of knowledge: the Unknown Knowns.

Some might be our subconscious dreamscape of suppressed knowledge — a form of surreal self-mapping, which sometimes surfaces in disguise into the conscious world.

Others might be the very real workings of our selves within the world, through the store of tacit knowledge we bring to our daily practices: knowledge that’s routinised, submerged. Continue reading “msb ~071 Knowledge that does not know itself”

msb ~070 Inheritance

Inheritance    

BBC Radio 4 One to One on inheritance
One to One to Many

Veteran environmentalist Tom Burke talked about inheritance on the BBC’s One to One this morning. As an unmarried man without children, whose wealth is mostly in the market-boosted value of his London home, he’s thinking about how to hand on something which benefits the natural world and people. “I don’t have a lot of trust in the priority that any government I’ve experienced is putting on preserving biodiversity. I understand that our future security, our future prosperity, depends on doing that. I’m not sure there’s anyone in politics very much who does.” Continue reading “msb ~070 Inheritance”