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”
I’ve mentioned the book Anticipatory history and how I keep returning to it. The term also describes a loose collection of approaches that extend beyond the book’s collection of texts, each a means to open up conversations about change in places we feel deep attachment to, now facing uncertain futures.
To help us bring in new perspectives when we try to make sense of change, ‘anticipatory history’ approaches might include:
Looking imaginatively at past changes and at the contingencies which underlined (and could have undermined) the events and actions that shaped what it is now. Examples are reverse chronologies, timelines, oral histories and artistic representations.
Taking a fresh look at the language we use to talk about the natural and cultural processes at play. The book itself provides one way into this, as a form of glossary arising from a dialogue between specialisms.
Imagining and naming unfamiliar or new ways of living with change that might be adopted in this place.
At The Conversation, Gareth Loudon argues for education for greater creativity as a bridge between silos of knowledge. This includes that famous ‘two cultures’ gap identified by CP Snow decades ago: the separation of sciences and humanities. Specialisation, of course, involves people becoming more expert in smaller areas (that unkind old joke: you learn more and more about less and less until you end up knowing everything about nothing). The separation is then reinforced in how we’re taught, how we expect the world to work and be managed.Continue reading “msb ~057 Creativity: a bright idea”
Just as one project’s website launches — with Waterlight’s successful release into the world this week — another one marks a significant milestone. In six months, Finding Blake has clocked up impressive work, thanks to its driving force, filmmaker James Murray-White. As a mostly behind-the-scenes researcher and editor, I can sometimes overlook the scope of detailed work on the ground — until James sends in his latest project update for me to edit. He’s generated lots of footage of interviews, performance, craftsmanship and locations – even before we get to the recent unveiling of William Blake’s new gravestone at his London burial site.Continue reading “msb ~053 Finding Blake”
I’m putting final touches to the next ClimateCultures post. Our latest author is writing on the topic of climate grief, and that’s sent me into other reading on the web in search of extra resources to support her post. I came across a graphic story from artist Perrin Ireland where, in a couple of dozen drawings, she captures some of the weight of anxiety, foreboding and, yes, grief that climate activists — even the simply ‘climate aware’ — can feel weighing them down. Reality is hardest for those facing dire times in the here-and-now, of course; but anticipated realities can be hard for the presently comfortable. Ireland finishes with a hint on how to take it head on: together, rather than alone.Continue reading “msb ~047 Climate grief”
I wanted to pick up where I left off in Evocative Objects, which omitted what I’d ‘brought’ for that ‘Show & Tell’ workshop on objects with personal resonance in our changing climate. Maggi Hambling’s massive, 4-metre high steel seashell, Scallop, stands on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk, resolutely dividing opinion among locals and visitors. I love it, and wrote about it in ClimateCultures’ A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects: “Being in its presence was to experience very direct communication with both environment and history, and an unsettling encounter with the future. Aldeburgh has been disappearing from the map for centuries … the sea moving in by stages.” Where Scallop now stands on shingle, were once homes and streets, lives and livelihoods.Continue reading “msb ~046 “I hear those voices that will not be drowned””
So far, I’ve only managed to watch 30 minutes of the BBC’s excellentDrowning in Plastic: impossible to stomach the full hour-and-a-half at once. Footage of shearwaters dying from the plastics their parents unwittingly fed them is, appropriately, gut-wrenching: the animals as oblivious to their plight as we are to our hour-by-hour petrochemical churn that creates it. So – like the other recent BBC 90 minutes on landfill – I’ll be taking this in chunks. But the first viewing leaves me wondering how to respond to another plastics piece today, on a colourful ‘future forest’ made entirely from three tons of recycled plastic waste…Continue reading “msb ~045 Future forest, plastic tide”
In today’s post on the Finding Blake website I manage, our latest contributing author Kevin Fischer discusses the balance between reason, experience and imagination. Fischer explains that William Blake, radical artist and thinker of the early industrial age, “saw imagination as something profoundly different from fantasy. Contrary to common conception, this imagination is not about make-believe, the creation of the fantastical, nor is it wish-fulfilment. Blake regarded it as an essential part of life, a means of breaking out of the ‘dull round’ of the ‘ratio’ of abstract reason, of the already known, and through to that which is other than and beyond ourselves. It is a means of putting us more in touch with the world, acting as a bridge between the experiencing individual and that which is experienced.”Continue reading “msb ~024 Imagination, the key ingredient”
In his contribution to the fascinating Future Remains, historian and geohumanist Jared Farmer discusses ‘technofossils’. Our technological remains last far longer than our personal relationships with these relentlessly multiplying gadgets, structures and infrastructures. Will probably outlast current civilisations. Possibly our species. And technofossils will not be just our artificial constructions; our (re)engineering of the biosphere is also a technological feat that leaves its mark for future archaeology. So, while long-forgotten subway tunnels — “worm tracks of mammoth size — might become sedimentary molds for locomotion traces”, just as telling a marker will be the distinctive layer of fossilised bones of trillions of broiler chickens, a “proxy for the ‘Great Acceleration’ of postwar global change.”Continue reading “msb ~023 Technofossils, fuel for thought”