msb ~080 Nature shock

Nature shock  

nature shock: wild applesJourneying further into Dark Mountain’s new anthology, TERRA, I reach Sara Hudston’s wonderful, powerful parable, Wild Apples. “Francis hated animals.” It’s not just animals. Francis — named ironically for that Assisi guy, of course — hates all evidence of the non-human, natural world. An ex-countryside refugee — “He’d escaped as soon as he could to the city where women liked to be looked at and men could talk intelligently of important matters” — he’s forced back into rural exile, singled out for unidentified duties by an unnamed bureaucracy with no apparent purpose. Continue reading “msb ~080 Nature shock”

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 ~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 ~068 One foot through the door

One foot through the door  

Through the doors: Dark Mountain Project 14: Terra
Dark Mountain Project 14: Terra

“They say that travelling opens doors, gives people new perspectives. This is only partially true. People carry their doors with them: perspectives seldom truly change.” I’m setting one foot into Terra, The Dark Mountain Project’s new book, and this image is from one of its earlier essays, by Nick Hunt. Every journey, the next village, the next continent: a portal into that new perspective, new dimensions. Nick is recounting his travels in Ethiopia: the cultural and natural experiences that bring new things into visibility, push others into invisibility; and the “preconceptions [that] can be destroyed” with each one although, as he suggests, we carry so many with us without noticing the load on us or on the land. Continue reading “msb ~068 One foot through the door”

msb ~067 Expertise

Expertise  

Expertise at a workshop
experts in the room

When I was looking into boundaries between ‘experts’ and ‘public’ on local coastal change, I explored ways to classify expertise. One typology, proposed by Michael Carolan, suggests that most of us can usually contribute abstract (e.g. scientific) or practical (e.g. local) knowledge. He described this as ‘contributory expertise’, but also identified an additional category: ‘interactional expertise’. Individuals use this to help bring together those with different forms of knowledge: essential when the issues are contentious and the debate can be confrontational. Continue reading “msb ~067 Expertise”