"Blockadia (Ya Basta!)" by Nicolás de Jesús
As environmental studies professor Randall Amster writes, "In a 2014 Democracy Now! interview, Naomi Klein characterized Blockadia as a 'transnational space, roving space'; in her book This Changes Everything, she reinforced the notion that Blockadia 'is not a specific location on a map but rather a roving transnational conflict zone that is cropping up with increasing frequency and intensity' to confront extractive projects... Blockadia is what the world looks like when ordinary people are called to extraordinary measures. When the mechanisms of governance and oversight have failed them, people can be compelled to utilize the potent mechanisms of collective action and civil resistance, sometimes with their bodies as the vehicle for their message... Blockadia points toward a world in which people find themselves bombarded by seemingly insurmountable environmental and sociopolitical crises yet nonetheless choose to forge ahead with a spirit of determination and possibility."
In his artist statement, Nicolás de Jesús asks, "Where is the memory of our forefathers? Why are we incapable of deciphering the message of love that we inherited from historical struggles fed by noble ideals? Why do we not feel worthy of breathing the spirit of strength that we inherited from their dreams of freedom? They are still there with their energy, interlaced with the power of conscience and setting ours on fire! 'Rise and fight for life,' they encourage us. Those to come—their children and grandchildren—will be proud and will also honor their memory. They shout to us: 'You are not alone! We are with you!' Shout, cry, and laugh until you feel the madness to spread this love to the world, to break the chains placed by the powerful on your caged soul! Blockadia is the Power of Conscience. It is feeling what another human being feels so as to lock arms with the Power of Conscience! It is the Power of 'Enough is Enough!' Another world is possible!"
For more artwork by Nicolás de Jesús go to artistnicolasdejesus.com.
"Untitled 2018 [Dàtóng]" by Rirkrit Tiravanija
Professor of theory and rhetoric Andrew Pendakis writes, "Dàtóng is a concept derived from the Confucian tradition that is usually translated in English as 'great universality'... Dàtóng envisions a society in which parts are arranged in sets of relations that are themselves fixed eternally by nature... Provided we remain careful to acknowledge its own inherited limitations, the concept of dàtóng allows us to imagine a relationship to nonhuman life free of the reductive, humanist presuppositions of classical liberalism... Justice achieved, life collectively affirmed and effectively protected—this is at once the oldest, craziest, and most modern of dreams, and it is one we should never be too mature or informed to stop having."
In his artist statement, Rirkrit Tiravanija writes, "The two points regarding the Confucian concept of dàtóng that resonate most with me in Andrew Pendakis’s text, which became the foundation for my contribution, are the absence of any consideration of the relationship between humans and nature on the one hand, and its role as an actual political program during Mao’s cultural revolution, on the other. My sculpture, a lotus flower about to blossom in a Thai military boot sculpted from local clay found near my place in Chiang Mai, is a simple response that combines these two seemingly disparate elements. It is a consideration of the relationship between humans and nature; further, it is a meditation on the tension between utopian ideas and the means of their realization, posing the question of whether dàtóng 'remains consigned to the saddest of fates: that of being a beautiful (but largely toothless) idea,' or whether it can be much more, ideally beyond and outside of the realm of militarist mass politics."
"Ghurba" by SWOON
Sociologists Allison Ford and Kari Marie Norgaard write, "Ghurba is an Arabic word that has no English equivalent. It translates loosely as 'a longing for one’s homeland.' It evokes the deep connection that people have to their place of origin and the longing for place as something familiar and safe... In the age of anthropogenic climate change, we propose applying ghurba to name a longing for home that transcends place... Although tinged with the melancholy of nostalgia, ghurba substantiates the valuation of home as a conceptual space that can protect against both symbolic and physical violence. Such a longing makes slow violence more evident by calling attention to what we are losing, even as it slips away... We decided to borrow the word ghurba before the 2016 election, without knowing how extreme anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment would get in Trump’s America. In the current political climate, we consider it especially important to acknowledge our gratitude, and to honor the beauty and richness of Arab cultures that are so often overlooked."
In her artist statement, SWOON writes, "Ghurba conjured images of generative amniotic symmetries. This unfolding of life outward from the center may well be our original home. In creating this piece, I worked from a sense of searching for safety all the way down in the depths, where our very selves were generated."
For more artwork by SWOON, go to swoonstudio.org.
"Godhuli" by Jonathan Dyck
Ecocritic Malcolm Sen writes, "Godhuli, a Bengali word, is a remarkable portmanteau. It refers to the time of day we might otherwise call twilight in English. However, it resonates with an ethics of place and a metaphysics of possibility in a way that the English word does not. Like twilight, when the sun is below the horizon and sunlight is refracted through the atmosphere, godhuli also refers to the fleeting moments that immediately follow sunset. But unlike twilight, godhuli refracted light is located terrestrially, on an earthly plane rather than in the atmosphere. This is because, in Bengali, go refers to cows, dhuli to dust. Godhuli is thus the time of day when cows, with their hooves kicking up dust, return from pasture to their nightly refuge... In Hinduism, godhuli thus offers a moment of hope, a way out when no other paths seem passable. At a time when we name the Anthropocene and recognize the potentiality of our threshold, our civilizational godhuli hour, a time for action and illumination, not least of which should be the recognition, as Nietzsche would have it, of our false idols. Godhuli enlivens the threshold on which life depends. Its call for a temporality that is determined by the 'half-tones' conjured up by dust acknowledges at once the 'sweet spot,' the 'Goldilocks zone' (terms used by scientists to denote the unique position of our planet in the solar system), in which the orbital path of earth is mapped. In the Anthropocene, godhuli energizes the recognition of the telluric origins of human history."
In his artist statement, Jonathan Dyck writes, "This image depicts godhuli as a redistribution of matter and color, a re-visioning of movement and rest, in line with Alfred Russel Wallace’s description of dust as 'matter in the wrong place.' Without such matter refracting and reflecting the sunshine, he writes, we would be without variations of color, clouds, or rain. Displacement is, in other words, a condition not only for optics but for life. From the footsteps of a herdsman and his cattle to the particles floating through the sky, these small bits of matter reanimate our conceptions of appearance, place, and possibility.
For more artwork by Jonathan Dyck, go to jonathandyck.com.
"Heyiya" by Jenny Kendler
Ecocritic Michael Horka writes, "In Always Coming Home (1985), Ursula K. Le Guin creates a future world of unmatched breadth and artful precision. One can sense that something new is coming into being—something radically dissimilar to the global capitalist present. That emergent world takes shape through the practice of heyiya... 'The Kesh give shape to heyiya in a double spiral form that signifies its dialectical nature: It [heyimas] is formed of the elements heya, heyiya—the connotations of which include sacredness, hinge, connection, spiral, center, praise, and change—and ma, house. The heyiya-if, two spirals centered upon the same (empty) space, was the material or visual representation of the idea of heyiya. Varied and elaborated in countless ways, the heyiya-if was a choreographic and gestural element in dance, and the shape of the stage and the movement of the staging in drama were based upon it; it was an organisational device in town planning, in graphic and sculptural forms, in decoration, and in the design of musical instruments; it served as a subject of meditation and as an inexhaustible metaphor.' Reading about how the Kesh practice heyiya provokes us to consider how our shared labor could be put to use in imagining a future desirable enough to begin letting go of our attachments to present systems of power. The aim of engaging in heyiya is ultimately to make our home anew through the labor of refashioning our desires."
In her artist statement, Jenny Kendler writes, "Through the spiraling of heyiya, Le Guin lays out a path to reenchant civilization as a porous social construct not predicated on the domination, human exceptionalism, and extractive model of contemporary capitalism, but guided by acceptance of difference and compassion as well as a living knowledge of who we are as a species."
For more artwork by Jenny Kendler, go to jennykendler.com.
"Ildsjel" by Lori Damiano
Sociologists Karen O’Brien and Ann Kristin Schorre write, "Without agents of change, there is little hope of creating societal transformations at the rate, scale, magnitude, and depth that scientists and policy makers consider necessary to avoid the most dangerous climate scenarios. Unfortunately, the words agent and agency fall flat; they do little to inspire action or to connect individuals to the communities of which they are a part. We need a livelier word that captures and activates the capacity of agents and agency to generate radical social change... An ildsjel is literally a 'fire soul.' The word communicates both energy and spirit. It conveys a burning force that is powerful and productive, a force ready to spread like wildfire, making way for new seeds to germinate. Ildsjel describes a lively spirit that is aware, engaged, and ready to act."
In her artist statement, Lori Damiano writes, "Upon my introduction to the word ildsjel, a series of faces flashed in my mind: the ildsjeler in my own life. There was no ambiguity in locating them—they are truly the brightest lanterns and swiftly emerged as a constellation in my mind. I knew I wanted to paint some kind of human architecture. The ildsjel was to be the foundation linking all of the individuals to each other and grounding them to the earth. After painting a configuration of people embracing in a wreath of mutual support, I made a star encircled by a band of energy. Without consciously realizing it, I had painted a compass. I had envisioned some kind of ring of energy or orbit above the ildsjel, as when a community comes together for a common cause it can create a focused flow of energy that gains momentum at a rate that surpasses our potential as individuals... There is a quiet legacy of ildsjeler who have been able to refocus and redirect us with their actions. Their footsteps illuminate a previously unmarked path on which the rest of us may find better footing, widen our vision, and become more aware of the impact of our actions. In creating this image, I wish to honor the fire spirits of the ildsjel, past, present, and future."
For more artwork by Lori Damiano, go to lori-d.com.
"Nahual" by Michelle Kuen Suet Fung
Professor of Latin American literature and culture Carolyn Fornoff writes, "The onset of the sixth mass extinction prompts us to rethink basic premises about who and what should be valued. It urges us to look for models that conceptualize the relationship between human and nonhuman not as disconnected but as intimate and enmeshed. One such model can be found in the Indigenous practice of nahualism in Mexico and Central America. Dating back to pre-Columbian times, nahualism asserts that each human is born linked to an animal alter ego, her coessence or nahual (alternatively, nagual or nawal). The nahual accompanies that human over the course of her entire life. The human and animal pair shares a soul or consciousness; they have the same breath but adopt different bodily forms. Nahualism demonstrates an approach to ontology—the nature of being—that dramatically diverges from Western models. It formulates human and nonhuman life as inextricably intertwined. This connection is not just external (the connection we might feel when we see or encounter 'nature'); it is also innate, contained within the very self. An individual life cannot therefore be understood to be bounded or autonomous because it is already a multiplicity; each self is not either human or nonhuman, but both."
In her artist statement, Michelle Kuen Suet Fung writes, "In this mixed-media drawing, I depict the eye sockets of nine animal groups that the World Wildlife Fund categorizes as critically endangered: rhino (Diceros bicornis, Rhinoceros sondaicus, and Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), vaquita (Phocoena sinus), saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli, Gorilla beringei graueri, Gorilla beringei beringei, and Gorilla gorilla gorilla), orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus, Pongo abelii, Pongo pygmaeus, and Pongo abelii), tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni, Panthera tigris amoyensis, and Panthera tigris sumatrae), and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Instead of being a spectator or consumer of these animals, the reader is compelled to confront them eye to eye—an equal and often unsettling exchange."
For more artwork by Michelle Kuen Suet Fung, go to michelleksfung.com.
"Pachamama" by Yellena James
Miriam Tola writes, "Along the Andean cordillera, from Ecuador to northern Argentina, Pachamama is the name for capricious earthly forces embodied in rocks, rivers, and mountains. Relegated to the realms of religion and folklore by Western modernity, this powerful earth being remains an important presence in the everyday life of Andean indigenous communities... Pachamama is both ancestral and contemporary. Its temporality defies the Western linear conception of time and the myth of the vanished Indian. Pachamama is ancestral in that it belongs to past indigenous worlds devastated by European weapons, diseases, and trade. It is contemporary because, together with indigenous people, it has survived conquest and participates in struggles against the ongoing neocolonial dispossession that fuels global capitalism."
In her artist statement, Yellena James writes, "I wanted to present Pachamama as a divine being in a moment of giving. With eyes closed, unconcerned with progress, advancement, or other human conquests, she is above those aims, one with the landscape that she embodies and manifests. The ring that surrounds her symbolizes the praise and attention that she receives as well as the voices of many who honor and worship her. Full of spring colors and a bright palette, she is surrounded by an abundance of earthly beauty."
"Plant Time" by Natasha Bowdoin
Anthropologist Charis Boke asks, "How can plants change minds? Herbalist students cultivate connections to plant time as part of their training in learning about medicinal plants and health, both human and ecological. They learn to embody human obligations to environmental others by 'getting down to plant time.' Sitting with plants in the garden shift students’ encounters with the world, as medicinal plants become sensible creatures and active collaborators. In this way, 'getting down to plant time ' is an embodied sensory practice. It takes time to learn and requires repetition. The iterative nature of many sessions of sitting with plants builds bodily attunements that enable attention and care across biologies."
In her artist statement, Natasha Bowdoin writes, "In my drawing 'Plant Time,' I envision a landscape that is forever changing, subsuming humanity into the world around us. We dissolve within a meadow, forest, swamp, or desert, acquainting ourselves with our plant counterparts in a more deeply felt, sensory way."
For more artwork by Natasha Bowdoin, go to natashabowdoin.com.
"Water-Wind (Qi)" by Moonassi
Environmental studies professor Yifei Li writes, "Qi offers a way to reconstruct our ecological imagination for the Anthropocene.... qi entails a universal sense of care. The same qi that empowers humans lies in mountains, rivers, landfills, and even parking lots. The notion of qi establishes a complex web of relationships that traverse boundaries, scales, and species. It is indiscriminate... In these ways, qi has the potential to enable a new ecological imagination. Qi is at once personal, communal, and ecological. For ancient Chinese thinkers, the qi of the individual is sustained through the management of all kinds of worldly desires. It entails sacrifice of hedonism in individual life, endurance of temper in interpersonal relations, and moderation of appetite for materiality. All loom large for life in the Anthropocene."
In his artist statement, Moonassi writes, "In both East and West, the wisest philosophers have said, 'All things move.' It may be because if we fix objects and phenomena as static notions, we cannot readily cope with the fluid and dynamically changing world. In the same way, Laozi’s Tao and Buddha’s Emptiness speak the truth about the 'ever-changing world' and 'the world where all things are possible.' As such, I believe that when we look to change our lives, we must not pursue ideas such as 'happiness' and 'peace' as static goals but rather act with the faith that a happy disposition brings happiness to the present moment. I attempted to capture in this piece the nature of qi, which is the constant effort to change."
For more artwork by Moonassi, go to moonassi.com.
"Sehnsucht, in the Midst" by Nikki Lindt
Ecocritic Andrew Hageman writes, "It’s as if we’re a somnambulist species who’s been remodeling unconsciously for millennia, only to wake up one morning and discover new rooms and hallways, plumbing and wiring and heating ducts all around us. We are at home, yet not. We feel sehnsucht—longing for a better world that we’ve never inhabited but that we believe to our cores exists as an alternative. It must! So, please consider making sehnsucht a word you can shake out of your sleeve when you catch those fleeting glimpses of paradox, of pivot points—when you grasp the temporary ruins around us, not to shore them up, but to reimagine a whole new life of joys and pains, of arts and sciences, of coexistences and loves right here on Earth as we all warm up together into the future, foreseeable and beyond."
In her artist statement, Nikki Lindt writes, "The painting 'Sehnsucht, in the Midst' depicts the moment of contradictory feelings and potential outcomes before taking action. The figure is caught in between, grasping the arid rocks, looking toward a thriving green world, despite the psychological hold the central black void has on the figure as she seems to merge into it. Sehnsucht embodies this feeling for me. With the destruction of our natural world, it is easy to feel despair. Yet at times we find the courage to remain keenly awake to this dark reality and simultaneously dream of a better coexistence with nature. Individual visions of our destination are personal, but their presence in our collective minds propels us forcefully toward a new world."
For more artwork by Nikki Lindt, go to nlindt.com.
"Solastalgia" by Kate Shaw
Kimberly Sky Richards writes, “The term solastalgia was developed by Glenn Albrecht, a conservationist and environmental philosopher who was inspired by the people of the Upper Hunter region of New South Wales, Australia, a site of open-cut coal mining, pollution, and drought. Albrecht observed that residents of the Upper Hunter region seemed to be suffering from the sick landscape, and coined the term solastalgia to describe the sense of powerlessness and grief experienced by people when their homeland is under duress. Solastalgia draws on the Latin word solacium (comfort) and the Greek root algia (pain, suffering, sickness) to convey the anxiety caused by the inability to derive solace from one’s home in the face of distressing events. It is part and parcel of a new abnormal of the Anthropocene, characterized by uncertainty, unpredictability, chaos, relentless change, and deep distress caused by a changing climate, erratic weather, and species extinction.”
In her artist statement, Kate Shaw writes, “My work imagines solastalgia as a memory—perhaps embedded in human DNA—and depicts a cave in which ‘we’ see through the eyes of an ancestor peering from their shelter onto a landscape we have an uncanny longing for, like a primal homesickness.”
"Sueño" by Susa Monteiro
Poet and professor of English Robert Savino Oventile writes, "As the American Dream, made 'great' again, takes a dystopian turn that features the empowerment of climate change denial in the U.S. federal government and a supremacist and ecodystopian fantasy of walling the United States off from Mexico, welcoming sueño into English, specifically American English, would be a timely act. Rather than walling Spanish off or walling the word sueño in, English would host sueño as an inassimilable guest. Sueño would open interstices in English, allowing what might be to interlace with what is, giving ecotopian visions a chance to haunt English speakers’ Anthropocene existence."
In her artist statement, Susa Monteiro writes, "Illustrating the ecotopian word sueño , I tried to strike a balance between man and his relation to the space/world that surrounds him. The character I drew is in a kind of limbo... We are now divided between those who respect and care for the environment around them, and those who are driven solely by capitalist and materialistic interests, whose attitude toward the idea of ecological thinking is that of fanatics who reject the evidence given to us every day by science. I used the colors of the sunset, pink and cobalt blue, which represent here the dream itself and its hope, as well as black in the figure, representing the ideas of nonexistence and lost time."
For more artwork by Susa Monteiro go to susamonteiro.wixsite.com/susa.
"Terragouging" by Maryanto
Ecocritic Chris Pak writes, "Because the terms terraforming and geoengineering include a wide range of concepts and encompass many different types of planetary adaptation, the term terragouging allows further distinctions to be drawn between approaches to transforming nature. The utility of the term terragouging lies in its capacity to highlight how energy systems and the management of other natural resources are generally the primary motivation for transforming landscapes. Terragouging thus highlights the difference between the adaptation of planetary environments for the purpose of facilitating habitation by humankind and other terrestrial organisms, and the extraction of raw materials for consumption elsewhere."
In his artist statement, Maryanto writes, "This painting depicts a landscape in transformation, colonized by humans through the forces of industry. There are parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea where this scene is quite common because of the coal or gold mining industries. In the age we live in, people have shaped the landscape according to their own needs, and the landscape is now constantly changing because of the desires and actions of humans. Not only is the land colonized but also capitalized and made profitable; it takes on monetary and financial value to corporations. This is what terragouging means to me."