Bookshelf 2018

Sandra Hawkins, 2018-09-21:

Books by Indigenous authors and a series of discussions at Sandra’s Anglican Church:

Poster – Journeying as allies pdf

Summer 2018

Leslie Reid sent this  30.000 word (!)  New York Times Magazine essay by Nathaniel Rich:Losing Earth, The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. I’ve cut and pasted a few sections, and articulated a few of my own thoughts below, if you’re interested (Petra).

It is a very interesting read, a well-researched piece on how close the world came in the decade of 1979 – 1989 to halting climate change. But it has been criticized by many because Rich points the blame at “human nature” rather than corporations and government. One of the critical responses was by Naomi Klein: “Capitalism Killed our Climate Momentum, not “Human Nature.”  Here is an excerpt:

This misreading has been pointed out by many climate scientists and historians since the online version of the piece dropped on Wednesday. Others have remarked on the maddening invocations of “human nature” and the use of the royal “we” to describe a screamingly homogenous group of U.S. power players. Throughout Rich’s accounting, we hear nothing from those political leaders in the Global South who were demanding binding action in this key period and after, somehow able to care about future generations despite being human. The voices of women, meanwhile, are almost as rare in Rich’s text as sightings of the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker — and when we ladies do appear, it is mainly as long-suffering wives of tragically heroic men.

In her book This Changes Everything, Klein has, like Rich, identified the late eighties as a time of intense interest in climate change, providing an opportunity for real action, that, however, was crushed by the global neoliberal revolution:

When I looked at the same period, I came to a very different conclusion: that what at first seemed like our best shot at lifesaving climate action had in retrospect suffered from an epic case of historical bad timing. Because what becomes clear when you look back at this juncture is that just as governments were getting together to get serious about reining in the fossil fuel sector, the global neoliberal revolution went supernova, and that project of economic and social reengineering clashed with the imperatives of both climate science and corporate regulation at every turn.

It is hard to disagree with Klein and other critics who, rather than blaming “human nature,” point at fossil fuel industries and government policies that have, especially since the late eighties, let profit ignore the fact that our way of life is unsustainable.

But still, capitalists and colonialists are all human too! And aren’t we, in our study group, learning to recognize the ways in which we ourselves enact capitalist and colonialists attitudes?  We might well wonder what it is in “human nature” that allows neoliberalism to flourish to the extent that it crushed the momentum for climate action in the late eighties. Shouldn’t we dig a little deeper to understand this?

Klein does mention (between brackets) someone who tried to do exactly this at the time. She writes:

[] when the editors of Time magazine announced their 1988 “Man of the Year,” they went for “Planet of the Year: Endangered Earth.” The cover featured an image of the globe held together with twine, the sun setting ominously in the background. “No single individual, no event, no movement captured imaginations or dominated headlines more,” journalist Thomas Sancton explained, “than the clump of rock and soil and water and air that is our common home.”

(Interestingly, unlike Rich, Sancton didn’t blame “human nature” for the planetary mugging. He went deeper, tracing it to the misuse of the Judeo-Christian concept of “dominion” over nature and the fact that it supplanted the pre-Christian idea that “the earth was seen as a mother, a fertile giver of life. Nature — the soil, forest, sea — was endowed with divinity, and mortals were subordinate to it.”)

What I see as possibly the most fertile grounds for discussion in our study group this fall, lies between these brackets. Although political action that critiques fossil fuel industries and governments are imperative, underlying attitudes, whether they are considered “human nature” or not, need to be worked on. And this may be something art can contribute too.
Digging into ideas and attitudes correlates well with some other  ideas and texts CCCC members have passed on:
Kathy Bergquist sent this link to a poem, No Longer Ode, by Urayoán Noel 
adding: “This poem is, to me, a perfect example of strong art that addresses CCCC. Si!”
And cj fleury was impressed with an exhibition, Secrets to Tell,  by Grada Kilomba that is on at the Power Plant in Toronto until September 4. It looks at issues of gender and race in the context of colonialism. See also some of Kilomba’s staged readings online:
cj also sent me this preview of a new book by the same artist:
by Grada Kilomba
In her new book ‘Performing Knowledge’, Grada Kilomba writes about a new kind of knowledge production, where the boundaries between the academic and the artistic languages dissolve.
Knowledge is usually presented as something disembodied, detached from our bodies, from our biographies, and from ourselves. This detachment however embraces the colonial imaginary, as we constantly play with the fantasy that knowledge production is something neutral, objective, and universal. How to touch this colonial wound? How to create spaces for the post-colonial condition? And how to transform the configurations of knowledge and power?
In this rare and passionate book, Grada Kilomba collects several of her latest projects on decolonization, where she uses a variety of formats, creating a hybrid space, to transform theory into performative knowledge. In a series of conversations, images, exercises, essays, and other texts used for her video installations, performances and staged readings, she explores forms of emancipative knowledge production

Doris Lamontagne 2018 – 01 – 18 : 2 books worth looking at :

Culture as weapon

Seing power –Art and Activism in the 21st Century

both books are by Nato Thompson

Available at the Ottawa Public Library

Kathy Bergquist, 2018 01 – 09:
 Kathy  recommended this book for a study group session:Srdja Popovic, Matthew Miller: Blueprint for Revolution – How to use rice pudding, Lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities, overthrow dictators or simply change the world. (New York: Spiegel and Grau 2015)Blueprint for a Revolution ,

which is available at the Ottawa Public Library:

Book Shelf 2017 Research in Art - Google Chrome 12272017 123918 PM.bmp


A novel detailing how a dictator rises to power and dismantles democracy, It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis, first published in 1935, and published as a Penguin Classic in 2017. Interestingly, Popovic’s first chapter is titled, It Can Never Happen Here, which is frequently the reaction of most would-be revolutionaries to the potential for success of non-violent revolution. What is critical for everyone to understand is that anything can happen anywhere, if the conditions are right:dictators and despots rise to power, people re-claim a place, a political system, a world for themselves.

Critical Landscapes: Art, Space, Politics, by Emily Eliza Scott and Kirsten Svenson, University of California Press, 2015. Several great essays on a range of topics, and helpful notes and resources at the end of each essay.

Clear, concise definition of colonialism with a good bibliography,

People might want to check out the web site, which is full of interesting resources, and see how some of the strategies might be applied by artists.
Also, if people visit this page and enter the terms “art and activism” many interesting things come up.
Both web sites are intended as starting points for the imagination.