Our first meeting was Wednesday Oct. 25, 2017 2 – 4 PM
Facilitated by Petra Halkes
It was a buzzing, energizing first meeting. I’d like to thank the participants for your reading, your participation, your dedication. We’re off to a good start, but we must maintain our criticality in particular to our own activities and thoughts, so let me take some time to evaluate.
Why do I feel so positive about this meeting? The main reason, for me, was finding a group of people that acknowledge that climate change will change the world as we know it, and that only huge-at this point highly unlikely-changes in the capitalist organization of our globalized world can save humanity. Knowing that everything in the old order is dying, and not knowing what will be in the new order (if there is going to be a new order at all) is affecting all our lives in a very direct way.
So what I found most positive about this first meeting is the interaction with like-minded people, who feel the same need to learn about the issues, discuss them, and figure out what is the right thing to do, for each one of us, as people, as artists. The group’s attitude towards climate change is not based in pessimism, but grounded in political/scientific realism. The logic of capitalism, wherein money must always form the bottom line, blocks a necessary and speedy transformation from carbon-based to green energy; at the current rate of change, the end of the world as we know it is inevitable and fast approaching.
It is not an easy truth to accept, and so, in a way, our group functions as a support group, which can be a comforting, even necessary thing in these frightful times. But we must remember that our goal is to step out of our own little echo-chamber. Roy Scranton, in Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, reminds us that: “One of the most difficult aspects to deal with [in climate change] is that it is a collective-action problem of the highest order” (p.53). This collective action involves every person in the whole world, no less. It’s time to step out of our bubbles.
Birds of a feather group together, but listening to others, connecting with different-minded people should somehow become a mandate of this group, if it is to be reflective of a dreamt-of new democracy. Bees, rather than birds, may form a better metaphor for true democracy. Scranton writes of the bees’ democratic process, that precedes their move to a new home. They send out scouts who come back buzzing on different frequencies, attracting different swarms of bees. “Over time, a single dance grows more and more popular, until a majority of the bees are doing it. The swarm has made its decision and takes flight.” (p55)
Artists, using their imagination to model new ways of living together in the new world, are on a par with bee scouts. As art’s function in the new order is always in the background of this CCCC studygroup, I will collect the propositions and ideas regarding art that come up during our meetings. We live in a time that is, once again, ripe for manifestos. Perhaps we can put together our own through this process.
Here are some preliminary thoughts about art that came up in the meeting:
-Art remains as a way of thinking through complex issues, approaching emotional and intellectual problems through visual and tactile modes.
-Art remains as a way of keeping cultural memory alive, as a particular, emotional way of remembering what is lost, what is endangered, what should be saved.
-Art remains as a way of imagining a new order.
Imagining a new order is the energetic, embodied bee scout’s work. The group was fortunate to have Greg Ulmann participate. He showed us his van, in which he lives, travels and works: a subsistence life-style that rebukes our consumer culture in a most radical way. On the road he meets, listens and talks to people who live on the streets of cities or in remote Northern communities, people few of us ever get to know. He showed us that imagining stories other than the capitalist one can become a lived work of art, beyond representation. Greg is off to Europe soon, but will return in April; we hope he will be ready then to share some of his writing!