Greta Bank: Our Digital Dialogue

 I’ve recently been reading the book ‘A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things’ by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore (University of California Press, 2017).  This is a fantastic summary of the way capitalism created the ecology that we are currently lost in. I hope you read it soon. Patel and Moore draw a map through history that articulates our broken relationship with nature, showing the steady evolution of capitalism as an ecosystem that has hypnotized the human species. Their book describes the strategies that divorce us from recognizing our participation. It’s a spiritual crisis where supremacy and domination are the expected rewards -self interest is a safety vest.  The book is very very good at naming the people and species who suffer and pay for our cheap society.

 

  “Cheap is a strategy, a practice, a violence that mobilizes all kinds of work-human and animal, botanical, and geological- with as little compensation as possible. “  

– ‘A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things’

 

I often create art that tries to achieve the same result as Patel and Moore – visual essays that draw attention towards the toxic truths behind our distracted pleasures, I have a website (where you can see my work) but I don’t trust it’s usefulness. In the past few years I’ve become very apprehensive of the internet as a platform for dialogue. Having any contact online feels dangerous, I think this is because publishing digitally is part of the capitalist ecology. It’s feeding the systems that externalize what is truly real, it flattens the universe into single linear thinking.  It creates it’s own currency by existing.  On the other hand, the internet CAN be  beautiful, illuminating the invisible -it can amplify a revolution.

We learn so much by sharing, but my attempt here is like touching a milkweed tussock caterpillar, giving you a mysterious weeping rash for most of July from its invisible hairs. The tussock larvae’s choice food is milkweed, which is filled with a poisonous sap containing cardiac glycosides. Eating a poison rich caterpillar causes most birds to puke violently or can even prove fatal, so don’t dialogue with these rashly caterpillars. They even possess a special organ that pulses an ultrasonic signal specifically to deter bats. They are exceptional metaphors.

 

Publishing online has invisible hairs that travel into vulnerable areas with painful consequences you might not see for some time. Our digital universe commodifies communication and it seems to sustain short-term satisfaction, which is the heart of capital ecology.  I am so wary, and my instincts tell me that exposure as a currency is going to be a form of cheap life.

 

I’ve lived in Hollis, Maine for 18 years, raising a family and a menagerie of pets. There is a gorgeous meadow almost directly behind my home where all the pretty monarchs and the evil tussock caterpillars fend off the blue jays and bats, it’s tenderly maintained with groomed trails for Hollis residents by the Nestle Corporation. The Nestle Corporation includes over 2,000 brands in 189 countries.  They are major players in hydrology markets.

‘Poland Spring’ leases the right to extract, bottle and ship an epic amount of water from the ancient aquifer that sleeps beneath my old rotten house.  Nestle bottles water under  72 brands in 160 countries with an annual profit close to ten billion dollars.  It is a perfect example of the cheapest extraction, where water and life have been shaped as capital for enormous profit. What is the carrying capacity of this exchange?

 

  “ The idea of world ecology allows us to see how the modern world’s violent and exploitive relationships are rooted in five centuries of capitalism and also how these unequal arrangements- even those that appear timeless and necessary today – are contingent and in the midst of unprecedented crisis.”    

  • ‘A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things’

The Nestle meadow (known as California Fields) in Hollis is currently planted with pine saplings and eventually the meadow looks to be a timber wood lot. This paints the picture in which a living species was externalized into capital. Our dependence on the recovery of the pine forest atop the aquifer is the safety vest that assures our future. We are comfortable that the land is being restored.  We congratulate ourselves that the land is paying us back for existing.

A few times a year ‘Poland Spring’ allows local amateur field trials, where enthusiastic hunters (and their bird dogs) release hundreds of game birds for sport hunting. These birds are raised in cages and have never experienced what we call the natural world. They have no clue how to exist independently. An afternoon is spent like a cartoonish Dick Cheney escapade, chasing and shooting these birds and then everybody leaves. What remains, the surviving cage raised Chukar or Pheasant wandering the field, lost and overwhelmed. They don’t really understand how to escape local predators, I doubt they know how to eat or find water. They are designed for our ecosystem but they cannot survive it. They are extended ‘things’ that serve as a bridge between our constructed society and our constructed nature. They are cheap lives.

 

Of the 2,000 brands that Nestle controls internationally, there is the world of chocolate. As Halloween rolls around we see the invisible hairs that link cheap labor (which is also titled modern slavery) with the candy supplier. Nestle has softly been rebranding their lack of an ethical supply chain regarding chocolate. But recently Australia passed a bill requiring more transparency towards trafficking, labor and supply chains. Nestle’s response was a curt warning that customers and consumers will likely be responsible for the time and cost of this global responsibility-don’t mess with the eco system. Halloween, which has mostly replaced the rituals and sympathetic magic that breached the veil to our dead ancestors, is an anxious frenzy of plastic crap and cheap candy.  It is an easy distraction from Malthusian thinking  which requires despair and racism to argue that population and resources  are the rights of capitalism. Trick or treat.

 

 

    “If capitalism is a disease, then it’s one that eats your flesh- and then profits from selling your bones for fertilizer, and then invests that profit to reap the cane harvest, and sells that harvest to tourists who pay to visit your headstone.” 

– Dann and Seaton, (Slavery, Contested Heritage and Thanotourism, 2001)

 

I believe that artists are teachers, leaders and healers. We come from an ancient practice long before work was a useful design for capital ecology. We are here to remember.

 

I am currently working on new projects for 2019, including a group show at Greenhut Galleries as well as a faculty  exhibition at the ICA, at Maine College of Art.

 

ARRT! and LumenARRT! Updates

above: Banner created in March for use during the school walkout for gun control and the March 24th rallies in Brunswick and Augusta.

The Artists Rapid Response Team! is a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Members of ARRT! are UMVA members and activist artists who work to provide visuals for progressive groups throughout Maine, seeking to add a visual voice to help carry their messages far and wide. The following images are recently completed banners. Click on them to expand images.

The Banner below is for Earth Day in Bangor:  a “Transportation for All” bus which will be completed by children adding their faces in the windows during the event.

January ARRT! session

Anita gave us a lesson on how to use Tagtools on our IPads and we also made wonderful animated electronic graffiti for LumenARRT! projections for the MLK dinner in Portland.
Special thanks to Anita and Geoff for prepping and hanging about 9 banners for the MLK dinner, plus creating a GIANT animation/projection for the outdoor wall of the Holiday Inn, with LumenARRT!, plus creating electronic graffiti animation/projections inside, just before the dinner.
Thank you Renu, Nancy, Anita, Chris, Suzanna, Justin, Jane, Beth, Julia, Susie, Lee, Doreen, Natasha and Ed

February ARRT! session

Thank you ARRTists  Nancy,  Chris, Jane, Nora, Deb and Natasha

March ARRT! session

Thank you to ARRTists Nancy, Chris, Anita, Nora, Geoffrey, Suzanna, Beth, Susie, Jean, Natasha and Lee.  And thank you to three Americorps volunteers (Alicia, Darcy, and Audrey) from Bangor (Maine Partnership for Environmental Stewardship) and Anna, a student from the Friends’ School, who helped paint.

We hope you’ll join us in April for our next ARRT! session, April 8th.  Check out images and information at arrteam.org

LumenARRT!

LumenARRT! is a project of the Artists Rapid Response Team (ARRT!).  We work through the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) to advocate for artists and further the work of progressive non-profits in the state of Maine.  Our video projections create a visual voice for these organizations and like electronic graffiti, bring awareness to issues of social, political and environmental justice.

Our most recent projection calls attention to the millions of marchers on 3/24/18 who want common sense gun controls — and the inability of our Maine State Legislature to act.

LumenARRT! Projection on Maine State Capital
LumenARRT! Projection on Maine State Capital

On January 15th in Portland, we joined with the NAACP in celebrating Martin Luther King Day.  We also had an interactive projection in the lobby for attendees to write or draw their thoughts on freedom and racial justice.

For more information go to LumenARRT! on the web.