September Editorial

This could’ve been another letter. But I am not sure to whom it should be addressed.

In these conditions, the visibility of the recipient—addressee—is obscured; hidden in the debris of that which the wind has carried with it. As I tweeted today, one of our students remarked that the present feels like the subtle inverse of September 11. It is an interesting observation, flipping the singularity (of sorts) of an event and redistributing the distribution of both affect and effect. In a strange way, it acknowledges the horizontality of current circumstances while the circumstances replicate verticality. The thought yearns for connections that link a pandemic to an American election to trade with China to a border war between Armenia and Azerbaijan to their studio based education being mediated on-line to the conversation with conservators caring for objects from a history that remains conflicted and contested to the death of a colleague, mentor, family member and friend.

The complexity of the ecosystems within which we exist feels almost always impossible to grapple with, all-the-while, the apparent ease within which we communicate implies otherwise. The endless gaps between one ‘to’ and the next are limited, not only by the linearity of the language we use, but also by the gaps created: gaps that also become the sites where logic is replaced with fear.

 

I guess this letter is, then, one of love, and as such addressed: To whom it may concern...

… and concerning, those of us hidden in the debris of that which the wind has carried with it.

In some sense, it is the path of the wind and the currents of the ocean that have driven this drop. In this almost more than an archive project that Yhonnie and I are working on, the destination is irrelevant: to determine it, means we might miss the very thing we wish to see. The concrete-ness of it is, most likely a ruse. If nuclear testing sites and the militarisation of Indigenous lands form a kind of origin, then the logic of nuclear testing means we must follow not only the sites of the tests, but also those that have determined the sites for testing and how then, these sites, always-already impact others: the bit we might not be able, or be ready, to see yet.

Location implies that boundaries are defined. What we do in that location, is not. Colonisation implies a static, if not stoic, relation to place. Colonisation in reality has both psychological and environmental effects that extend far beyond the contained and geo-located. In this issue Claudia Arozqueta, Justin Waite, Stanislava Pinchuk and Déwé Gorodé have all allowed us to take their lead, to include in this archive, the effects of the wind – whether followed or not.

Déwé Gorodé was born in 1949 at Ponérihouen (Pwârâiriwâ), on the central east coast of New Caledonia. Her rich political and social life has seen her involved in education and activism. In 1975, she attended the founding conference of the Nuclear Free Pacific movement—now known as Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP), involved with the network of non-aligned countries, she has been involved in conferences in the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Algeria. She has transcribed Melanesian tales and legends into and from French and Paicî. Déwé Gorodé’s writing is a testament to not only her connection to the Pacific, but also to the resilience and resistance of Pacific people. Her poem Clapotis is titled from the onomatopoeic French word for the ‘lapping of water’. Clapotis is also a non-breaking wave pattern. It is this non-breaking pattern, that links the world. A natural phenomena that when amplified by an earthquake, can result in a 14 metre wave destroying coastal towns causing an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima greater than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Jason Waite has kindly let us publish two essays from the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Don’t Follow the Wind organised by Tokyo-based artist collective Chim↑Pom and curated by Kenji Kubota, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Jason Waite. The exhibition was housed in the irradiated Fukushima exclusion zone and opened in March of 2015. The general public is yet to experience the work, and will only visit as the radiation dissipates and the area is safe to re-enter.

The invisibility of the chaos and confusion of an event after the fact is explored by Claudia Arozqueta. Her article traces the use of the mushroom cloud as iconographic signifier for causal relations that do go unseen.

The Reader (2008) is a romantic drama that deals with the lasting effects and responsibility of the Holocaust on and by a society and their individuals. It is an effect that extends beyond the borders of Germany and Europe and one that sheds light on our own histories—that which binds us, has bound us, and that which we can dismantle through analysis. Ti Parks, amongst others, did this by holding at the same time, in sight and thought, a sense of history and connection to the ground beneath his feet and the space to our horizon. To attempt to do so, as the Reader does also, is an act of love. In a long lost weblink interview with the economist Herman Daly from 2005, my memory recalls that he might have remarked: we will not save what we do not love.

The 2020 Netflix-disposable-not-remarkable documentary The Social Dilemma contains a similar sentiment by Justin Rosenstein:

‘We live in a world in which a tree and a whale is worth more financially dead than alive.’ [1]

For too long, we have regarded all that we live with, including ourselves, in this manner. A historical post-determination we see as ‘pre’ and have come to accept rather than be bothered to change. In 1939, Einstein signed a letter by Leó Szilárd written to president Roosevelt with fellow physicists Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner. In it, they warned the US that Germany might develop atomic bombs and suggested that the United States should start its own nuclear program. This chain led to the development of the Manhattan Project. Roosevelt’s reply was to meet demand, rather than cease and desist.

Towards the end of The Reader, a survivor of the Holocaust, in response to a gesture whose intentions are less clear, reflects:

‘People ask all the time what I learned in the camps. But the camps weren’t therapy. What do you think these places were? Universities? We didn’t go there to learn. One becomes very clear about these things. What are you asking for? Forgiveness for her? Or do you just want to feel better yourself? My advice, go to the theatre, if you want catharsis, please. Go to literature. Don't go to the camps. Nothing comes out of the camps. Nothing.’ [2]

Letters, documents and protests from First Nations people, Citizens and Scientists sent to leaders, both political and corporate, about, for example Climate Change or 40,000 year old rock shelters, always-already go unheard and unheeded.

Echoes in echo-chambers.

What is the responsibility of the shared collective discourse of art and literature to create detours and turns that can rupture the chamber?

Guilt, and ‘feeling better about oneself’, are at risk of generating unproductive measures and perpetuating cyclical and cynical behaviours. How do we make productive collective discontent and dissent, to counter both ignorance and shame…

I guess the advice is, don’t follow the wind.

 

 

[1] https://www.insights.uca.org.au/why-the-social-dilemma-is-a-horror-story...

[2] Bernhard Schlink, The Reader, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/catharsis

 

Air Max