(Re)visiting Marizy – by Emma Pavans de Ceccatty & Joanne Matthews

Map of Marizy by Emma Pavans de Ceccatty

Emma Pavans de Ceccatty and Joanne Matthews met on a permaculture design course in 2015 and have since developed a dialogue about art and sustainability. Both are artists, environmental explorers, and alchemists of empathy, experience and fact.

 Over the month of November 2016 we collaborated in response to a call out for Remembrance Day for Lost Species. Delving into the systemic reasons for loss of species, we encountered the disconnect between humans in the city and their environment. The project, (re)visiting Marizy, was an intuitive and experimental series of attempts at connection with place.

Emma focused on reviving the relationship with her homeland, Marizy, France. Inspired by Emma’s place-specific intention, Joanne explored what it means to have empathy for a distant and abstract land. The Aral Sea, Uzbekistan, called to Joanne and she intuitively attempted to develop empathy for this place, as if it were her home.

Through conversations and creative exchanges, we embarked on this experimental collaboration. The on-going project flows in a reflective and constructive way, learning from our experiments to hone the next steps. The process has manifested in a series of performances, actions, rituals, paintings and poems, documented on a dedicated blog http://revisitingmarizy.wordpress.com


Ritual documentation by Emma Pavans de Ceccatty

Marizy, in the Saône-et-Loire area region of France, is a green and marshy land shaped by hedges, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. It is lauded for its resilient ecosystem. As a predominantly smallholding, cow-grazing agricultural area, people’s livelihoods depend on the health of the land and the water. There has consequently been real effort and concern for the wellbeing of the wildlife and environment, though this is drying out with the urbanisation and industrialisation of local minds.

‘So far, the results of my exploration and connection with this land have brought me to challenge my assumptions that Marizy was an unhealthy landscape. I wonder now, is what I see here what stewarding Nature looks like? Is this contemporary romanticism?’

The Aral Sea was once the third-largest saltwater lake in the world. It is now reduced to a tenth of its original size, leaving a bare and deserted landscape behind. Industrial needs and large-scale agricultural greed drained and dammed the lake, ending the century-old fishing tradition and livelihood from the surrounding villages, in just one generation.

Ghost Factory sketch/  Aral Sea by Joanne Matthews

‘My relationship with the Aral Sea has just begun. I was drawn to the body of water through no logical means. I feel sad and regretful for the wate’rs demise, torture and the many disappearing species that have been lost.’

Through this place-specific attempt at connection, Emma and Joanne process and translate their intellectual research and embodied experience into illustrations, audio work, writing and performance language. We are continuing our work together beyond this initial month-long research period to now focus on the themes and questions that we have uncovered.

Follow the (re)Visiting blog for more explorations.

 

What do you call the last of a species? – by Michelle Nijhuis

Painting by Bjorn Lie

This article was originally published in the New Yorker and is quoted from here with the permission of the author.  The word ‘endling’ was coined twenty years ago by an American doctor, Bruce Webster. He meant it to refer to the last remaining members of human families, and initially the word gained little purchase in common language. Then, around five years later, an exhibition about thylacines in the National Museum of Australia told the story of the the last thylacine, and described it as an endling.

‘…The exhibit gave the word visibility and institutional endorsement … and in the years that followed, Webster’s invention inspired an essay collection (“No More Endlings”), a chamber-orchestra composition (“Endling, Opus 72”), a contemporary ballet (“Self-Encasing Trilogy #1: Endling”), a doom-metal album, at least one art exhibition, and several works of science fiction. In a recent paper in the journal Environmental Philosophy, the historian Dolly Jørgensen notes that writers and artists are drawn to both the emotional power of the concept and the poignancy of the word itself, whose old-fashioned, Tolkienesque suffix—like “Halfling” or “Enting”—evokes a lost world.

Yet nobody seems to apply the word to the last member of a human family, as Webster originally intended. Perhaps that’s because, as Jørgensen observes, “a familial meaning of ‘endling’ does not have the same cultural currency as talking about species extinction.” The word has value, in other words, but the value is of a different nature than Webster expected. People have sometimes given proper names to particular animal endlings: Martha was the last passenger pigeon; Celia the last Pyrenean ibex; Turgi the last Partula turgida, a Polynesian tree snail; Booming Ben the last heath hen; and Lonesome George the last Pinta Island tortoise. By inventing a noun that describes all of them, though, Webster serendipitously connected them to one another, and to a larger, less graspable sense of loss. And this, Jørgensen suggests, has given artists, writers, and others a new way to reckon with the meaning of extinction.

Unfortunately, there is no end of endlings. One of the world’s three surviving northern white rhinos will soon become an endling, as will one of the thirty surviving vaquita porpoises, down from sixty just last year.’

Read the full New Yorker article.

Read Dolly Jorgenson’s original research.

Visualized Bird Song – by Elisabeth Pellathy

Voice of the New Caledonian Owlet-Nightjar, visualised by Pellathy

“First, it should be stated that the single most significant threat to bird populations is habitat destruction, in all of its forms and with all of its causes.” – Sibley Guide Book

“Sounds, once generated, never die; they fade but continue to reverberate as sound waves across the universe” – Guglielmo Marconi, radio pioneer.

So many things are disappearing at such an alarming rate that perhaps we will only have a catalogue of objects to remember what they were and how they existed in our environment. How can we begin the conversation to preserve?

Using the dense audio resources found at the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the voices of the top ten most endangered birds of the world are cataloged, collected and charted becoming objects and prints representing the voices of these birds. The bird songs are mapped in sound editing so ware and then traced in 3D modelling soft ware and 3D printed. Digital drawings, made by removing the router bit from a CNC machine and replacing it with a ball- point pen, and following the tool path of a stereo-lithograph, accompany the 3D prints.

The bird calls become more than just records – instead an encounter with a frozen instant of time. A visualized model charts the intangible and elicits reaction on the fleeting nature of what is here now, but may not last. A moment of reflection with individual species from endangered bird species possesses a poetic quality. I think of the objects and prints as a catalogue of the disappearing, much like an 18th century wonder-cabinet.

The display serves to rarify the object, contain it and isolate it. The bell jars reference a specimen that has been collected and displayed which also becomes a commodity to be owned. Perhaps the viewers will contemplate the collective idea of objectifying the experience of the natural world.

Elisabeth Pellathy is an artist and academic based at University of Alabama, Birmingham.

An interview with Ackroyd & Harvey – by Fred Carter

For over 25 years, Dan Harvey and Heather Ackroyd have worked together to produce innovative environmental art which inhabits a unique juncture between performance art and climate science, organic process and artificial preservation, personal response and public space. Their artistic practice ranges across photography, sculpture, architecture, and installation to tackle a range of issues from global warming and international politics to arboreal ecology and biodiversity loss. Following their high-profile Radical Action Reaction at COP21 last year and this year’s large-scale exhibition and architectural work at the University of Cambridge, Fred Carter caught up with Harvey and Ackroyd at their Surrey studio to discuss what it means to be an artist in the midst of environmental crisis.

FRED: I first came across your work in relation to the Cape Farewell Project way back in the early 2000s, which highlighted the threats to polar ecosystems and Arctic ice. But I think the way we talk about climate change has changed a lot since then. What do you think has changed in our relationship with climate science and the challenges to representation that face environmental art?

HEATHER: Well, what was then called the greenhouse effect just kind of pinned itself into my consciousness in 1988. That was the very first time that James E. Hansen, who at the time was the leading atmospheric scientist working for NASA, popped his head up above the parapet and said that we’ve got a major problem going on here. He said I am 99% sure that it’s because of the fact that humankind is burning so much fossil fuel. So this is always within my consciousness.

I think from a very early point meeting Dan, our work was going on in urban spaces and in found spaces. It could have been a disused domestic property or disused factory spaces and we would bring these dynamic materials into them: water, mud, germination, fire, mould, and sprouting elements. So we’d act upon these architectural carcasses and bring in these disruptive materials that we would then shape and create quite formally and aesthetically to make these pieces.

 Implanted Spirit, 1991

Our work in a way was always addressing this edge, these precipices where the urban stakes claim, takes away, or erases nature. Where it takes away an orchard or takes away a garden or takes away a field or an overgrown parking lot and places in the bricks. But we just felt there was this incredible vulnerability to it. Going to places like Australia and working on the west coast in Perth, where you felt all of this colonisation which seemed very European, you saw all of these houses with their patch of grass and water sprinklers throwing water all over the place… and yet it was on desert.

DAN: It was a thin veneer of civilisation and of Europeanization.

HEATHER: You felt as though if you were a giant you could just take a palette knife and just scrape it all away and just flick it away. It felt just superficial in some way. It was that sense of tenuousness; that humanity holds its place by threads of existence at times.

So I think when we first went up with Cape Farewell to the high Arctic we were kind of enthralled and inspired and found the whole experience very profoundly moving. In a way, out of that experience came this very large piece of work that we just showed at the David Attenborough building called Stranded, where we were working with the carcass of a whale.

Stranded, 2007

DAN: The whale was always one of those iconic creatures, I suppose a bit like the polar bear in some ways, and the idea was to try and get hold of a carcass and to subvert and do this chemical process on it.

But I think what I’ve found interesting since 2003, when I first went up to Svalbard with the Cape Farewell project, was that you got a feeling that actually information was getting out there and people did start to believe the story of climate change. Then suddenly there was this movement back again. Channel Four did a program called The Great Climate Change Swindle and that did so much damage. I think there are still people who believe that. There’s so much denial still going on and yet it’s so stupid because it could be so easy to actually switch now, the technologies are there. Everything is there but we’re still being led by this because the power is still in the hands of the mad men.

HEATHER: I think now what we’ve realised through all our reading and all our interactions is that even though the physics and the science of climate change is actually relatively straightforward, the political and economic machinations are huge. It plays out on so many levels to do with monopolies of power and deliberate attempts to vandalise the science. Absolutely calculated attempts to introduce chaos and confusion into the thinking. And that happened very early on. After James E. Hansen made his statement that generated all manner of revolt from the corporate ranks and from the fossil fuel industry. They sensed danger and they reacted in a very calculated and intellectually corrupt way. And that’s still playing out.

My thinking now is to ask what kind of work do we make that really has resonance and is doing something more than awakening. I think the communications in and around climate change were done very effectively by the cultural sector many years ago. We’re in a different situation now and I have to really work out how to use our artistry, our understanding, and our perception to best effect. And we did a big piece in Paris…

FRED: Yes, I wanted to ask about that as well. There’s a general trend that I can see in your work from those very domestic spaces to begin with – houses, churches, chairs – towards a more political stage. And in fact the piece in Paris at COP21 was a stage in itself. Do you think your work has changed in response to that changing space?

HEATHER: I think Dan and I have always been very adaptive in the way we work and, in a way, the found space gave us an autonomy in a way that the gallery couldn’t. The exterior space, again, gives us access to the accidental audience.

DAN: Yes, you’re not really tied to the elite or to the people who always go to galleries. In a found space people are curious to see it because they’ve walked past it and it’s always been boarded up and in a public space you’re just confronted straight away with it. So immediately you have a much larger audience.

Radical Action Reaction, 2015

FRED: So do you see something like Radical Action Reaction to be a public piece of art in a similar sense to one of the early found spaces?

HEATHER: Yes because if you do something inside, even if the door is open, there’s still that metaphorical threshold. Somebody has to make that decision to go through the doorway. If you do something in a public space like the Botanic Garden [in Cambridge] then you’ve got people running, you’ve got children, and suddenly they’re going “what’s that?”

DAN: So you sort of hook them in. One of the beautiful things about the living medium of grass is that it has a vibrancy and a colour to it that you know instinctively isn’t synthetic and when it’s grown like the curtains we used in Radical Action Reaction it is really quite lush, quite sensual.

HEATHER: We wanted to bring our dark arts. We wanted to bring something tantalisingly sensual and seductive, so beautiful so that people would go “what’s that?” Because they were quietly enthralled with the piece and they were realising that it was living grass, they then stopped and read what was being said. I’ve never seen so many people sit and read. It was just great because what we did was that we caught their attention and their curiosity.

Actually, at that point we were framing the tree within that urban setting and saying that we need to plant our cities, following Joseph Beuys, and that we have to make our cities as green and forest-like as we can on every level.

FRED: It’s interesting that you mention Joseph Beuys. His idea of the gezamkunstwerk sees the artwork as something interactive – a social sculpture – and some of your pieces really necessitate engagement. In Seeing Red… Overdrawn, for example, the act of writing on the artwork is a very powerful thing and a way of engaging with scientific knowledge and Latin names in a way that we don’t normally in museums. Is that something conscious?

DAN: Well over the years we’ve used the IUCN Red List of critically endangered animals quite a lot, but when you look at the list like that on a computer you might only get 20 names or something up on your screen. There were 4,734 when we downloaded it and had it printed. When you actually stand in front of a three metre by seven metre wall with those names on, even if you’ve been standing in front of it for a week, you still see new names coming out. There’s something about the scale of that piece that meant that even though there was a lot of information there, you could sort of access it all at once visually which I think is something that you couldn’t do in a book or on a computer screen. It was like a huge war memorial and yet each name wasn’t a name of a person, it was an entire species. I think when you understand that, it really hits home.

We had very good invigilators with iPads looking up the species and things so that there was also this interaction with the public.

Seeing Red… Overdrawn, 2016

HEATHER: If someone said “what is that? I love the Latin but what is that?” then we could find out for you, so that became quite interactive as well.

DAN: And on the performance side of it too, you had to wear white cotton gloves before you were given the pen so you took it seriously and then maybe you had to climb the ladder to reach one at the top. I think it was a very successful piece in the end.

HEATHER: But it came through quite late. We had a meeting with Tim Cluttenbrock, who works in the zoology department, very early on in our R&D phase and he struck the table and said; “what are you going to do about the fact that it’s five to midnight on the planet?” That just stayed with us and I kept saying to Dan “I just don’t think we’ve got our five-to-midnight piece yet.” Then that piece just kind of punched through.

DAN: It’s certainly a piece we’d like to do again… the list is already much longer.

FRED: Absolutely. Do you feel a “five-minutes-to-midnight” sense of immediacy in your work now that maybe you didn’t before?

HEATHER: Yes… but I think for me a lot of it is just about tempering the anxiety. I think it’s been there for a long, long while and I just think it’s increasing. I just read a George Monbiot article online where he’s saying that unless we just do not draw up to the surface what’s there in reserves, then we’re not going to hold to the Paris Agreement figure of 1.5 degrees. We’ve also got the whole lag in the system still to play out. A lot of people I’ve met say that we passed 1.5 degrees probably about 8 years ago. I can feel the stomach tightening but I don’t wish to get depressed. I’d rather use the anger and the anxiety to creative effect, I’d rather turn it into something visible, visual, and aesthetic. I’d rather channel the emotion into that.

Yet we don’t want to hit people with it. With the Cambridge piece, we were actually working on eight different pieces in tandem. It’s like an orchestration. So you may have one piece that’s slightly more “in-your-face” or “activist” and some other pieces that are really more nuanced, very subtle and, very poetic although they may allude to various crises. The exhibition in the Attenborough building was like that. We had Stranded alongside The Polar Diamond and the IUCN Red List, then the light boxes for the spirits and the trees. So there were many different levels to it and many different emotions. It’s orchestration at times.

Spirit + Conflicted Seeds, 2016

FRED: Something that struck me in your work is that so much of it is to do with preserving, as well as memorialising. The Spirit piece uses this very antiquated way of preserving and a lot of your early work with research into grass is concerned with how to preserve and how to keep things. Is there a sense of not mourning a loss but of trying to retain something?

HEATHER: Actually we’re working at the moment on a project to do with Ash Dieback disease and Ash conservation.

DAN: The brief is to celebrate the Ash but when you go round these forests in Kent where 80 percent of the trees were Ash, out of that 80 percent are dead already and now, once you start to see it you see it everywhere. It’s really shocking. It’s really hard to actually celebrate a tree when you know that you’re losing it all the time.

I think with this work about trying to preserve and conserve, so much of our work has been ephemeral that possibly now in our work with the trees and so on there’s a lot more longevity to them. They’re going to improve with time, provided the trees stay healthy. There are certain trees that actually have the possibility to be immortal, to live forever. It’s only exterior things that will kill them. That, to me, is really intriguing. There’s a lot, too, that we’re still learning about trees and I find that really fascinating. That’s perhaps one of the reasons we’ve started working with trees is that they are going to be around a lot longer than we are, for one thing, whereas a lot of the grass works were impermanent.

The first grass works, the exterior pieces not the photosynthesis works, they very much go through a process of growing, changing, and finally decaying, being stripped back. With the photographic work there has always been that thing with the fleeting image and trying to fix the image, a bit like the early black and white photographers. I think that’s why we really pushed to keep photos for longer and, with the chlorophyll in the grass we use now, we can keep them provided they have a low light level. If you put them in stronger sunlight they would fade within a week or so because it’s a natural pigment, the chlorophyll. We do live in an unstable world.

HEATHER: It is that thing about bringing stability into a situation. I don’t see stability as being somehow boring or status quo. You have to work at stability, in a way. It’s not a given. Going back to how they used to preserve the museum specimens, it’s amazing how you can still see this creature that was killed around 120 years ago. It’s amazing that it’s all still there, it’s all preserved.

FRED: I was really interested in something you’d written in Signs of Life, you said you’d been interested first in the arcane arts and the folklore of grass, before you got into the scientific rigour. I wondered how you saw that develop in your work or what was the tension between these sacral spaces of the church and the more rationalistic, scientific side?

HEATHER: Well that’s the beauty of being an artist and not a scientist, you can get it all in! Actually the other project we’re working on is with an organisation called ArtAkt, it’s being curated by Marina Wallace who is also curating an exhibition that will be at the Ashmolean in Oxford called Spellbound: Magical Thinking Past and Present. We’re working specifically with Sophie Paige, who is a senior historian at University College of London, and her specialist area is medieval cosmology. So we are now steeping ourselves in magic and astrology. I’m reading C.S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image right now and you know what, it feels so good to be back! It’s back with the names and the people that I was frequenting and falling asleep with when I was in my twenties when I was reading a lot of stuff about alchemy and magic and Karl Jung.

DAN: It’s interesting to really understand what it was like in medieval Britain and the way the mind worked then because it’s very different from the way we see the world now. There have been enormous shifts in perception and yet we still believe in a type of magic. If you ask someone for their wedding ring and say that you can replace it with an exactly identical copy, they’ll want their wedding ring back because they believe it’s imbued with something.

HEATHER: In a way I think we tend to ascribe a certain logic and rationality but actually it’s not working like that. I keep thinking that I’m kidding myself to think that politics is logical and rational. It’s not about that.

At the moment we’ve not quite found the right form for it yet but I’m thinking you almost need something like a post-Dadaist response to what’s happening now. It’s just so absurd. I cannot take Boris Johnson seriously, I cannot take Trump seriously. It’s just absurd. It sickens me.

The Dadaists were brilliant, their response to the atrocities of the First World War was brilliant. They said; “how do we begin to make sense of this, you cannot make sense of it.” I feel a little bit like that at the moment, you know. It’s coming at it from the flank, highly lateral and subversive. I want to dig deep, to disappear and come up; to draw those arcane arts back into it.

7000 Oaks, 2014

FRED: Finally, I hear you’re also about to do a TedX talk together, which is a new kind of format for you. It’s a very short 20 minutes, so if someone could take away one thing what should it be?

HEATHER: I don’t know, I think something we will definitely talk about is how the haem molecule, in the blood, and the structure of the chlorophyll molecule are incredibly similar. It’s old knowledge for us on some levels but I think we need to understand we are of nature. We’re not superior, we’re not an advanced life form; we are of nature. And we need to find within us the guardianship and the custodianship that comes with it.

But we’ve got to pick it right, because anyone can just say, “that’s bloody worthy innit!”

DAN: I think the thing is, though, that everything is interconnected and we are part of everything. We can all make a difference. It’s not being worthy, really, it’s just being aware.

HEATHER: Yet still, in a way, that rhetoric is easy. You can use words to get everyone going “yes, yes, yes!” But I don’t think I’m going to go for a single point or a single message, I’m going to go for a chain because that’s how my brain works anyway. I think for me it’s slightly more elusive and I think I probably work more through an agency of charm and incantation… and whatever we put in their drinks!

Fred: I’m looking forward to it! Thank you for your time guys.

Music for Elephants: A Eulogy for the Future – by Jenny Kendler

With her new work, Music for Elephants, interdisciplinary artist Jenny Kendler algorithmically translates data predicting future poaching of African elephants into a score for a vintage ivory-keyed player piano. Each note played on a restored player piano from 1921 represents the number of elephants who may die in the future from ivory poaching in a single month. Much as an elephant would caress the tusks of a loved one who has died, a ghostly absence seems to play these notes. As was common before the 1970s, the keys of this beautiful, antique instrument were crafted from ivory, the very material that drives people to kill elephants for their tusks. Though pianos are no longer made with ivory, this piece serves as a haunting reminder of how our unchecked or ill-informed desires can have devastating impacts our ecosystem and other beings.

The score, both eerie and meditative, counts down month by month, from a population of around 400,000 African elephants remaining today, predicting how many elephants may die in each month that the world does nothing to stop ivory poaching and illegal trade. Lower, longer notes represent greater numbers killed for their ivory. During the 10 minute piece, poaching increases at rate of only 1.5% annually—but after only 300 months (25 years), the count of living elephants falls to zero, the piano’s ivory keys fall silent…and elephants are extinct. Sadly, scientists warn us that extinction could happen even sooner, if rates of poaching and regional instability increase even further.

To create this work, artist Kendler partnered with wildlife specialists at environmental non-profit NRDC. The data they gained access to shows unequivocally that African elephant populations have been declining precipitously in past decades. Extrapolating from data she gathered on elephants’s natural births, deaths and rates of illegal poaching, Kendler’s algorithm shows a dark future of what could be—if we are unwilling as a species to undertake meaningful action to protect these magnificent beings with whom we share the Earth.



A Brief History of Elephants and the Ivory Trade

The African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is a species known to us all, and beloved by many. Deeply social, long lived and with a famously long memory, elephants are much like us. Like us, they are highly communicative in ways we are only just beginning to understand. Like us, they change their environment, keeping savannas open and grassy—something that may have allowed for our own evolution. Like us, they care for their families. Elephants are known to mourn their dead, habitually revisiting the sites where loved ones have died to caress their bones, and pass ivory tusks between family members. We can only imagine that like us, they know love and loss. And like us, their only real threat are humans.

We don’t know how many elephants there were before humans began carving up their land, capturing them for work or warfare and killing them for meat and ivory. We do know that from several million at the beginning of the 20th century, their population is now around 400,000—for perspective on the increasing direness of the situation, over 100,000 African elephants were massacred between 2010–12 alone. By far the largest cause of these deaths is the illegal poaching of elephants for their ivory tusks.


In the 19th century, King Leopold of Belgium’s desire for access to this “white gold” led to a devastating colonial occupation of Congo, a country now in free fall, which continues to be a major source of poached ivory. In the 1970s, before international trade was banned, ivory was used mainly for carvings and piano key tops, with about 40% of ivory going to Japan, 40% to Europe and N. America, and the rest staying in Africa. Today, illegal ivory often funds murderous regional militias like Sudan’s Janjaweed and Joseph Kony’s brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, and is traded through international criminal networks. Most of this ends up in Asia, where an economically booming China consumes over 70%. The murdered elephants’s tusks are carved up and sold for upwards of a thousand dollars a pound, to be made into chopsticks, rings and other wealth-demonstrating consumer trinkets.

Notes from the 6th Extinction: A Time of Choosing

Since ivory first became associated with power and wealth and traded as part of global capitalism, the hunger for ivory—and the associated devastating consequences—have only grown.

It is now up to us as a species to decide what matters. The way human beings feel about a species is now one of the main factors in its survival—so our empathy, or lack thereof, has become an ecological force.

If we give in to our desire for more, we may lose the chance to ever understand the minds of these remarkable others, so much like our own. There are those who long to make contact with alien minds from other distant stars—but we have them here, on our planet, if we can only put aside our greed and sense of ‘human exceptionalism’ and recognize our kin.

If you’d like to help, Save the Elephants is doing excellent work on the ground in Africa to monitor populations, support anti-poaching efforts, and build paths to human/elephant co-existence.

Special thanks to the artist’s husband Brian Kirkbride for invaluable assistance in writing the software to generate the score. Thanks also to environmental non-profit NRDC, where Jenny Kendler is Artist-in-Residence, to NRDC’s Elly Pepper for her assistance in gaining access to and interpreting poaching data, to Artprize curatorial fellow Alison Erazmus and to Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Coordinator of Public Programs and Interpretive Practices, Ann Meisinger.

Find out more about Jenny Kendler’s work here.

Some remembrances from November 30th, 2016

The following events are some of those that took place in honour of extinct and endangered species on and around Remembrance Day for Lost Species 2016. This is not an exhaustive list, and is still emerging. The events, which happened in many countries ranging from France to Tasmania, are documented in no particular order.

Sheffield saw a Wake for Lost Species with Abi Nielsen,  folk singer Nancy Kerr, storyteller Tim Ralphs and musician Sarah Smout.

Deptford, London: Three Sheets to the Sea. Taking the theme of islands and seas, artists Liam Geary Baulch and Jules Varndoe took participants on a multi-sensory journey from the early evolutionary life of sea organisms, to our present condition, and onwards to a future of robotic sea dwellers. This was followed by a participatory workshop/ wake with shared food. Read more and see photos of the event here.

Crystal Palace Dinosaur Park, London: Artists Daniela Othieno and Allie K Stewart held a remembrance event amongst the dinosaurs. Read about it here.
Primrose Hill, London: For Lost Species processed through the bitter cold carrying silhouettes of iconic lost species.
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New Cross, London: Illustrator Gabi Gershuny and colleagues launched the new Anthropo.cine cinema night in New Cross night to coincide with Remembrance Day for Lost Species.
Gabi also created a new body of work featuring chimerical beasts and the extinction symbol  – see more here.
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Holkham, Norfolk: Artist and historian Camilla Schofield focused on a local extinction in the North Sea. The angel shark likes to hide at the bottom of the sea bed. The life of the angel shark in the North Sea is now gone due to trawl fishing. They were caught in trawls and thrown away, uneaten, to extinction. Camilla went to the angel sharks’ old home to remember and make promises to them.
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Doncaster: In honour of Remembrance for Lost Species, Doncaster Museum held a competition to find a name for their quagga foal. In the end, she was named Charlotte.
New York: Vigil for violence awareness. Bibi Calderaro and colleagues held a four hour session on violence awareness in Union Square subway station. It was a mix between a vigil for lost species and raising awareness about violence against women and girls around the world – taking both as instances of violence and its extended ripple effects inside and outside (skins, borders, classes, categories, habitats…).
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Berlin: Night of the Extinct Animals. Illustrator Jennie Ottilie Keppler and poet Mikael Vogel hosted a night of Remembrance poetry and art. Read the story and see more photos here.
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Gent, Belgium: Artist Rachel Porter led a group of pre-school children in an afternoon’s reflection and simple ritual in remembrance of the thylacine.
Madagascar: Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership marked the day with this beautiful poster:
Skagway, Alaska: Kim Burnham made and released an extinction raft on December 5th.  “A few gulls and a lone seal were in attendance as high tide matched the setting sun. The official day of remembrance was on Nov 30th, but the south wind was not so cooperative that day, so we just read a eulogy, threw some dried flowers to the sea and decided to wait a few days for the north wind to arrive to help give our raft a push down the canal. It meant a lot to us to be able to share in this moment of collective grief. The hardest part was deciding which species’ names to include as representatives for the rest (scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, as we head into the 6th mass extinction).” See more photos here.
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Wirrawilla, Australia: Memorials for the Future Lost. Australian artists Gabrielle Stolp and Michelle Steward carried out an extended project highlighting the assault on old-growth highland rainforest in Victoria. It ended with a ceremony with the names of lost species read aloud, and poetry from John Kinsella.
 
Sankt Olof, Sweden: artists held a ceremony at Collective Joy Studios.
New South Wales, Australia: Byron Smith held a church service of Remembrance for Lost Species in Sydney.
Queensland, Australia:  Community artist Julia Peddie held a memorial to the thylacine and the many extinct Australian species in Maleny.
Bozeman, Montana, USA:  Megan Hollingsworth held a ceremony 108 Bell Rings – Joy Giving with Lost Species. Her poem Toughie, made into a short film featuring Sherrell Biggerstaff Cuneo’s Extinction Mourning Gown came from the day.

Dartmoor, Devon: A silent vigil by candlelight for Remembrance Day for Lost Species on 30 Nov with River Dart Wild Church. Participants brought and created poems, prayers, pictures and tokens to remember lost and endangered creatures. Donations were given to Devon Wildlife Trust’s ‘Homes For Bats’ Appeal.
Milton Keynes: Festive Road carnival puppetry and processional artists held a Parade of Animals featuring Harminder the giant elephant.
Oxford: Lantern-making, soup, fire, poems and ceremony at the Barracks Lane Community Garden.
UNFIX Festival, Glasgow: The Great Auk Collective made a live art performance creating the extinction symbol to the sound of lost birds.
Centre for Human Ecology, Glasgow:  In an intimate sharing (or ceilidh in the traditional sense of the word)  participants  “shared poetry, readings, facts about extinct species and stories about wild animals who lived alongside us in our childhood memories but whose absence or rare sightings are notable in our adulthood. We spoke about encounters between humans and otherspecies, and the possibilities and limitations around becoming acquainted with different kinds of consciousness. We also discussed the possibility of erecting a Life Cairn in Glasgow in the run-up to Remembrance Day for Lost Species 2017. Watch this space!”
Maxwell Park, Glasgow: Spirits of the Dead: the disappearing lemurs of Madagascar. Artist Becky Anson organised a family-friendly tree climb for lost lemurs.
Shields Community Garden, Glasgow: Artist Roisin Lyle-Collins ran a workshop with young people during which they decorated a tree in Remembrance for Lost Species. “Together we time travelled, exploring truths of extinction in the Anthropocene, finishing by tying the tree with rags with the names and dates of 15 diverse extinct species from all over the world.” Roisin is in the process of creating an educational resource to be shared in 2017.
Dublin: Clarion Call for Climate aka film maker and composer Sinead Finegan made this film:

Maroroisia, Fiji: Artist Tessa Miller organised Remembrance Day student visits to Sigatoka sand dunes. Participants wrote affirmations on cloth turtle shells, pledging to cherish and protect this beautiful area, and all of the diverse creatures on land and sea and river that make it so special.

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Suva, Fiji: Artist Anne O’Brien marked Remembrance Day in the market in Suva by sharing the story of the extinct lapitiguana with passersby and raising awareness of the threats to iguanas.
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Brighton: ONCA Gallery hosted a remembrance procession for the thylacine.

Remembrance Day for Lost Species – ONCA @LostSpeciesDay from hyperoculus on Vimeo.

Brighton: Irish musician Cathy Davey and other artists paid tribute to the thylacine at ONCA in a night dedicated to its memory.
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Hobart, Tasmania: Vigil at Beaumaris Zoo. At the site of the last thylacine’s death, participants held a meditation and made a small shrine of offerings from thylacine home ground, the Southwest Wilderness. Rocks, gum leaves, flowering tea-tree, button-grass, yabby claw, deciduous beech, banksia, and water from the ‘extinct’ Lake Pedder.
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River Taff, Wales: The River Taff in South Wales has seen species lost and some re-gained. It has carried effluents of iron and steel works, power stations, coke ovens, sewers. Now it once again holds sea trout, salmon, otters and eels. It is a river mending. Artist Kate Knowles went for a gratitude swim on Remembrance Day for Lost Species. 
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Warwick: Warwick University GLOBUS students held a day of learning, reflection and talks with music and affirmations.
Finland: Musician Christine Cooper organised a collaborative, interactive performance-ritual to remember and mourn lost species, and to take stock of the changes our world is going through.
Merritt Island, Florida: In honour of Remembrance Day for Lost Species, Nancy Mitchell visited Merritt Island, where the now-extinct dusky seaside sparrow lived, and took this photo of a mounted specimen of one in the Visitor Information Center at the Refuge.
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 Wood Green, London: Year 7 students at Woodside High School made shadow puppets with artist Ellie Liddell Crewe from ONCA.
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Kington, Hereford: Nigel and Tamara Rayment created Bean & Gone Beastro, a pop-up restaurant for Remembrance Day. Unfortunately, none of the menu items were available.

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Penzance, Cornwall: Artist Tim Ridley and friends drew and discussed lost species.
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Some writings published on or in response to the day:

Broken open – by Persephone Pearl

Broken open

wrung out

limp

eyes tiny swollen things

limbs heavy and immobile

yet I want to stay like this

to lie by the embers while the cold wind whips me

press my face against stones while my tears roll through the gaps between them

shout into blackness and feel the wind push my cries back into my throat

fall down and pummel the ground

my heart so full that it has cracked wide open like a burnt rock from the heart of the pyre

 


Last night in Brighton we held a funeral for the thylacine, extinct since 1936. The meeting point was at ONCA, where we gave people whiskers and Lost Species Day stickers when they arrived. Glitter, fur, black garb, leopard print, tails, ears: the gallery was full of people curious, open, ready for this, tangibly in need of this kind of space.

I preface the procession with a disclaimer/ celebration:

This is an experiment, there are no rules, we are inventing it all together because we need to – 

Then we press pieces of paper with the names of lost species into their hands and pockets, and off we all go, carrying an effigy of Benjamin, the last thylacine. We only made a head and a tail, and they are connected by a great length of white sheet that many people hold and drape over their shoulders. We’re a motley crew: Ellie at the front in her thylacine mask made from an old teddy bear, tolling the Bell for Lost Species as she goes; Gary with his dark glasses and his tambourine like a Krishna devotee; Alex the bewhiskered numb-fingered ukulele player; people with masks with lanterns; my son Felix running around like a paparazzo with a borrowed GoPro. People smile as we pass by, or shake their heads and mutter “bloody humans” when they hear that it’s Remembrance Day for Lost Species.

Wake up, shouts Andreas as the bell tolls. It’s time to wake up!

Is this alright, I am thinking. Is this enough? I want this to be enough. I need it to be enough for the people who have come. Yet what could ever be enough?

Through the Pavilion Gardens – for a moment we nearly end up on the temporary ice rink – then down onto the ink dark beach, crunching over pebbles all the way to the foreshore with this strange snaking hodgepodge creation. It stinks of fish down here but instinctively I want that – to perceive, viscerally, the processes of life and death.

The thylacine-snake is laid out in a circle with head and tail meeting in the middle – a great wonky ouroboros – and we gather shufflingly around it. Matt steps into the centre and tells the story of the thylacine – its uniqueness, its niche, its scapegoating, persecution and extermination.

Then, people speak from the edges of the circle of the things they wish to remember tonight:

I want to remember the wolves and bears of this land shot to extinction

I want to remember the boreal forests of Canada given way to tar sands

I want to remember the great forests of Germany now all but gone

I want to remember the red gazelle, though I never knew of its existence till now

I want to remember Toughie and the lost amphibians

Down, I am sinking down, dropping so far, held by the voice of the sea and this fragile circle of vulnerability

I want to remember the lost forest people of Brazil and Panama

I want to remember Berta Caceres the murdered Honduran indigenous environmental activist

I want to remember the unborn Native American children poisoned by the persistent organic pollutants in the Great Lakes

I want to remember the murdered Thai environmental protector who inspired so many people

Further, let me drop further down –  I am ready for the abyss, I feel the sides rushing past me as I fly – but are others frightened? Is this too much? How much can we bear to look at? 

I hold in my thoughts the protectors at Standing Rock

I hold in my thoughts the bees and the pollinators

I hold in my thoughts the protesters defending the woods of Leith Hill from oil exploration

I hold in my thoughts the web of life that is sustained by the soil and I commit to restoring the soil

I give thanks for the worms

I give thanks for the return of the beavers

I give thanks for the wasps and their great work

I give thanks to all the people who give their lives in service to the earth that they love

I could stay here forever.

And then Ellie is saying, Come on then, let’s burn it, and I am wondering, Is it too much, are people too cold, is it too difficult? And we are stumbling about, placing offerings into the mouth of the thylacine, while Andreas plays Amazing Grace on his flute. Lu-Lu in the lemur hat is lighting the paper and up goes Benjamin, a sudden exquisite blast of brilliance in the dark. Just like that.

I sit by the fire, almost touching it; my friend Flor and I tend the flames and I watch every moment. I must stay until the very end, just as I had to at my mother’s funeral when the gravediggers came with their little digger and pushed the heavy clay over her coffin. The tears come now. All I can do is cry, and hold onto strangers.

My comrade Andreas takes one of my tears and puts it into the fire. He says the earth’s song is out of tune and the tree of life is withered. We need to howl and weep, for how else can we water the withered tree or bring music back into the voice of the earth? He recites a poem by Antonio Machado, taught to us by our friend the brilliant Martin Shaw:

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odour of jasmine.

‘In return for the odour of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odour of your roses.’

‘I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.’

‘Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.’

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
‘What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?’

Remembrance Day for Lost Species – ONCA @LostSpeciesDay from hyperoculus on Vimeo.

 

Lost Species Day Joy Giving – by Megan Hollingsworth

ex·tinc·tion wit·ness is one in a growing coalition of artists, educators, museum curators, scientists and writers forwarding International Remembrance Day for Lost Species (Lost Species Day).

This year, ex·tinc·tion wit·ness joins Your Yoga in Bozeman, Montana for Joy Giving. Lost Species Day Joy Giving practice is focused on grieving discovery and the total cost of a doctrine that has long made legitimate by law the exploitation, removal, and murder of men, women, and children, all non-human organisms, and whole communities.

Please read ‘Grieving Discovery‘, written Armistice Day 9.11.2016, which tells the story of my wedding ‘Discovery Tree’, pictured above, and how fully embodied grief keeps the peace.

Lost Species Day offerings have been highlighted throughout November at the Lost Species Day blog. Jeremy Hance wove a lovely chorus of Lost Species Day voices in “Why don’t we greive lost species?” (The Guardian, 11.19.2016.) Gatherings have begun. November 27th, folks wearing stripes climbed trees in urban Glasgow to honor disappearing lemurs. Others, not necessarily wearing stripes, joined parade for lost and nearly lost species in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. For Joy Giving details, visit the  REMEMBRANCE page and be sure to explore the breadth of Lost Species Day offerings.

Standing Rock may be the global epicenter where mass battle or mass peace will be decided. It feels important to note that the violence inflicted on human beings who stand to protect Missouri river water is not surprising given how this continent came to be occupied by white-skinned folk, who arrived running from and with our own long-inherited trauma. And how murder is a standard practice for securing prospects in today’s global market.

Much of today’s overwhelming grief is anticipatory. There is fear that what has been established in protective laws and protected areas will be lost to the final breath of a dying era that’s damaged everyone and cost so many.

Among decisions that will determine the health of water and, thus, whole communities is Scotland’s call, anticipated 2017, on whether or not to allow dangerous hydraulic fracturing – ‘the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas’.

Then there’s “Canada’s Standing Rock” – the B.C. tarsands pipeline conflict. Hydraulic fracturing, gold and uranium mining that threaten U.S. national forests and parks. 3,700 dams proposed globally while the recommendation from scientists and economists is dam removal. And more…

If the desire is a present and future free of fear-invoking violence, we must stop fearing the present and future. The collective consciousness must be cleared of anticipatory grief. And this is done by clearing individuals of anticipatory grief.

I invite you to let your imagination go to a world without flowers. Without the child’s laughter. Go all the way there and sit awhile. Grieve that darkness, which exists today for some members of Earth’s global community. Then, be present where you are. Then, see the flower and hear the child laugh as if for the first time. Be so grateful for their existence that you fall to the ground asking only what you may do to help someone other than yourself.

The Lost Species Day Joy Giving practice is designed to move practitioners through 108 feelings associated with experience, resolving the person to joy for the very prospect of being alive and a generally peaceful mind. Many – more or less structured – practices, including breathwork, chanting, and dance, have been designed to accomplish emotional purification.

This is old information. Yet, human awareness of mass species extinction is quite fresh. And, so, the effort of Lost Species Day to create and establish rituals fitting for this fresh consciousness.

In addition to visiting the REMEMBRANCE page for more information, please see the list of those supporting grief ritual along with readings on grief linked at bottom of the ex·tinc·tion wit·ness Sanctify page. Please also stay tuned for notice of Grief & Creativity Forum at Depth Psychology Alliance, resuming Winter 2016/2017.

Most warn that livings will become more challenging before improvement, so please be gentle with yourself and others. Just as I complete the final edit on this post, I’m reading a tweet from Bill McKibben“This is a graph of total global sea ice. The red line is this year. Something is very very wrong.” 

Truth is, it’s morbid out there. My most recent poem Y?, is written in response to 250 puffins washed dead upon Saint Paul Island during what’s been an unseasonably warm autumn from Montana North to the Bering Sea. And dire drought yields wildfires and unbearable air consuming Southeast communities. My arms reach out for everyone.

As the mother of a six, nearly seven, year old boy, my heart would like to sink in the uncertainty. I’m clueless to the looming challenges. Then I remember the wonder and creative genius of biomimicry’s sweet blossom – natural wisdom that wants to break through each and every person just as chemically-laced water at high pressure will split rock. Just as the election has split losers, now fighting one another, in the Dream that eventually nobody wins given the associated nightmare is reality for most.

I want my son to shine in a culture that serves biomimicry to pre-schoolers. That’s 100% possible if mineral extraction stops, large dams get removed, people and lots of perennials thrive. The beauty is that all this,already begun, is catalyzed by the split in this union that’s forced the light of human kindness, understanding, and reverence through the cracks.

Autumn is an ideal season for grieving and within the overarching Season, there’s an alchemical masterpiece brewing. What falls does rise. To know sorrow is to know joy and to experience the fullness of life. Please unite with others, near and far, in this fullness November 30th.

Lost Species Day ritual need not be elaborate. Sincere, if brief, words of gratitude form the most potent prayer. And, as is noted in Jeremy Hance’s post in The Guardian, grief has many faces, humor and gratitude among them.

Thank you,

Megan

Liturgy of Loss – by Nick Hunt

What words can do justice to the disorientating, vertiginous experience of loss that accompanies an awareness of the unfolding of the sixth mass extinction? These words by Nick Hunt were used at a DIY ritual event held at the Dark Mountain Uncivilisation festival in 2013. Juxtaposing humour and the mundane with the epic and unknowable, they are offered here by Nick as inspiration for Lost Species events this year. Please write your own extinction liturgies and eulogies, and share them here too. 

Ladies and gentlemen, men and women, friends, humans, homo sapiens, homo heidelbergensis, neanderthalensis, finders, losers, St. Lucy giant rice rats, loves, lost loves, dears, Schomburgk’s deers, darlings, Darling Downs hopping mice, American lions, Tasmanian tigers, Bermuda night herons, Bermuda triangles, objects, possessions, lost keys, Geeze, Nagumi, Etruscan, Eyak, Basque-Icelandic pigdin, passenger pigeons, words, languages, memories, laughter, laughing owls, Ilin Island cloudrunners, short-faced bears, sharp-snouted dayfrogs, welcome to the Liturgy of Loss.

We ask you now to throw our loved ones’ ashes in the Ganges, to wrap their bodies in flags and drop them in the sea, to stand around the cold church hall eating canapes, to slam our whisky glasses down on the coffin, and finally recline on the topmost tower and let the vultures carry our bones away.

And let us also check five times in the same pocket for your missing mobile phone, and the train ticket that has joined the odd socks in the cupboard under the stairwell of the night

And let us also search in vain for the word for the memory conjured by the particular smell of our mother leaving the house in a rainstorm while potato cakes almost burn in the oven while the cat sicks up the pine needles of last year’s Christmas tree.

And let us also remember our never-to-be-realised childhood dreams of employment as bears, robots, kings of volcanoes, revolutionaries, outlaws and millionaires.

And let us also remember all that we’ve lost without knowing: the sound of the wings of the passenger pigeons that no longer darken the sky whistling over the empty grassland where there is no grass any more and soon there will be no land. The phantom limbs of our orchards, hayricks and other bucolic appendages. The rusted bicycle frame with no gears, no wheels, no brakes, no bicycle, locked outside a boarded-up shop on a street you no longer walk down.

We ask you all to sing of the sadness of things you love and let them go, to laugh at longing, to celebrate the seasonal and circadian rhythms of loss and return.

Ladies and gentlemen, nonhumans, broad-faced potoroos, root-spine palms, dinogorgons, Karankawas, golems, bigfoots, pravoslaverias, you are in the Liturgy of Loss…

We will now forge a Liturgy of farewell for vanishing things. These three certified ritualologists will lead you outside to speak of the things that you love and the things that you’ve lost. We ask you to make a simple offering, a sketch or a few words to represent a personal absence for the forthcoming Immolation of the Darlings, the culmination of our ceremony.You will bring your songs and offerings back here, and the Liturgy will begin.

Ladies and gentlemen! Tarpans! Great auks! Aurochs! Lacunae! Misplaced ephemera! Pieces of the world! Fragments! Missing jigsaw puzzle pieces! Extinct hominids and the extant cousins of extinct hominids! Come! Gather! Make haste! Scurry! Eroded statues! Runes that can’t be read! Please proceed back inside, please proceed back inside, for the Liturgy of Loss is about to begin, the Liturgy is about to commence! Loss! Loss! Loss! Loss! People! Ex-people! Missing persons of the future! Small but essential lost pre-fabricated garden furniture fittings! Soviet notions of a utopian future! The Liturgy is about to begin!

After words, after songs, come only flames and silence. We ask you now to proceed to the Fire of Forgetting for the Immolation of the Darlings, to finally lose the things you’ve lost, and then to go your way in peace and lose yourselves in the world.

 

Image: mandala from Feral Theatre’s Remembering the Javan Tiger. Photograph by Abi Horn