Monday, March 21, 2011

I curate therefore I am!

Today is the first day of spring, so it was a bit of a shock to peer outside my window upon awakening, and find that everything was covered in white melting snowfall...which promptly crystalized into heavy ice even before my coffee was brewed.  Outside the porch, this early blooming witch hazel dispersed divine perfume even so!

Next thing you know, it was beyond a thrill when Brian Lehrer took my nervous call on his NPR radio show.  He was interviewing Steven Rosenbaum, the author of "Curation Nation"...and gave me 20 seconds towards the end of the segment, at around 11:26 in, to explain the purpose of Wit's End.
For those who have the inclination to listen to the entire segment, the concept of internet curating goes well beyond traditional editing, because it includes unique original content as well as links to primary sources - and embraces not only written works but, on the web, can also include photography, music, video and art...exactly the juxtaposition that occurs on this blog (with various degrees of efficacy.)
Having now been acquainted with this au courant designation, I am quite content to regard myself as the "accidental curator" of all things related to trees dying from pollution...especially because the next time someone accuses me of being unscientific, I will be able to inform them that not merely am I most humbly not a scientist, but that instead I AM a  proud curator!  For instance here is a contribution from a reader, from the Pacific Northwest, who submitted this  iconic emblem of the plight of all trees, everywhere.
And now for today's gallery - all of the photographs and descriptions that follow are from the website of the French artist HeHe:
Pollstream is a collection of ideas, forms and images that explore man-made clouds. We are fascinated by clouds because of their movement, and because of their natural undefined form - which makes them difficult to be fixed in time.
Across a number of projects, clouds are used as a visual metaphor to aestheticise emissions and chemical toxins. In popular culture, the meaning of man-made clouds, have changed to reflect the concerns of the ages: They have been used in the 19th century as a sign of economic prosperity, in the 1920's to express spiritual energy, in the 60's as am emblem for workers revolution, in the 80's as the ultimate icon of pollution. Likewise, pollstream offers alternative meanings for today's man-made clouds, which, hopefully, challenge the ideologies of our times.

This project is an intervention in environmental ethics. It creates a series of environments and processes to monitor and localise pollution at the very same time that it is produced; to conceptualise oneself as responsible – collectively and individually – for our emissions. As consumers our default position is one of disengagement – we rely on others to clear up our mess, to hide it in landfill, for example, or toxics inside our body. And the abstraction of inescapably globalised pollution, escalating beyond the control of any individual nation state, can easily undermine a sense that localised actions are worthwhile or effective. 

Pollstream, using visual, kinetic and sonic technologies, undermines these typical defences of disengagement by speeding up the normal time it takes for our actions in and on the environment to have consequences. Across a number of projects, a sense of constant rather than delayed feedback is created. Thus, in its final form, color coded communal information is projected onto the vapor of a power plant that is visible to all residents. The movement of the green vapor emission changes size to show levels of energy being consumed at any given time; the chimney becomes a community measuring tape, a shared canvas. Nuage Vert is the ultimate aesthetisation of pollution, while seeking to draw critical attention to it. It becomes a sign of wonder, a spectacle; a space is opened up for the spectator. Could they become mesmorised by a beauty that is, literally and metaphorically, a smokescreen? Will they 
retreat to making this (terrible) beauty another defense?

Whenever we see a chimney emitting smoke or vapour we immediately think of it as pollution. Chimney vapour is emblematic, symbolic of pollution. At the same time, these emissions are intriguing and beautiful to watch as they show the movement of the air, signalling the direction of the wind, functioning both as weather-veins and landmarks in the urban landscape. Supposing such smoke signals were to signal sustainability, functioning as a kind of community measuring tape, displaying the local effort made by citizens, when they consume less energy (or more). The chimney becomes a more complex sign, of environmental effort as well as wasted energy.
Originally proposed for a waste burning plant on the edge of Paris (image 3) and currently for a power plant in a residential zone of Helsinki, the project projects an informational layer onto chimney emissions. The system to realise Nuage Vert will track the movement of the plume and project back a flourescent laser outline onto its contour. The contour will change colour to show the levels of energy being currently consumed by local residents. An 'advertising' campaign will be designed to inform people of the colour spectrum being used and to tempt people to consume less energy.
By projecting changing levels of consumer demand for energy onto the plume, Nuage Vert is an experiment that makes the chimney function as a kind of community measuring tape, displaying the local effort made by citizens, publicly showing residents levels of energy consumption. The chimney becomes a more complex sign, of the environmental effort made by individuals as well as industrial pollution.


  1. Well, I'll dive in here first and say that Steven Rosenbaum doesn't describe me in the least, and I find him insulting, condescending and typically exploitative. You and your kind will not define me, Steven, no matter how hard you try.

    I only visit a handful of sites on the internet, but not for the reasons he states. I don't visit "aggregators" like Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and the countless other holding pens that are out there. I believe they exist to shape public opinion and perception. They are highly censored, replete with forum border collies who patrol the boards to keep the sheep in line.

    I come to places like Wit's End because you dare to speak your mind and challenge the prevailing wisdom. You say what you think, unashamedly, and you dare to think outside of the box. Sure, you may be wrong sometimes, but you are willing to admit it and correct your thinking accordingly. Your goal is to understand what is going on around you, and you realize that the conventional, orthodox answers are inadequate and misleading.

    Although you don't have many comments, I visit a couple of other sites that have considerable comments that are not censored. I get as much from these comments as I do from the post that engendered them, and I appreciate that....people thinking freely and sharing their unique, or not unique, perspectives and perceptions. It's the best way to learn and expand your own perspective and entertaining the observations, views and ideas of others. It's like having an infinite number of eyes and ears.....and yet so many want to block it all out and have their daily pablum served to them in a nice tidy manner without all the "noise."

    The "noise" is the good stuff. The "noise" is the substance. The other is the pith. I'm sure the folks over at Climate Progress, or whatever it's called, consider you "noise," Gail. I would agree.....and I love it. Bring on the NOISE.

  2. The intertubes are evolving very quickly. I used to feel just as you describe about the comments at CP - especially when I first became aware of the existential threats from climate change, peak everything, and ecosystem collapse, I learned so much from the commenters there and in fact I am extremely fortunate and grateful to have since met several of them, on the east and west coasts, and made fast and noisy friends of them.

    However, we all have gradually come to now consider ourselves the outsiders at CP and our comments either stop the conversation or are frequently ignored. I think that what began as a relatively restrained discussion about science and policy has, in the past two years, given way to astonished alarm as events in the real world have demonstrated mercilessly that the IPCC predictions are far, far too conservative. It would appear only a very few people have the capacity to follow this to its inevitable and inescapable conclusions, awful as they are - and so most are hand-wringers, paralyzed with disbelief, who continue to hope we are going to be able to stop this train wreck with some miraculous techno fix or international agreement.

    Like the video yesterday over at DOT! The juxtaposition of WWIII with space travel is ludicrous and yet people convince themselves there is some escape.

    I agree with you completely about sites like HuffPo, which are nothing but pure propaganda. To recognize how totally information is controlled leads to what I call living in a parallel universe - or a waking nightmare, depending on how surreal it feels at any given moment!

    Then I get emails with links to really far-out theories, and sometimes I hardly know what to think. Try this one - about depleted uranium. This woman has been warning about a Japanese meltdown for years.

    Thanks as always for your comments. Morocco Bama. I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

  3. Gail, I found this article by a former physics professor interesting. There's a baby, or two, in his bathwater that I won't throw out, but he provides a scientific rebuttal to anthropogenic climate change that should be answered scientifically, and non-dismissively, by climate scientists who assert anthropogenic climate change is a reality. Maybe you can submit it over at Climate Progress for review and commentary.

    I do agree with him in the sense that anthropogenic climate change has been corporately, and institutionally co-opted and exploited and no good can come from that. As he says:

    Environmental scientists and government agencies get funding to study and monitor problems that do not threaten corporate and financial interests. It is therefore no surprise that they would attack continental-scale devastation from resource extraction via the CO2 back door. The main drawback with this strategy is that you cannot control a hungry monster by asking it not to shit as much. ... All in all, the best way to not pollute and destroy the environment is to not pollute and destroy the environment. The best way to not exploit others is to not exploit others.....

    It’s about exploitation, oppression, racism, power, and greed. Economic, human, and animal justice brings economic sustainability which in turn is always based on renewable practices. Recognizing the basic rights of native people automatically moderates resource extraction and preserves natural habitats. Not permitting imperialist wars and interventions automatically quenches nation-scale exploitation. True democratic control over monetary policy goes a long way in removing debt-based extortion.

    Again, I'm not defending his denial, but he raises some valid questions that should be answered and some of his points, which I have highlighted, have merit.

  4. You have the best collection of photos.. maybe it is time for a gallery/showcase/contest of AGW images. Wait.. you do that already, it just needs a name and an award.


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