Thursday 27 May 2010

more on edge of deepwater

The current issue of the LRB sees 'industry money and government collusion' behind the oil spill (see blog below). In the current issue of the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert even turns on Obama:

Obama inherited an Interior Department that he knew to be plagued by corruption, but he allowed the department’s particularly disreputable Minerals Management Service to party on. Last spring, in keeping with its usual custom, the M.M.S. granted BP all sorts of exemptions from environmental regulations.
more ...

Wednesday 26 May 2010

edge of deepwater

In 1985, the BBC broadcast an acclaimed six-part thriller Edge of Darkness, starring Bob Peck. It had a script by Troy Kennedy Martin and music by Eric Clapton. For the LRB's David Bromwich, the high-level environmental corruption at the centre of the story finds a clear parallel today:

The Deepwater Horizon blowout and BP oil spill, now starting its work of destruction on the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, was another case of industry money and government collusion indifferent to the public welfare.

See also: more on edge of deepwater more ...

Monday 24 May 2010

the rachel whitereads in the sky

My piece about how you can prove global warming in your own kitchen (and why we need more simple illustrations like this of science) has just appeared online at More Intelligent Life:

We put 26 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. Twenty-six times a thousand million tonnes is an impossible number to imagine, but it’s not impossible to picture a single tonne of CO2. It’s somewhere between the size of the sculptor Rachel Whiteread’s 'Ghost', in which she cast a Victorian parlour in plaster, and Whiteread’s Turner-prizewinning 'House' (above), in which she filled a Victorian house with concrete. Each year we’re putting something like 26 thousand thousand thousand Rachel Whitereads into the sky. It’s just that you can’t see them. more ...

Friday 21 May 2010

no, prime minister

The Evening Standard reports tonight on the new stage production of Yes, Prime Minister at Chichester, which the paper gives "***".  This stage version of the TV hit, apparently, finds the PM Jim Hacker caught up in a scandal that involves, among other issues, global warming.

Of course, one of the co-authors of Yes, Prime Minister, Antony Jay, has also appeared on the back cover of Nigel Lawson's book on global warming making the claim (just as comic to some) that the book is 'an independent hard-headed examination of the realities of climate change'. more ...

Monday 17 May 2010

representing the unrepresentable

In this guest post, Kellie Payne, reports on Bruno Latour's recent talk at the Tate.

The French sociologist Bruno Latour gave the keynote address at this month's Tate Britain’s symposium Beyond the Academy: Research as Exhibition. His address considered the environmental crisis as a particular challenge which would require natural history, art museums and academia to join forces. The challenge, he said, was that "climate change is currently unrepresentable".

In an effort to address this, Latour has embarked on a number of projects. One is the School of Political Arts at the Sciences Po in Paris. The school, which will be formally launched this year, will bring together young professionals in the social sciences and arts to attempt to represent the political problem of climate change. Latour says the school will “not join science, art and politics together, but rather disassemble them first and, unfamiliar and renewed, take them up again afterwards, but differently.”

Latour is also working on establishing a new type of Biennale in Venice, which will incorporate social scientists into artistic production. By bringing together social scientists and artists, Latour wants to address these issues in new ways. He expressed interest in Avatar, calling it the first ‘Gaia’ film, beginning this task of rethinking the ecological crisis and exploring ways of making it representable.

His engagement with climate change includes his participation in the Nordic Exhibition of the year Rethink: Contemporary Art and Climate Change which was staged in Copenhagen during COP15. He contributed to the Rethink exhibition catalogue with the essay “It's Development, Stupid” Or: How To Modernize Modernization. It is a response to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Break Through - From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. In this essay, Latour argues that the separation of the subjective from the real into dichotomies such as 'nature' and 'culture' must end. In order to begin to tackle the challenges we are facing, we must acknowledge just how closely human and nature are entwined. He has given a lecture on ‘Politics and Nature’ at the Rethink The Implicit venue at the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art.

Latour spent most of his Tate talk discussing two of his previous exhibition projects which combined the talents of artists and social scientists. Both exhibits were produced with Peter Weibel at ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The first, Iconoclash (2002), which brought together a team of curators, including Hans Ulrich Obrist from the Serpentine Gallery, examined how iconoclasts are represented in art, religion and science. The second, Making Things Public, partnered artists with social scientists to create individual exhibits. The exhibition was centred on a number of themes: Assembling or Disassembling; Which Cosmos for which Cosmopolitics; The Problem of Composition; From Objects to Things; From Laboratory to Public Proofs; The Great Pan is Dead!; Reshuffling Religious Assemblies; The Parliaments of Nature. The exhibition sought to materialise the concept of a ‘Parliament of Things’.

Latour conceptualised his exhibitions as thought experiments, but found the exhibitions themselves to be failures, saying that most of the individual projects within the exhibition failed as works of art. The books that accompanied the exhibitions, in particular, Making Things Public, a large book created after the exhibition, were more successful.

This was one of the themes that emerged from the day at Tate: whether certain exhibitions work better as books. Latour said that working on exhibitions has been one of the most interesting parts of his academic life. Exhibitions, he said, have a different rhythm and intensity of work and creating the ‘thing in the space’ adds to intellectual life. But creating an exhibition must be different to writing. When exhibitions merely illustrate a point, no gain is made.

Latour’s interests have now moved towards ecology and the role of the arts in representing our environmental challenges and the need for artists and social scientists to collaborate on these issues. He said he himself is writing a play on climate change.

Kellie Payne is a PhD student in the Geography department at the Open University researching culture and climate change.
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us versus them

In this Living on Earth interview, recommended in a comment today, E O Wilson elaborates on the similarities between humans and ants, which he has dramatised in his newly-published novel Anthill:

Wilson: It's true that many of the problems that arise in the human condition come from having strict group identity, it appears to be a deep instinct of people to belong to a group and the tendency then for us to not only belong to a group and get the security of belonging to a group, but for groups to be in contest with one another in one form or another. And for us to have powerful emotional response to our group—

Interviewer:  Not just us, but us versus them is the—

Wilson: Us versus them is the binary—ants have a parallel.
more ...

Friday 14 May 2010

dare do all that may become a baboon

Alexander McCall Smith has written the libretto for an opera about baboons. The story takes its theme from Macbeth. McCall Smith says:

Female baboons clearly have some Lady Macbeth issues. They all have male baboons that they want to become more alpha. more ...

up the garden path

Gardener's Question Time has been on since 1947. If they haven't answered every question yet, gardening must be basically impossible.

Tweet from @DanRebellato more ...

Tuesday 11 May 2010

irony of the age

Orville Schell reviews the latest literature on climate change:

it is one of the great ironies of our age that even in the midst of the “Information Technology Revolution,” which daily inundates us with vast quantities of information that are supposed to inform and liberate us, we are still unable to synthesize it so as to galvanize ourselves for action. more ...

Friday 7 May 2010

summer time

The English summer arrives some 18 days sooner than during the late 1950s. more ...

Tuesday 4 May 2010

art and politics

If politicians were painters, with FDR as Titian and Churchill as Rubens, then Attlee would be the Vermeer of the profession: precise, restrained—and long undervalued. Bill Clinton might aspire to the heights of Salvador Dalí (and believe himself complimented by the comparison), Tony Blair to the standing - and cupidity - of Damien Hirst.

In the arts, moral seriousness speaks to an economy of form and aesthetic restraint ...

Tony Judt, 'Austerity', (NYRB) more ...

Sunday 2 May 2010

open fridges

One of Helen Simpson's new stories, that appears in her climate-change collection In-Flight Entertainment, imagines a diarist in 2040 looking back with wistful memories of life in the age of fossil fuels. The things that are missing from 2040 (according to this review) include:

condoms, iTunes, Google, hot water, open fridges full of tiger prawns and fillet steak. more ...