PRELUDE—By Nina Eriksson
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
This text is written as a sort of reader’s response to the first couple of weeks leading up to course start. Isolation is a very strange circumstance for starting a course on something you know almost nothing about - my reflections are very much based on that in the way that they are so subjective they might actually have very little to do with even the literature at hand. Everything we create right now becomes a time stamped document of life under a global pandemic and this is something I truly battle with. I resent the idea that my artwork has to process this at every end, but I also clearly do not seem to be able to get around it. Writing this text in my room, I had very little to turn to besides the literature that was at the time the biggest worlds or “rooms” I found myself in. The subject of these rooms and other rooms I think will haunt the duration of this course, and be an interesting thing to follow in and of itself.
Reading Aleksandra Mir’s “We Can’t Stop Thinking About the Future” (2017), I keep referencing the opening chapter of T.J. Demos’ “Against the Anthropocene” (2017) in my mind. In this chapter, the author notes how the images of the Earth that we commonly see are compilations of satellite data rather than the photographic depictions we read them as. The image and its truth is dissected primarily critically in “Against the Anthropocene”, as the mission of the book is the denouncing of the Anthropocene and its depiction as a truth about the times we live in. In my artistic conviction, I feel refreshed and relieved by the air of exploration running through “We Can’t Stop Thinking About the Future”.
Perhaps this is made possible by the inevitable feeling of distance when approaching the subject of space and space terrain. We have at least not yet made it to a point where our - in this sense “our” in a sense of Western capitalist presence throughout recent history - pollutive industry and practice affects other planets (although the existence of space debris and radio transmitters is highly related). Maybe it is partly this that makes the explorative nature of Mir’s interviews possible. Or maybe the fact that the perceived space between artistic interest and scientific interest is ever present - in “Against the Anthropocene”, the propagators of the Anthropocene and its surrounding theory almost come off as having been caught in a lie that there is no space between their theories and the reality of our earthly circumstances. The book does concern itself with artistry in the discourse surrounding the Anthropocene and climate activism, although almost only with regards to activist artistic practice. Artistic ventures into science with other or no agendas are not brought up. The artistic exploration that is ever present in Mir’s interviews, and met with what I perceive as varying levels of interest/resistance in the researchers, makes this project open up to me in terms of the different things it can be about. Where we admit the things we know and do not know about one another’s fields, we can let them build upon one another in interesting ways.
I am reminded to ask about the things I want to know. This may sound simple, however in academic education I have many times encountered the idea that there are right and wrong questions. What are you meant to find out? Where will what you find out take you? I look forward to embarking on this particular project with the idea in mind that what I do interests me and is meant to be put in play along with the research I encounter, rather than be eaten up by it and made into something unrecognizable.
To clarify: the research I will explore will not be interesting only because of what motivated researchers to look for it, but because of what I find interesting from my perspectives and sensibilities. I am inspired by the self insertion into their subject that several of Mir’s interview subjects perform: There is no abstraction, rather showing, telling, admitting interest and admitting to emotional investment. Perhaps it is a personal bias of mine that I assumed these scientists would filter out this personal aspect, but it does interest me in context of current ideas about the artist’s role. My artistry is governed by attempts to explore and get close to tenderness, vulnerability and unknown depths of emotional visibility. I was surprised to see similar ventures represented and even wants expressed by these scientists. Their emotional investment makes their research emotional, it makes me very compassionate towards Pluto, and it sheds light on how depicting and storing information is a caring and careful practice in and of itself.
I concern myself with romance and human “flaws”, societally thus patriarchally recognised “weakness” a lot throughout my practice and my life. Reading these interviews with these people, who are in varying states of excitement about the interdisciplinary nature of not only science /art, but also of the perceived rigidity of science/animated nature of artistic discovery, creates so much new space. Being that this is the first course I take in my bachelor program, I am also only starting to discover how artistic learning works within the university context. This course and its format already puts that into stark focus.
Watercolour portrait of Nina Eriksson by Aleksandra Mir, 2020
Against the Anthropocene, T.J. Demos, 2017
We Can’t Stop Thinking About the Future, Aleksandra Mir, 2017