So, this is typical: I generated what looks to be double the amount of trash from June to July, which is classic behavior for me—start strong and then fall off a bit. :) I’m still learning about what can be recycled and why recycling isn’t a panacea for our environmental problems. (I’m reading Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home for some tips.)
At RAIR Philly, where I shot my new video project last winter, the evidence of our unsustainable way of life piles up. The mountains of trash at the plant are a site of hope, because a high percentage of all materials brought here are recycled, but also dismay. There’s an efficiency and pragmatism to the work at the plant, and massive amounts of materials are moved through the recycling process each day. Despite this, the volume of discarded materials brought me anxiety and something that felt like an emotional bruise, a tender spot pressed into by sadness and complicity. It put me in a frame of mind to explore difficulty, struggle, and lack of control.
Dust is a renegade material that the plant is at pains to keep down during working hours. Outside of business hours it was available, like any other material onsite, for creative use. We devised methods for creating engulfing clouds of dust in which to situate movement-based improvisations based on news images taken during protests, dust storms, and catastrophic events, such as 9/11. The visual power of dust and light brings the movement improvisations into beautiful, theatrical territory. As the clouds rise up, the ugliness and chaos of the physical site fall away. But mixed with this beauty is a threat—the clouds are toxic, obscuring. And all part of the same tableau of how we live now, the “how” that the Dark Mountain Project admonishes us to wake up and change.
I learned about the Dark Mountain Project in 2014. Started by a group of disillusioned environmental activists, the Dark Mountain Project is an artistic and literary movement addressing the flawed subjectivity of man’s relationship to the Earth. Our cultural stories have put man at the center, instead of in equal relationship to the rest of the natural world. With the degradation of the natural environment, this way of living—our way of living—is passing into history. Dark Mountain holds that our way of life is not sustainable and civilization is headed for collapse; something will keep going, but it won’t include the human race.