Avamaa in Mooste

Environment-worlds

[Eesti Keeles: SIRP]

At the end of August 2008 there was an art event called ‘AVAMAA’ arranged in Mooste, by MoKS. It consisted of several small projects dealing with environmental issues from different points of view.

In the project ‘One cubic metre of soil’, there were three different locations which the workshop participants chose under the guidance of Siim Angerpikk. Each one was a little different – one in an old grain-silo tower, another by a countryside sand-road and the third in the small area of wetlands close to the Mooste lake. In two days we traveled from spot to spot with botanists Aino Kalda and Silvi Eilart, and entomologist Olavi Kurina with Hendrik Relve. These tours were similar to the biology classes in high-school, but still quite different, due to the pre-existing interest of looking at the nature with a different eye. Of course we learned a lot about mosquitoes, snails, mushrooms and plants, but through the use of video-cameras and other devices we were able to enhance the existing differences of environment-worlds. The project made me think of Jakob von Uexküll, and his investigation of Umwelt, environment-world. We do not share an environment-world with a tick, bat or rhinoceros beetle, and similarly each one of these worlds are closed systems. They are like islands, yet connected and overlapping with other environments in multiple ways. The environmentalist Hendrik Relve pointed out when a group of us were gathered around one of these sites, that the layer of life is like a thin layer of film wrapped around the globe; vulnerable, but every inch of the layer is occupied with one or another species. One notion that became understood, was that there is another world going on right under your feet, and front of your eyes – not just somewhere beyond the EU borders. Several decades ago, Uexküll’s investigations gave a completely new point of view challenging our upright, anthropocentric vision. There is not just one Umwelt, but numerous, complex systems.

Through the media, by using the electronic lens of a camera, we have access to other environment-worlds. At least it seems so. A lens is a prosthesis, but is it any different a prosthesis than a hammer or a pencil? Through the lens we are able to look under, over and through other environment-worlds, but still the image we see is transformed suitable for the two eyes located on the top part of human body. We cannot simply jump into other animals’ environment-worlds, but we can become creative with this new, prosthetic world. Creativity is not communication or cognition, in fact the whole environment-world of human-beings is nothing but a prostheses, a creation – or fabrication. In the past, the world was explained through mythologies and metaphors, and was infested with cyclops, satyrs, mermaids and griffons. Now, in our mediated world these monsters and semi-gods have other companions or different compositions through the electronic lens and digital imagination, and at the same time these monsters have lost their meaning to become obscure. Of course, rhinoceros beetles are real and living in their own environment-worlds, but for the human eye, the camera-lens is a tool for re-creation.

Sensitive mutations
Creativity is a very sensitive thing. It may lead the participants and the process into utter cynicism, but it may also lead to an uncertain path of sensitivity, as well. Sensitivity should not be taken as something passive, sluggish or dull, though, it is worth noting that in the colloquial use sensitivity has a slight tone of ‘femininity’, ‘weakness’ or ‘having no will’. Nevertheless, sensitivity plays an important role in approaching media, image and nature. Here we have ‘hard’ sciences – where I should not mix fairytale creatures like griffons with Dynastes tityus, rhinoceros beetles – and then we have sensitive creativity. As soon as I take camera in my hands, I start creating the world anew, no matter how scientific an apparatus this tool might be.

In the workshop of ‘Three Ecologies’, which I held in AVAMAA (mixed with another workshop, ‘Mutopia’, led by John Grzinich) a foundation was based on the ecologies of environmental, socio-political and mental aspects, thus following the concepts and philosophy of French philosopher, psychoanalyst and activist Félix Guattari. For Guattari, in the post-Fordist era, environmental ecology is not sufficient enough to really grasp how neo-liberal capitalism is advancing on all human cultural, social and physical levels. It does not advance always like a bulldozer, but in very intricate and rhizomatic ways, as well. Human culture is nothing but mutations. This became one of the guidelines for the workshop, as well. Preservation of dying species is simply not enough, and according to ‘Three ecologies’, Guattari’s important pamphlet, we should advance to maintain and nourish even the yet-unseen mental, physical and social species: mutations. Otherwise culture would become nothing but museum of archaic life-forms.

Every man is an artist – but what kind?

Enter sensitivity. It is not news to anyone anymore, that in the contemporary, cognitive labor, which – according to Paolo Virno, and other critics of cognitive labor and post-fordist capitalism – has taken life itself, bios, as the main workforce. What it means, is simply that, what is asked for in the labour-market, are social skills: ability to get inspired, to join others company, etc. Simply what makes us human, social beings, are in need in the post-fordist market-economy, not only if you are an artistic director or economic analyst, but also if you are mailman or shipyard worker. In every situation you are expected to give 110% of yourself: i.e. not only your physical labor force, but your personality as well.

‘Every man is an artist’, one of the most famous twentieth century art-slogans coined by Joseph Beuys, acquires at this moment of time a different meaning, than in the 1970’s. We are all artists, if an artist is considered to be a person who is able to get inspired, create, think outside the box and most importantly has the free-lancer’s work-ethics: 24/7 and just-in-time! We are all performance artists! We are able to – or we should – create a show and smashing concept out of nothing in a glimpse of an eye! In the Fordist era, which ended in the 70’s and 80’s, work-time was controlled by unions, economy by states, and outside the factory and office walls, there was free-time. Now, in the post-Fordist era there is no more free-time, nor work-time. Virno and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi have analyzed how, the time has become de-personalized. ‘Capital no longer recruits people, but buys packets of time, separated from their interchangeable and occacional bearers’ as Bifo formulates the situation.

All of these changes have tremendous effect not only on the mental or socio-political but also on the environmental level, as well. The result of this massive change in our Umwelt is, that there is a similar change in our attitudes towards it. Either considering the environmental questions, social changes in the work-environment or what are new attitudes towards everyday politics; there are a mutations going on. The 24/7 time-zone develops an ethos of cynicism and opportunism. Simply, these are not symptoms of ‘ill society’, but serious mutations on all levels of our Umwelt. One could say that a Fordist being was a completely different species than our cognitive labourer.

Our workshop wanted to concentrate on one aspect, which is so necessary in understanding Beuys’ slogan correctly: sensitivity. Sensitivity to the environment that each species is living in. Here, Guattari gave valid critique to the earchaic’ ideologies of the green movement, whose ideal was to live in small communities in rural areas. For Guattari, there should be sensitivity to synthetic and prosthetic life-forms as well, not only to enatural’ species. There is fundamental difference in understanding subjectivity as a process rather than a fixed self, which is the foundation for archaic identities. One has its Umwelt, but always interconnected, overlapped and mediated with other species, machines, ideas, capital, etc. Thus, Beuys’s slogan can be understood not only as a slogan for neo-liberal cognitive worker, but more as a foundation for a different, ‘copoietic’ creativity – thus, I presume, being more closer to Beuys’ own thoughts. A set of singular subjectivities are in process, co-creating alive situations, linking with other species and objects – yet, it is not a collective process of an authoritarian kind. Every man is an artist by connecting oneself with other beings and thus creating sensitive mutations, without losing one’s singular process. Every man synthesizes his/hers Umwelt.

Sensitivity is linked with cynicism, and vice versa. The cynical age is in fact a symptom of underlying potentiality of sensitivity. Artworking is a process that is inherently connected with this potentiality. In our workshop we were artworking and not making art. We were simultaneously in conscious and unconscious processes of making links and mutations –not so concerned about the results. Here lies the power of workshops and group work, the emphasis is on the process. If we take workshops only as a road to create ‘real’ works later on, we undermine the whole meaning of potentiality and co-poiesis. The process is immaterial, but the results are felt in the minds and bodies. Process also affects the environmental and socio-political level. AVAMAA, as a workshop created an environment which will have immaterial and virtual results in time, in the same environment that cognitive capitalism works. It is necessary to notice that both sensitive and cynical processes are at work in a similar manner, they are both immaterial, but have affects on the real and create mutations. Moreover, cynical aspects cannot be ignored, because they coexist with the sensitive ones.

Teenage subjectivities
In the Three Ecologies/Mutopia workshop, we situated the practice in three different locations, which had some emotional resonance on the participants and organizers of the workshops. For instance, an old abandoned storage building, which recently had become a meeting place for teenage boys with noisy mopeds. A non-place of teenage expression, where noise was their territorial element. For the workshop participants – and for the teenage boys with mopeds – the techniques of collective processes were similar, nevertheless the outlook was different. Subjectivity is a terminal of the information-sphere, socio-economical and environmental affects. It is an enunciation and expression of all of the affects and processes, and it is not fixed. Curiously enough, the teenage subjectivity shows itself fixed and stylized, whilst being in the most tumultuous and fluid state of a process. Subjectivity is nothing but expression, similar to the AVAMAA-workshop processes. They are performances themselves.
In these overlapping living-environments of workshop and teenage processes, human and rhinoceros-beetles Umwelt, where locations are shared, but the point of views are not, conscious and unconscious linkings of sensitivity and cynicism pass and mix with each other. What a workshop can do, is to create a mutation in time, and affect on minds and bodies. AVAMAA held these processes together in an immaterial form.

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