I’m in the middle of The Instead, an amazing conversation between Emily Abendroth and Miranda Mellis. Among many, many other ideas and interests in the book, this expansion of the term “Anthropocene” stopped me in my tracks (Mellis is quoting from Scientific American):
“The death by smallpox and warfare of an estimated 50 million native Americans–as well as the enslavement of Africans to work in the newly depopulated Americas [North, Central, and South]–allowed forests to grow in former farmlands. By 1610, the growth of all those trees had sucked enough carbon dioxide out of the sky to cause a drop of at least seven parts per million in atmospheric concentrations of the most prominent greenhouse gas and start a little ice age. Based on that dramatic shift, 1610 should be considered the start date of a new, proposed geologic epoch–the Anthropocene.”
So colonialism cooled the climate long before industrialism warmed it, by making room for trees to grow where land had previously been tended (kept open) by a large indigenous population! The complication of assumptions there, on multiple layers, and the nuance in human history of earth-dwelling, is vital. We need to understand these as basic facts.
I’m excited that the Chicago Review of Books just published my review of Frances Richard’s book about Gordon Matta-Clark. I loved diving into his work via her incredibly fluent writing, and in my piece I fantasize the art he might have made had he worked outside of his urban milieu.
Here’s something I didn’t have room for in the piece, a quote from the dancer Tina Girouard about how (on top of everything else he did, and totally outside of any professional practice) Gordon Matta-Clark was also a killer dance partner:
“Gordon and I loved to dance together. And we scared the hell out of people when we danced. Because, in our finest hour, I would run at Gordon and literally run up him and dive off the top, and he’d turn around and catch me before my head hit the floor. That’s how crazy we were, and how brave we were. And the length to which we would take our art.”
Who begins by quoting Ashbery:
” ‘To meet as far this morning / From the world as agreeing / With it…’
“I could spend all my time thinking about these lines. I could give myself up to them–leave my family, my comfortable life, the dog, lock myself in a cellar or aerie and spend the remainder of my inward-curling days staring at my hands or the sky and trying to understand those lines. Or make an endless list of ways to resolve them and a second endless list of impediments to resolution. Or I could write them on a million slips of paper and eat them, swallow their abyss with my being.
“Among the catalog of horrors you might suffer during pregnancy, the condition called ‘pica’–the urge to ingest non-food items such as ash, plaster, clay, and paper–seems overrepresented in the literature. I think it’s quite rare, but the idea of it is so fantastic–what if you could eat whatever you want, keep it safe by consuming and personally destroying it, like a boy breaks a toy to keep the other kids from playing with it. The world would then really be your oyster–the edible part, I mean, not the pearl, although you could eat that, too, and contain a small moon.”