ECOPOESIS: April 24-25, San Francisco with Joanna Zylinska!

We are gearing up for the April 24-25 ECOPOESIS Symposium/Workshop in San Francisco at California College of the Arts. Joanna Zylinska is joining us from London, where she is on the faculty at Goldsmiths, University of London, as a theorist and artist. Her book, The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse will serve as our thought starting point and guide. This is accompanied by Zylinska’s short film Exit Man.

Prior to that I will be presenting the project on a panel at the International Journal of Feminist Politics at Vanderbilt University, March 6 -7. Here are some words about what the ECOPOESIS thinks about —

ECOPOESIS is a conversation that began as a conversation between myself, Adam Marcus, and Chris Falliers — we are all colleagues at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. 

We believe in the power of gathering – to create a collective context and vocabulary, to see paths forward for humans and nonhumans alike.

We believe that apocalyptic visions for the future bolster instantiated racism, misogyny, and hypercapitalism with all its cruel tentacles. 

We believe the future is feminist and we have imbued this platform with qualities that reflect feminist discourse in the ecologies.

And so we designed ECOPOESIS as a platform for gathering to share the feelings and thoughts that climate change sparks in each of us, to learn to message these feelings, towards greater solidarity with humans and nonhumans alike. We believe that if we can design this unsustainable world, we can design a better one. 

The best part, aside from the shared made messaging, is the “hearth” and “community” we build during those hours: Gathering over homemade vegetarian meals, conversations buzzing, new thoughts, new colleagues, new paths forward. Despair is visible in all discussions of ecologies in the 21st century but there is also hope.

ECOPOESIS: The Beauty of Embodied Conversation or…I don’t want you alone and terrified when you think about climate change

IMG_5990 (1)

I want to share some ECOPOESIS Movement thinkings and feelings that came before, during, and after a recent talk I gave at Maldives National University. Every time I talk about the ECOPOESIS Movement, I fall deeper into what it is inviting us to do as humans.

<<<<There were close to 180 people in the MNU auditorium that night – architects, designers, politicians, university administrators, faculty, and many many students — and that was so beautiful — they came to hear the headliner act, my brilliant colleagues from California College of the Arts, Margaret Ikeda and Evan Jones, who were presenting their work as part of BUOYANT ECOLOGIES. My work with ECOPOESIS is part of the Architectural Ecologies Lab at CCA, founded with Adam Marcus, also an architect and someone who sometimes works with ice.  I was honored to be there, to share some words about ECOPOESIS. We were also humbled by the fact former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed attended; President Nasheed offered key leadership to the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2008 and continues to be a global thought leader and inspiration around climate. >>>>

((Adam, Chris Falliers, also an architect, and I founded ECOPOESIS at CCA in 2018-19 and the idea is beautifully simple. We have three more years of ECOPOESIS activities, so please reach out if you interested in joining.))

ECOPOESIS: Confronting//Confronting Our Demons

Let’s call the times we live in Confronting Our Demons. But as we confront our Demons, something else, unexpected happened: The search for solutions became part of the problem.

Stay with me, please, while I explain. Discussions about how horrible humans are and our disgusting waste problems have elevated to a grotesque level. I am often in these discussions and I hear my own words and think, Oh my god! How awful I sound! I engage in a caricature of a discussion, often including only the most rarefied group.

The ECOPOESIS Movement is about re-focusing our dialogues, our chats, about the process of speaking to and hearing each other.  It is about how we don’t need to be alone and terrified, it is about how we can create circles of people as a means and an end in and of themselves. We can create messages we can share with each other to hold the terror at bay.

A key part of these discussions is how we use our hands and creativity to connect.

ECOPOESIS is braided activities, making and talking, and we draw, write, cut, paste, create audio and video, so the conversations are embodied. We edge closer to some realizations about our realities and how we understand what our realities are and what they might be.

ECOPOESIS is about feeling. How do you feel about climate change? Our feelings about climate, life on Earth, and all the tentacles that emerge from climate discussions — racism, speciesism, misogny, hate speech, economic justice, and on and on.

The ECOPOESIS Movement is about leveling the field, a place where we can look at and feel these complex feelings while creating embodied messages.

Some people may feel that they want to scream. That’s OK. Screaming is a good, artful, and biological response. The messages we collectively make help us decide what sort of postures we might want to get into as humans.

Remain, resist, retreat, were our three, key words shaping the group chats of ECOPOESIS 1, in April, 2019. These RE- words allowed us to give shape to our discussions. Each gathering will focus on RE- words.

The ECOPOESIS Movement is also about playing in language that emanates from ideas of LOVE.

What do we love enough to take care of?

Do you love yourself, your partner, your dog, your teaspoon, your oceans, your birch trees, your Milky Way, your plastic, your satellites enough to take care of them?

<<<<<I want to acknowledge how generous these architects are with me, and how much they teach me each and every day I am with them. They see the world with such specific imaginaries — thinking about ways to create forms to help us all, humans and non-humans, survive the Sixth Mass Extinction. How’s that for a work brief?>>>>>


We Are the Loop: Feel Its Tug and Pull


We are the loop. And we love the loop, don’t we, particularly the delusional but understandable idealism that is applied to how we buy and use objects, stuff, all the many things we tote around. Late-Capitalism has us in a very fast loop now and we buy, consume, and discard at a rate that boggles zee mind. Except that it doesn’t really boggle our minds — that is, create a sense of marvel (and if you spell “boggle” with one “g” it means demon or phantom, which I secretly love.)

The thing is, there are people in the world who know this is a real problem, all this buying and trash sorting and not using things for more than five seconds. The thing is we are the loop and we can create some friction to slow it down. How do we do this? Through words and symbols. Through creating processes to slooooooow things dooooooown. Through pausing with people, known and strange to us, to talk about how we feel about it all. Every time we pause to speak to this, read to this, write to this, we slow down the loop.

I gave a talk at the Maldives National University on July 24, 2019, about the ECOPOESIS Movement, which I founded with Adam Marcus and Chris Falliers, and a loop image-object came along for the discussion.

But not any old loop: This is the loop we humans were gifted in 1970, to describe structured reintegration of our waste, through industrial systems, and then back in new and exciting forms. We were not creating too much, for instance, plastic. We were energizing the loop.

ECOPOESIS wants to react to many things: The dearth of language, our need for new signs, the instantiation of ecological discussions in science/political/philosophical circles — often feeling far from the rest of us humans and non-humans. The speed of the loop.

Some of the words I said: “We are also reacting to the current state of ecological messaging and symbols, which we feel are out of date. For example, this ubiquitous American recycling symbol that proposes our plastics are in a perfect loop of reuse. One swim in any of the world’s oceans proves this wrong in the 21st century.”  Gary Anderson, then a 23-year-old student at USC, submitted this design in 1970 for a contest run by the Container Corporation of America — and the brief was to illustrate the path for recycled paper.

I then took off one of my shoes, designed by Rothy’s here in SF, that used re-cycled plastic as its material. I feel good about myself for buying shoes made from plastic (a fantastic material, by the way, which we choose to falsely deify and then demonize to keep Sauren’s Eye off of us as individuals? Perhaps?) To make this point: There is a loop, it is not one that is over there — a glyph to assuage feelings of guilt about your stuff.

You are the loop and the loop is you.

My next post is going to talk about my own love affair with plastics.




ECOPOESIS Goes Global in the Maldives, July 2019


Dhangeti Island, The Maldives
ECOPOESIS at MALDIVES NATIONAL UNIVERSITY – my talk starts around the 8 minute mark
Hiiiiii — As many of you know, I founded the ECOPOESIS Movement with my colleagues from California College of the Arts, Adam Marcus and Chris Falliers (both teach in Architecture). I was invited, as part of the Architectural Ecologies Lab (Adam is a founder at CCA, with faculty members Evan Jones and Margaret Ikeda) on the 2019 expedition/site visit/research trip to the Maldives. Margaret and Evan teach an Architecture studio at CCA that prototypes buoyant housing and non-human habits as solving towards rising seas. Rising seas are at the front of the mind in the Maldives, where the 1,000-mile long string of atolls all sit at sea level. As they say, there are no hills in the Maldives. 
On July 24, we were invited to the Maldives National University to give talks about our respective projects — ECOPOESIS and BUOYANT ECOLOGIES.
It was a beautiful evening — more than 150 people attended, including the “Island President,” the brave and inspirational Mohammed Nasheed, who was elected president of the Maldives after years as a political prisoner and life in exile. President Nasheed played a crucial role at the Copenhagen climate talks. His brilliant mind and presence are beautifully portrayed in the documentary, The Island President (2011.) The former president continues to work towards climate solutions for his country. At the end of our lectures, he was invited to the stage and you can hear his electrifying discussion of how the Maldivian people will fight on and survive. Let me know what you think and where the ECOPOESIS Movement might pop up next. We are happy to travel to your place to share this dialogue, making, and writing about climate change.





2 July 2019, Ganges, France…

Dhangeti Island, The Maldives
July 2019

***This is the first in a series of posts tracing some thoughts and notes from my July 2019 trip around the world. I stopped for two weeks in France followed by two weeks in The Maldives. Very different ecosystems, very different vibes. Many moments of clarity and feelings — about ecologies, climate change, life with other humans and non-humans. One of the best things I heard came from a Swedish designer at the residency in France, as our group, up late, talking, talking, talking in the still (heat-wave) night: “But how do you feel?”  What do we feel as we head deeper into the sixth mass extinction, sitting in a very old market town in the Cevennes, in baking heat? How do the rest of us talk about being ecological — away from theory, science, philosophy, technological solutions, ecological artists? What does it mean to be human in these times? Is it a scream? A dance? A long, loud laugh?

1) 2 July, Ganges, France

Writing is a series of marks on a page. Climate change prompts me to want to make more marks – not in the spirit of *holy sh*t!* — here’s another revelation from Antarctica of our imminent doom! Or here is another revelation about the biology and ecology of our world, some hideous mutation that we all need to stare at before we go back to hacking out our existences?

I am attending a Design retreat in the Cevennes, in the town of Ganges, with John Thackara and Kristi Van Riet, they of Doors of Perception. (They continue these intimate Design meet-ups in their 17th-century home over the next year and I highly recommend.) There are designers from across Europe and North America who have traveled to spend a week talking about diverse projects — the edible forest, how to better address refugee needs, urban food systems, and my own work, ECOPOESIS.

Each morning, we meet with John for 30 minutes solo and then all together to crit and review work. I am here to test some ideas about how to grow ECOPOESIS, a movement and project I founded at California College of the Arts with Adam Marcus and Chris Falliers, designed to build dialogues, messaging, and forms about how people feel about the world in times of climate change — as ecologies change and how ecologies are changing us, as humans and non-humans — changing our relational identity to places that once felt more familiar.

Gathering people to talk, to create a process for talking, messaging, and form making around climate change is the mission of ECOPOESIS. Our first gathering of 36 humans came together in April, 2019, in San Francisco, and we centered our discussion on the work of ecological philosopher Timothy Morton, who crystallized a lot of our thinking; his brilliant idea of hyperobjects, these inchoate but massively distributed things like plutonium and Styrofoam, these ideas of otherness and uncanniness, these ideas of weirdness.

However, there has been an issue with the Ganges gang around the language I use when I talk about our movement. I am stuck a bit in the “straight outta Compton” speak of Academia. Thackara is teaching me how to make this less mind-boggling and more focused on our goal: To get all people talking, regardless of age, discipline, politics — to get away from less-accessible theory and into more legible contemporary discussion. To have a process for looking at how we feel about climate, racism, speciesism, misogyny, and economic justice. We want to create a dialogue that does not require a lot of “pre-knowledge” of Heidegger et al.

We are part of the zeitgeist of these 21st century philosophical ideas and yet we need to be a tendril that explores in the way we think as artists and designers and architects — through prototyping forms.

When this work with Thackara ends each morning, the de-Academizing of this ECOPOESIS chat towards more accessibility, I find myself sitting in a large book-filled room, hearing my next Antarctic book. It has a name, Antarctica Poetica, and it has a form, a series of Signal Years. It pours out of me — after many years of slowly whispering its goals and intentions to me. I don’t know now but what I will learn is that there are about 12,000 words that will emerge in France. And I will share some of them here.