Strategies for battling climate crisis at home

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of all the dire reports, but there are things that we can do, that we all should try to do at home, in addition to pressuring government to stop funding oil.

is in the news lately over the publicity of their direct action against a Van Gogh painting that was behind glass. Regardless of how you feel about their strategy to bring attention to their cause, it has gotten people talking, and one of the best things is that people are Googling what they are calling for, and people are suggesting other tactics. This is actually a good thing b/c we need all the ideas we can get. Just Stop Oil is in response to the energy situation in the UK where 3/4’s of their domestic energy comes from fossil fuels and the current Prime Minister Liz Truss wants to open up more off-shore drilling. In lieu of the recent flooding in Pakistan that sent 3/4’s of the country under water, in lieu of wildfires all over the world, this is the opposite direction we need to go in. That is what they are calling attention to, through shutting down roads, gluing themselves to bridges, etc.

What is going on in the US? We have rather a dumpster fire of division across our country. But Biden was able to pass his Climate bill which will provide a ton of money for great number of investments. Many good things are there and there’s potential for more.

What are some things that we can all do at home?

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On Native Land – Landscapes at the Tacoma Art Museum

How one curates an exhibit, whose voices, whose identities one decides to center can be an opportunity to heal wounds, hold conversations, and work toward justice. The curator of the Tacoma Art Museum took this opportunity when she developed the signage for how to show the Haub collection of American landscapes. Each painting featured a landscape of what was originally Native Land. Rather than paring each painting with a biographical card about the typically white artist from the 1800s, the curator Faith Brown consulted with local members of the Puyallup tribe to instead center the Native community that had inhabited that land. By describing each work of art as being part of an ancestral homeland of different Native peoples, providing the names of the fields, lakes, rivers, mountains in the languages of those that lived there, they were in a sense giving these landscapes back to the Native communties, giving them the voice and platform within the museum. It was a very powerful act to see, a decision that was moving, important and necessary. The names of the artist were still on the painting itself, but it no longer became necessary to center these names when there others voices needed uplifting.

A video of the virtual opening gives broader context to this exhibit and its aims to cultivate a compassionate and inclusive future.

I encourage everyone local to attend this in person, the exhibit presents a visceral space where one hears the voices of Indigenous people speaking their native languages while you view the landscapes and their accompanying description of who originally lived there and what these mountains and rivers were called. This juxtaposition when you are accostomed to otherwise seeing cards with artist and art historical notes is poignant and welcome.

Tacoma Art Museum provides also a link to additional resources for more information on Native Land and artists, filmmakers and writers working conceptually and strategically toward Land Back efforts and Tribal Sovereignty.

“Golden Time (Grand Tetons)”
This painting is of Tee-win-at (or Teewinot), meaning the Many Pinnacles, also known as the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

Holdfast – Madeline Irvine – Georgetown Art Center

Holdfast – Dissolving Environments – 2/18/22 – 3/20/22

Named after “holdfasts” – root-like structures that secure giant kelp forests to the ocean floor, Madeline Irvine‘s exhibit celebrates these critical ecosystems that reach 175 ft high and feed young marine life around the world.

Holdfast is also a call to action a plea – with its sub-title “Dissolving Environments” it’s a warning of loss.
Every work of Irvine’s is an intricate constellation of tree-like or jelly-fish-like shapes formed by volcanic salts, inks, sea salts, and/or ash. Each is an opportunity for reflection and awareness, as we appreciate the inticate nature of each design and its materials, we meditate on the inter-connectedness of these forests that feed so much, provide oxygen to so much – in the face of climate change threats. How long will they hold fast? How long will we?

Running through Mar. 20, 2022 at the Georgetown Art Center

 816 S Main St, Georgetown, TX 78626-5827

Phone: +1 512 930 2583

Free admission
Tues – Sat, 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday, 1 pm – 5 pm
Closed on Mondays

Reflections on “The Booksellers”

Watching the documentary ‘The Booksellers’, ironically on Amazon Prime. So many mixed feelings. It’s about Rare/Antiquarian bookselling, and an honest one at that. (Spoilers below)…

It’s about in part, how independent booksellers are on the decline due to the Barnes and Nobles of the world, online bookselling, and electronic books. I had to pause however, when they talked with an author who had donated all their notes and papers to a library archive. They mused about how in the future we may not be able to learn about a writer’s process because so much now is on the computer, using editing software. This is all enormously true, but it’s still a privilaged assumption. Not all writers find a home for their papers.

At this point in the documentary I found myself getting a bit upset. They did not address the fact not all writers, published writers, get to have a museum, library or archive accept their archives. It’s not a guarantee. There’s a sales pitch and research involved, shopping these collections around and negotiating. This is a lot of labor that families of deceased writers often can’t manage correctly or thoroughly.

Unless you’re a big name in literature, many places also may not have space or available funding to take in your dozens or hundreds of boxes and boxes of papers, book and ephemera, organize and properly archive. I’ve seen entire collections of underfunded ‘photo morgues’ gathering dust in basements of spare buildings next to archive centers; it was appalling.

There needs to be a network or ‘marketplace’ if you will, for families of writers who are wanting to find a scholarly archive to send their loved one’s papers to. People don’t understand how difficult it is and how discouraging it can be to hear rejections from the one or two libraries or museums closest to them. To know that there could be students that want to study the papers of their writer is worth so much. They just want to find a proper home for these things.

After this scene I watched others of used bookstores going out of business selling tons of books for 75% off, and other scenes of homes with walls liteally crumbling, the books covered in dust and book buyers going through wearing face masks. I found my blood pressure rising and I had to take a break.

Books as well as one’s writings and notes, all become responsibilities. Where will they go after you pass? Will someone appreciate them or will they be thrown away or sold for $1?

In contrast, the show starts off with a famous Rare Book Fair in NY where everything is behind glass on white, lit shelves….books selling for more than the price of a mortgage. After the aforementioned scenes, I found these auctions almost obscene.

I used to work as a bookbuyer and bookseller in a prior life, before graduate school, about 23 years ago. I loved it, it was one of my favorite jobs outside of working in quiet cafes by myself. But I don’t think I could handle the extremes shown in this documentary. These are people taking enormous risks; they are hooked, obsessed, many like adrenaline junkies. Others seem resigned, depressed, hemmed in by walls of books they seem unable to sell.

I do love the serendipity of going through a used bookstore however, discovering something I didn’t know I “needed.” But I have my limits; I know when to walk away. But not everyone can or should; these books need buyers, they need collectors, they need stewards. I will continue to watch the rest of the documentary, but wow….so many feelings.

Update: ok, I finished the documentary and I am glad that I did. The second half is more optimistic, especially as they interview younger booksellers. I may even watch it again to make a note of all the bookseller’s names to research them more.

In a forward looking sense, for the industry, I know there is a generation of rare books, small press and DIY magazines from the 60’s through to the early-mid 90’s containing interviews and content that were never digitized. They touch on this in a couple parts in the second half and it’s very important historically and is of interest to the younger generation.

On another personal note, I kick myself for never purchasing a couple magazines from 1989 or 1990 containing extraordinary interviews with Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephalim or Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction. I’ve never been able to find them again. I was about 18, didn’t want to spring for a $5 or $8 UK magazine and I just read them in the magazine/news shop or in the basement of Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley. But, my vague memories of those interviews still haunt me because they were visionary in a number of ways.

I still retain boxes of important ‘zine’s, magazines, shelves of 80’s/90’s subcultural books and (now outdated) critical theory, as well as many independent comics that I have no interest in selling because the demand is not yet there. I do believe this era will be the next frontier to unearth, the 60’s to 90’s, because so much has not yet been digitized.

The documentary also touched on how difficult it is to retrieve born-digital content from old files or drives from even 7 years ago, whereas paper books can last centuries. This is something that has always bothered me. There will be a huge period of time from 1996 to the present where information will go missing from history due to bit rot and outdated formats. Yes, there is the Internet Archive, and some repositories migrate regularly, but the rare stuff, stuff that was digitally stored but not backed up online on websites and archived? I worry about this. There need to be curators and custodians and archivists of all of these things, who will structure, define and identify the cultural value, not just what was popular or commercial.

Rare/antiquarian booksellers consider themselves hunters, perhaps we will see specialists in rare/antiquarian digital content. Perhaps this is in part why I delved into digital librarianship, digital preservation, metadata, and linked data. One day I hope to participate in bridging these worlds, preserving the forgotten histories and voices, because as I wrote in an earlier piece, aluding to Roy Batty’s words in Bladerunner, I don’t want the last 40-50 years to become “lost like tears in the rain.”

Austin Studio Tour 2020 – Online and Outdoors

Big Medium‘s Austin Studio Tour had to change their format this year, due to Covid-19, but they launched gallery tours virtually and self-guided tours outdoors. As usual, the tour ran across two weekends, November 14 – 22, 2020 and combined both East and West Austin for a total of over 400 artists.

The online tour featured pre-recorded and live-streamed videos, it allowed visitors to safely explore studios online, listen to artists talk and offer demos, workshops, panels and performances. There were Q&A live streaming happy hours, ‘ghost phone tutorials’ on Zoom, and a conversation with an art therapist. Many of the artists discussed what it was like to be an artist during this pandemic, especially challenging and different for those doing collaborative art.

Alex Coronel’s studio

One of my favorites was the work by metal artist Valérie Chaussonnet, who salvalges discarded metal and transforms them into incredible pieces of art. Last year I saw her Japan inspired work in the Round Rock Downtowner Art Gallery.

The live stream events are over but you can still explore the Austin Studio Tour by artist, by artworks, virtual (for pre-recorded videos) or outdoor, and themed tours. For the outdoor tour they offer a map for visitors to safely guide themselves through the city to view sculptures and murals without interacting with the artists. The themed tours offer collections of artists featured by a local partner, such as the Austin Chronicle or a local brewery such as Thirsty Planet.

So while in 2020 it was not possible to crowd the streets and studios with beer or wine in hand, speaking face to face with artists and meandering through industrial hallways, this year’s digital format allows us to explore over 400 artists on our own time and maybe that’s actually really cool. I think there is a lot to gain from this method and hope that in future Big Medium employs this as a hybrid approach. It would help those whose transportation and time are limited, as well as those with accessibility issues. But honestly, I have never found it humanly possible to see hundreds of artists in two weekends, rain or no rain. I do however, miss the food trucks, wine and Sa-ten.

2020: Coming up for air, albeit with a mask

It’s been a year since my last post and there were many reasons for that. First was work, developing taxonomies and controlled vocabularies for machine learning related projects. Then Covid happened, so I couldn’t go out to museums and galleries. Then I had to become a learning coach for my teen who is taking multiple AP classes online. Add to this ongoing efforts to stay current on technology and knowledge management by taking webinars, reading books, and going to virtual conferences. On top of all that, the hot mess that was American politics. It is Dec. 1st and I have finally come up for air – albeit with a mask.

I will do my best to re-cap and document the beta launch of Austin’s EAST online studio tour in a second post. It happened a couple weekends ago and unfortunately overlapped with an online conference so I was not able to attend in real time, but I will do my best to document for posterity.

After this I will try something new. All this time I have been tracking and posting links on Twitter for a variety of topics: online museum resources, digital humanities, digital preservation, open access courses, ethical AI, Asian visual culture and literature, taxonomy, ontology, linked data, and more. I’d like to attempt once a week to compile and curate these into newsletter type posts.

Once a month I will do my best to safely find a way to go out and look at art and review it. I will perhaps also make a post once a month looking at what local exhibitions are currently open for view and will share safety notes and tips, as well as share what online resources are available for those wanting to stay at home.

I will also work toward making occassional posts promoting resources and options for those wanting to live a more eco, sustainable, plastic-free lifestyle as that is top of mind as well.

I’d like to also share and promote local, small businesses in featured posts, pulling in photos from my Instagram account.

2021 will begin in just one more month – and I am feeling very hopeful that we will get past all this.