MOON is a collaborative social sculpture where South African citizens are re-naming features of the moon, as a protest to re-claiming a voice in international space law. It joins many other works in a group exhibition which presents artistic and activist positions that question the new commercial space race for mineral extractivism. This exhibition at the Kunsthalle Exnergasse (Vienna, Austria) is twinned with the Afronauts Writing Space Law exhibition that will be curated by the Institute of Uncanny Justness (South Africa) at the Space Observatory outside Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) in 2020. The two exhibitions are linked by their interrogation how Euro-American positivist law has played a role in governing mining and extractivism across time and space, pushing resource frontiers across the globe and now beyond. This work is also linked to an academic research project led by Saskia Vermeylen and funded by Leverhulme Trust which seeks to write a new space law manifesto based on a critical interrogation of the utopian visions of space law, utopian theories and science fiction literature.
The oceans are under considerable threat, as wealthy nation states run out of precious minerals and fossil fuels, and the conflicts on land push mining companies into the deepsea, we see an awfully familiar colonial scene, where wealthy nations carve up the oceans for their own gain, much in the same way Africa was carved up during the Berlin accord. These digital collages are inspired by Barbara Tyrell’s 1930s anthropological illustrations of traditional isiXhosa attire, which have been transformed with pen and ink drawings to create ‘abantu bolwandle’ people of the ocean. While deepsea bed mining seems to have no immediately measurable impact on communities inland, McGarry asks the question, how does mining the seabed affect the ancestral spirits of the ocean? Mining the ocean, is for many isiXhosa people, equivalent to mining heaven, These are some of the tensions McGarry is surfacing in his research within the ONE OCEAN HUB, a global research project exploring transformative ocean governance, where folklore could influence federal law.
EMPATHY IN THE TIME OF ECOLOGICAL APARTHEID
Considering the ecological crisis and the increased disconnection between human beings and nature, this practice based research project explores the social and aesthetic educational response needed for developing ecological citizenship for the 21st century. This cloth contains traces of soil held in hands, and then placed on it's oiled fibres by participants during sincere exchanges around questions of land sovereignty, ecological citizenship and environmental justice in South Africa. Conversations between over thousand people across South Africa between 2010-2019 have been held around this cloth, including municipal councillors, teachers, learners, young activists, farmers, mayors, landless peoples, scientists, artists, train staff, children, educators, film makers, photographers, journalists, entrepreneurs, traditional leaders, traditional healers, cultural practitioners and a poet. Conversations have been conducted in ten different languages including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Tshivenda, !Xam and English. The traces in the cloth come from earth gathered in Cape Town, Worcester, Beaufort West, De Aar, Kimberley, Klerksdorp, Soweto, Pretoria, Polokwane, Louis Trichardt, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, London, Mumbai, Pune, East Anglia, New York, Oxford, Shanghai and Spain.
LESSON FROM LEVIATHANS
Inside this whale’s chest,
a quiet knowing hides
so great, so wide.
A story of peace, overcoming fear,
a fable our future-selves might spare time to hear.
Early whalers saw her sharp grin, her ominous bulk, her grey skin,
a beast, a monster, a leviathan,
so blind they were to the peace she held within…
Lessons from Leviathans is an illustrated contemporary fable that explores the hidden spiritual, ecological and cultural knowledge embedded in the evolutionary and recent history of whales, and what the for the future of humankind.
Mountain on a train was devised in the build up to the Listening Train/Climate Train project. It emerged from a deep phenomenological encounter with coal trains and their role in a bigger picture of extractive mining and its influence on indigenous people in South Africa. This small act formed part of the development of a larger creative social learning project that toured South Africa over three months in the build up to COP17. Below is a video from a series of short films on youtube that track the the large Climate Train project that emerged from this initial small act.
The e-waste funeral was a small action recently undertaken (Feb 2018) as part of a practice based enquiry into the future of Africa and e-waste dumping. An unconventional funeral was held – not for a person, but for pieces of electronic waste. Old computers and their components, outdated satellite television decoders, a yellowing scanner and clunky fax machine were among the e-waste given a formal send-off. But there was nowhere to send them – and this was one of the central themes of the event. The e-waste funeral, which was attended by more than 30 mourners, many dressed in black, was the culmination of a week-long social sculpture project run by the Environmental Learning Research Center (ELRC) at Rhodes. The idea, explained Dr Dylan McGarry, a post-doc fellow in the centre and one of the key organisers of the event, was to start conversations about the e-waste crisis facing the world, and African continent in particular. E-waste is notoriously difficult to dispose of or recycle safely, containing toxic substances like lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic – with serious potential ramifications for human health and the environment. “We might throw away our old phones and laptops, but this illusive ‘away’ does not actually exist,” said McGarry. READ MORE...
Homeo-empathy has distilling since 2012 till present. It a kind of ‘homeopathic’ water remedy that has been potentized through a social learning process with various citizens around the world. Water is gathered from significant sites globally (so far it contains water from Lourdes, France, The Ganges, India, The Bermuda Triangle, the Drakensberg, South Africa, the Carribean sea, sacred Lluc river in Spain, Mozambique, Oxford, UK, Maine USA, and seventeen selected sites of water struggles in South Africa). The remedy is a connective aesthetic or visual/physical embodiment of the shared ecology we occupy, and also an embodiment of the water that flows through all life and every ecosystem. The process consists of an empathetic exchange and thought experiment that explores both the universally connective quality of water, but also the capacity we all have to hold and carry water (being over 80% water ourselves). We explore the idea that we are all vessels, i.e. custodians of water, and therefore responsible custodians or ecological citizens. Considering this the participants, in this case the students, participate in reflexive exploration into idea of water flowing through all life, the great equalizer and molecular glue of ecology. The poet Kabir reminds us that “the river that flows through me, flows through you” and John Muir says: “All rivers flow through me, not past me”. This experiential placed- based process, allows students to bridge the gap or ecological apartheid we experience between human and nature, and to consider the powerful effect we have to transform the conditions that shape our lives, in the way that water shapes and sculpts geology, biology, politics and culture. This project while practical in exploring water ecology, hydrology, and examining environmental justice issues, such as the activism around big dams in India and China; the process is also ceremonial, it is a kind of ‘Hippocratic oath’ for environmental scientists, a prayer to do-no harm, to be a ‘careful-scholar’ or a ‘responsible participant’.