Excerpts from "The Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene." by Elaine Gan, Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson & Nils Buband

To survive, we need to relearn multiple forms of curiosity. Curiosity is an attunement to multispecies entanglement, complexity, and the shimmer all around us. Landscapes shimmer when they gather rhythms shared across varied forms of life. Shimmer describes the coming in and out of focus of multispecies knots, with their cascading effects. Landscapes enact more-than-human rhythms. To follow these rhythms, we need new histories and descriptions, crossing the sciences and humanities. As artists, we conjure magical figures, weave speculative fictions, animate feral and partial connections. We necessarily stumble. And try again. With every mark, difference haunts and struggles to appear anew.


Somehow, in the midst of ruins, we must maintain enough curiosity to notice the strange and wonderful as well as the terrible and terrifying. Natural history and ethnographic attentiveness—themselves products of modern projects—offer starting points for such curiosity, along with vernacular and indigenous knowledge practices. Such curiosity also means working against singular notions of modernity. How can we repurpose the tools of modernity against the terrors of Progress to make visible the other worlds it has ignored and damaged? Living in a time of planetary catastrophe thus begins with a practice at once humble and difficult: noticing the worlds around us.


Perhaps counterintuitively, slowing down to listen to the world—empirically and imaginatively at the same time—seems our only hope in a moment of crisis and urgency. It is urgent that we start paying attention to more of our companions before we kill them off entirely.


“Nature always subverts your expectations.” T.C. Boyle, The Terranauts

Dust and Shadow Reader Vol. 2. Previous: involuntary momentum. Next: rethinking animate

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  • Last modified: 2019-08-30 08:49
  • by maja