The Spirit of Los Angeles, iPhone photography, digital collage, direct to media print on dibond, 34.5×39.5” and 34.5×34.5″, 2020/22.
On September 6, 2020, I was enjoying the view of the San Gabriel Mountains from a look out point on Mulholland Drive. We were still in the depths of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this outdoor space was a refuge. Looking out across the human sprawl that coats the valleys, I focused on the mountains and their foothills. I searched for the places I grew up exploring. I reminisced about the more than human neighbors that had been my friends. They, too, called these majestic mountains and valleys home. As I watched, a tiny wisp of smoke appeared, spiraling its way skyward.
The fire spread quickly, becoming one of the largest fires on record in Los Angeles County, burning 115,796 acres and making several rare and endangered species face extinctions to include the Santa Ana sucker fish and the Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog.
I photographed the fire as it raged, and flames poured down the side of the mountain like lava. When I contacted local friends with words of sorrow, they were nonplussed saying things like, “We always have fires…it’s just Los Angeles…They won’t let it get to people or houses or businesses or stuff…good thing it’s Covid and we have masks”.
Los Angelean perception so dedicated to consumer ideals, and the anthropocentrism, it really weighed heavy on my heart. In response, I digitally collaged super models wearing designer clothing that emphasized mask wearing during the pandemic over the images of the fire. Making large direct to media prints on dibond, the outcome screams “expensive product”, which really is the point I am making.
In support of Post Carbon Institute’s resilience course, I feel these artworks speak to the need to shift from the consumer economy to a conserver economy. –postcarbon.org, Shifting Our Cultural Stories
The industrial revolution and particularly the second industrial revolution brought with them an enormous increase in product as well as the nightmare need for exponential growth requiring extraction of global resources. Because people were unaccustomed to consuming goods beyond their needs, this excess of product was in danger of becoming unused, stored, and ignored, ultimately being nothing more than waste. Manufacturers, with the support of our governments, devised a plan to change our cultural story from one where our well-being was supported by satisfying experiences with each other and our world, to one of consumerism which links human satisfaction to the buying of manufactured product. Through advertising and marketing our cultural story shifted quickly. Humans went from being referred to as people, to being referred to as consumers. The belief system that followed and remains strong concerns economic growth.
Advertising and marketing are effective means used to shift consciousness. In fact, they are used every day to manipulate public awareness of climate change and deter most people away from understanding the devastation anthropocentric behavior brings.
I wonder if using advertising and marketing to shift our global cultural story once again might work? Can the tools used to turn people into consumers be used to turn consumers into people who derive pleasure and satisfaction from experiences with the Earth community, human and more than human alike? Can these tools be used to re-ignite human empathy for our mutual home, Earth?
Sadly, we are out of time. The most recent IPCC report issued a Code Red for Humanity, caused by human induced climate change. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1097362
This is the sixth mass extinction of species. We are in it. We’ve crossed the event horizon and there is no turning back. What we can do is exit this world as loving compassionate beings. We may not be able to undo what we have done, but we can re-member our higher selves and reconnect to the global ecosystem we share with all life on Earth.
Making artwork requiems with the places experiencing extinction events brings me closer to the beings I love. Engaging, connecting, listening, helping, and ultimately remembering them is what I love doing. It fuels the palpable invisibility of my soul.
The Long Gallery
The Spirit of Los Angeles
7-11 March 2022
Opening Event: Tuesday March 8th 4-6pm
The Long Gallery is located adjacent to the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. See Hatton Gallery website for directions.