poetry:nature:Visual Arts

The reinvention of work

I have been reading the reinvention of work by mattew fox (1994). He offers a vision of work that seeks to move from an increasingly destructive industrialist worldview/paradigm into a spirited ecological one. He advocates inner transformation of consciousness via ritual, communal and personal. The inner transformation is the place where the outer life of work and culture begins. He suggests that artists work to bring transformative ritual into their local communities. He calls this,”participatory art”, that, “unleashes energy” and works to “heal dualisms”. So i am beginning to look for this side of the arts more and more so please help and guide me to deeper understanding.

under protest (detail).

The Australian writer ValPlumwood also believes that the nature culture split can be changed by the strategies found in Ecological writing and theory. Plumwood believes in giving voice to the more than human as a way of re-spiriting dead matter. In her poetic essay journey to the heart of stone, Plumwood talks about how writers can challenge, “The experiential framework of dead silent matter entrenched by the sado-disspassionate rationality of scientific reductionism” (Plumwood in Beckett & Gifford 2007, p18). The way to do this is to recover an understanding of matter as spirited. She calls for a project that encourages us to, “to think beyond these boundaries, to re-invest with speech, agency and meaning the silenced ones, including the earth and its very stones, cast as the most lifeless members of the earth community” (Plumwood in Beckett & Gifford 2007, p22). The writer can re-spirit matter by work that gives voice to the non-human. By doing this the writer can not only help open up space for the world to talk to human communities, but also they can help the human communities learn how to listen. This is a way of healing a wounded space. IMG_5439


under protest

What we saw of the bats

Woke early and kissed you goodbye to lay in bed bleeding menstrual blood and rest your cramping belly

hand in hand with our little girl with plastic pony filled unicorn shape bag

going to the city to see fruit bats by the harbour hanging from trees

past Lidcombe on the train saw blood on the tracks behind blue tape police line and fireman with hose young man with mad eyes cross legs on the platform

made water colour pictures with our daughter on top of magazine collage of handsome ruff hair’d face man with wedding dress model legs and pet pig

went all the way to circular key and leaning off the rails watched jelly fish floating amongst rubbish and huge northern coast turpentine tree ferry pylon structures

noticed rippled shadow of cruise ship big as city buildings

past opera house peaks remember’d sumo wrestling in latex costume with beautiful American girl and photo of a new friend in Spencer tunic naked pile of people

watched seagulls catch imperceptible things amongst the sea weeds

went round to fenced off fig tree giant sculpted rock wave cascade and Gadigal woven stone shield big as a house

moved here by new Zealand artist tip truck and Gosford bulldozer quarry place

heard the laughter of children at wedding party by the pond with eel brushing the surface reflecting black bamboo.

all we saw of the bats was a picture board explaining their eviction by noise wires in list reason’d slope of text laminate

stood there quiet remembering cracking the eggs the broody hen at home had abandoned to find one fine feathered duckling wrapped in translucent sack

blood in the shell on my gloves in the wheel barrow and in the compost bin

remembered emptying the rubbish this morning and seeing a condom full of  my ejaculation cover’d in land filled destinies

follow’d tight jean tourists along wave shaped sign wall invasion narrative history ending at a bunch of green bananas hanging covered in bees

a pencil drawing of Bennelong behind us and a plaque description of 1700’s European taste for the sweet and the novel

round spiked cactus at the lion guarded gates the harbour sparkling and jacaranda blossums in the distance

sound of freeway beneath

picked flowers and went to look up at mammoth bronze sculpt’d war horse Sydney basin sandstone plinth

our three year old girl with unknown native flower’d hair ornaments raided from botanic garden plant museum

into the gallery up smooth steps glittering with coastal sand specks to exchange our bags for a white number’d black bit of wood

somewhere in here we can find lin onus hills hoist pattern’d with dots and hanging wooden bats or have they been evicted too?

up and down escalators thru collections of two dimensional wall hanging paintings

Del barton erect nipple’d nature women naked with birds and five breasts in a landscape of blue named dots

told at the information desk of dismantled clothesline bats


Went to see thousand year old ceramic horses from china painted earth colours on spotless white platform behind glass window with legs flying up and warrior polo playing woman fist clenched

Decided to leave and walked out into the arvo sun

Over pedestrian crossing wedding procession cars stopped to let us cross white ribbons flapping and latter almost got run down by another satin sparkling wedding dressed bride

The cameras flashing in the old sydney hospital courtyard past the fountain edge to wild bronze tusked pig

Caught the train back up the mountain

Out the window deep sandstone cliff face gorge and creek glowing orange from western sun

Handprints ancient in the cave overhangs

Looking at the blue mountain horizon a haze of bushfire smoke and full moon rising behind us in the east.

+Sydney mid spring 2012


One response

  1. Dear Gareth, you asked in this post for more understanding of the socially engaged artist’s role. Personally, I think you are on the right track by letting your art express both your/our joy and woundedness. More engaged roles will open up once you are centered in your own expression.

    As I’m exploring in tendingtime at wordpress, my own transition from being a ‘professional artist’ with all that implies, to looking for a more spirit- informed way of being an artist, (one, as Thomas Berry words it ,who helps us move from a ‘devastating to a benign presence on the planet’), is a reflection of the transition going on throughout the entire society.

    One person who is helping me understand that transition is Charles Eisenstein. His book, ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’ is clear, informative and visionary. Also, for exploring the artist’s role in times of change more deeply, I’d recommend, ‘Between Grace and Fear’ by William Cleveland- a collection of 30 interviews with all kinds of different profesionals with their own unique take on how art could help renew and transform in our current times. On artcalling if you type Between Grace and Fear you can read a series of posts I wrote about the main points of that book. Also helpful might be the interview with community arts artist and director of Pomegranate Center, Milenko Matanovic, on my artcalling blog under the heading ‘Artists who care’.

    August 4, 2014 at 9:43 am


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