PART OF UNPSYCHOLOGY’S WARM DATA ANTHOLOGY SERIES
BY RICH BLUNDELL AND RITA LEDUC
The following video project comprises ecological interpretations, by ecologist Rich Blundell, of artworks by Rita Leduc. You can find a version of this article in Unpsychology 8: The Warm Data edition. Download it free from www.unpsychology.org
Oika is the relational intelligence of nature
expressed through human thought and action.
A culture of oika heals people & planet.
1 — An ecological interpretation by Rich Blundell of a mixed media triptych titled, Playa, by Rita Leduc
I’ve come to understand this work as a representation of the human fiction of time and our anxieties of annihilation. But there are also the artist’s intuitions of continuity, kinship, and the saving grace of gratitude. There are ecological insights here that can assuage our small egocentric views of mortality.
The artist relayed to me how she positioned herself in the middle of a vast, dry salt pan. Out there she would be surrounded by a single horizon, with the sun as her only companion.
Contrast her setting with the constructed world where broken skylines and synthetic sunrises and sunsets cause humans to lose touch with planetary time. Human days become work-weeks and decades become careers. Lifetimes pass without any grounding in the continuity of the cosmos.
No other animal imparts such an egoic quantification onto time like we do. Our fractured experience of diurnality results in a moribund anxiety.
The artist also told me how the wildfires out west had cast surreal hues and diffusions on her days there. So these are human-altered atmospheres, inviting us to reconsider what matters most in the Anthropocene.
So that single horizon obliterates our perceptual fictions of time. Where yesterday and tomorrow reside over the same horizon, we can feel a personal participation in planetary movements.
Paradoxically, this makes our true celestial circumstance palpable: We live on a sphere in orbit with others.
Finally, I see these orbs reflecting their solar organisms on ecological landscapes. But only the center panel, which I take to represent the present, shows the artist’s graphite marks. In our time there is something alive and moving across the surface.
I find comfort in this. I know through science, and the artist through her process that the planet was once devoid of all life, and will one day be again. So on this orbit around the sun, and in this revolution through the horizons, we can find gratitude in our opportunity to be Earthlings.
2 — An ecological interpretation by Rich Blundell of Tofte Lake Portrait III, a large-scale wall collage by Rita Leduc.
This portrait of place is a reminder of our shared, divine alivement. It demonstrates that no matter how hard we try to claim some sovereign separation, we will face the reality that there is no being alone on planet Earth.
This is the spot chosen by the artist. But I suspect the spot also chose her. We’ve all been here. What human has not sought out this kind of silence and solitude. But if we find it, we do so only by engaging perceptual filters that are, in fact, inherited.
I can imagine the artist, enrapt in the process of co-creative play. Simultaneously present and vanished, participating in the relational games of this particular place. Her dissolution of being is only made coherent by the inrush of awareness as a loon takes flight. In this moment she is swept back into the familiar smaller creode of herself.
So this work is a manifestation of ecological relationship. It is a niche constructing itself. Every instance of colour, and every creature that asserts itself into our awareness can remind us of our own ecological continuity with all things. This understanding comes to me as an ecologist who spends time in the cosmos. And it comes to the artist who spends her time in the muds and waters and airs of nature.
There is a personal and universal story depicted here. In this piece, I see the creative continuity of geological time. I ascend with the colours, swept along organic nutrient gradients of materiality to arrive alive with the rest of colours of life on Earth.
3 — An Oika Interpretation by Rich Blundell of: The Life Cycle of a Mushroom, an oil painting by Rita Leduc.
What do I see in this work? Fecundity.
A biologist will tell you that fecundity refers to the capacity to bear offspring.
Oika sees fecundity as creativity in the service of continuity.
This art was made with and within a matrix of intelligence.
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a mycelial web, strung among the detritus of life.
Life, invisible. Until it’s not.
Each individual is continuous but not equivalent
They are the expression of a distributed vitality
That embeds itself in the world, in the artist, in the art and in the audience.
Mushroom fecundity manifests through shape, color, form and texture.
Shape color, form and texture.
Fecundity implies surprise.
A conspiracy that can obliterate notions of individual hubris…
So don’t talk to me of the doom and gloom of tipping points
Unless you’re willing to also sing about the lifeforce and love that’s in the air we breathe.
Creativity springs from the liminal space. And can reach us through art.
You’re hearing these words, seeing these shapes, feeling these forms because you’re supposed to. Right now.
I feel fecundity at work here.
What do you feel?
4 — A description of the Ecology Extended Project
Biogs and descriptions of Rich and Rita here, and some further links.