Week 25 — life wants to live

Well, that escalated quickly.

My online feed has gone from being primarily about the US primaries, which was getting extremely tiresome, to being entirely about coronavirus. Irl is now also entirely about coronavirus.

The whole thing really freaks me out. Not so much that I’ll get it, I’m fortunate to have good health, but that I might transmit it to someone else. More than that, I’m worried that it will result in more racism (already happening) and closed borders and increased selfish individualism. When really it should be an overwhelming argument for free healthcare, UBI, not keeping people in prison because they can’t afford bail, sharing resources, and collectivism. For socialism.

If you are in the UK, Corvid-19 Mutua Aid might be a useful resource. And this is a really good thread about ableism ‘on a national scale’. Let’s all not be selfish and not be racist.

And dw, this entire email isn’t going to be about the virus. There’s only one article and then you can have a break reading about literally everything else. It’s a mixed bag.

After the Quarantine, the Flood
Natasha Lennard

Ngl, I find the people still posting photos of themselves out socialising and partying to be pretty selfish. I’m one of the lucky ones that can do my job from home so I’m prepared to settle in for a bit. Not everyone is so lucky, let’s not make it worse for them.

When rushed, if not forced, into so-called “social distancing,” we should reflect on the standard proceedings of social proximity. At which junctions, through which quotidian flows, do our breaths and spits mingle and our individual bodies reveal their porousness? The subway, the airport, the office, the meeting, the classroom, the dance party, the restaurant, the conference and, at best, the protest. These are my answers, and they are the answers of a person who has been granted—by the vagaries of nationhood and capital distribution—the choice of distance and safe isolation.

The shelter, the overburdened hospital, the workplace with no sick leave, the no-option but public transit, the crowded housing project, the prison and the concentration camp–wherever bodies are reduced by force to just bodies, their porousness cannot be escaped.

But after this is over…

Solidarity in the pandemic, for those in my position, is situated in not making things worse; this we can choose. When this particular crisis has passed, we will once again convene in our numbers... But there is only power in being numerous if we choose it. If we know where to avoid each other, we know where to find each other, too.

That’s it for your corvid readings. On to the climate.

Emoji summary: 🦠 🏠 ✊

Letter to a Young Climate Activist on the First Day of the New Decade
by Rebecca Solnit

Anna shared this in her weeknotes. Solnit for hope, again. I searched how many times I’ve said something made me cry in these, and it was only 4 (lol, only) so I can say, this made me cry.

We need to love the earth as it is now and to see how worthy it is, now, of our greatest efforts. To look for that beauty and to treasure it is perhaps a crucial part of the work we have to do. This is what reminds us that the world is still full of things we love and want to protect and the effort is worth it.

Life wants to live.

The natural world is strong and resilient. This does not mean that everything is fine. It does mean that given half a chance some of the natural world will survive, and giving that chance depends on us. Life wants to live. …

We owe it to the whales, to every songbird in every tree, to frogs and trout and fireflies.

Emoji summary: 🌱 🌍 🙏

Design and the Green New Deal
by Billy Fleming

This is more of a critique and history of landscape architects, but calls for them to imagine

alternative visions for how to use them in ways that further the social and spatial ambitions of the Green New Deal

Whatever form the Green New Deal eventually takes, it will be realized and understood through buildings, landscapes, and other public works. Landscape architects have knowledge and skills — from ecological management to systems analysis to mapping and visualization — that are essential to that project. Now is our chance to re-institutionalize design expertise in government and, at the same time, to break the stranglehold of neoliberalism that has long undermined the ambitions of landscape architecture.

Emoji summary: 🏞 👩‍🌾 ♻️

The Crumple and the Scrape
by Lucas Crawford

Two Places articles this week, though this one is remarkably different.

This is like a queer reading of architecture via texture. When I started it, I was thinking ‘ok you are over-reading this’ but actually if you really critically think about the heteronormative examples they provide (and which are provided by literally almost everything), it’s just kind of turning it on its head. Also, there are some wonderful turns of phrase and it’s quite poetic at times.

Texture is the condition of possibility through which our bodies meet our environments. Texture is an activity, not a state of being.

If that doesn’t convince you, what about this line about Corbusier which made me lol

Yes, I am saying that, in the very act of rejecting feyness, Corbusier is pleasured by cis-male-butch buildings.

At the end tho, it’s a call for

… a higher standard of writerly self-awareness. When you turn to a metaphor … or to hyperbolic diction (theatrical, gymnastic), ask yourself: what do I really want to say? Moreover, why do I want to say it without quite saying it? What conflations or refusals am I permitting myself with this … coyness?

Emoji summary: 🌈 🧱 ✍️

Animals might not be top billing this week (strike action canceled lectures) but we still got it.

Knowing cows
by Eimear McLoughlin

Ethnography of slaughterhouses. As an ethnography, the paper is rich with descriptions and interviews. I’m glad this was the lecture we missed out of everything because even the reading was a lot. But also super interesting

this emotionography of a cattle slaughterhouse will chart where and how emotions are expressed and repressed by the slaughterhouse workers, where ‘doing gender’ (West & Zimmerman, 1987) dissipates the stigma of killing animals.

And hegemonic masculinity. And disempowered workers.

An emotionography of the slaughterhouse unearths the emotions that permeate through the company‐defined unemotional work of slaughter and reveals how these are experienced and expressed or in fact, repressed. The commodification of cows mobilizes not only a transformation of the knowing non‐human animal into an objectified and killable being but instantiates a material transformation of the human into the ideal slaughter worker; replaceable, unaffected and disempowered.

Emoji summary: 🐄 🔪 🥩

Cows and Sovereignty: Biopower and Animal Life
by Dinesh Joseph Wadiwel

Second reading by Wadiwel this term. He is great. His application of Foucault to animals is so fresh and interesting and also makes Foucault easier to understand.

He doesn’t take it easy on anyone, comparing factory farms to the camp

The horror of such a life is only imaginable when one considers the human equivalents of such shrewd and calculating management of life, which of course can be found most clearly in the camp. It is therefore not without significance that Isaac Bashevis Singer states that in “relation to them [animals], all people are Nazis: for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka” (qtd. in Wynne-Tyson, 1985: 335).

I appreciate that he takes these theories to understand the conditions, but then pushes them further to propose another way

whilst Agamben’s analysis of bare life, and Foucault’s theory of bio-power, provide a means by which to assess the condition of non-human life with respect to sovereign power, the political project must reach beyond these terms, and embrace an intertwining of the human and the non-human: an intersection which may be found in the animal life shared by both entities.

Can a “new biopolitics” positively renegotiate the gap between the human and the non-human animal? One wonders, if it were actually possible to seize control of bare life — perhaps even democratise its formation — whether such a new struggle over life will be expansive enough to finally rid the threat of the animal from human life, or alternatively, exorcise the terror of the human from the life of animals: two projects which, as this paper asserts, may amount to much the same thing.

Emoji summary: 🥺 ⛓ ❌


Absolute heroes Lola Olufemi writing about Victoria Sin.

Emily reminding us that You’re still a valuable person when you’re in isolation or quarantine. I know I said only one pandemic post but really this is applicable beyond cv.

Wolfgang Tillmans on lots of things, but I’m interested in the archive thing.

I had a sense of wanting to get involved because I understood the political nature of picture-making from the start. It is record keeping, which is never neutral. What is recorded and what isn’t recorded and what‘s kept and isn’t kept is always political.

The White Pube (also heroes) making me rethink what I think about exhibitions.

i want it all to be secret or incidental; for the art to feel like it has landed here without ego, before organisation and before ‘we are a registered charity.’

And to close, I leave you with this thread of very round animals which has completely made my week.


Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.