The Future of Okanagan Okanogan

We have been on a journey together for three-and-a-half years. In that time, I finished up this blog as a book (twice!), but then I was reading up on a lynching in Conconully, Washington in 1891. Things just didn’t seem to add up, and as I snooped around and dug into things they didn’t add up some more, and finally I rewrote the book almost entirely. It found its shape on Easter, when I printed up its pixels, laid it out on the floor in a long line, dated each paragraph, moved the things that were out of place, and found its natural chapters, as a history of an agricultural valley in the west of Canada, rooted in the American Civil War. It concludes with a way forward from unresolved conflict through a very specific resolution of the outstanding Indigenous land claims of British Columbia — especially the pivotal ones, in the Syilx Illahie, this gambling and travelling space, the S-Ookanhkchinx, this place in which I am home. Here’s a picture of the excitement.ms1

 

 

A Book is Born!

I have been calling it “Okanagan Okanogan: One Country Without Borders”, but on Easter I scribbled down this: “Commonage: The War for the Okanagan.” Hmmm, Hmmm, Hmmm. The first is better, I think. Titles are always the hardest darned thing! Note: don’t you try to read my hand-writing now. You’ll hurt your eyes. Why do you think I need those reading glasses!

I will follow up my book with a companion book of images, a book that retells this history as a Coyote tale, and, before both of those, a practical handbook on new crops, new energy regimes, new agricultural strategies, and new water technologies and ethics that support, strengthen and sustain the land that this blog has helped me find more deeply for all of its 960 posts. But first, the blog has another child! I have received a grant to spend 16 months to write about this:

P1730506The Beautiful Steam Punk Urban Core of Post-Industrial Vernon

On Wednesday I hold my first interview with one of the street people who has offered to help me. He is excited and has many plans for me. I’m excited, too. And to think, it all started with a thought: would it help to write a book (another grant) if I used a camera to record what I see, to act as a form of empirical proof in a series of environmental arguments. Might as well try, I thought. Give it a couple months. Look at the gifts that moment of curiosity and that willingness to be led by it has given me! Not the least is  sense of writing and poetry that has expanded beyond literature into the world. Amazing. I am so grateful.

Canada Geese Making Art

Geese eating rotten apples.geese2b2Geese making art.

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The Dance of the Geese.

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Mass choreography, with geese.

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Never underestimate the perspective changing ability of a Canada goose. Here are some geese dancing to Bach.

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Here are some doing the Stravinsky Honk.

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No need to clap. Geese make their own applause.

 

 

The Best Art Gallery

The water above, the sun caught in the art of the vines, the desert of the earth…P1550008… this is ancient stuff. We can dress it up with triple-blind, peer-reviewed studies of water, air and sun, but it’s still a combination of ancient Babylonian, Hebraic, Celtic and Roman insights, presented through a technological lens. It is an unbroken story, stretching into the depths of time. Where, however, are the new insights? To be fair, it’s not likely that there will be new ones, but it is likely that the old ones can be brought back to life, in a way that lives past the industrial metaphor we have inherited and puts in its place a new form of artfulness, a paying of attention to all of time and the way our ancestors speak through us. The alternative is to continue to view the world from the metaphors of a century ago, even though they’ve lost their connection to the tradition. The common way of bridging the ages is to take images apart into their components, to reduce them to basic structural items. That’s easy. Putting them together, both out of fragments and out of lost traditions, is how art can grow a living science and a living earth. It is time to make the earth our gallery again.

 

 

The Art That Insects Make

In the summer, light strikes the leaves of the dogwoods unevenly, as they flit about in their environment of light and shadow filtering through other leaves that move and shift with sun and wind and the turning of the earth through its days. Look at the result!P1540244Amazing!

P1540242There’s more to this story than just sun and light, and I’ll get to that in a sec, but for the moment look at how small patches of some of these leaves are delayed from maturing and shutting down photosynthesis in preparation for fall.
P1540241Frozen in time, that’s the thing.

P1540239Now, here’s the other player in these beautiful game. See the aphids on the underside of the leaves below, below the fruiting cluster?P1540233They are very responsive to light and growth and settle in the choicest spots, and then, as they divert the sap flow through their own digestive systems, they change everything. In effect, they become part of the plant, and the plant’s living processes are blocked and re-routed by the intervention of the insects and the whole year’s worth of redirected minerals.P1540227Aphids, light, shadow and the mysteries of an earth continually in motion.P1540224The scientist in me thinks this process could be put to use. The farmer in me knows it can. The poet in me is in love with the earth. The artist in me is just plained thrilled to see his body alive in the earth like this, down to the tiniest thing.

 

Where is the Government?

The government is the people’s voice. Sometimes it appears that the government is hiding. Sometimes, one is surprised just where it’s got to. Here is the art that Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo put up at Okanagan College in Vernon this month.

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Ryan Robson, Untitled

An issue with a wordless voice.

Here is the art that the government paid for outside.

P1380881 Gerd Maas, Destiny (Detail)

Gender equity, of course (It is, after all, a four-sided obelisk made out of melted mountain.)

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Erected to Celebrate a Ceremonial Partnership with Korea

Here is the art we pay for outside the main doors of the college.

P1380868 Always a Friendly Face

Here is the art that reveals the Canadian Government’s secret hiding place today.

P1010835Well, yesterday. Today, they could be anywhere! Look around, if you can. You might find them in the darndest places. Here, for instance.

P1130503The provincial government pays up to $2.50 a tree (20 acres …2000 trees to the acre … whew!) to subsidize the planting of Royal Gala apples such as these, to counteract the effect of national government trade treaties with the United States. To which, we might add:

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That Old Christmas Moon

Long before the world tree holding the stars …

P1380026 Straw Star from Dresden

… as well as the planets …P1380060

 

Blown Glass Ball from the Ruhr Valley

…on its branches, there was the old solstice moon.

P1370820Paper Wasp Nest in the Lilacs

It’s still here. Blessed be.

 

Evolution: A Human Social Mirror

Bullock’s Oriole, blending in…

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This fellow divides his time between South America and this dry northern tip of his species’ range.

California Quail (introduced species, so humans would have something to hunt), blending in …

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Hoo-HoooO-u, Hoo-HooO-u, Hoo-HooO-u

So social, eh!

Beetle, blending in …

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Beautiful, isn’t she!

If I’m ever to have antennae, I hope they’re like that.

Those are all “natural” environments, in which the concept of camouflage does not seem to be at play. So much for the idea of evolution being a series of predator-prey capture-avoidance, eat-or-be-eaten relationships, as it is often displayed in popular culture (and racism.) Here is the lair of a top predator. Now, she is blending in:

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Incompleted Light Post Base, Vernon

Predator pretty much invisible.

For a view of the predator herself, take a look again …

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Black Widow Spider Blending In

Well, sort of. She flashes that red warning, after all. Note the very, very messy web. I have a few of those in my tomato patch, and another in my garden shed.

Now, to continue the theme, here is the lair of another predator, blending in …

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Back of Front Street, Penticton

Note the messy web. By the way, I think this is very beautiful, but not in the same way as the oriole, the quail, or the beetle above.

Humans, blending in some more…

P1010091Canadian Back Yard Art, Vernon

More beauty. Very popular with top predators. As you can see, the humans are blending in with social codes, not with the weeds in the foreground. They are up to their own thing.

Take a look again, for a guide to the finer details…

details2Dead Things and Romantic Things on Display

Body jewelry for predators. (With the lair being a body image requiring tattoos and other images of display in a complicated male-female dynamic.) Socially, many contemporary humans evolve within environments like this. In fact, you could say that they evolve to reproduce environments like this, or that the environments reproduce by imprinting themselves on the young humans at important environment-socialization windows. These are called cognitive windows, because, socially, human-environment social relationships are not accepted [ie they are invisible] in this particular culture. That doesn’t mean they are not there.

The weeds in the foreground of the above image are a series of individuals foreign to the balance of this landscape. They are in a dynamic process, which is a new balance, but the real story is not about individuals. It is about the collective. They are all in a relationship, the rules of which are not yet formalized. Intriguingly, they were brought here by human activity, and they represent an image of human conscious processes. Nature? Hardly.

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A Predator Has Been Here

By interpreting the landscape according to its own social codes of display and social coercion, this predator has turned at least a small part of the earth into an image of itself.

Now, that’s art! Of course, foreign plants such as the lavender above, once socialized within this human image, start to take on some human characteristics and become colonists of their own …

P1020612Escaped Lavender (Left, behind the curb.)

That is an entire community of previous escapees around it. The native plant community is gone. Even in escape, the plants carry human social information with them, and human attitudes to land. In other words, human social display and body decoration is part of the process of physically creating “Nature”.

One could say that “Nature” itself is a human social display, the whole concept. One could also say that many humans obviously prefer the weedy thing called “Nature” or “wildness” over a more ordered and productive space full of species beautiful in their own right. They are certainly not walking the grasslands with me in anything other than tiny numbers. They are here instead:

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Farmer Killing Leafhoppers in His Grape Vine Body Jewelry

City of Vernon in behind. Excellently complex predator behaviour! It will result in a simplification of the landscape (fewer species) and some unexpected escapees (the poisons he uses will become part of the environment, where they will eventually work back to change human social relationships and even human bodies. Poison as body art. Beautiful!)

The key to “evolution” is to stop thinking of separateness. That is just a human social image. Here, for example, are some weeds interfacing with some plants that found a balance here after the last ice age, and which were maintained in a specific human image by thousands of years of human burning and harvesting…

P1020545 Evolution in Play

Evolution is not a battle for dominance. Sure, you can look at it that way, but I suggest that that’s only how a predator will see it. To the plants here, and the bumble bee, it’s about community. Together, they make a whole. For the moment, Syilx traditional human social rules have been removed from this landscape by colonization 150 years ago and replaced by the new social rules of that colonization. As a result, the weeds that the new colonists brought with them are now colonizing Syilx space. Rather than being “Nature”, in other words, this is a portrait of social relationships over time, which include human ones.

Far too often, evolution is portrayed as a conscious process, one that “favours” certain traits or one in which evolution has to “choose” between brain size, which is “expensive” and, say, “muscular efficiency.” I find it a deep and pleasurable irony that scientific thinking, which began by trying to separate itself from a concept of nature, is now deeply married to a kind of pop-culture goddess called Nature, which it calls Evolution. It leads to some odd effects. They are out there by the millions. Here is just one, in an article which, actually, otherwise is based on some sound principles…

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Evolution… favours? it’s as if it were a conscious process!

Note the lovely ad which MSN’s computers have placed there in order to prey upon you. Be careful around top predators, is all I can say. Source

There’s more. Take a look a little further down in the article:

hypothesizedSocial Display Posing as Learnèd Analysis

The intriguing phrase is “…found that shorter women are more likely to be in long-term, offspring-producing relationships [so far, so good] — perhaps, he hypothesized, because men evolved to disfavour tall women, who tend to reach puberty later.

Pure guesswork, or, rather, the writing of one certain, culturally-specific social display code upon the earth. I’m fairly certain that our scientist was also concerned about other types of favouring and the limitations of this (reported) hypothesis. Not so the databases created to insert advertisements in this material. These databases are inserted according to specific contemporary cultural rules, rather Darwinian and 19th century overall, which seek to prey upon any readers straying into their webs. There is no distinction between this process and any other process of art. Look what the database has chosen to go with this material…

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Could it just be that human technical (social and artistic) intervention in the “natural” process of birth is changing the dynamic of which women are having more successful babies than others, rather than birth being just a neutral “natural” process? Of course, but you wouldn’t know it from the article above. Here’s a case in which the database has proven smarter than the human journalist. Like evolution itself, though, it’s not on purpose. Now, one of the characteristics of evolution is duration in time. It’s another human social preference. Written into theories of “nature”, it allows the natural community to be viewed in certain ways. According to this preference for time-as-a-story and time-as-permanence, the view below is easily read as a competition for dominance by new plants (weeds) within an older landscape, just as the settler culture here …

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Land Sculpted to Be Viewed by Automobile and Real Estate Client with Oil Money in His Pocket. 

In this case, the agricultural and “natural” (ie de-Syilxed) images of the land are being sculpted just as strongly as is the physical earth and the social relationships within whatever humans live within or claim this space.

… has supposedly replaced the Syilx culture that preceded it, yet somehow has inhabited its forms and maintains a parallel relationship to “land”…

P1020521Bunch of Weeds Hanging Out, Bella Vista

You can read it that way, of course, and you would be right. But it’s the earth. It can be read in many ways. And it reads you, don’t doubt that. To read it in the way described above is to miss other stories and other versions of time. If their narrative could be told, the landscape would change socially to adapt to them. Tomorrow I’l sketch out some parts of that landscape. Here’s a hint: the plants above are not all the same age. The plants below are:

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Grape Vine Sculptural Display, Bella Vista

Art and Life

Art doesn’t belong to humans, but human art has consequences. Here is an art form made by sun and water…

rainbowRainbow Over Vernon

Object or process? Why must one choose?

It’s like asking: Man or Woman? Oh, please, both. They go together so beautifully. Like bird and house …

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Starling at Home in a Real Bird House, Turtle Mountain

This building easily has fifty holes like this, and another hundred covered (hopelessly) with tin. Birds fly in and out endlessly. I bet it’s noisy and smelly inside. Humans are not welcome. This is no longer their place.

Contemporary humans love to dissect things. For example, city health officials are going to want to dissect that house and turn it into land fill some day. To think: another species is starting to live in houses! Can’t  happen!

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When Humans Leave the Earth …

… the earth replaces them. Here, starlings have moved into the human ecological niche. Think of this as The Galapagos, Version 2.0. The resulting interaction between humans and starlings, as both claim the ecological niche, is an object of art.

To give starlings a leg up on becoming the masters of interior decorating, a house is required. An object. A piece of art. A building as a piece of art? Well, yes, in the process of a context …

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Photography, Vernon

A tool that can sculpt art out of any process and process out of any art. Must one choose? 

It’s a mainstay of contemporary artistic theory that one cannot make objects, only processes. Only processes, it appears, are art. To make these processes, one uses objects, yet the objects are disregarded. That’s a choice, not a logical imperative. So is this:

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The Dumpster, Vernon

The primary sculptural form of Contemporary Canadian Culture. Transportable, tipple, movable, and, in a pinch, a house, a shopping mall, and a grocery store. The Dumpster has it all. Because it is an object, however, it is not regarded as art. And a good thing. As evidenced by the paint marks to the left, art is being actively erased in this neighbourhood, on the principle that art destroys the value of property, which, despite being public, is private. Notice that wall, dumpster and grass are immune from this censorship. Sometimes it helps to be an object. Objects appear to have great capacities of resistance. Art, however, at least the intellectually acceptable variety, disregards them. This is how humans leave their planet. This is how that is witnessed.

There is a class of objects, however, which are considered art. This is the group of artifices called industrial memory objects. They are usually made out of such industrial materials as recycled plastic …

IMG_8634Garden Centre Fountain Offered for Sale, Swan Lake

Why oh why did they not add blue dye instead of yellow? Photo: Anassa Rhenisch

… or even recycled waste from dumpsters, shipped to China, reprocessed by people in the process of leaving the earth, and shipped back to North America, to help North Americans in their own self-assigned task of leaving the earth, along the principle that every house needs a bit more off-gassing.

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Plastic Grass, Vernon Discount Store

Cheaper than the real thing, and unchanging over the seasons. This is an example of an art form in which object has triumphed over process. This art form is known as prettification. It is intended for indoor, rather than outdoor use.

So is the earth remembered by creatures who have left it. Meanwhile, on the earth …

P1000022 Landscaping, Downtown Vernon

This is the art form known as beautification. It is part of the aesthetic of leaving the earth.

For all its object-centred essence, this industrial garden is showing the signs of wear. As its stones flow away due to the predation of winter snowplows, water and light return. This object, married with the absence of some of its parts, is returning to process.P1000027

Life in a Puddle

It has all the time in the world. Even the maple trees are moving into abandoned human ecological niches, aren’t they.

Process, yes, but without the object, no process. Process, yes, but without humans, the object. Forcing the choice is death or just torture.

P1090591Tree Slave Bearing the Ritual Scars of the War Between Object and Process, Kelowna

In this art form, the tree, an ancient life form, is used as a slave in order to influence the processes of humans. Still an object, though. Life, here, has been object-ified in order to create a process-based art work. In this case, the process is operating to convince humans within cars that they are travelling through a Garden of Eden.

Given the great gap between the organic processes of the tree (and the trace it leaves of them in form) and the wounds from which the tree suffers under the effects of human process-based art, I can only conclude that to humans living in their post-earth process-based world, the relationship between tree and human body is invisible to these creatures. They have, already, left life (and bodies) behind for something else. That something else is art. Where have process-based humans migrated, in their rush to leave objects behind? Aha, that’s the fascinating thing. They are where you’d least expect them. In objects!

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A Row of Post-Object Humans, Vernon

Hiding out as electrical poles, while a memory object of humans decorates the side of a building. Memory objects (rather than the process-based art of taggers) is not censored in this community. Logically. Without the object, the process of re-creating humans as electrical poles ends and they must stay there forever.

Somewhere, the creatures still remember that there is something better. Something with a different kind of process.

bee Bee, Foraging, Bella Vista

Choose life. It is an art form that does not separate process from object or object from process. In fact, it does not tolerate such separation.

Cities: The New Frontier

Let’s say you happen to glance off to the side of your city’s main street, right downtown, and see an amazing sculpture that not only looks dashing, but incorporates at least 500 years of history and the wall of a library, too, but makes beer. Sculpture! That makes beer! P1620979Okanagan Springs Brewery, Vernon, BC

All sculpture should be so useful.

So, suppose you’re a-wandering along, and you stumble into an alley behind the Kalamalka Inn Sports Bar, where that beer is poured into glasses and transformed into pure rocket fuel for the living sculptures that are humans, and what do you see?

P1630070Exquisite Fire Escape Sculpture!

And the plaster work in behind … the work of a master.

This is a sculpture that only gets used if the place burns to the ground. Now, that seems a waste for all that beauty, doesn’t it! It’s kind of like a match itself: use it once, and off to the scrap heap with it. Sheesh. Oh, what is a pure beer-less human to do? Bumble along, I guess and … oh, what’s this?

P1000021Water Pipes for a Humungously Expensive “Greening” Project

The city will have a dozen new park benches, and a couple dozen swanky trees.

Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, thinks the bumbling human. What if the pipes weren’t buried in the ground, but hung from the sculpture? That would look nice, wouldn’t it? You could pour a gallon of water in the top and, oh, I dunno, strawberries would come out the bottom. You could make daiquiris or something…

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PVC Strawberry Towers

Daiquiris in the making. Source.

Exquisite sculpture is everywhere. Put it to work, I say.

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Do We Need Smiles on the Faces of 1914 Women Picking Apples …

… because their husbands are already dead in France? Why not grow something on the wall instead? Remember the motto of Okanagan Okanogan: Choose Life.

Art: the new frontier. It’s time to plant it up.