On PBS Science Friday 3/27/15 I heard an interview with Paul Ehrlich and Karole Armitage about a dance performance attempting to portray humankind facing the climate change crises. In this post I propose another dance to complement this dance with an alternative action proposal.
- “With the premiere of “On the Nature of Things,” performed by Armitage Gone! Dance, March 25-27 at the American Museum of Natural History, Ms. Armitage’s activist side has grown even more brazen as she tackles climate change…. The dance takes place on three stages in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life — with its 94-foot blue whale suspended from the ceiling — and features live narration and original text by Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, a MacArthur fellow and professor of biology and population studies at Stanford who has known Ms. Armitage since she was 2… Her research led to the discovery of an essay by Dr. Ehrlich that focuses on the culture surrounding science. His text stresses that the public doesn’t fully understand what’s at stake.”
- This interested me because, over the decades, I had imagined (without imagery) what dance could achieve in helping convey major gestalt of a very complex conceptual schemes. I hope a recording of the performance will be made available.
- I have an index in my mind to a memory of a dance performance I viewed at RPI (1952-56), where the dancers increased in population until they tightly filled the stage with disorder. This made a great impression on me as an undergraduate. I have considered animation dance as well as human dance.
My approval and excitement about this enterprise is moderated by my concern that it may have the opposite of its intended effect.
- The dance proposes a resolution of the crisis by an awakening and grassroots upward movement of many persons, implied (specific in their commentary) to counter the actions of ruling institutions (incapable of resolving the crisis).
- Their salvation story is encapsulated by the “grassroots” metaphor. “Grassroots” (which contradicts the diversity of biomes), implies everyone equal in competency and rising uniformly as an army. Many ecologists are highly critical of single species lawns.
- Even if we ignore the inappropriate metaphor, the proposed scenario: “awakening => organizing => take-over => fixing-the-system” may be impractical, given the strength and commitment of the old order, the short time frame, and the many weaknesses of the “movement”. Morphing old to new is not the only option.
- Their diagnosis that scientific/conceptual/rational perspectives are insufficient, and that the artistic/intuitive/emotional domains are essential is “right on”. What remains grossly insufficient it a treatment plan to match the diagnosis. While WITHIN THE DANCE these two perspectives attempt to resonate; the “action plan” avoids the needed “integration” (actually, there is no “action plan”).
I have, for decades, desired “artistic venues” to convey the integration of conceptual|intuitive ( & rational|emotional) of both our Crises-of-Crises and my proposed alternative actions (UPLIFT & Societal Metamorphosis).
- UPLIFT & Societal Metamorphosis are both temporal patterns, requiring temporal representation. The alternatives of transFORMation and Emergence could be illustrated. Dynamic visual representations of UPLIFT & Societal Metamorphosis are also possible.
- My paradox is that I need these visuals to motive persons with visual creative competencies to comprehend what needs representing in dynamic visuals, and to be motivated to perform.
- For SOCIETAL METAMORPHOSIS I had imagined the caterpillar dance to be rigid marching, while the butterfly dance is more fluid, spontaneous, and interactive. Caterpillar dancers may occasionally deviate into a short butterfly dance, but return to marching. The active metamorphosis dance begin at one place among the caterpillar dancers, grows, develops, and recruits caterpillar dancers, one by one; until all are part of the butterfly dance. Imaginal buds could be intermittent fluid dancing by a few caterpillar dancers at specific locations in the caterpillar. The core butterfly could be a coming together of some members of the imaginal buds. Internet interaction could be an additional feature, using an active screen back of the dancers.
- For UPLIFT I imagine a slow emergence of more complex and beautiful dances. Teaching is a mode of propagation of dances. The disorganized mix of different crude dances at the beginning become more and more globally coordinated as the individual dances become more complex. I can imagine many variations. We could start with the dance of CIVILIZATION, as part of a dance of the EMERGENCE OF HUMANKIND. The transition from HUMANKIND TO HUMANITY, is also a theme for dance. I can create details later.
- I imagine the dances being embedded in an internet program, where most persons will view the dance performances on screen. However, everyone could be occasionally organized to perform in small (ritualistic) celebration dances while embedded in online displays.
However, MORE IS NEEDED beyond the creation/production of relevant artforms. We cannot expect that by only experiencing these SEEDS, persons will organize for relevant action. Viable SEEDS, need Fertile SOILS, and Nurturing SCAFFOLDING to have a lasting impact.
- Creative SEED production, alone, can’t motivate the collective construction of SOILS and SCAFFOLDING.
- This trinity/trilogy/triad, SSS, is also ripe for dynamic visual representation – dance.
- We live in extraordinary times, facing extraordinary challenges demanding extraordinary collective actions. All realms of human activity (scientific & technological; spiritual, humanistic,and artistic; personal, communal, social, & societal; pragmatic & practical – must EACH re re-assessed within the context of the re-assessment of all the others. We need new technologies (tools, techniques, tasks, training, teams, time) and collaborative competencies to meet this challenge.