Monday, March 30, 2009

Two Fires festival of art and activism

Uncle Max Harrison lights the fire at the opening ceremony of the Two Fires festival in Braidwood that took place over the weekend. Uncle Max is an elder of the Yuin people, who are the traditional people of the area. Other highlights included a wide ranging discussion concerning the work of Val Plumwood and Judith Wright, exchanging our presentations on "social warming" for hearty response, as well as hanging out with friends.

One thing that struck me while there concerned the design of the Aboriginal flag. Designed by Harold Thomas, a Luritja man from Central Australia, it has an immensely clear symbolism relating to land. And here I would suggest that Aboriginal culture participates in how it represents itself. In contrast the Australian flag is both skywards (Southern Cross) and across the seas (Union Jack), with no clear symbolic relation to land. Here, I would suggest, that Euro-Australian culture participates in how it represents itself. However a dislocated relationship to land is more broadly a corollary of industrial civilisation and is not only prejudiced to young colonies like Australia. In my paper for our Social Warming panel I posited this:
Perhaps why we know so much less about the trillions of microbes in the soil below our feet than we do about the stars and solar systems above our heads is because the "civilised world" is obsessed with transcendence, grandeur, spectacle and escape. And it seems apparent that art and literature are specifically implicated in this skywards obsession, which also concerns the cult of celebrity – a culture of anxiety and hypermediation directly related to food disorders and substance abuse.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Free-dragging, slow text and permapoesis: towards a biophysical poetry (an excerpt)

The following is the final paragraph of a paper I finished today for UK journal Angelaki, which I am presenting at Two Fires festival this weekend on a panel called Social Warming. The festival's theme is "Coming Together".
Little by little the things that were once free and uncapitalised are increasingly legislated against, privatised or both – seed, birth, milk, school, water, art, death, etc. While free-dragging on road signs in country Victoria a few years ago Jason Workman and I were booked for “abstracting traffic”, and after challenging the police officer as to why we were being booked he told us “people have concerns when they see people doing things”. The fine was manageable at $120, however it was 100% of the budget for our day of practice. I managed to record the whole conversation I had with him, and have played it back many times to hear those words: “abstracting traffic”. But we were neither abstracting nor obstructing, which is no doubt what the country cop meant to say. Free-dragging developed for both Workman and I out of our own imprisonments. Free-dragging is thus a response to feeling enslaved. Free-dragging is a biophysics for self-liberty, a poetry form synonymous with composting where abstractions do not dominate but rather play their part in a material world. In coming out of these self-imposed sentences we began to understand that to hope was to project something abstract and unreachable upon the future and this caused considerable anxiety. We quickly came to reacquaint ourselves with joy and post-utopian play – non-deluded – our blood oxygenated with the liberty of hopelessness; endorphins as air in an aerobic compost. By becoming unstuck and uprooted we took greater refuge in ourselves as contiguous beings with everything else. Therefore our poetry/graffiti had to become public and participate in social space. We pulled down our garrets and with the materials reclaimed from an age of isolation and anxiety built raised beds for vegetables, chook houses, compost bays and are planning future alehouses based on steady state economics. Food sovereignty has become central to our work, which has developed as part of a broader permaculture community, a community of intensifying "poeverty" (post H D Thoreau and D T Suzuki), and through the development of a personal permapoesis. Thanks to Ian, Meg, Kate F, Jeff, Hamish, Jason and Pete O for your help with this work.
The title of the panel came from this drawing I did a few years ago and was first published in Going Down Swinging No.26 last year.

Click for bigger.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arnhem mob's songs of regeneration

Aboriginal elders, including medicine men, song men and traditional dancers, visited our area last weekend and conducted a series of dances relating to each aspect of the land. They were welcomed by local Djadjawurrung elder Aunty Carmel. The dances were conducted to heal the land after the bush-fires. A number of the local boys, including Zeph, were given instructions on how to perform some of the dances.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making meaning (or, Alan Watts lives)

I've put together a few words, terms and their (in-progress) meanings here, which I've been developing over the past few years. But first a reminder:

Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything. Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)

Social warming – A social by-product of global warming, where good things come from horror and tragedy.
Permaplay – Non-delusional play invented by both children and adults within a permaculture.
Pop-fascism – Self-enslavement through debt as a result of aggregate desire and participation in capitalism’s slavery/destruction model. A Pop-fascist state is the private control of trade and industry in collusion with the state to the detriment of the environment and society at large.
Free-dragging – Street art. A mutant form of parkour or free-running (often practiced in drag). Physical graffiti tagged on the retina of the passer-by.
Permapoesis – Permanent meaning-making through active participation with one’s ecology and hence the localising of one's resources.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Free-birthing (friend of Free-dragging)

Click for bigger. Photo: John Mayger

I read in The Age today about Free-birthing before attending a local gathering to protest draconian new laws attacking the right to home-birth. Free-birthing is unassisted birth – Wow! So hardcore, so great! Zeph was proudly home-birthed and while brewing in his mother's womb was regularly monitored by both his mid-wife and GP, his parents keeping options open all the way to the pop out. Z's face is hidden (in the picture above) by his placard which simply states: I WAS BORN AT HOME.

Risk advisors are a pox on humanity, their work manifests in the form of taking life out of living, which is part and parcel of this continuing age of anxiety. Anxiety is the reason JW and I developed Free-dragging, where self-liberty and resistance to orthodoxy are central to the practice. Today's protest was about exactly these things: self-determination, free-will and resistance to the dominant hegemony.

NB There were 15 dads there today, but most of us hidden at the back (plus one behind the camera).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Single Broken Line Closed Cycle Seagull Ecology

Perhaps why we know so much less about the trillions of microbes in the soil below our feet than we do about the stars and solar systems above our heads is because the civilised world is obsessed with transcendence, grandeur, spectacle and escape. Art and literature are often specifically implicated in this skywards obsession, which also concerns the cult of celebrity – a culture of anxiety and hypermediation directly related to food disorders and substance abuse. From Free-dragging, Slow Text and Permapoesis: towards a biophysical poetry, Patrick Jones,  2009.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Apple workshop

Today I gave a workshop to design students at RMIT. Before heading to Melbourne Meg, Z and I picked apples at the local library, where nearly ten years ago I planted 18 Fujis as part of a public work (which included public food and poetry). I introduced the students to the methods of WorkmanJones' practice and how we use chance and one prop, word or idea to propel our work on a given day. At the end of the workshop, after introducing the gleaned Fujis to corporatised public space – materially, architectually and as disruption – the students ceremoniously destroyed the remaining apples by throwing them at a wall. After a day in the city the destruction of such precious and nutritious life was somehow apt.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Harvest Swap Meet

If we must stop aggregate growth because it is uneconomic, then how do we deal with poverty in the SSE? The simple answer is by redistribution—by limits to the range of permissible inequality, by a minimum income and a maximum income. What is the proper range of inequality—one that rewards real differences and contributions rather than just multiplying privilege? Plato thought it was a factor of four. Universities, civil services and the military seem to manage with a factor of ten to twenty. In the US corporate sector it is over 500. As a first step could we not try to lower the overall range to a factor of, say, one hundred? Remember, we are no longer trying to provide massive incentives to stimulate (uneconomic) growth! Also, since we are not trying to stimulate aggregate growth, we no longer need to spend billions on advertising. Instead of treating advertising as a tax-deductible cost of production we should tax it heavily as a public nuisance. If economistsreally believe that the consumer is sovereign then she should be obeyed rather than manipulated, cajoled, badgered, and lied to. Herman Daly, A Steady-State Economy

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A new dig at liberalism

Urban environments and indeed their shopping possibilities cannot exist without the destruction of natural ecologies. Everything made for the development of the urban environment has been made possible by destroying a non-urban environment. Every inch of granit paving, every bottle of ground water, every grain of imported rice, every petro-packaged good, every garment for sale that appears in a capitalist paradice of desire – the city – has originated from some form of abuse.

The liberal ideology that has so successfully and civilly implemented this system, and which encases the dominant psychology of the city, probably did originate from a "good" place (in terms of social inclusion), in other words the distribution of wealth to a greater majority. But liberalism's failing, outside of the social construction of the "wage-slave" (David Graeber, among others), has been its exclusion of ecologic functioning for the inclusion (or obsession) of human aspiration. For the past 200 years of liberal idealism we are now beginning to pay the price. And what is ultimately the price of a society based on ever-expanding desires? I believe it will be in the form of the re-distribution of poverty; designed, if we're smart, violent and horrible if we continue to be not.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Steady-State Economy

Ecological economists have offered empirical evidence that growth is already uneconomic in high consumption countries (see ISEW, GPI, Ecological Footprint, Happy Planet Index). Since neoclassical economists are unable to demonstrate that growth, either in throughput or GDP, is currently making us better off rather than worse off, it is blind arrogance on their part to continue preaching aggregate growth as the solution to our problems. Yes, most of our problems (poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation) would be easier to solve if we were richer-that is not the issue. The issue is: Does growth in GDP any longer really make us richer? Or is it now making us poorer? Herman Daly, A Steady-State Economy, 2008
The re-distribution of poverty that will happen over the next century will either occur as a deliberate and considered mass movement predicated on a collective understanding of what the landbase will actually support, or if we do nothing the re-distrution of poverty will be violent and horrible. Either way, the fat years are most probably over.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Uprooted status (and, Peej unearthed)

To avoid panic we rendered ourselves enviro-refugees last night and headed to Melbourne ahead of extreme forecasted weather. We stayed with a friend in Brunswick and woke to a light drizzle and little wind. School was cancelled so today we've been climbing trees outside the State Library, skating in St Kilda, taking Zeph to hidden coffee palaces, introducing him to the world of bright sneakers and a general culture of resistance to the desires of intense consumerism, while intermittently tuning into the ABC, CFA, BoM and DSE. We've now just heard it's raining at home and widely throughout the state! Yip-a-de-dee.

In sync with these unfamiliar times I've earthed 'Michel Deguy Compost Tea', a poem by French poet Michel Deguy that I sing, set to cheap effects and have uploaded (plus others) to the mainstream – triplej – to see what sprouts in that particular soil.

You can listen here.

Peej, according to, has 6 definitions beginning with a term of affection and ending with a toilet bowl. Perfect for Peej radio. Enjoy the unsound!