Photo From: The Objectification of Things, 2008; photo credit Juan Carlos Salvatierra
- the process or condition of going out of date or being no longer in use
- falling into disuse or becoming out of date
- destitute of knowledge or training
- resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or education
Week Three: Science, Sanity, & Evolution
Michelle Ellsworth: Preparations for Obsolescence
Okay, I have to change the format of these entries. This week, lists just will not work. Not only because my brain is pumped up on a combination of caffeine, adrenaline, and sleeplessness, but also because reviewing my notes from Week Three transported me right back to Lincoln Studio, Naropa University, June 25, 2012, rendering me semi-psychotic and thus completely incapable of orderly thought.
Objectives for Michelle Ellsworth’s (http://motivationalvideoarchive.org/) workshop were listed (in the SWP catalogue, which I have only thanks to Dennis Etzel, Jr.) thus:
“This class will look at the science of extinction on both a macro/physical and micro/emotional level. We will: 1) attempt to document and archive vulnerable information, 2) ask what will be missed when things/people/species go and how we can replace them with technology and art, and 3) consider poetic interventions that might buy us some extra time on the planet. Special attention will be given to the coping mechanisms of the Y chromosome and the chemistry of meat.”
I didn’t read this description prior to signing up, though. If I had I would have taken the week off and spent five days banging my head against the scuffed wall of my dorm. Instead, I scanned the week’s course titles, stopping at “Preparation for Obsolescence,” primarily because the mere thought of things and people I love going away scares the piss out of me. Family, friends, books, paper, independent radio, bookstores, ice cream stands, non-GMO foods, elephants, noiseless public spaces, Benefiber, tigers, Bert and Ernie, face-to-face conversations, rhinos, bipartisanship, unexplored areas of Earth… All are in danger of disappearing from our lives forever, fates that just so happen to be entirely beyond my mere-mortal control. Knowing this, I decided a while ago, a couple of years maybe, that whining like a four-year-old whose barely licked ice cream just vacated her cone was perhaps not the best solution. Rather, my defense in the face of such obsolescence should be threefold: whining like a four-year-old, plus conservation and preparation. I can knock all three out right here. Or at least I can describe the process. Not as good, but this is the internet, which is itself the primary enemy of half the things I hold dear. See, that was whining.
Anyway, about the course. If you don’t know Michelle Ellsworth (http://www.tifprabap.org/), or if your only exposure to her/her work was the Week Three panel, YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WOMAN. Better. You need to know her better. She is brilliant, and she is brilliantly f***ed up.
Entering her class that Monday morning, I immediately wondered two things: “How can any human being talk so fast?” and “How soon into this class will I become obsolete?” Five minutes in, I was breathless. Michelle Ellsworth (http://theatredance.colorado.edu/?page_id=671), meanwhile, never slowed down, never sat down, never even blinked. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But I’m telling you, as a person with anxiety issues of my own, being in the same breathing (or non-breathing) space with Michelle Ellsworth (http://theburgerfoundation.org/) made me dizzy, slightly nauseous, and quickly, JUBILANT!
Not too quickly, though. First I had to make it through the first day, which was comprised of three solid hours of my not having any idea what the hell she was talking about (see ignorant, above). None. I think I understood two words, “pen” and “computer.” Oh, and I think she said something about writing. In between these Annie-Maier-accessible words, however, were scores of others not so user-friendly. I’d tell you what they were except I didn’t recognize any of them and so couldn’t WRITE them down, not even with my PEN.
Oh, but wait, there is something I can share. Something I’m sure I only wrote in order to at least appear sentient.
This is a direct quote, from my notebook:
Borneo = Malaria—Mosquitoes = DDT = Poisoned grasshoppers—cats—and on—Cats croak, rodents flourish. Added 100,000s of cats.
Beneath that, I drew a picture of what looks like, I kid you not, an ice cream cone (definitely must have been channeling my inner 4-yr-old), and beneath that a stick figure cat. And beneath that, a quote from Michelle Ellsworth (http://centerwest.org/michelle-ellsworth/), because even though I didn’t know the meaning of said quote, I did recognize the actual words, at least enough to record them somewhat accurately. They were:
“(I) no longer trust language as (a) depository for MEANING (emphasis mine). Meaning (is?) in material (or perhaps immaterial). Things surrounding words.”
No clue. None at all.
Following a 1.5-hour “discussion”—because other people, remarkably, did not seem to be struggling, as I was, to understand this language—we took a break. While everyone else stood around excitedly waving their arms and making mouth sounds, I ran to the café for a double espresso, thinking the caffeine tremors might mask the fear tremors. Then I returned for round two.
Should I give you round two today?
No, I think not. I’m a bit wound up. Maybe I’ll go have another espresso.
Tomorrow on wordjunkies:
50 million : 2 million
extinction of unknown species.
Shape of books.