Passive Activism |
lars schmidt

Mountains and Rivers are Speaking

Text
(periodically changing pieces are being posted)

_Improvisation and/as Ecological Practice//
On Improvisation and Nature, or The Nature of Improvisation (2020)
_Notions towards Rebalance (2016)
_The Accumulation of Knowledge and/as Lightning (2019)
_Art, Ecology & Education – An enquiry of connections (2006)
_Declaration of Cultural Revolutionaries (2006)

_Mountains and Rivers are Speaking / Poetry (2016)

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_Improvisation and/as Ecological Practice

Ecological knowledge stands for understanding the context of where you live, how you live, with whom you live.
It means understanding interconnectedness and interdependence.
It means being familiar with basic principles and patterns that sustain life on Earth, and more specifically, how this looks in the region where you live.

It entails knowledge about the food you need, the water you drink, the air you breathe, as much as about the community of organisms, that live around, on and within you.
It also means understanding cooperation, exchange and dynamic balance.

The knowledge of ecology and the bioregion you inhabit, gives practical and factual insight in how to live in community with plants and animals, land and waters.

This knowledge, paired with the intuitive, spontaneous understanding that may be acquired through the practice of improvisation, or the improvisational approach to a creative practice, consequently serves as guide and orientation.
They will inform and lay out a quite clear mode of operation and way of relating.

I think we are at a threshold.
We, as a species, cannot afford any more practice or research of any kind, that is not intended to serve the entire ecological community.

Let us assume that what will happen, will be a continuous and chaotic disintegration of societies, ongoing mass extinction and natural catastrophes.
Will the suggested approach still be relevant?

I would say, it will.

Simply, because it generates a sense of integrity.
And with that comes a sense of respect, a respect of self and of other.

The surrendering in favor of the whole, found in an improvisational approach to an art practice, may be realized as a core principle of what we call life.

We may become aware of our particular gift and sensitivities, beyond any social convention, and witness how they apply and serve.

A true sense of empathy, care and a desire to support and facilitate, despite any personal gain, may be discovered.

Improvisation and Nature, or The Nature of Improvisation

To be able to improvise I would describe as the ability to respond to a proposition in a way that is non-judgemental and serving a spontaneously emerging sense of unforeseeable and unconventional order.
You allow movement, sound, painting to happen.

It is not about expressing your own emotional life or intellectual disposition, or about acting out and releasing pent up energy.
It is about serving the moment as an expression of a coherent totality, and about giving up the ego in favor of the whole. Mind and body act as one.

It is this experience and ability, this knowledge of an empty, spontaneous mind, that engenders a sensation of being in awe and appreciative of the very process that is unfolding.

It also becomes clear that this process is the same process that makes a seed sprout and then turn into a flower - and a seed again.
The seed is not separate, it is not a separate entity or object. The flower is not separate, neither is the song or the dance.
They are phenomena, temporary appearances, cut out of a not at first glance perceivable continuum, and then given a name.
In that sense, the flower, the song, or the dance are always present.
They only disguise in different displays.

With that realization comes a sense of compassion, a subtle and yet mighty sensation of appreciation and wonder for all of existence. For all flowers and songs and dances. All different. All the same.

Consequently, an organic way of relating and responding to who- and whatever becomes possible.

This is why I believe that the experience and ability to improvise is fundamental for a society intending to live in a harmonious relationship with its surroundings.
It provides a guideline for a respectful way of relating and interacting, it is a tool in times of uncertainty or regeneration, as much as for spiritual insight.

Improvisation is the language of the wild. Mountains and rivers speak it. Birds and insects speak it.
It is uncivilized and ever fresh. It is wonder-full.

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_Notions towards Rebalance
A short and temporary resumee

If I write here about my own experience, it is due to the fact that I would like to refrain from making general statements, or claim any sort of truth.

I might have an opinion on current dynamics and events, however, that does not mean my position has more weight than others.

I would like to share a bit of my pathway, as well as inner disposition, also in the hope to resonate with those outthere who might sense in similar ways, but so far lack information or companionship that would help to put things into context.

My fields of study and inquiry ranged from different art forms, to ecological, agricultural and contemplative practices.
Only to find that all of these areas seem fundamental to being human and to separate them into different disciplines, independent from each other, does not make things easier.

Also the fact that I lived in and immersed myself into various cultural and social contexts, as well as urban, rural and nomadic settings, I consider very precious and informing.

During those times I also spent long periods in nature. I still do this.
Quietly, or observing and listening.

This kind of set the basis for a way of perceiving that became central to me.

To be more exact, it became articulate and unfolded, and I noticed that it was there since early childhood.

In general, I sense that as a human being I live and work not for myself, but as part of all what we call nature, thus I contribute to nature as a whole.

In other words, I am aware that every action I perform, influences and is influenced by everything.
Even simpler: I am in everything and everything is in me.
Concerning life in all its perceived diversity there is a sensation of kinship, paired with a sense of wonderment.

With that, naturally, comes a sensation of wanting to protect, to foster and serve.

To sense and acknowledge that my activity participates in an act of exploitation or destruction, that it keeps generating blindness or numbness, that it perpetuates suffering and harm or hinders unfolding, is neither bearable for a long time, nor is it acceptable.

I hope to contribute to what could be called the common good through my activity.

This notion, for me, integrates the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of a community.
Also I perceive this common good as not exclusive to the human species.

That means that I see the term ‘community’ as inclusive of plants, animals, mountains, rivers…
I do not believe in the well-being of a human community, in the way described above, without the well-being of the greater context it is embedded in and dependent upon.

And yet, I surely would not want to encourage any certain manner of living, other than to follow your heart.

I tried (and try) to be alert towards how things presented themselves and for the road that unfolded.
Out came so far a rather unconventional and at times quite extreme pathway, and I am aware that within the social and cultural contexts I lived in up to now, this might not be the most comprehensible of ways, neither is it a very fortunate one in terms of social status or access.

However, and as mentioned above, it seems that my pathway is based on different priorities.

I would like to emphasize the fact that in Western society there does not seem to be a social tag or ‘profession’ I would be able to identify with, which makes life in these contexts very difficult and challenging on various levels.

At the same time, this seems natural and even obvious, if one is, for example, to regard this sensation from the emerging notion of recognizing the inadequacy of Western language and the separating mindset, in coping with the perception of new concepts of self in relation to the so-called environment and also to time.

Namely, grasping dynamics of interrelatedness, constant flow, or things happening all at once, is tricky with a basically linear language, arranging the world in subjects and objects, and regarding life from a largely materialistic and mechanistic perspective.

For a new way of seeing and being, new vocabulary is needed, if not new ways of structuring language.
And new vocabulary, new patterns and forms will manifest at some point.
Albeit, more adequate ways are to be found since thousands of years in non-western cultures.

I would think that there are numerous placeholders around right now, needing and deserving new terms and concepts in order to be acknowledged and embedded socially, however, we do not seem to be there yet.

There are no structures and no concepts in place, that would support this different way of being and operating, allowing these sensibilities to actually be contributing in apparently meaningful ways.

Hence, many question their disposition and sensations, and, due to the overwhelming demands, judgements, and the social pressure surrounding them, they try to fit in, struggle or disappear.

I would like to think that this text is for them.
May it find them in one way or another, and may it be of affirming company.

Oslo 2016

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_The Accumulation of Knowledge and/as Lightning
Considerations before entering the world of archives as we know it

A complementary text to an artistic research project on Archives and Creative Practice
MLitt Fine Art Practice and Performance, Glasgow School of Art, 2019/2020

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We have no end of information to hand.
What we lack is a narrative, one that makes deep sense to us, that allows each one of us to sort the relevant from the irrelevant in our lives.
We need a metanarrative that will guide those who feel lost and those who want to work toward a future other than the bleak one now before us.

-Barry Lopez

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When encountering the world of archives in more depth due to a course at Glasgow School of Arts, I met an intuitive response that at first-hand I was not able to put into words.
Consequently, I experimented by expressing vague ideas in a discussion and examined how things might fit together or what kind of more tangible information would emerge.
I worked with the feedback I received, just as I kept listening to information which further inquiry and exposure to my original sensations provided.
I came to the conclusion that it was not the archive per se that irritated me, on the contrary, I found it rather fascinating, but that the irritation was more caused by the way it seemed to be being regarded, approached and used.

One key in formulating my sensation was a story Francis McKee, director of the Center for Contemporary Art Glasgow shared, and which he mentions in his essay ‘The strange vitality of wreckage’.

He stated that fires are major and significant incidents for archives and that the impact of the destruction at same time makes room for the new.
He quoted people feeling excitement and a sense of freedom after the Blitz in London which destroyed a big part of the National Archive.

This to me brought forth the notion of a forest, a mature and highly sophisticated ecosystem, that, once it has reached a certain complexity, while containing a wealth of stored information and patterns, is prone to being destroyed by a fire or some other incident supporting the notion of regeneration.

It was the part of the knowledge about the value of emptiness, that I had missed in the approach to archives and which sparked further inquiry and questioning.

The fascination with and the dedication to stories and research, or to the truthful reconstruction of history often seemed to obscure the fact that ‘not knowing’ is necessary for knowledge to appear, that it is intrinsically linked to the phenomenon of knowledge – an analogue and actual embodiment of this point can be found in deep sleep and being ‘unconscious’ constituting a vital and intrinsic part of human experience.

It is thus the awareness of the state in which there is no knowledge, no concrete data, no memory, that I felt inclined to point at and examine, its acknowledgement being as valuable as the stories and information that may be recorded.

In fact, the comprehension of it seems necessary for an integrated understanding of the wold.

A part of this understanding is the realization and acceptance of the ephemeral nature of all phenomena. All that appears has to disappear.

While further inquiring into various ways of passing on knowledge and preserving information, I stumbled upon the Diamond Sutra, one of the fundamental Buddhist sutras of the Mahayana branch, as the earliest complete survival of a dated, printed book.

I had already been familiar with this ancient text due to the profound poetics of its sutras.

It turned out that the frontispiece of the mentioned Chinese Diamond Sutra is stored in the British Library in London.
Consequently, next to the reason for a visit at the British Library, it became sort of a central piece of my reflections.

One of its most famous quotes reads as follows:

So I say to you –
This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.

Another quote from the sutra would be:

In a place where there is something that can distinguished by signs, in that place there is deception.
If you can see the signless nature of signs, then you can see the Tathagata.

Apart from the radical and profound insight of these phrases, I was interested how they would relate to the notion of archiving and the institution of archives.
Obviously, terms like ‘information’ or ‘history’ may suddenly be understood as mere conventions that are being agreed upon.
The same thing happens with the notion of objectifying events or processes or perceived ‘entities’, namely the self and the other.

Again, in my understanding, the inquiry of these points may contribute significantly to an integrated understanding of the world, as well as to the comprehension of preserving and passing on of various types of knowledge.

_Archives and Anthropocentrism

My research on this project also brought up questions about the effects of an anthropocentric and 'Western' approach to archives or archiveable material, as well as on adequate and sustainable ways of archiving in a cultural context.

Due to a perceived urgency, and referring to Barry Lopez’ quote of the need for a meta-narrative for these times, I would like to continue with the Buddhist approach to life as one alternative to the current prevailing belief system, and introduce three fundamental pillars that serve as guidelines and support in Buddhist teachings.

These are:

‘Right vision’ – describing an outlook on life achieved through personal inquiry into the nature of the self and phenomena, as well as into the concepts and philosophy of Buddhism.
‘Right practice’ – the inquiry into, the learning and application of meditation practices.
‘Right conduct’ – the putting in practice and application of insights, of Buddhist principles, virtues and understanding in everyday life and in relationship to what surrounds you.

A life lived by Buddhist teachings basically intends to serve the well-being of all beings, based on a knowledge of interconnectivity and interdependence.

This leads me to the following questions:

What if the understanding and application of the three Buddhist principles would determine what is worth to be archived and in which way it would be archived?

What if the culture maintaining an archive had a biocentric or integrative approach to life?

What would that look like?

What would be found in and what would be the nature of such archives?

What would be the nature or different ways of knowledge transfer in such a culture?

Surely these are big and fundamental questions, but should not fundamental questions be asked in times of fundamental crisis?

I will close this commentary with a quote from a scientific paper on the role of forest fires by ecologist Rob Wiener from Michigan State University, leaving any further interpretations or associations to the reader:

‘…Fire is a natural part of many forest ecosystems, occurring in regular intervals that vary depending on the forest type, forest understory, climate, soil type, and other factors.
Natural forest fires are typically started by lightning during the warm and dry seasons, which range from the snowmelt period in spring through the fall.
Historically, since these lightning-caused fires occurred at regular intervals, they were successful in clearing out old, dead, and/or decaying vegetation bit by bit.
Old vegetation was continually being recycled into new growth.
When these types of fires are suppressed, the result is a build-up of fuel.
Over a period of years, more and more fuel accumulates, setting the stage for a catastrophic event …’

Glasgow, 2019

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_Art, Ecology & Education – An enquiry of connections (2006)

_What does art have to do with ecology?

Ecology could be described as the science of the correlations between organisms and their seemingly non-living environment, through which life evolves continually.
And to me, one purpose of art would be, if you then wish to instrumentalize it, to feel connected to life and its processes.

_How can I imagine a connection between art, ecology and education?

These areas are linked already.
The question is how far we realize that or are conscious of that.
The process that creates art, ecology and education is the same.
Nature, and respectively the perceived ongoing development of life is based on patterns, which can be expressed through art and thus may be realized. The artistic process offers tools of communication, exchange and self-experience and is thus a tool of education.
Art, ecology and education are manifestations and expressions of life and natural processes.
Through conscious linking of these areas we have the possibility to realize that.
Herein lies the potential for innovation, for a better quality of life and for intuitive environment protection.

_This is all too complicated for me. Is there an easier way to get this?

The easiest way to find access to all this is to confront yourself with nature and artistic activities in your own life.
An access to nature could be your own or a community garden, the creation of a little balcony- or windowsill-garden or more frequent visits in parks.
Artistic activities range from dancing, singing or making music to drawing and painting. You name it.
Through active participation in natural, creative processes and through observation so much knowledge and understanding is being communicated by itself and in an individual way. Thus a consciousness develops which is also being transferred into other areas of life.

_What signifies an ‘integrated worldview’?

To perceive the world in an integrated way means to be conscious that everything is in connection with everything.
The same processes and patterns are to be found on any level.
Man experiences himself as embedded in the network of life and is thus a part of and dependent from the earth, which functions as a living system, a living organism.
This understanding of being an integral part of the whole can be comprehended intellectually, as well as intuitively.
I consider it important to investigate these two aspects of understanding, if we want to learn how to live sustainably. – Which, in a few generations, will have a much more obvious impact and urgency.
An intuitive, immediate comprehension that there is no separation between ‘myself’ and ‘the environment’ might or might not happen. Nobody can be taught intuition. I can only transmit to listen carefully.
In any case, it surely helps to realize that our conscious thinking is limited and that it is not possible for our intellectual understanding to grasp the complexity of life.
If an intuitive understanding is not given, it was and is up to stories and myths, as well as certain ‘rules of the game’ to communicate an integrated worldview and coherent ways of behaviour and practice.

_What do the terms anthropocentric and biocentric mean?

Anthropocentric means that man perceives himself, his needs and aspirations as the most important there is. He puts these before the needs of animals or plants, of areas or landscapes. It can be seen as a point of view that serves man before all else.
Biocentrism describes a way of perceiving in which the well-being of the Earth as a whole comes before all. Man serves the Earth. Nature and man are not being separated. There is only a totality, and thus there is an understanding of ‘family and relationships’ that includes humans, animals, plants, mountains, rivers.

_What would be an integrated way of life?

First of all it would mean that everything in my life is being realized as interconnected and interdependent.
It would mean that I do not identify with my living situation, my thinking or my emotions, but that I understand all of this as manifestations of dynamic processes. ‘I’, in that sense, do not exist, ‘I’ am life itself.
Out of this understanding an integrated way of life will emerge.

_What is a sustainable community?

Sustainable communities at their basis are aware that change is a core principle of the world, and they live and act accordingly. They are alert and know how to listen. And they strive to fulfill their needs and realize their objectives without limiting the chances and possibilities of future generations.
They thus work for the whole. Not for personal interest, profit or so-called progress.
They integrate the understanding of interdependence and interconnectivity with the surrounding ecosystem.

_I live in a city. What kind of possibilities are there to live in a more ecologically conscious way?

There are many opportunities. In a city most of them are connected to our consumer behaviour, since here most of the time we are dependent on getting things like food, clothes and energy from ‘the outside’. But there are also a lot of possibilities to become more independent and live in a more ecological way, which we can create ourselves.
It is very important to realize that no matter where we live, we are embedded in the processes of nature and have an effect on them and that thus, the action of every one of us will have an influence.
City and nature are not separate.
We humans and our cities are living parts of nature and completely dependent on her.
But often we first have to reestablish a connection to natural processes and pay attention to them, to be able to realize that.
Then, with time, adequate actions will occur. Also these actions might vary in their radicality.
I would not tell anyone how to live. But I sense that, in a natural way, I speak for and protect what I perceive and love as wonderful, mysterious and alive.

Berlin 2006

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_Declaration of Cultural Revolutionaries
Text accompanying a project conceived in Berlin in 2006, more info on the website (Projects)

Cultural revolutionaries of Western thinking…

_regard themselves as equal to all life forms
_know that life is too complex to understand it intellectually
_value interdependence, since they know that nothing is separate
_build and support local, self-governed economies
_value and safe-guard diversity of all kind
_love and support children unconditionally
_know about ecological principles and integrate them into their lives
_see music and dance as an integral part of their expression and communication
_live on an animate earth and regard it as sacred
_know how to grow their own food
_know how to listen
_appreciate their sensory awareness
_celebrate life
_cooperate
_make the shift from thinking ‚either, or‘ to thinking ‚as well, as‘
_share their knowledge
_understand and integrate process as a way of being
_are not identified with their body, thoughts or emotions
_are not identified with any social tag, their past or their future
_are aware that the very essence of who they are is life itself
_turn from dependent consumers to responsible producers
_value and integrate the wisdom of women
_value and integrate the wisdom of indigenous cultures
_value generalist knowledge
_work towards diversification and decentralization
_are looking for ways so that their interests and talents may unfold
_have the courage to resist and disobey laws that render self-rule, self-provisioning, and self-sustenance illegal
_have the courage to protect and defend their natural environment
_are informed about the current money system and identify it as a contemporary form of enslavement
_identify and boycott biological, cultural, social and philosophical monocultures
_boycott monopolies of any kind
_value environmental and human ethics over profit maximization
_boycott corporations and banks operating for profit maximization
_reclaim land and forests as common good
_reclaim water as common good
_reclaim biodiversity and knowledge as common good
_are aware that they participate in the process of co-creation at all time
_question everyone who promotes one solution

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_Mountains and Rivers are Speaking / Poetry

Big old tree
You and I
What strange words are these

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A little cricket
It appears here, it appears there

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Does the sea make sense?

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Since years and years
A passerby
Just someone you sit next to on the train
A face you might noticed through the window of the bakery

The blackbird turning over the leaves

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The road is a refuge
for nature lovers
for those without means or land
for those who want to live freely
and according to their own nature

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As long as you see me
A spark
When I am gone
Yourself

(2016)