Author Archives: marinazurkow

How to Interview an Ocean

Taking this inspired approach, How to Interview a Plant and wondering how to consider interviewing an ocean (the author on plants writes “I began worrying I wasn’t paying enough attention to the plants and that I would only end up analyzing representations.”)


Broadsheet themes / 18 artists on “Resilience”

Can we begin thinking about a broadsheet theme that could unify our work? Open enough, but a punchy word or sort phrase (and maybe even a hopeful one)?

Some starting thoughts:
Resilience, Bounce, Nimbleness, Flex, Rise, Wake, Buoyant, Unsinkable, Lifebuoy

Climate change is boring

Climate Change – the term doesn’t elicit much feeling. It’s not our word or phrase, it’s not vivid, personal or very active. I am wondering about how we can propagate a heterogeneous list of words for ourselves (or perhaps publics) that have more velocity and meaning: large-scale hyper-words, and intimate ones.

Two things about words, names, and connection-making:

Robert MacFarlane’s book Landmarks

And philosopher Glenn Albrecht’s hybrid term solastalgia, which I came across in the Guardian essay, Generation Anthropocene

SOLASTALGIA: a combination of the Latin word solacium (comfort) and the Greek root –algia (pain).

 As opposed to nostalgia — the melancholia or distress experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home (A.K.A. homesickness) — “solastalgia” is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment.

MacFarlane’s book is about the loss of regional or locally specific language to describe landscape and climate phenomena. He claims this loss has grossly facilitated our disconnection from our landscapes. A few key quotes:

(In the 2007) edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words introduced to the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.

A common language – a language of the commons – is getting rarer. And what is lost along with this literacy is something precious: a kind of word magic, the power that certain terms possess to enchant our relations with nature and place.

The variant English terms for ‘icicle’ – aquabob (Kent), clinkerbell and daggler (Wessex), cancervell (Exmoor), ickle (Yorkshire), tankle (Durham), shuckle (Cumbria) – form a tinkling poem of their own.

‘Language is fossil poetry,’ wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1844, ‘[a]s the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin.

Nature is not now, nor has ever been, a pure category. We inhabit a post-pastoral terrain, full of modification and compromise: this is why the glossaries contain plenty of unnatural language, such as terms from coastal sea-defences (pillbox, bulwark, rock-armour) that register threats both from the sea and of the sea, or soft estate, the Highways Agency term for those natural habitats that exist along the verges of motorways and trunk roads.

In The History of the Countryside (1986), the great botanist Oliver Rackham describes four ways in which ‘landscape is lost’: through the loss of beauty, the loss of freedom, the loss of wildlife and vegetation, and the loss of meaning. I admire the way that aesthetics, human experience, ecology and semantics are given parity in his list. Of these losses the last is hardest to measure. But it is clear that there is now less need to know in detail the terrains beyond our towns and cities, unless our relationships with them are in some way professionally or recreationally specialized. 

To celebrate the lexis of landscape is not nostalgic, but urgent. ‘People exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love,’ writes the American essayist and farmer Wendell Berry, ‘and to defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know.’

Greetings from 35,000 feet

Hello all, I’m taking Glenn up on his prompt to share what we’ve been doing.

I really look forward to getting to know you all, and to finding out about your practices, and learning.

I’ve been making the most of a precious sabbatical from ITP (Tisch / NYU).
The irony is not lost on me (and you no doubt) that I am in a plane writing this post. I’ve tried to consolidate my trips, and as a result have had what looks like a crazy schedule. But it leads me back to NYC all summer, and somehow, that feels really exciting, to be home, near the noise, the backyard, the CSA, and the superfund site.

This spring I  opened a show titled More&More, at bitforms gallery, NY, that explored the oceans as a Pangaea of capital, a huge superhighway of container ships dominated by a sea of code. It opened on Valentine’s Day – where we appropriately served bite-sized global export products, rendered in gray chocolate and soap.

I guess I’m going to talk mostly about food projects in this post, though I also do other things (animation, book and print projects, sculpture).

This month I was in residence at Rice University’s Center for Energy in the Humanities (CEHNS), partly to install a previous collaborative work called Dear Climate (created with Una Chaudhuri, Fritz Ertl and Oliver Kellhammer), and to do R&D on jellyfish, their relation to climate and anthropogenic change, and their remarkable status as predators in deep and ancient seas.

I am developing a set of public art projects around the idea of eating climate change, under a ‘fake’ (I’m not sure if it’s fake or real yet) brand called Making the Best of It: Signal Foods for Climate Chaos.

Towards this project, three chefs in Houston – Ryan Pera, Justin Yu and Ian Levy – put their considerable talents toward creating jellyfish shelf-stable snacks – things like jerky, instant soup packets, and jelly beans.

If you’re into jellyfish look at the work of Juli Berwald; her book Spineless will be out next year. She’s been an indispensible and very generous comrade. And check out the cannonball jellyfish fishery in Georgia. They have a decent-sized processing plant, sending jellies to the Asian markets.

Right now I’m on a flight from IAH to MPL, to a week of brainstorming and design workshops in Minneapolis with collaborators food systems activist, geographer and artist Valentine Cadieux, architect Aaron Marx, and social practice artist and producer Sarah Petersen. While it’s a weird (uncomfortable, convenient, less carbon intensive) gift to be able to work remotely, it is nothing like face to face. I’ve only met 1/2 of the team in person, and we’ve been working since January.

Here’s our most recent project description:

Making the Best of It: Dandelion is a year-long series of site-specific pop up food refuges and community dinners that will span Northern Spark16-17. The project features climate-change enabled (and often unwanted) edible indicator species, in order to engage publics in tastings and conversation about the risks of climate chaos, our business-as-usual food system, and the short-term food innovations at our disposal.

Making the Best of It: Dandelion elected as its poster child the humble dandelion, Taraxacum officinale. Abundant, nutritious, adorable, symbolic, and disliked by lawn-owners, this invasive plant offers a model of eating and thinking about human and interspecies well-being on a variety of levels. It is highly adaptable, does well in disturbed ecosystems, and is of significant interest to a variety of species, from bees to our gut microbiome. In addition, its anatomical response to different environmental conditions makes it an interesting guide for exploring the complexity of climate instability.

At Northern Spark 2016, a custom pop-up ‘refuge’ will offer free servings of dandelion, in food and beverage forms, and accompanied by a graphical system of information, provocations, and recipes.


And on that note… can’t wait to meet you all F2F.