Learning Journal
Fall Semester 2020

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DES // 500 —— Political Ecology

DES // 540 —— Research Studio
DES // 520 —— Agathokakological Tendencies
ART // 520 —— Teaching Artists 

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// Week 2 //

Monday 8/31

Today we continued our work in relation to the Anthropocene. We had guest lecturers Beate Geissler and Ömür Harmanşah speak to us about the work that we will be parsing and working into some form of publication. Som questions posed during the lecture were “how do you do field work on climate change” and “how do artists do field work?”. Ömür made note of the play “Life of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler as well as the book “Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime” by Bruno Latour who also lead a workshop on the Anthropocene at UIC. Following the lecture we discussed the posibility of this publication taking the form of a website and if that makes more sense than a book. I think we landed on keeping both options open as we continue to move forward. It was also thrown out that maybe we keep our own ‘field notes’ while working on this project. Currently that lives as a class owned google doc.

Wednesday 9/2

Notes from Catherine Malabou’s lecture Anthropocene, A New History?
  • Malabou argues that the Anthropocene is happening in our history and also determined by nature and that it is a indecision between nature and history.
  • Blurs the lines between what is cultural and environmental — what is historical and what is natural.
  • Ecology blurs the line of civilization and the environent in a similar way.
  • Deep history as put forth by Dipesh Chakrabarty and Daniel Smail.
  • Chakrabarty’s definition of deep history relies on it being geological while Smail defines deep history as being biological (sepcifically neurobiological). 

Bulleted ideas from Chakrabarty include:
  • The collapse of humanist distinction between natural and human histories and a removal of traditional concepts of history in which it is implied that nature can have no history (there are natural events, not just natual facts).
  • The human being is much larger than a biological agent of the past, and that we are now a geological force that has an effect on all geospheres (lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere).
  • The ecology challenge is beyond a crisis of capitalist managment, and that the soultion will not be a critique of capitalism.
  • We never experience ourselves as a species (no consciousness of self), one never experiences being a concept.
  • Climate change escapes us because it is not intentionally produced, which produces a “stone“ mode of being.
  • Anthropos defined as lithic species that is an anonymous and indifferent subject that appears as a neutral geological force.

Bulleted ideas from Smail include:
  • Bioligy, brain, and behavior as three fundamental concepts to understand deep history.
  • The brain is the in-between zone between biology and behavior.
  • Smail analyzes the legibility of deep histoy by quesitoning what is an archive or a trace. Noting that archives can be things unwritten, they can be natural things.
  • Evdience is often extracted from things that are accidental preservations leading to the notion that history happens to us rather than being made by us.
  • The brain is not entirely genetically programmed/wired but is shaped by relationships with the environment.
  • Smail also notes that the Anthropocene is tied to our addiction to technology.
  • Dispense with the idea that biology gave way to culture with the advance of civilizaiton, rather civilization enabled certain aspects of human biology.
  • Anthropos defined as an addicted subject that is an over affected one, cold as stone (indifferent) and craving.

  • Appeal of human responsibility in relation to the threat of climate change relies on our natural irresponsibility (history happening to us), and that our responsibility is also a responsibility for this specific irresponsibility.
  • We must admit to our natural part in the Anthropocene (geological or neurobiological).
  • We are responsible for the irresponsible passivity in which our deep historical nature puts us.
  • We should embrace an avoidance of bad consciousness and avoidance of guilt in order to summon us to not deny our responsibility, by taking into account our irresponsibility.

Notes from Dipesh Chakrabarty’s The Climate of History: Four Theses : TBD?

Notes from Art in the Anthropocene : TBD?

Notes from Michael Taussig’s Fieldwork Notebooks
  • Pearls and coral – More beautiful when removed from the ocean?
  • Phantom – understanding/ouher aspect. A feeling from putting or reading information in a field notebook
  • Love letter to field notebooks
  • Fetish – romantic/fetishized, fetishized by others that the owners (after owners passing). Notebooks s a commodity vs magical object.
  • Unpacking library – notebooks being a collection
  • Sparks not facts
  • Fieldworkers notebooks are collections of ideas and chance, a vestigial organ designed to catalogue thoughts outside of the mind. Often unintelligible to anyone but the author, notebooks allow us to travel back to a time when the contents of the page ere written if only for a moment. Better if these notes are simple or even abstract. Written quickly as a way of saving a thought or something seen without having to take down the whole idea or sight in detail. “Spontaneous phrases that cannot be repeated, too vague for anything but one’s notebook.” Short-circuit language
  • “Don’t take photographs, draw; photography interferes with seeing, drawing etches it in the mind.”
  • Notebooks aren’t for home, but instead for work — more specifically field work. Diary in the field of strangeness.
  • Design notes for this one! Field notebook of short-circuit language out of the content we were provided? Colletive notebooks?

Notes from Elaine Gan, Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson and Nils Bubandt‘s Haunted Landscapes
  • “The hubris of conquerors and corporations makes it uncertain what we can bequeath to our next generations, human and not human”
  • “Endings come with the death of a leaf, the death of a city, the death of a friendship, the death of small promises and small stories.”
  • Private owners and public officials ask us to forget due to focus on short-term gains by pretending that environmental devastation doesn’t exits. Constant pressure to move forward and grow. Only focused on immediate power and profits.


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// Week 4 //

Monday 9/14

// Discussion of Side Project //
1. Collective publication
  • Group publication 
2. Individual project
  • Relates to the main project but maybe goes in a different direction
  • Comes out of the material/reading of main project
  • Bootleg/B-side that comes out of first project
  • Content and from dictated by us
  • Based on ecology and the anthropocene
  • Can/should inform the publication
  • How to give form to own interests through self initiated projects?  

?? Brainstorm projects for next class ??
  • Bruno Latour Fan-Zine
  • P5.js sketch that shows how the anthropocene works through type?
    • essay on the anthropocene?
    • utilize time element so that the page degrades or reveals over a period of time?
  • processing halftone showing images?
    • become more or less clear?
  • Something that helps us understand what the content that we are working with?
  • Stickers or something to be posted around town that speak to the anthropocene
  • Interviews?
  • Weekly charette
  • Free and open, but should have its own logic/form
  • Leverage AI Dungeon as a method for teaching about the anthropocene?
  • Daily experiments vs something with a final form
  • Constraints?
    • Can we dictate a final form (digital, print, zine, portfolio)
    • Loose weekly prompt? Collective prompt generation?
    • Quick and loose in the vein of the language found in field notebooks
    • Start looser and then try to narrow over time
    • Strict formal constraints, looser conceptual prompts?

// Leticia Bernaus, Stella Brown, and Tamara Becerra Valdez Talk //
  • Paired with a masters or phd student in a different area of study (science, anthropology, etc.)
  • SB — “Anthropogenic moment”
  • TV — Questioning the archive
    • How are we archiving this research and creative output?
    • Can a field notebook be an archive?
    • How can our designed archive be reminiscent of a field notebook?
  • TV — How do we work with these individuals outside of charity and care?
    • horizontal structure
  • LB — Focused on sense of self in relation to the research
    • Video piece
    • How to best translate the video to print?
    • Flip-o-rama?
  • SB — The layers/geology of the Anthropocene
    • Can our publication be layered?
    • Layers of plastic vs natural printing substrates?
    • Coated vs uncoated stock?
  • TV — Exhibition did not tell full story
    • How can we as designers parse the material in order to better tell the full story?
    • Book as translated field notebook?
    • Book as a method of reading through the field work
  • JF — How to formalize excess of material?
    • SB  —  Everyone used a provided field notebook
      • Do we have access to the field notebooks?
      • Can they be used in the publication in some sense?
      • Are there ways for us to compartmentalize the material?
    • TV — Photographs taken by both UIC team and locals
      • Notes taken on coffee receipts, not in notebook
        • What hat does a field notebook actually look like?
        • Does it need to be a notebook or can it be anything that is written on?
      • Friction as how artists participate in the field work, artists not documentarians
    • LB — Did not use camera as a tool for documenting field work but instead focused on wins the camera as a creative tool. Organized digital files based on day and place
      • Can this publication exist as some sort of digital space that mimics a murky digital archive that a viewer can unfold at their own pace?
  • Academic exposition vs art catalog vs else?
    • SB — A artists we able to be plastic/liquid in comparison to the academic folks
    • Academics/scientists were resistant to the art aspect of it
      • Deep mapping
        • making maps multidimensional
          • history of land
          • history of settlers
          • stories of those working the land now
  • SB — art practice and academic works should be integrated
    • Do we include art and essays on left and right pages of spreads?
    • Bruno Latour catalogs as examples
      • http://www.bruno-latour.fr/books_and_edited_volumes.html
      • http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/downloads/RESET-MODERNITY-GB.pdf
      • http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/84-ICONOCLASH-GB.pdf
  • TV — Most interesting part what the info for the work, not the final product
    • Not necessarily interested in photos of the final work for the book
    • maybe the documentary material is a better bet?
      • Is the book focused more on the information and field notes then it is on the art itself?
      • Can we 3D print the text associated with Tamara’s work and then do a rubbing of it to include in the book as a way of documenting the process of their documentation/memory making?
  • LB — How do you show the notion of outsider-ness?
    • Are texts somehow placed within so that the viewer is always an outsider or is somehow more outside than one wold be when interacting with a traditional publication?
    • Are pages printed in reverse so that a viewer would need to read it in a mirror? Does that put someone outside of themself?
    • Inside-outside, outsioutside-inside
  • SB — Does want image of final sculpture in book
    • No geologic record, we are making the layer now
    • this is the anthropocene layer represented as a sculpture
    • No till farming practice
    • Indnddustrial farming practices
    • Focused on stratigraphy
    • Material List is important/should be included

Tuesday 9/15

Started in on publication model research for our Anthropocene group publication today. I am doing my best to think of and look for publications that are in the realm of academic publishing but also maybe operate in the world of art. Also thinking through things like group publications, portfolios as publications as well as multiple small publications housed in a larger publication.


I am also thinking that the Moonstrips Empire News example may be a good way for us to structure our independent/side project. Maybe we could all have the parameters of finding and reading one text on ecology/the anthropocene that we would then turn the concepts from into some sort of visual/poster. These could all be printed with the text (or a portion of it) on one side of the piece and our visualization on the other. At the end of the semester we could combine these into a group portfolio.

Wednesday 9/16

// Class Note Dump //
How do these things fit together globally?
How do we develop specific forms?
Axes of global and local?
How do we organize? Flat horizontal organization?
Dot Dot Dot Journal – http://www.dot-dot-dot.us/
  • Organization based on order of submission
The Serving Library – http://www.servinglibrary.org/
Digital field work of our process/production?
  • Sketching structure?
  • How do we include our own sketches/field work related to understanding the content?
  • What can we add?
Dive into what what content exists
Content mapping vs actual mapping?
  • Deep mapping?
Mentioning/making note of incompleteness
  • known unknowns
Do we have access to a timeline?
  • Is that a way of organizing the book?
  • Can we use timestamps on photos to guide order of content?
Google maps for content?
  • Aerial shots of sites
Layers as inspiration for form
Borders as inspiration for form
Unlikely that we can print full color
  • Likely process colors
  • Likely 2-color (plus all combinations)

?? type studies, focus on typographic basics and typography ??
  • Letter sized sheet format (or html at that size)
  • Focus on same text
  • Typographic semantics
    • Type size
    • headers
    • leading
    • kerning
    • etc
  • Black and white
  • No images
  • No Shapes
  • Everyone work on same text
    • “all have the same breath”
  • Read text and organize a concept
  • Develop and integrate a specific concept through the forms
  • Multiple ways of formalizing the concept
  • Concepts:
    • layering
    • sparks/short fieldwork text
    • engaging localities
    • documentation
    • obscuring information/making clear
    • decay/destruction
    • drought
    • locality/site specific
    • political vs ecological spaces
    • text made from natural artifacts of the actual world
    • geological force
    • breath
    • entanglement
    • obstruction

Saturday 9/19




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