Laura Poitras, Academy Award winning Director of Citizenfourand others at Field of Vision stitched together 200000 Google satellite images to create Best of Luck with the Wall, a video of the US-Mexico border, where the American government proposes to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.
Francis Halsall’s website of gems includes the following note as part of a reflection on the work of Garrett Phelan.
J.A. Baker’s little book, The Peregrine , still has the power to arrest, astonish and unsettle. From autumn to spring in coastal East Anglia the author followed, meticulously, fanatically a pair of peregrine falcons and constructed a bare narrative around the experience. What arrests is the breathless, addictive pursuit of the mark, continuing almost every day, without rest, from October to April. During this time he records 619 kills by the hawks, an ugly figure perhaps, but one that his own quest is in a sort of weird simpatico with. What astonishes are the descriptions which become almost too intense to bear, certainly in a single reading. Landscapes emerge from careful, patient acts of immersive observation. So, during an October evening: “the wet fields exhaled that indefinable autumnal smell, a sour-sweet rich aroma of cheese and beer, nostalgic, pervasive in the heavy air. I heard a dead leaf loosen and drift down to the shining surface of the lane with a light, hard sound;” and on a partridge corpse: “Blood looked black in the dusk, bare bones white as a grin of teeth. A hawk’s kill is like the warm embers of a dying fire.” And what unsettles is the total identification that Baker reaches with both the landscape and the animals…
…Humans will always stumble in the face of the synesthetic and ontological riot of experience because being in the “absolute present” of the world is like hunting a swift, slippery quarry. It seems difficult if not impossible to catch as we can be weighed down with the baggage of culture, history, memory. Phelan’s response is to propose a type of feral phenomenology….
In 2005 David Foster Wallace opened a speech with the following parable:
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
Just like the fish we often can’t see the water we swim in. Phenomena occur at a human scale because they occur in the human world. The challenge is to think beyond these limits; to think of voodoo free phenomenon. To be like an artist perhaps, or even a falcon. (from Francis Halsall).
Recently we have witnessed a media spectacle of old trawlers, their decks impossibly crowded with people. In videos and news images, swimmers clinging to wreckage and drowned bodies are cut with outraged advocates for children and human rights arguing that European values require a greater rescue effort. The BBC shows a coffin marked only as a numbered body being buried. Solicitous news anchors divide up simplistic alternatives and politicians make dramatic proposals to drop bombs (that these will be in crowded civilian areas is not mentioned in the flurry of news-bites). These all contrast with the weighty, steady pressure of migration from countries that have up to 30 times lower per capital GDP than European countries, the imponderable causes and the slow, hidden deliberations that seem determined by bureaucracies focused on neoliberal economics that cannot contemplate expenditures by States on human issues unless forced to.