thank you Brian!
this is a powerful nutrient!

On Thu, Aug 18, 2022 at 9:02 PM Brian Holmes <>

> At night on the Parana, the stars still shine. The boatman cuts the motor;
> we drift silently under the light of a full moon. This is the end of a four
> thousand kilometer-long river, it's the "Delta front." The low islands to
> the east extend fingers of land into the Rio del Plata estuary, and those
> forested fingers grow about 70 meters longer every year, catching the last
> of the sediments carried from the Andes and the Brazilian jungle. To the
> southwest, the lights of Buenos Aires glitter on the horizon. Someday in
> the future - quite soon, in geological time - the Delta front will reach
> the city. Every month it's six meters closer. The mutability of this
> territory makes my head spin. The stars, the moon, the lights, the islands
> and the uncanny mirror of the river all come together like a wheel spinning
> weightlessly in infinite space, or maybe it's a whirlpool, a cosmic gyre. A
> homegrown joint makes its way from hand to hand, through the calm of a
> winter night that is windless by good luck, and warm by devastating climate
> change. The journey is well underway.
> With Alejandro Meitin of Casa Rio we're making tactical media in the
> wetlands, along a meandering path that leads from Punta Lara, south of
> Buenos Aires, all the way north through the Pampa and the arid reaches of
> the Grand Chaco to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. I wrote the paragraph
> above a week ago; now we're at the halfway point. Our aim is to reach out
> to riverside communities and build ecological awareness, while also helping
> to accelerate the process of information-sharing among a network of
> ecological NGOs called "Humedales sin fronteras" or Wetlands Without
> Borders, whose member organizations are located in Argentina, Paraguay,
> Bolivia and Brazil. My contribution as an artist-cartographer is an online
> map and multimedia platform that can display text, scientific information,
> photography, video, audio and social networks (it's FLOSS, built by Majk
> Shkurti to my specs, see info below). The color scheme and iconography of
> the map has been designed by Dani Lorenzo of Casa Rio, and most of the
> videos you'll find inside were done by Andres Irigoyen. Lots of others are
> involved, it would be long to list every one of them. As for Alejandro
> Meitin, he's an artist, lawyer, environmental activist and
> jack-of-all-trades who's been doing this kind of thing for thirty years,
> first with the artists' group Ala Plastica, and now with the broader
> community-based constellation of Casa Rio. We've taken similar journeys
> before, stretching back to 2014 when Critical Art Ensemble generously
> invited me to come along to Argentina for a roving seminar organized by Ala
> Plastica under the name "Watersheds as Laboratories of Governance." In 2019
> we brought an exhibition called "The Earth Will Not Abide" from Chicago to
> the riverport city of Rosario, and Casa Rio published quite a beautiful
> book with that material. Now we're in full-on activist mode, meeting
> network members all along the river, pushing for a Wetlands Law in
> Argentina, for a halt to dredging, sand extraction and dam-building, and
> for the development, from below, of what we are calling "Biocultural
> Corridors."
> The notion of bioculturalism is grasped intuitively by all the people we
> meet: It refers to the changes in orientation and behavior that arise when
> human beings begin to see and feel themselves as participants in a web of
> ecological relations, such that "an injury to one is an injury to all" -
> whether it's insect, plant, animal or homo sapiens. The corridor part is
> somewhat trickier. Many are aware of biological corridors, which are
> designed by conservation specialists as safe passageways between small
> islands of habitat which, on their own, are insufficient to sustain bird
> and animal populations that range widely across the changing seasons.
> Biocultural corridors, however, are not planned or instituted by experts.
> They arise in areas where groups of people who might be engaged in
> agroecological farming, traditional crafts such as willow weaving,
> small-scale fishing, land defence and indigenous lifeways all come together
> in mutual recognition and support, building the consciousness of what might
> someday become truly sustainable productive practices. Like the
> Bioregionalists of North America in the 1970s, we are inviting communities
> to use our map in order to draw and describe the components of their own
> biocultural corridors, which someday, we hope, will extend all the way up
> and down the great uninterrupted fluvial corridor reaching from the
> headwaters of the Brazilian and Bolivian Pantanal down to the Rio del Plata
> estuary. For once, we're not necessarily kidding ourselves. Ideas based on
> grassroots solidarity spread rapidly in Latin America. All along the vast
> Parana Delta in Argentina you can see walls painted with the slogan "Pass
> the Wetlands Law already!" (It's a bit more terse in Spanish: "Ley de
> Humedales Ya!"). We are also promoting the idea of biocultural festivals,
> where people can share and celebrate the changes that they are making right
> now, in their own environments with their own hands. The fact is, many of
> the people we meet are already doing something similar under other names,
> so this transformation is definitely happening.
> The reception of the mapping project is overwhelmingly positive. There may
> be a bit of initial suspicion and resistance toward a Yanqui with a magic
> box, but Alejandro speaks very convincingly and people get it: This is
> sophisticated technology that can be seized by grassroots groups and used
> in political struggles as well as popular education processes, in the face
> of complex problems where all the legitimate expertise is typically on the
> other side. The editing tools developed by Majk Shkurti make it possible to
> place points and draw lines or polygons with ease, and then fill out a data
> template that yields structured text and audiovisual content - stuff that
> young people can learn in an afternoon. It's GIS on the easy and the cheap,
> it can transmit knowledge and enthusiasm, and it can be put to political
> work when it's time to stand up against municipal councils, provincial
> governments and national legislatures. The idea this time is not just to
> get spontaneous contributions from individuals - because we've already done
> that in an earlier mapping project that's still being filled out, mainly
> with denunciations of abuse. Instead, before they start drawing on the map,
> we are asking existing community groups to engage in some collective
> reflection about Casa Rio's three basic questions: Who designs the
> territory? For whom is it designed? And what would a collaborative design
> of territories look like? This is how the "laboratory of governance" idea
> becomes a full-fledged social experiment.
> Just two days ago I met an old fisherman who in the early 1990s had played
> a decisive role in stopping a US-backed dam project, with no resources
> except a good friend, a canoe and a pile of photocopied flyers. A regional
> hero, exactly my kind of hero. He, too, seemed a little suspicious at
> first. As a media maker I was profoundly moved when he later came up to me
> and told me how vital our work would be to the educational project and
> wetlands observatory that he's now coordinating with a local social
> movement. What they've already done is to convince the city (it's actually
> called Parana city) to pay for a bunch of wood, and then in three months
> time the movement built a dock on a small island, a welcome center and an
> elevated boardwalk about half a kilometer long through the swamp, where
> they bring boatloads of schoolkids who live right next to the river and
> have no contact with the water or the islands. Next they want to put their
> interpretation center in the middle of a huge wetland on the city's edge,
> which without a watchful eye is likely to be taken over illegally by gated
> communities, factories or other profitable enterprises. You can imagine
> they have a different interpretation of what this land is good for! These
> are people who know their environment through generations of intimate
> experience - and today that's something many others want to learn. With any
> luck, we're about to discover a whole lot of local knowledge taking form
> inside our magic box, and being shared along the entire wetlands corridor.
> Today's environmental conditions are helping with this good reception -
> unfortunately. In the context of a three-year drought and the arrival of
> increasingly large herds of cattle, the traditional islander practice of
> burning dry winter brush to stimulate the growth of fresh spring grass has
> morphed into an emergency situation of uncontrolled fires in the Delta,
> choking populations in urban centers with heavy smoke and even causing
> freeway pileups due to loss of visibility. For two years in a row, while
> lockdowns and pandemic anxiety reigned, a plunge in water levels revealed
> vast sandy deserts where the Parana once flowed, causing many to fear that
> the river would never come back again (thankfully it did this year). Sure,
> it's always hard to attribute local phenomena to climate change - but the
> best Brazilian science says that the atmospheric rivers arising from the
> evapotranspiration of the Amazon jungle (aka flying rivers, "rios
> voladores") are now drying up due to massive deforestation, leading to a
> loss of rainfall at the headwaters of the Parana, way up there in the (for
> me) mythical Pantanal wetlands. At the same time, it's well known by
> everyone in the region that over a mere thirty years, industrial
> monocropping (aka GMO soybeans doused in Round-Up) has devastated the
> ecology of South America at continental scale, ruining entire drainages,
> pushing cattle from bulldozed pastures into the wetlands, and provoking all
> the above-mentioned disasters, at least as far as we can tell - with a big
> push from rising CO2 levels, for sure. Now, horror of all horrors, the
> government of Paraguay is calling on the US Army Corps of Engineers for
> "help" in managing the Paraguay river, which is the major tributary of the
> Parana, directly connected to the Pantanal headwaters. In case you don't
> know, the Army Corps are the folks who destroyed the ecology of the
> Mississippi river system with a straightjacket of dams and levees. Along
> with the oil industry, the Corps is responsible for most of the land-loss
> crisis in Louisiana - not to mention what happened to the Columbia River,
> etc. Common people don't need the kind of "help" such agencies bring.
> To increase awareness and spread more precise knowledge of all these
> converging dangers, we have given our map of biological corridors a dark
> side, which is a topology of the extractive corridors that are threatening
> the Paraguay-Parana watershed. Here, instead of lush organic green
> traversed by mud-brown water, what you see is a dessicated cinder, like the
> leftover coals of some immense and gruesome barbecue - the frightful, yet
> increasingly predictable and literal culmination of the centuries-old
> colonial process. We focus on the heavily dredged Hidrovia, or Water
> Highway, which is what the transnational capitalist groups see when they
> look at the Paraguay-Parana River. IIRSA, which is the South American
> banking complex behind the design of the Hidrovia, has for decades wanted
> to extend their favorite transnational canal all the way to Amazonas and
> beyond. What Eduardo Galleano called the "Open Veins of Latin America" are
> in fact the waterways, which the European colonists used to carry away the
> treasures of the continent, resulting in the denomination of the Parana
> watershed as the "Plate Basin" or Silver Basin - the Moneyshed, you might
> as well say. Well, the only thing that has changed is that the major cargo
> is now GMO soybeans, and the chief destination of the ships is China,
> followed closely by the EU of course. What Marx once called the "metabolic
> rift" between the city and the country has now opened up between South
> America and Eurasia. It's a process of alienation in every sense of the
> word, at the largest possible scale. There is a tremendous amount to be
> learned about all this, and we are currently multiplying our research
> collaborations into the global political economy of extractivism, while
> also engaging discussions about how to bring the many specialized reports
> authored by members of Wetlands Without Borders onto our more popular and
> intuitive map of extractive corridors. The whole project is a work in
> progress with lots of gaps and question marks, but it's live on the net
> right now, and I expect it to remain under active development for the next
> couple years.
> Life does not happen elsewhere, in some ideal garden to which you could
> escape on vacation. Life happens right here and now, in a double world with
> an inhuman and more-than-human face. I have always felt most alive amid the
> struggles of this double world, in collaboration with all kinds of people,
> of all races and classes and stations and professions, whenever and
> wherever they are finding their own ways of resisting alienation and
> contributing to a better life - some soft and affective, some local and
> productive, some political and confrontational, or even better, political
> and constructive. We live in a time when the so-called middle classes are
> finally realizing that their seemingly higher station - their literally
> higher ground, in river terms - will not protect them. The storms, floods,
> droughts and fires of global ecological change are coming for them, or
> rather, for *us*, as I'd put it from my own middle-class position. The big
> question is this: Do the middle classes - including industrial workers
> attached to states and large corporations - go fascist under the pressure
> of rising threats to their old lifestyles and identities, or can we find
> shareable biocultural pathways toward reparative socio-ecological worlds,
> and through collaboration with other classes and cultures and races, create
> neo-ecosystems that can ramp down the causes and mitigate the effects of
> climate change? Please don't explain to me that such a swerve away from
> ruling norms is impossible, due to human nature or economic law or
> historical destiny or some other bullshit, because such self-serving
> explanations have long been part of the problem. For a metamorphosis to
> occur, everyone has to bring their own skills and dreams into play somehow
> - preferably right now, because tomorrow is always a little hotter.
> Therefore my dear friends, here I am in South America with some good old
> tactical media.
> All the best from -
> Brian
> ***
> Corridors Map:
> Casa Rio:
> Humedales sin fronteras:
> Project repo:
> Installation guide:
> The Earth Will Not Abide:
> (Feel free to contact me if you want some tips about deployment and use of
> the software)
> --
> You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups
> "DeepTimeChicago" group.
> To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an
> email to
> To view this discussion on the web visit
> <>
> .

Claire Pentecost (she, her)
Professor, Department of Photography
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
I acknowledge and honor the original peoples of the Chicagoland area – the
Three Fires Confederacy, Potawatomi, Odawa and Ojibwe Nations, as well as
other Tribal Nations that know this area as their ancestral homeland,
including the Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Miami, Peoria, and Sac and Fox.
#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact:
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject:

Reply via email to