Finding Beauty and Connection, in Decay and Destruction

In June this year I’m heading out to Cleveland in the US to stay and work with a dear friend and collaborator, the artist Kathy Skerritt. I very nearly cancelled my trip to visit Kathy, as I have decided to stop flying, but we have come to an agreement that we will use our time together to deepen and develop our collaborative practice, focusing in particular on the grief and despair we both feel in the face of Climate Breakdown and Ecological Collapse, and use that to kickstart a longer term process.

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Kathy Skerritt – Detail from work in progress; working title “Where The Beautiful Begins And Ends (Even Now, Here, In The Fading Light Of Humankind)”

I’ve written a little about my relationship with Climate Breakdown before, and don’t want to go into too much depth here, except to say that it causes me real and daily anxiety. My son is asking me to do everything I can to stop the world getting hotter. If we feel unable to do it for ourselves and for the other beings that we share our world with, surely we can act to lessen the impact on our children? The impact on my son’s life and that of other 7 year olds around the world, is likely to be huge.

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James Aldridge – Composted Bodies (vintage imagery of the human body, after composting for several weeks)

So, Kathy and I have recently begun conversations via Twitter (@JamesAldridge4 and @KathySkerritt) and Skype as to how and what we want to explore together this time. Kathy has visited me before, and we have made collaborative work previously, under the name Blank Twins, as a trio of artists with the late Chris Seeley.

A recent Tweet of Kathy’s –

“Why, I wonder, is an apocalyptic landscape so evocative & even inviting to me? It feels strangely familiar, as though my cells & the hidden internal landscapes they traverse inherently know the end-times design & serve as encoded artifacts of an embodied, darker beauty…”

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Kathy Skerritt – “They Could Not Breathe The Dark Air Anymore And So Were Forced To Leave Their Bodies Behind”

Like Kathy, one of the things I want to explore is the beauty in decay and destruction. As I said to Kathy in a recent brief message on Twitter –

I am more interested these days than I used to be in decay, in seeing the organic in the man-made as the structures and the straight lines break down… glimpsing the unity beyond the learnt ways of perceiving.”

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James Aldridge – Composted Bodies (Reverse)

There are going to be enormous changes in ecology and society over the coming decades, some forced, some made in anticipation of what’s to come, a breakdown of structures and cultures that are not sustainable. This relates to my own thinking around going Beyond the Binary, and my work with Karen Wood in Urban Rural Exchange, as well as my participatory work exploring artful ways of knowing and living, giving a voice to people’s encounters with the more than human world world.

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James Aldridge – Experiments with Composting (luggage tags and vintage natural history imagery after being composted for several weeks)

As the destruction continues, and the world shifts, with the lines between human and earth becoming impossible to hang on to perceptually, I want to  value the beauty of a blurring of the boundaries, and to consider what a Post Human world might look like. Not Post Human as in a post apocalyptic world where we don’t exist at all (I need to hang on to some hope), or in the sense of a shiny science-fiction future where robots and computers are going to make us all obselete in the workplace, but one where we have deconstructed the barriers to a realisation of our interconnected nature.

Detail: from Composted Bodies by James Aldridge

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