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Artists of the floating world : rethinking art/sustainability relations in the late days of modernity Maggs, David 2014

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   ARTISTS OF THE FLOATING WORLD: RETHINKING ART-SUSTAINABILITY RELATIONS IN THE LATE DAYS OF MODERNITY   by  David Maggs    B.Mus., The University of British Columbia, 1999 Artist Diploma, Glenn Gould School, Royal Conservatory of Music, 2003 M.Mus., The University of British Columbia, 2005   A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  Doctor of Philosophy in The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (Resource Management and Environmental Studies)   THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) June 2014  © David Maggs, 2014   ii Abstract This research is an attempt to reroute art-sustainability relations through the metaphysical juncture of Modernism’s fading dichotomies, i.e. fact-value, subject-object, culture-nature. For many this relationship has fallen short, particularly in the form of infocentric, instrumental engagements aimed at behaviour change. But if we read sustainability as a problem of worldview and artistic agency as ontological in nature, might something more promising emerge? To explore this, four artists were commissioned to produce work in response to an analysis of sustainability built around Bruno Latour’s ‘Modern Constitution’. The interests were twofold, to investigate the challenge of engaging art’s ‘ontological agency’ in light of prior art-sustainability frustrations; and to explore practical and ontological dimensions of operating ‘beyond’ the dichotomies of Modernity.    The first interest concerns the prescriptive challenge of artistic agency—how do we ‘use’ art? Outcomes include the following explorations: A distinction between art’s behavioral and ontological agencies; a proposed category of ‘artistic ontologists’ to house scholarship aligning ontological agency with aesthetic, expressive, and imaginative priorities; a view of art as ‘double agent’, necessarily ‘of’ and ‘against’ encompassing rationalities; and the argument that a healthy view of art is fundamentally epistemological, a means to learn not teach.   Regarding a ‘post’ Modern or ‘post-normal’ world, this research proposes to shift sustainability from the well-worn challenge to prove the world real to the more perplexing challenge to prove the world imaginary. This entails a shift from ‘substantive’ approaches to sustainability (facts drive values) to ‘procedural’ approaches, where sustainability emerges from the interactions of immanent human and non-human agencies. Practical concerns include structuring emergent dynamics within collective processes and shifting expertise accordingly. Ontological dimensions explore particular ‘qualities of immanence’ that might shape our imaginings in fruitful ways, while pursuing a genuine exit from Modernity nonetheless. Building on Mike Hulme’s arguments, I suggest sustainability in an imaginary world involves ‘flipping the sustainability predicate’, turning a problem we are trying to solve into one that solves us. This engages John Robinson’s work on ‘regenerative sustainability’ by arguing that regenerative approaches may not only be more compelling, but increasingly in line with emerging logics of a post-normal world.     iii Preface Ethics Certificate Number H11-00120 was granted by the UBC Human Research Ethics board for this study.  I developed the theoretical framework and methodology and conducted all the empirical data collection and wrote the manuscript. No elements of this research have been published previous to this presentation. I would like to acknowledge the title of the work is a loose borrowing from Kazuo Ishiguoro’s novel Artist of the Floating World.    iv Table of Contents  Abstract ................................................................................................................................................... ii	  Preface ................................................................................................................................................... iii	  Table of Contents .................................................................................................................................. iv	  List of Tables ......................................................................................................................................... ix	  List of Figures ........................................................................................................................................ x	  Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................................... xi	  Dedication ............................................................................................................................................ xii	  Chapter 1: Art-Sustainability relations in the late days of modernity ..................................................... 1	  1.1	   The right instinct, the wrong invitation? .......................................................................................................... 1	  1.2	   Hypothesis: a quest for better leverage ............................................................................................................ 3	  1.3	   Theoretical reframing: from the informative to the imaginative .................................................................. 5	  1.3.1	   Information Deficit Models and the instrumentalization of art .......................................................... 7	  1.3.1.1	   An enduring faith in knowing better ................................................................................................ 7	  1.3.1.2	   Disenchanting the aesthetic ............................................................................................................... 8	  1.3.2	   Art as ontological reflexivity .................................................................................................................... 11	  1.3.2.1	   A phenomenological view of ontological reflexivity ................................................................... 12	  1.3.2.2	   Heidegger and the ontological agency of art ................................................................................. 14	  1.3.2.2.1	   world/earth tensions ................................................................................................................ 15	  1.3.2.2.2	   Tools vs. Art .............................................................................................................................. 16	  1.3.3	   Raulet’s critique: a scrutiny of agency ..................................................................................................... 19	  1.3.4	   Sustainability in an imaginary world? ...................................................................................................... 21	  1.3.5	   Bruno Latour and the Modern Constitution ......................................................................................... 23	  1.3.5.1	   The dichotomies of Modernity and their relevance to sustainability ........................................ 23	  1.3.5.2	   Map/territory: the collapse of the Modern Constitution ............................................................ 24	  1.3.5.3	   Sustainability as a metaphysical problem: the failings of the IPCC ........................................... 27	  1.3.5.4	   Transcendence vs. Immanence ....................................................................................................... 29	  1.3.5.5	   Adding the imaginary to the Modern; Adding the material to the post-modern .................... 33	  1.3.5.6	   A worldview in our hands? .............................................................................................................. 36	  Chapter 2: Methodology: The Ontological Pursuit .............................................................................. 40	  2.1	   Research context: The Greenest City Conversations ................................................................................... 40	  2.2	   The Double Agent ............................................................................................................................................. 43	  2.3	   From myth to method ...................................................................................................................................... 46	    v 2.4	   Research design .................................................................................................................................................. 50	  2.4.1	   Artist selection ........................................................................................................................................... 51	  2.4.2	   Evaluation methods .................................................................................................................................. 56	  Chapter 3: Listening with Language ..................................................................................................... 61	  3.1	   An artist in the borderlands ............................................................................................................................. 61	  3.2	   The Double Agent: metaphors to unmap the world ................................................................................... 63	  3.3	   Commissioning new work for the Greenest City Conversations .............................................................. 67	  3.3.1	   Thingification: escaping the purgatory of trash .................................................................................... 68	  3.3.2	   Thingamajig: conversations with stick, boots, and chair ........................................................................ 70	  3.3.2.1	   stick ....................................................................................................................................................... 70	  3.3.2.2	   boots ...................................................................................................................................................... 72	  3.3.2.3	   rocking chair .......................................................................................................................................... 74	  3.4	   Conjecture on the making of a metaphor ...................................................................................................... 78	  3.5	   Engaging Thingamajig’s audience ...................................................................................................................... 80	  3.5.1	   Written feedback: love as the unclasping of objectivity ...................................................................... 81	  3.5.2	   Poetry as epistemology: aiming the causal arrow ................................................................................. 82	  3.5.3	   A little dose of causality: ‘Thingifying’ at home .................................................................................... 84	  3.5.4	   The paradox of McKay’s ‘listening with language’ ............................................................................... 84	  3.6	   Two resolutions to McKay’s paradox ............................................................................................................ 92	  Chapter 4: You  Are Very  Star  ............................................................................................................... 95	  4.1	   From private to public: emergent interactivity in immersive, devised theatre ......................................... 95	  4.2	   Collaborative creators: The evolution of a devising company ................................................................... 95	  4.2.1	   Where do plays come from? .................................................................................................................... 96	  4.2.2	   Immanence, interactivity, and an early need for structure .................................................................. 97	  4.2.3	   Collaborative models and the professional artist ............................................................................... 101	  4.3	   Imagining the audience: a historical perspective ........................................................................................ 102	  4.3.1	   Character and audience identification ................................................................................................. 104	  4.3.2	   Giving an audience tools to use ........................................................................................................... 104	  4.3.3	   A Heideggerian distinction .................................................................................................................... 105	  4.3.4	   Substantive emergence: writing for an audience vs. writing with an audience ................................ 106	  4.4	   Immersive theatre: when the wall came down… ...................................................................................... 108	  4.4.1	   Sleep No More: The paragon of the form ............................................................................................. 110	  4.5	   You Are Very Star development process ...................................................................................................... 112	  4.5.1	   Substantive emergence: resolving the inkblot-cougar problem ...................................................... 112	  4.5.2	   Procedural emergence: pushing collaborative creation to new heights ......................................... 113	    vi 4.5.3	   Site-specificity: blackboxes and unpredictable agents ....................................................................... 114	  4.5.4	   A true experiment ................................................................................................................................... 115	  4.5.5	   Emergent processes and the normative, instrumental advantage ................................................... 116	  4.6	   You Are Very Star (brief synopsis) ................................................................................................................ 118	  4.7	   Audience response: life beyond the wall… ................................................................................................ 120	  4.8	   Relearning old lessons? Reflections on an ambitious experiment .......................................................... 125	  4.8.1	   Too much freedom? ............................................................................................................................... 127	  4.8.2	   Or not enough? ....................................................................................................................................... 128	  Chapter 5: Music From Somewhere .................................................................................................... 130	  5.1	   Deeper into the emergent .............................................................................................................................. 130	  5.1.1	   A perplexing result ................................................................................................................................. 131	  5.2	   The rise of Musical Modernism .................................................................................................................... 133	  5.2.1	   The quest for absolute value ................................................................................................................. 134	  5.2.1.1	   Composer as hero .......................................................................................................................... 134	  5.2.1.2	   The emergence of an industry ...................................................................................................... 135	  5.2.1.3	   The imagined audience: social or historical? .............................................................................. 135	  5.2.1.4	   The origin of value? ....................................................................................................................... 137	  5.2.1.5	   Rite of Spring: the paradigm case .................................................................................................... 138	  5.3	   The Zero Hour: music post-World War II ................................................................................................ 139	  5.3.1	   Diverging avant-gardes .......................................................................................................................... 139	  5.3.2	   Similar fates ............................................................................................................................................. 141	  5.3.3	   Inescapable humanity ............................................................................................................................ 143	  5.4	   The total abdication of Giorgio Magnanensi ............................................................................................. 144	  5.4.1	   A deeper immanence ............................................................................................................................. 144	  5.4.2	   Process over product ............................................................................................................................. 145	  5.4.3	   The full embrace ..................................................................................................................................... 146	  5.4.4	   Giorgio’s imagined audience ................................................................................................................. 147	  5.5	   Commissioned work for the GCC: Teatro Dell’udito CIRS ........................................................................ 149	  5.5.1	   Emergent interactivity or grey-green mush? ...................................................................................... 151	  5.6	   Engagement? Interaction? Meaning? Agency? ........................................................................................... 153	  5.6.1	   Emancipating the audience? ................................................................................................................. 154	  5.6.2	   Pattern seekers ........................................................................................................................................ 155	  5.7	   The fully absent expert .................................................................................................................................. 156	  5.7.1	   The ironic absence of emergence ......................................................................................................... 156	  5.7.2	   Misplaced purity ...................................................................................................................................... 158	    vii 5.7.3	   A metaphor for what? ............................................................................................................................ 158	  Chapter 6: The Temple of the Anthopocene ....................................................................................... 160	  6.1	   Buildings or paintings? ................................................................................................................................... 160	  6.2	   A suspicion of collaborative design ............................................................................................................. 161	  6.3	   Capitalism, lifeworlds, architecture, and sustainability .............................................................................. 163	  6.3.1	   Architecture as a ‘model of’ and ‘model for’ the capitalist lifeworld .............................................. 164	  6.3.2	   Designed intervention ............................................................................................................................ 165	  6.3.3	   Culture jamming in the capitalist lifeworld ......................................................................................... 166	  6.4	   Present for forever ......................................................................................................................................... 167	  6.4.1	   Beyond the paradigm ............................................................................................................................. 167	  6.4.2	   Finding the leverage point ..................................................................................................................... 168	  6.5	   The GCC Commission:  A Point Subtracted ................................................................................................. 169	  6.5.1	   Resurrection of the tomb ...................................................................................................................... 169	  6.5.2	   High-tech interactivity ........................................................................................................................... 170	  6.5.3	   The agency of the inanimate ................................................................................................................. 171	  6.6	   A paradox of the sustainable world ............................................................................................................. 175	  6.7	   Logistical difficulties of the double agent ................................................................................................... 176	  6.8	   Sustainability as a hole punched in the Earth? ........................................................................................... 178	  6.8.1	   The semiotics of Spiral Jetty ................................................................................................................... 179	  6.9	   The Temple of the Anthropocene ............................................................................................................... 182	  6.10	   Fruitful disagreements ................................................................................................................................. 185	  Chapter 7: Art, Agency and the Non-Aesthetic .................................................................................. 187	  7.1	   The strife of prescription ............................................................................................................................... 188	  7.2	   Distinguishing agencies: behavioural vs. ontological ................................................................................ 189	  7.2.1	   Ontological agency and the aesthetic priority .................................................................................... 192	  7.2.2	   What the distinction implies ................................................................................................................. 193	  7.3	   Art as double agent ......................................................................................................................................... 194	  7.3.1	   Convincing improvisation ..................................................................................................................... 195	  7.3.2	   Well-built ambivalence .......................................................................................................................... 195	  7.4	   Art as epistemology ........................................................................................................................................ 196	  7.4.1	   Audible resonance .................................................................................................................................. 197	  7.4.2	   Wider echoes ........................................................................................................................................... 199	  7.4.3	   ‘Signal to noise ratios’ ............................................................................................................................ 201	  7.4.4	   The epistemological premise in practice ............................................................................................. 202	  7.4.5	   A metaphysical implication ................................................................................................................... 203	    viii 7.5	   Art as meta-agent: imaginative context vs. concrete particulars ............................................................. 204	  7.6	   A few points of clarification ......................................................................................................................... 207	  7.7	   The right invitation? ....................................................................................................................................... 210	  Chapter 8: In search of the Anthropocene .......................................................................................... 212	  8.1	   A thorny path ahead ....................................................................................................................................... 212	  8.2	   A metaphysics of immanence ....................................................................................................................... 213	  8.2.1	   The end of the old redemption ............................................................................................................ 213	  8.2.2	   Paying the cost ........................................................................................................................................ 214	  8.2.3	   A composite view of construction ....................................................................................................... 215	  8.2.4	   Instauration (encountering beings capable of worrying you) ......................................................................... 218	  8.2.5	   An immanent yet highly porous world? .............................................................................................. 220	  8.3	   Practical outcomes from the research ......................................................................................................... 222	  8.3.1	   The Invisibles of Technology ............................................................................................................... 223	  8.3.2	   The Four-fold path ................................................................................................................................. 225	  8.3.3	   Experts in the non-modern world ....................................................................................................... 230	  8.3.4	   The Innovation-Regurgitation Spectrum ............................................................................................ 236	  8.4	   Art in the Anthropocene ............................................................................................................................... 240	  8.4.1	   Artistic ontologists and their transcendent indulgence? ................................................................... 240	  8.4.2	   Immanence in the Anthropocene ........................................................................................................ 241	  8.4.3	   The ontological status of Steiner’s “presence” .................................................................................. 242	  8.4.4	   Unlikely compatriots .............................................................................................................................. 245	  8.4.5	   As good as science or as problematic as art? ..................................................................................... 247	  8.4.6	   The yet still distant horizon .................................................................................................................. 247	  8.5	   Sustainability in the Anthropocene .............................................................................................................. 249	  8.5.1	   How real is the imaginary world? ......................................................................................................... 249	  8.5.2	   Flipping the sustainability predicate: Mike Hulme and the climate change debate ...................... 251	  8.6	   Regenerative Sustainability: John Robinson and the insufficiency of ‘doing less bad’ ........................ 254	  8.7	   Flipped Predicate and Flattened Ontology (parameters of a post-normal world) ............................... 258	  8.7.1	   Postscript ................................................................................................................................................. 261	  Works Cited ......................................................................................................................................... 262	  Appendices .......................................................................................................................................... 270	  Appendix A - GCC Art Channel Commission Document ................................................................................ 270	  Appendix B - Research Timeline ............................................................................................................................ 294	  Appendix C - Audience Interview – table of contents – Nov 2, 2011 ............................................................. 294	     ix List of Tables  Table 3.1 The above is an attempt to place McKay’s three heroes into an imagined ‘assembly line’ where by the thing moves through McKay’s poetic action towards his thingifying aspirations. .......................................... 79	  Table 4.1 Narrative and character engagement ......................................................................................................... 122	  Table 4.2 Awareness of other audience lines ............................................................................................................. 123	  Table 4.3 Experience of other narrative lines ............................................................................................................ 123	     x List of Figures  Figure 4.1 The opening scene of You Are Very Star, actress Gina Chiarelli lies on the hospital bed surrounded by the ‘guides’. An image of her brain floats above the scene. ............................................................................... 118	  Figure 4.2 An image of two separate audience lines coming together in mutually exclusive understandings. 120	  Figure 5.1 Audience participants interact with musicians through designated squares on the floor ................ 132	  Figure 6.1 A selection of Kaplan’s variations on the interaction between design, stone and light. .................. 172	  Figure 6.2 The exterior of Kaplan’s design showing figures sitting on its surface, and heading towards the entrance ........................................................................................................................................................................... 174	  Figure 6.3 The space viewed from the interior at one point in the day. Throughout the course of the day the brightest light chimney would shift with the course of the Sun. ............................................................................ 174	  Figure 6.4 The interior at a different time of day ..................................................................................................... 175	    xi Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the tremendous support I received from my academic committee. My supervisor Dr. John Robinson, for having the audacity to welcome a piano player into his high-powered group of emerging sustainability scholars; Dr.Terre Satterfield whose intellectual breadth and rigor would have been entirely intimidating were it not for the warm and welcoming engagement and teaching; and Dr. Steven Taubeneck for rounding out my committee with such an adventurous humanities presence.   Institutionally, I am grateful for the financial support that came from the Pacific Century Scholarships, the Les Lavkulich Award, and research grants from MITACS, GRAND National Centre for Excellence, and the Pacific Institute for Climate Studies. I would also like to acknowledge the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) within the University of British Columbia for sheltering and nurturing the quality of interdisciplinary research that it does. The challenges of sustainability, that is, the challenges of finding our way into new worlds, could not have a better ally. I am grateful for its existence.   Closer to home, the list of loved ones whose voices were present throughout this research and writing are too numerous to mention and deserve much more substantial and specific acknowledgement than would be appropriate here (I will, of course, handwrite your dedications properly in advance of your thorough reading of the work in its entirety).  Generally speaking, I remain immensely thankful for your presence in my life, for doing so much to inspire an imaginative approach to reality, all the while insisting on an equally realistic approach to the imaginary.    xii Dedication I would like to dedicate this work to my supervisor, John Robinson, whose intellectual curiosity and daring have provided such a challenging and inspiring approach to both questions of sustainability and questions of life. You have guided this unlikely project out from beneath deep shadows of uncertainty in ways that continue to inspire. We are many who have gone in search of your imaginary world.                   What is the point of this story? What information pertains? The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.  Paul Simon (Train in the Distance)   1 Chapter 1: Art-Sustainability relations in the late days of modernity   1.1 The right instinct, the wrong invitation?  Perhaps at its most fundamental level, this dissertation is a personal attempt to reconcile my two moral bastions, art and nature, both of which appear to be floundering in what I think of as the last days of Modernity. My background is as an artist. I grew up in the relentless world of Western classical music. Currently my professional work sits somewhere between a fairly classical approach to piano playing and a fairly radical interdisciplinary experimentation into the place of old music in a new world. In other words, what might Beethoven have to say about climate change? Over the past decade or so, this experimentation has been carried out at a festival I run in Eastern Canada. An annual five-week, fifty-performance festival that brings together the worlds of dance, theatre, literature, visual art, and music representing as many cultures and genres as we can get our hands on.    It is a lifelong conviction that art is a not altogether unsatisfying way of trying to account for being alive and this doctoral work has been one of the more gratifying instances of this belief. Nevertheless I am increasingly aware of just how much any artistic expression lies within a complex of instincts and biases when it comes to opinions about ‘artistic value’ or ‘worthy’ relationships between art and society. So it is perhaps some form of confession when I say it is a devotion to the Western traditions of fine art, its literature, music, dance, architecture, theatre, etc., that has brought me to this discussion, and whose virtues I hope to aim at the spectre of looming environmental collapse. However, as evidenced primarily by my professional work in ‘the real world’, this is not a love lacking reflexivity or marked by orthodoxies, but rather one eager to see how the values and capacities of this larger aesthetic tradition might be brought to bear on our presently dysfunctional relationships to planetary systems.   So while in one sense I am trying to flag the parameters of my own thinking clearly at the outset, in another sense, when it comes to the present challenges of sustainability, I find such parameters well struck. As the coming analysis hopes to show, key elements of the environmental crisis can reasonably be thought of as lying within these same parameters, an artifact of the same structure of beliefs, values, ontological instincts, epistemological traditions, and metaphysical foundations. They are, in short, branches of the same tree. What, then, might one offer the other?   Here at the front end of the 21st century, the challenge of environmental sustainability has blossomed into a vast domain of efforts to harmonize Western, industrialized societies with increasingly urgent environmental   2 priorities. Historically, the practice of sustainability has been taken up primarily within the disciplines of natural and social science, engineering, economics, and various branches of policy and legislation. When I began my doctoral studies my background within the arts and humanities felt out of place in the context of UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability. This was a world of laboratories, statistics, and white papers. The practices of creative inquiry and creative expression, the preoccupations of human sentiment and imagination, that is, the arts, seemed peripheral to the serious business of saving the planet.   However, within the time I have taken to complete this doctoral study I have noticed a significant shift in sustainability efforts, one that clearly recognizes increasing value in the role of activities like the arts. At the 2012 AAAS conference (a major international gathering of the science community) several sessions were explicitly devoted to the links between art, science, and the challenges of sustainability, while other individual presentations veered in this direction of their own accord. Fundamentally, I find this growing interest in fostering a closer relationship with the arts inspiring. However, as a practising artist grounded in particular notions of what the arts might offer, I confess I usually find myself disappointed by how the relationship between art and environmental concern is typically conceived. Ultimately, I think something very promising is afoot; we just need to refine the interaction.    Broadly speaking, the invitation put to the arts from the sustainability community writ large often amounts to some sort of ‘communications’ role. The message of sustainability gets mapped out through scientific and political procedures and the arts are invited to step in as society’s ‘PR and communications’ department, tasked with either making people know or making them care. Artists are, in manner of speaking, handed the facts and told to convert them into values. What I find alarming is that such an assumption seems not to be the exception, but rather the rule. Even some of the more expansive, imaginative engagements with sustainability seem to default to this pedantic invitation when it comes to the arts. For example, climate scientist Mike Hulme has put forward a bold assertion that climate issues best not be approached as a technical problem to be solved through more science and technology, but rather as an opportunity to engage with cultural and social dimensions of who we are as a species, and what kind of future we want.1 During his talk at the AAAS conference, I was excited to see Hulme single out the arts as one of four key areas of human activity necessary to engage the climate in this way. And yet how did he conceive of their contribution? “Inspiration and Motivation.”   This is not to single out an egregious example as Hulme’s efforts to bring questions of climate change into a more humanist framing are extremely inspiring to my own thinking. I offer this mild criticism of how he                                                       1 Mike Hulme. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction, and Opportunity. Cambridge University Press. 2009.   3 articulates his belief in artistic capacity as symptomatic of a larger set of assumptions to be explored momentarily. The goal here is to identify what might be a crucial difference between the right instinct and the right invitation. Even the most inspired views of environmental issues, those whose breadth of analysis and prescription take into account the full humanness of the problem and make the inclusion of the arts inevitable, as Hulme certainly does, nevertheless follow up that inclusion with what I hope to show is a problematic account of artistic agency.   What is at stake here, and what I hope to make some progress clarifying with this research, is the difference between engaging the arts as a means to inform and engaging them as a means to explore. In other words, the difference between using the arts to teach and using the arts to learn. Using the arts to inform the public, (or motivate and inspire them) strikes me as a problematic use of this rich, subtle and necessarily unpredictable human activity. Using the arts to teach something is a very different thing than using the arts to learn something. Even the most sophisticated artists with whom I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating never presume to create work with the idea of teaching anyone anything. It is always an attempt to learn, to find out. Art is inquiry, the releasing of an idea, an image, a question, down into the mysterious pools of the aesthetic to see what emerges from the interactions below.   My own view of this is to say that, left to its integrity, art is an epistemology. It is a way of knowing something new, of furthering an understanding, of seeing differently. Art is not simply a tool with which to amplify what is already known. From my perspective, the arts are not a place where facts go to become values, where ideas become beliefs. Instead, the arts are a continued probing, a continued examination, and in this regard, a methodology unto themselves.    1.2 Hypothesis: a quest for better leverage  At its most general level this research explores the connection of aesthetic languages to non-aesthetic issues. It is an investigation into the relationship between art and our hopes to build better worlds. Most of us can be fairly descriptive about the positive, even transformative impact of the arts on our lives and our societies, but what happens when we become prescriptive about that role? How do we structure an intentional interaction between artistic engagement and social and environmental aspirations? Are there right and wrong ways of going about this? What can we hope to accomplish in this endeavour? And why try? Why art instead of more focus groups and scientific bulletins?   I situate these questions within the struggle to make Westernized societies more environmentally sustainable. In using the term ‘the West’ or ‘Westernized’, I am doing my best to identify contexts that have been   4 conditioned by ideas and practices that grew out of post-Enlightenment Western Europe. Themes of objectification, atomization, rationalization, industrialization, and commercialization factor heavily in such contexts.2 A mechanistic instinct about the nature of reality tends to promote exploitative relationships with self, world, and other, fostering reductive habits of mind that pursue linear approaches to descriptive and prescriptive aspects of problem solving.3 This is not, however, an attempt to universalize such traits and ignore the endless nuances of any such context deemed ‘Western’. Rather the hope is to identify and engage pervasive themes commonly found therein.   In such contexts, the arts have long enjoyed a highly charged relationship with our imaginative lives. Through a capacity to bring us into an embodied, more-than-rational, ‘fully-felt’ engagement, they open us to the prospect that the quotidian need not be as it is, but that realms of possibility, of other ways of being, are nearer at hand than we might think. In other words, the domain of the arts is the persistence of the realm of play at a ‘meta’ level. As Sacha Kagan puts it, the arts get to play ‘with’ the rules rather than playing ‘by’ them.4 It is their prerogative to engage critically, imaginatively, indeed, playfully, with the way things are, provoking reflexivity as to the status quo, and inviting a level of improvisation with how we make and inhabit our worlds. Therefore my argument is that the capacity for art to create change in our ‘real’ worlds hinges on its capacity to enchant our ‘imaginary’ worlds.     My hypothesis is that a more fruitful relationship between a given issue and artistic engagement may not be found by directly targeting the issue itself but rather by engaging the larger imaginative context surrounding it - the world of which the issue is artifact. Rather than using the arts to illustrate particulars of climate change or climate action, i.e. songs about carpooling, is it possible to identify features of a larger imaginative context within which unsustainable notions of climate, self and their relationship make sense? Once identified, can we engage that imaginative context as an effective ‘leverage point’, can we shift a way of thinking, alter an instinct, foster a different imaginative inclination? And is this more effective than simply using the aesthetic domain to lend impact to the ‘facts’ of a given issue?    The risk is relevance. If the work doesn’t say the words “climate change” how will we know what it’s about? My response is to suggest that when it comes to understanding artistic agency within sustainability, this question not only misses the point, but leads down an unhelpful path, something I hope to show in a                                                       2 Loosely defined as: objectification, the tendency to establish rigid, unresponsive views of the ‘objects’ of our experience; atomization, the tendency to pursue such objectifications in isolation, rather than viewing them as dynamic entities within a larger systems view; rationalization, the tendency to prioritize rational means of knowing above other forms; industrialization, the priority of understanding planetary resources as ‘raw materials’ to be transformed into ‘goods’ using large-scale mechanized processes; commercialization, the priority of market dynamics for the establishment of value.    3 Val Plumwood. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. New York: Routledge, 2002. 4 Sacha Kagan. “Art Effectuating Social Change: Double Entrepreneurship in Conventions” in Kagan, Sacha and Volker Kirchberg (eds.) Sustainability: A new frontier for arts and cultures. Frankfurt: VAS, 2008. 154.    5 moment. The point is not to make us more aware of climate change. The point is not to make us feel worse about climate change. The point is to initiate a set of conditions by which a different relationship with the climate is more likely than it was before. And the crux of that matter may lie beyond questions of knowledge. It may be less what we know within the present structure of the problem and more whether we can glimpse the idea that life can be lived otherwise, richly, and meaningfully. In other words, rather than resolving the dilemma of climate change, a better goal might be to render its terms inert. I will attempt to support this hypothesis with the theoretical framework that follows.   1.3 Theoretical reframing: from the informative to the imaginative  This research is part of the Greenest City Conversations (GCC) a multi-channel public engagement initiative developed by UBC and SFU faculty, focusing on sustainability engagement in Vancouver. A core theme unifying the five channels of the GCC is the effort to move away from approaches to sustainability based on information-deficit models of behaviour change that dominate so much public engagement work. The governing assumption behind such models is that behaviour change results from new information – once we know better, we make better choices. Abundant research over the past few decades has demonstrated that this is rarely the case. As a response, the GCC has attempted to foster two-way, ‘dialogical’ or ‘emergent’ approaches where various aspects of sustainability are developed and defined through emergent conversations. One of the primary goals of this research is to foster, identify and characterize these processes of emergence and ‘dialogicality’.   My particular channel situates this exploration within the arts; the production and presentation of a series of artistic works. The relationship between the arts and the environmental movement has been much-heralded. Author Bill McKibbon (The End of Nature) put it bluntly in an online article published in Grist.org back in 2005: “What the warming world needs now is art sweet art, where are the books, the poems, the plays, the goddamn operas?”5 Over the past few decades, areas of practice such as eco-art, environmental art and 'art and ecology' projects have attempted to answer this call (for a review of the field see Carruthers “Mapping the Terrain of Contemporary EcoArt Practice and Collaboration” 2006).6   However, in more recent writing on the relationship between art and environmental concern, rhetoric has shifted from enthusiasm to increasing frustration at its apparent failure to bear fruit as anticipated. As Gunther Bachmann put it in 2008: “Theoretically, everyone talks about the importance of the arts for more                                                       5 Bill McKibbon. “What the Warming the Warming World Needs Now is Art Sweet Art.” In Grist Magazine. (2005). Available online at: http://grist.org/article/mckibben-imagine/. March, 2014.  6 Beth Carruthers. 2006. “Mapping the Terrain of Contemporary Ecoart Practice and Collaboration.” Available online at:  http://www.unesco.ca/en/activity/sciences/documents/BethCarruthersArtinEcologyResearchReportEnglish.pdf.   6 sustainable thinking. Practically, it is underused, and underrated, maybe even not well understood and, worse, not well conceptualized by artists themselves.”7 Three years later, in 2011, I had the opportunity to ask Bill McKibbon about his impassioned call to artists. His attitude had shifted in the six years since the article was published. “I regret that” he began, explaining that following the publication of that statement he was inundated with writings and artworks from those whom he was polite enough to refer to as “well-meaning” but did use the word “terrible” at one point in his description.8   I don’t take this to indicate a change of heart from McKibbon, that he no longer believes in the necessity of artistic engagement with sustainability. Rather, I take this to represent further evidence of that necessary distinction between the right instinct and the right invitation. Here, a leading environmental figure called out to the arts to join the struggle for sustainability without considering how or to whom such a call should be made, without considering how that relationship should be structured. His humorous regret at the experience I take as similar to Bachmann’s comment, that despite abundant enthusiasm for the arts, and eagerness to have them involved, there is important work to be done to figure out how to bring these fields together in a more robust and ultimately fruitful way.   This research is one attempt to do that, to rethink typical art-environment interactions and explore new ways of structuring the interaction. It is an effort to turn away from the fairly well-worn path connecting art with environmental issues, and find a new, though admittedly slower and more circuitous route. In doing so, I am not proposing to eliminate the promise of other strategies for relating art to non-aesthetic issues, nor guarantee that this approach will be any better than the one I am trying to avoid. It is simply an attempt to explore an alternate route based on a sensitivity to the landscape rooted in my own experience as a working artist, along with a grounding in an increasingly prevalent view of the sustainability crisis to be discussed shortly.   In the hopes of navigating the thorny issues of art, social change, environmental thought, and their potential interactions, I have identified several ‘check points’ to guide the exploration: First, information deficit models and the instrumentalization of art; second, art as ontological reflexivity; and third, Bruno Latour and the dichotomies of Modernism, i.e. subject-object, fact-value, culture-nature. These three sections aim to problematize the present art-environment relationship in its typical form, then make an argument for what sort of a thing art is when considered within my previously identified cultural bias—Western, classical, etc.—and, lastly, make an argument for what sort of a thing the sustainability problem is as seen from the                                                       7 Günter Bachmann. 2008. Gatekeeper: A Forward. in Kagan, Sacha and Volker Kirchberg (eds.) Sustainability: A new frontier for arts and cultures. Frankfurt: VAS. 8.  8 Question and answer session with Bill McKibbon, Liu Centre for Dialogue, UBC, November, 2011.    7 perspective of an artist looking for the ‘right fit’. With any luck, these sections will serve to compliment one another effectively enough to open a path that connects art to sustainability in a new and invigorating way.  1.3.1 Information Deficit Models and the instrumentalization of art  1.3.1.1 An enduring faith in knowing better  I begin with the argument that a central problem endemic to so much art-environment interaction lies in its connection to a larger conceptual approach to sustainability known as 'information deficit models of behaviour change'. In 'rationalized' societies such as ours, there is a tenacious assumption that undesirable behaviours stem from ignorance.9 If only we knew better, we'd do better. It describes a linear approach to righting our wrongs: new information changes our attitudes and our values, and a shift in these prompts a change in our behaviour. This model has dominated environmental concern thanks to “a genuine belief among policymakers and others that information is the key to public involvement and action.”10 Unfortunately, subsequent research has sullied such a tidy assumption, as all too often “increases in knowledge and awareness [do] not lead to pro-environmental behaviour.”11 A sufficient map of behaviour change turns out to be far more complex than this approach surmised. For example, Steg and Vlek’s 2009 review of research affecting pro-environmental behaviour identifies dense layers of cost/benefit perceptions, moral convictions, and normative concerns, along with affective, symbolic, contextual and habitual factors.12 Allum and Sturgis (2004) detail the importance of the issue’s familiarity to public consciousness, where information holds greater agency in nascent controversies but this recedes as issues mature, galvanize, etc.13   Despite such evidence, an overly optimistic use of information-deficit models persists: “Today, most environmental NGOs still base their strategies on the simplistic assumption that more knowledge will lead to more enlightened behaviour.”14 And while this may seem odd at first, it is in fact consistent with the critique of information deficit models itself. The best way to explain the disconnect between knowing that information deficit models don't work and the fact that we keep using them anyway, is to notice that the information describing such failure has little impact. In other words, proof that information deficit models are inadequate is the provision of several decades of information that information deficit models are inadequate and the subsequent observation of how little impact this has on our use of information deficit models.                                                        9 Harries-Jones, Peter. A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson. Toronto: U of T Press, 1995. 50.  10 Owens, S. “Engaging the public: information and deliberation in environmental policy.” Environment and Planning A, 32(7). (2000): 1141. 11 Kollmuss, A. & Agyeman, J. “Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour?” Environmental Education Research 8(3) (2002): 241. 12 L. Steg, C. Vlek. Encouraging pro-environmental behaviour: An integrative review and research agenda. Journal of Environmental Psychology 29 (2009): 310-313 13 Patrick Sturgis and Nick Allum. “Science in society: re-evaluating the deficit model of public attitudes.” Public Understanding of Science. 13 (2004): 55–74.  14 Kollmuss, A. & Agyeman, J. 2002. 241.    8  Thus much of the effort to create more sustainable societies remains focused on spreading the message. Not surprisingly then, given the expressive power of the aesthetic domain, the arts appear as an ideal communicative tool. Art takes on the expectations of information-deficit models, where message-driven, content specific engagement is expected to provoke behaviour change. I suggest that this fails in two ways, and understanding both will help track a new path towards art-environment interactions.   First, as has been pointed out by Burgess15 (1998), Owens16 (2000), Kollmuss and Ageyman17 (2002), Sturgis and Allum (2004), Steg and Vlek (2009) and others, changing people's behaviour is more complex than raising awareness, no matter how expressive one’s efforts. In an important sense then, the arts have been sent on a fool's errand, a task that cannot be completed, not because of features intrinsic to the arts per se, but because of the governing logic they have been asked to follow. Here the failure is instrumental, not as art but as ‘tool’. In this respect, any informative enterprise aiming at behaviour change, whether employing the arts or not, might consider carefully its prospects of success.   1.3.1.2 Disenchanting the aesthetic However, the shortcomings of this approach may go beyond overestimating the capacity of information to encounter deeper problems with the very conception of ‘art as tool’. While it may be that a non-instrumental use of art in some pure sense is nonexistent—that we always make art with some outcome in mind—linking the creative process ever more tightly to instrumental agendas risks precluding the aesthetic domain as a genuine space of exploration. The use of art as an expressive tool for non-aesthetic issues will likely dismiss the spirit and process of discovery at the outset. Or in simple terms: tell art what to say and we will get art that says that. And we won’t get art that says anything new. The opportunity to discover what we don’t already know will, in all likelihood, be lost.    For this reason, message-driven, content-specific art runs the risk of losing its status as epistemological instrument, a means of knowing unto itself. Here the aesthetic is not engaged to see where it might lead, but to proceed towards an assigned destination. This, I feel, disenchants the very power for which the help of art was sought in the first place. Any comprehensive account as to why this might be the case would surely lead into realms too mystical for a theoretical framework (although George Steiner’s Real Presences is a valiant and inspiring effort). What makes a work ‘powerful’ is beyond the scope of this analysis and likely beyond the                                                       15 Burgess J, Harrison C, Filius P. “Environmental communication and the cultural politics of environmental citizenship” Environment and Planning A 30 (1998): 1445 -1460. 16 Owens, S. “Engaging the public: information and deliberation in environmental policy, Environment and Planning A 32(7) (2000): 1141–1148. 17 Kollmuss, A. & Agyeman, J. “Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour?” Environmental Education Research 8(3) (2002): 239–260.   9 scope of analysis in general. However, with the larger concerns in mind, there seem to be two issues worth raising, one internal to the creative process itself, the second, concerned with idioms of reception.   As mentioned briefly in the introduction, there is a sense that the aesthetic dimension has a logic and agency of its own, and that art-making is fundamentally responsive to that agency. Creativity is, in a sense, conjectural, awaiting resonance from the aesthetic dimension itself. For renowned scholar of comparative literature, George Steiner, the agency of the aesthetic dimension, that which creativity responds to in its pursuit of itself, is fundamental to both the creation and consumption of art. Within the realm of creation, Steiner argues, “even the most penetrative, concordant response will encounter an irreducible ‘otherness’.”18  This ‘otherness’, the agency of the aesthetic domain that the creative act responds to and reflects through its response, surely loses its capacity to participate in creative processes too closely tied to any a priori message or agenda. Necessary wanderings, experimentation, play and improvisation are curtailed, muting the essential elements of inspiration, chance, and discovery. This suggests an inherently emergent quality to the genuine creative process, an iterative dynamic between an initiating idea, interest, or curiosity, and the techniques, training, and traditions of the practice, the materials at hand, the cultural milieu, its idioms of consumption, etc. along with the less tangible forces that reside within the human drive to create.19 We are not engaging the creative process in good faith when we know too well where we want this emergent dynamic to arrive, when we know what needs to be said and why. The agency of the other factors is denied and the essential unpredictability of creativity eliminated.   This translates directly to the relationship such work has with its public, according to Steiner, as the audience approaches a work in the same spirit as its creator. We are there to hear from, to see, to witness, that same encounter with presence, or otherness. We trust art in the way that we do, in other words, I would suggest that we allow a certain ‘beauty-truth’ correlate, because the creative act allows us to feel that larger presence. Our faith is that creativity is in a crucial sense ‘discovery’, rather than mere fabrication:     In turn, it is our apprehension of this essence within but also ‘behind’ presentness and representation in the aesthetic which, indispensably, is the condition of trust. We yield rights of possession to the fictions of literature, to the iconic suggestions placed in us by the painter, to the life-beat of the music; we collaborate, to the best of our receptive and commemorative means, in the regeneration and                                                       18 George Steiner. Real Presences. London: Faber and Faber, 1989. 210. 19 In an effort to avoid getting too sidetracked by the unending conjecture into the creative drive of ‘humanity’,  I am glossing this point slightly. Steiner goes into a detailed exploration of the theme throughout Real Presences. His basic thesis is that the human capacity to question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ makes a deep, existential fetish of creation itself, one which we explore and engage with through an endless echoing of human creativity. Thus the drive to create is a drive to seek that space before there ‘was’, the moment, the presence, the ‘presentness’ of otherness, (or its ultimate absence as we shall see). What was before there was self and world.     10 perpetuation of the artist’s work, precisely to the extent that we too experience the unmastered ‘thereness’ of a secret sharer, of a priori creation with and against which the art-act has been effected.20   That spirit of collaboration is the same kind of responsiveness we assume based on a condition of trust, trust that the artists themselves assumed a similar responsiveness in the creative process that produced what we are witnessing.   This compression of Steiner’s arguments risks evoking the aesthetic dimension as some kind of oracle, a supernatural clarifying agency for human longing and inquiry. Unfortunately for humanity, clarity is not what lies at the heart of this process. Instead, that presence—so Steiner’s sphinx-like argument goes—is in essence, an absence, an ultimate lack of clarifying concreteness. Yet it is this ultimate absence that allows us to feel that otherness, the presence of agency of something beyond mere human representation. This theme will be elaborated throughout the duration of this study. For now, Steiner evokes it thus:   A good reading falls short of the text or art object by a distance, by a perimeter of inadequacy which are themselves luminous as is the corona around the darkened sun. The falling-short is a guarantor of the experienced ‘otherness’—the freedom to be or not to be, to enter into or abstain from a commerce of spirit with us—in the poem, the painting, the piece of music.21  The idea of an ‘illuminating perimeter of inadequacy’ obviously does little to replace infocentric art with the kind of clarity behavioural aspirations might have hoped for. But it does well to articulate why art is at once so powerful and so elusive.    Art bearing the message of its agenda cannot help but signal its audience to this effect, betraying Steiner’s condition of trust. Do we then fail to grant agency to the aesthetic expression through a withheld suspension of disbelief, a refusal to be moved? My suggestion is that once that condition of trust is broken or absent, the work has little hope of engaging our aesthetic sensibilities, our emotive and embodied responses, thus preventing the communicative enterprise to get any further than our conscious, rational faculties. But I doubt that such a response is any sort of active defensive mechanism, that at the hint of a non-aesthetic agenda we move to reinsert a rational filter in front of the experience. Rather, I suggest that if the work is overly message-driven we engage it as such. Rationally, not aesthetically. So the thought here is not to say informative art cannot inform, surely it can, but that in doing so it suffers the same fate as any other informative enterprise. What it cannot do, or at least has a greatly reduced chance of doing, is to engage our embodied, emotive, pre-                                                       20 Steiner, 1989. 211 21 Steiner, 1989. 175.    11 or meta-rational space of engagement, to pull us into that more fundamental condition of wondering about the world. Which, one assumes, was the very reason art was being used rather than flip-charts.  1.3.2 Art as ontological reflexivity   The use of art as a means to achieve political or social ends (as opposed to the use of social or political terrain for aesthetic exploration) has a Marxist flavour to it.22 It is perhaps a little ironic then, that neo-Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse adamantly rejected such an approach, arguing it “had devastating consequences for aesthetics”23 and completely misunderstood the role of art in social change.24   The political potential of art lies only in its own aesthetic dimension. Its relation to praxis is inexorably indirect, mediated, and frustrating. The more immediately political the work of art, the more it reduces the power of estrangement and the radical transcendent goals of change. In this respect, there may be more subversive potential in the poetry of Baudelaire and Rimbaud than in the didactic plays of Brecht.25   For Marcuse, this necessarily ‘indirect’ and ‘frustrating’ agency of the aesthetic rests with the imaginative, subjective dimensions of its audience. It is art’s capacity to offer us another rationality, another sensitivity that lends it political agency.26 “Art breaks open a dimension in which human beings, nature, and things no longer stand under the law of the established reality.”27 For Marcuse, the agency of art is to confound established conceptions and conventions of present realities and lure the imagination into new ways of conceiving of self and world.   Contemporary scholar Hans Dieleman refers to this as ‘ontological reflexivity’.28 Ontological reflexivity, he says, “deals with an understanding of ‘what is’ using lateral thinking and intuitive methods of exploration. Ontological reflexivity explores the reality around us but is not limited to a specific systematic methodology like the sciences, and has more space for associations and imagination.”29 In developing the idea further, Dieleman identifies art as the appropriate methodology for fostering ontological reflexivity:                                                         22 Herbert Marcuse. The Aesthetic Dimension: Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics. Random House. 1978. 1-2. 23 Marcuse, 1978. 3. 24 Abromeit, John and W. Mark Cobb. Introduction. In John Abromeit and W. Mark Cobb (eds.) Herbert Marcuse – the critical reader. Routledge: NY, 2004. 21-22. 25 Marcuse 1978. xxii.  26 Marcuse, 1978, 7, 9. 27 Marcuse 1978. 72.  28 Hans, Dieleman. 2008. “Sustainability, Art and Reflexivity” in Kagan, Sacha and Volker Kirchberg (eds.) Sustainability: A new frontier for arts and cultures. Frankfurt: VAS. 118. 29 Dieleman, 118.   12 Ontological reflexivity transcends boundaries and is able to escape the limitations of scientific and technical rationality. It facilitates seeing our complex reality in more holistic terms, combining and linking ways of seeing, knowing and being. The reflexive capital is a capital of creating spaces of experience and imagination. It uses the language of forms and metaphors, images, music, theatre, and the like. In this type of reflexivity, artists are par excellence, the appropriate change agents.30  Two important assertions are made by this statement: First, that a given reality is, in fact, a given rationality, a particular mode of thinking and perceiving structured by historical and methodological priorities, and therefore fragmented, partial, and limiting. Second, transcending such limitations can be contingent on non-rational ways of knowing because rationality is predominantly an instrument of the larger paradigm in question. The rationality of a given reality is rational thanks to its allegiance to the assumptions and values of that reality. Art is well equipped to foster reflexivity in such a context thanks to its non-rational techniques of exploration and engagement – images, metaphors, sounds, shapes, sentiments, etc.   Steiner makes a very similar point:   The encounter with the aesthetic is, together with certain modes of religious and of metaphysical experience, the most ‘ingressive’, transformative summons available to human experiencing. Again, the shorthand image is that of an Annunciation, of “a terrible beauty” or gravity breaking into the small house of our cautionary being. If we have heard rightly the wing-beat and provocation of that visit, the house is no longer habitable in quite the same way as it was before. A mastering intrusion has shifted the light.31  That is to say, rationality and its attendant realities—our ‘cautionary being’—are vulnerable to the terrible beauties of the aesthetic. For Steiner, this subversive capacity is the very essence of the artistic gesture: “Deep inside every ‘art-act’ lies the dream of an absolute leap out of nothingness, of the invention of an enunciatory shape so new, so singular to its begetter, that it would, literally, leave the previous world behind.”32 Art offers a glimpse into that presence beyond the immediacy of conception and representation whereby we are confronted with the shortcomings of our ontologies, our rationalities, our realities.   1.3.2.1 A phenomenological view of ontological reflexivity In her lecture On Beauty (1998), Elaine Scarry offers another layer to this characterization of the agency of art.                                                       30 Dieleman, 136. 31 Steiner, 1989.143. 32 Steiner, 1989. 202.    13 Building on the work of Simone Weil and Iris Murdoch, Scarry attempts to describe this sort of transformative moment in action, connecting the experience of beauty to what Weil referred to as ‘radical decentering’ and Murdoch referred to as ‘unselfing’.   At the moment we see something beautiful, we undergo a radical decentering. Beauty, according to Simone Weil, requires us to “give up our imaginary position as the center… A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and psychological impressions.”33  I equate this to Dieleman’s ontological reflexivity as it describes a shift in one’s sense of self, one’s account of the world, and one’s place within it. Scarry continues:   [Encounters with beauty] lift us … letting the ground rotate beneath us several inches, so that when we land, we find we are standing in a different relation to the world than we were a moment before. It is not that we cease to stand at the centre of the world, for we never stood there. It is that we cease to stand even at the centre of our own world. We willingly cede our ground to the thing that stands before us.”34  For Iris Murdoch such ‘unselfing’ moves us towards what she calls ‘good moral conduct’ as it alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness. And as she says, “the most obvious thing in our surroundings which is an occasion for ‘unselfing’ is what is popularly called beauty.”35  In trying to ground this elaboration of ontological reflexivity I find an appeal to the phenomena convincing. On numerous occasions I have entrenched myself in some position according to my own determined account of right and wrong—my sister owed me an apology and would have to yield eventually; my friend would come to understand he had messed up and would step forward to make amends—in such cases my position was based on a set interpretation of events. This interpretation grew out of a particular sense of self and was founded on a conviction about what was necessary for the world to go on being just. But then, as described above, a simple encounter with beauty dissolved all reckoning. A sense of self awoke in my own mind that suddenly viewed the position I had diligently staked out as unnecessary. In its place, a sentiment, a language, a gesture, came easily to mind, carrying a renewed image of self that did not require defending, that did not                                                       33 Elaine Scarry. “On Beauty” Tanner Lectures on Human Values. March, 1998. 77. Available online at http://tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/scarry00.pdf.  34 Scarry. 1998. 77.  35 Scarry. 1998. 78.    14 demand victory, or justice, or retribution, and that could not understand the deep investment of my prior position. A dilemma dissolved rather than resolved.   This description is not meant to cover all possible variations of ontological reflexivity. Nor does it specify art as the only vector of such agency. I offer it here as one lived account, though certainly the full range of ontological reflexivity is not always so black and white, nor need it be quite so epiphanal. This illustration is meant only to give a sense of the kind of displacement a non-rational encounter can serve a rational position, and to show that, once displaced, the reasoned argument has trouble regaining any purchase on our imaginations.   1.3.2.2 Heidegger and the ontological agency of art Perhaps one of the most influential thinkers to establish this relationship between art, ontological reflexivity, and one’s grasp of reality was Martin Heidegger. Heidegger figures centrally in the ideas implied in Dieleman’s statement quoted above—that our reality is in fact our rationality, contingent on the subjectivity of history, method, and perspective. Heidegger offers one of the more illuminating articulations of reality as a deeply subjective phenomenon, standing as “a relentless enemy of ahistorical, absolutist concepts of truth” in the words of Graham Harman.36 For Heidegger this deep subjectivity of our realities enables us to function within them. We get around in our worlds not because we are particularly dexterous rule-followers, not because we understand the operational properties of the objects that populate our everyday, but because “we are that within which we operate.” Self and world are conjoined in pre-conscious, pre-reflective familiarity where one is constantly producing the other, hammer and carpenter, broker and market.   Heidegger usually illustrates this idea in tool use, hammers notoriously. Our tools manifest this ontological agency over ourselves (i.e. ‘what kind of a thing am I?’) not so much because we ‘know’ how to use them, but because we know how to be users of them. His notion of the ‘ready-to-hand’ identifies tools that are a seamless part of our being (smartphones are compelling examples nowadays). Again, this is not primarily a matter of skill, of aptitude, or comfort with the item, but because both self and tool are embedded within a cascade of “in-order-tos”: We swing a hammer in order to drive a nail, in order to build a roof, in order to shelter our family. This cascade inhabits our being in the way that it does not because of an instrumental agenda driving our action but because of an existential anchoring point, a fundamental “for-the-sake-of-which” that is our identity, “for the sake of being a father” for example.37 In this, the ontology of the hammer is rooted in this larger more fundamental self-understanding and that self-understanding is inextricable from that tool.                                                        36 Richard Polt. Heidegger : an introduction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1999. 5. 37 See lecture by Hubert Dreyfus, “The Worldhood of the World II”. Philosophy 185, Heidegger. available online at: https://archive.org/details/Philosophy_185_Fall_2007_UC_Berkeley. February, 2014.    15  1.3.2.2.1 world/earth tensions However tight this recursivity between mind and world is, it is not a closed system. One’s specific historical and cultural world does not represent a limit to human access, human imagination. Beneath the immediacies of one’s conceptual framework lie hidden yet retrievable depths. As Harman puts it, “most of Heidegger's philosophy is dominated by endless repetitions of a single recurrent duel between concealed and revealed, sheltering and clearing… the realms of shadow and visibility.”38  These realms are referred to by Heidegger as ‘world’ (the visible ) and ‘earth’ (the concealed) in his essay ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’:   The world is the self-disclosing openness of the broad paths of the simple and essential decisions in the destiny of an historical people. The earth is the spontaneous forthcoming of that which is continually self-secluding and to that extent sheltering and concealing. 39    The realms of world and earth lie in tension within a single being, as Heidegger says, “different from one another and yet are never separated.”40 For me, the image of an iceberg is helpful, with ‘world’ being the ice above the surface, and ‘earth’ all that lurks beneath the water. This captures the interdependence Heidegger evokes: “the world grounds itself on the earth and earth juts through world.” The relationship is always in tension, “the relation between world and earth does not wither away into the empty unity of opposites unconcerned with one another. The world, in resting upon the earth, strives to surmount it. As self-opening it cannot endure anything closed. The earth, however, as sheltering and concealing, tends always to draw the world into itself and keep it there.”41 This tension between the specificity of one’s conceptual framework and historical reference, is contrasted with the possibility of new insight, new understanding, new frameworks, and an agency of things capable of resisting and surprising us.42    For Heidegger, things are “never fully visible, definable, or describable”, meaning no account is ever absolute. “The only way to get at the depths of the world is through interpretation, not direct vision”, meaning no account is ever objective, or even possible without the hermeneutic agency of human subjectivity.43 That is to say, failing to perceive this world/earth tension, gazing at a waxing moon without grasping what lies in shadow,                                                       38 Graham Harman. Heidegger Explained. Open Court Books. 2007.83.  39 Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought, Albert Hopfstader, trans. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. 47. 40 Heidegger, 1975. 47. 41 Heidegger, 1975. 47. 42 Within a sustainability discussion like this one, these terms may be unhelpful (though not what they indicate). Heidegger’s ‘earth’, it should be pointed out, is in no way ‘planetary’, it does not refer to ecosystems, or the natural ‘other’, or wilderness in the sense of untamed, undomesticated nature (and yet it perhaps pulls a certain association from this idea, as we will see in the coming chapter on the poetry of Don McKay). It simply indicates what lies outside our ontological account of something, what lies beyond our epistemological reach, but not, crucially, our imaginative reach. 43 Harman, 2007. 48.    16 risks misunderstanding not only the object of our attention, but more importantly, ourselves.44 The essence of being human is to live astride the ‘ontological difference’ between the shadowy depths of ‘earth’—where ‘being’ lies45—and the present, public, shared narrations of our ‘worlds’, that is, the domain of beings: “As [Heidegger] put it, we will have radical and serious phenomenology only when people see that direct presence of the world is never possible, and that concealment belongs to the very nature of phenomena.”46 In other words, we will properly experience being in the world when we understand that any world is both an incomplete account of the full range of its being, and one that is necessarily inclusive of, and dependent on, our own hermeneutic agency, as something we are actively producing by being in it.    1.3.2.2.2 Tools vs. Art For Heidegger, our primary means of awakening to the ontological difference and heightening our awareness of the earth/world tension inherent in our realities, is art. As he says, “while metaphysics and science remain trapped on the surface-world of presence...Poetry is greater than science because poetry hints into the depths, and as we have seen already, hinting is the only way to approach these depths.”47 So the point here is not simply to trace the pedigree of the account of artistic agency held by Marcuse and Dieleman, but to further specify why art is so germane to this challenge. Heidegger explains this by distinguishing tool-making from art-making.   When we invent a new tool we rupture the fabric of the present world by pulling something from the hidden depths, we ‘world’ a bit of ‘earth’. We invent the compass, the light bulb, the computer, and in doing so, change both our world and the possibilities of self along with it. The difference between this process and the making of art is that when we make equipment the ‘earth’ is, as Heidegger says, “used up.”48 There is no remaining presence of the shadowed, concealed realm in the ‘world-as-equipment’, the new world of this tool, is as self-sealed as the world that preceded it, “because it is determined by its usefulness and serviceability.”49 It is self-evident. “The material [earth] is all the better and more suitable the less it resists perishing in the equipmental being of the equipment.” In other words, a hammer's destiny is to pound nails.   When we make art however, there is a desire for the material, the ‘earth’, to resist perishing in the artwork, a paradoxical ambition to illuminate the shadow, to hold on to the persistence of its darkness:                                                         44 Polt, 1999. 90 45 Being in this case not in the sense of individual beings, but, as William Blattner says, “that which "determines entities as entities," that "in terms of which entities are already intelligible as entities.” See Blattner’s “Terminology in Being and Time” available online at: http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/blattnew/heid/terms.htm 46 Harman, 2007. 33 47 Harman, 2007. 107.  48 Heidegger, 1975. 44. 49 Heidegger, 1975. 44.    17 The sculptor uses stone just as the mason uses it, in his own way. But he does not use it up...the painter also uses pigment, but in such a way that colour is not used up but rather only now comes to shine forth. To be sure, the poet also uses the word – not, however, like ordinary speakers and writers who have to use them up, but rather in such a way that the word only now becomes and remains truly a word.50   'Truly a word' meaning the word composed of both its stable reference and its layered possibilities—‘world’ and ‘earth’—pulling us towards its sense-making, hermeneutic potential while at the same time sending us beyond, into the uncapturable aspects of its evocation. In concrete terms, if we are writing down instructions, it is our singular priority to use a word in such a way that conveys a specific meaning as cleanly and clearly as possible. We do not wish the reader to wonder at the various possibilities of what is meant. We do not want the reading of instructions to be an interpretive act. When we write a poem however, there is a desire to allow the language to point both at our intended meaning while simultaneously illuminating unrealized possibilities that lie beneath the particulars of our own meanings, our own narratives, and our own worlds.   Like making tools, making art is a worlding act. But unlike a tool, the work “does not cause the material to disappear, but rather causes it to come forth for the very first time and to come into the Open of the work's world.”51 The ‘earth’ of our ‘worlds’ “appears openly cleared as itself only when it is perceived and preserved as that which is by nature undisclosable, that which shrinks from every disclosure and constantly keeps itself closed up.”52 Though the work of art can reveal its existence, the concealed realm must always remain so. Art is unique because “the work moves the earth itself into the Open of a world and keeps it there. The work lets the earth be an earth.” 53   Here the connection of this account to the concept of art offered earlier in the ideas of George Steiner is apparent. Steiner’s sense of ‘otherness’ that is ‘present’ in its absence has strong Heideggerian overtones. Where Heidegger sets up a world/earth tension to articulate the difference between the historical, realized, referenced world and all its uncaptured, unrealized, hidden being beneath, Steiner offers the notion of “semantic incommensurability”, identifying the inability of any representative gesture to fully capture the object in question. Like Heidegger (whom Steiner has written about extensively) Steiner identifies art as a primary means by which the ‘world/earth’ difference is experienced. However, Steiner goes further, to suggest it is the very essence of art to exploit that difference: “I would define literature (art, music) as the                                                       50 Heidegger, 1975. 46. 51 Heidegger, 1975. 45.  52 Heidegger, 1975. 46. This perhaps explains why 'earth' was a replacement term for what Heidegger had originally called 'the nothing' along with its verb form - “the essential strife whereby the “nothing noths” see Thompson, Iain. 2010. 53 Heidegger, 1975. 45.    18 maximalization of semantic incommensurability in respect of the formal means of expression. Here an object, the description of whose formal components can be finite, demands and produces infinite response.”54 Art, in its capacity to bring us into an encounter with all that lies ‘beyond’ conceptualization—that presence/absence sensation where we can both know and feel something more, yet cannot fully conceptualize or articulate it—enables a stabilization of that awareness of something more while refusing any attempt to secure it in semantic terms.   I find the following quote from Steiner useful in characterizing this relationship of art to the larger metaphysical considerations offered by Heidegger.    Beyond the strength of any other act of witness, literature and the arts tell of the obstinacies of the impenetrable, of the absolutely alien which we come up against in the labyrinth of intimacy. They tell of the minotaur at the heart of love, of kinship, of uttermost confiding. It is the poet, the composer, the painter, it is the religious thinker and metaphysician when they give to their findings the persuasion of form, who instruct us that we are monads haunted by communion. They tell us of the irreducible weight of otherness, of enclosedness, in the texture and phenomenality of the material world. Only art can go some way towards making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of matter—it haunted Kant—the retractions out of reach of rock and wood, of metal and of fibre.55  This giving form to an ultimate absence secures the capacity of art to always point beyond, to worlds unknown, unworlded, possibilities beyond that both invite and require us. This theme will return with greater clarity in the closing chapter of this discussion.   For now, the distinction between tool-making and art-making adds further depth to the distinction I was trying to establish at the outset of this discussion—my opinions on the ‘proper use of art’—a distinction that hinges on the difference between art made to teach and art made to learn. Aesthetic expression that veers too close to an instrumental agenda represents a morphing of art into tool. In doing so such expression likely forgoes its capacity to ‘hold forth the earth’ (or, to relieve ourselves from Heideggerianisms for a moment, offer reflexivity about one’s rationality). In contrast, art made in the spirit of learning, of exploration, takes on a responsive posture in search of ‘earth’, in search of the hidden depths to a thing’s being and thus stands a better chance at fostering Dieleman’s ontological reflexivity, or Marcuse’s encounter with another reality, another rationality.                                                        54 Steiner, 1989. 83.  55 Steiner, 1989. 139-140.    19  1.3.3 Raulet’s critique: a scrutiny of agency  In the interest of balancing this argument, I went looking for theoretical perspectives that push against this conception, that argue for the use of art to direct information at a public in the name of fostering a desired change in behaviour. Despite the abundance of practice in this direction, theoretical arguments for its efficacy are scarce.56 A possible explanation for this may parallel the earlier disconnect between theory and practice in information deficit models of public engagement strategies. I doubt it is a situation of practitioners dismissing the absence of supportive theoretical frameworks. Rather, I suggest that we are so deeply conditioned by the layered assumptions of ‘rational actors’ and the role of information that we distill problems into infocentric castings without realizing it.   Take as an example the Greenest City Conversations team of researchers. This group was assembled around the principle of working outside of infocentric models. Yet when turning to the performing arts channel infocentric expectations were immediate, though I’m sure unconscious. All it took for a collective infocentrism to resurface was the translation from the practice familiar to individual researchers, where the particulars of not proceeding in such a manner are already well-established in their minds, into some new terrain, where the idioms and approaches were unfamiliar. Just as we get used to uprooting the weeds of infocentrism in our own yard, we replant them elsewhere.   That is not to say that there are no worthwhile critiques of what I am putting forward here under the heading ‘art as ontological reflexivity.’ One doesn’t have to be a determined infocentric to take issue with linking art, ontological reflexivity, and social change. One can simply accept a relationship that holds between the first two terms, and fails to capture the third outright. That is, to accept art’s capacity to foster such reflexivity in our imaginative landscapes and then simply ask ‘so what?’ As Gerard Raulet suggests, “the crucial question in this context is whether this [aesthetic] dimension can in fact ... be a sphere of mediation.”57 Can art mediate? Can it step between citizen and world and create difference? Raulet doesn’t think so. “Marcuse's offensive against 'a certain Marxist aesthetics' thus becomes the pretense for a defensive strategy of withdrawal, one that succeeds in establishing the unique nature of the aesthetic, only at the cost of renouncing its basis and                                                       56 Certainly what does exist is literature outlining the use of art to achieve a variety of social goals (as opposed to aesthetic ones). This will be discussed in chapter 2 and is similar in that an instrumental agenda is being applied to art in the name of accomplished non-aesthetic outcomes but different in that it is not aligning art with info-deficit models of behaviour change. Predominantly such socially-minded art-making practices are focused on therapeutic elements of expressivity, togetherness, other modes of knowing, etc.    57 Gerard Raulet. “Marcuse’s Negative Dialectics of Imagination.” In John Abromeit and W. Mark Cobb (eds.) Herbert Marcuse – the critical reader. Routledge: NY, 2004. 114.   20 effectiveness in reality.”58 In other words, art retreats to the imaginative dimension of ourselves and our societies where it may be both triumphant and inert.   For his part, Marcuse does not disagree with renouncing art’s agency at the level of practice:   Art by itself cannot under any circumstances change the social condition. And that is the necessary and essential powerlessness of art, that it cannot have an effective, direct impact on the praxis of change. I don't know of any case in which you could say that art has changed the established society.59   Yet he disagrees with Raulet’s claim that occupying our subjective, imaginative dimensions is a retreat that renders art ineffectual: “Art as art expresses a truth, an experience, a necessity which, although not in the domain of radical praxis, are nevertheless essential components of revolution.”60 Elsewhere he follows the spirit of this remark with the claim that “art can prepare such [social] change. Art can contribute to it only via several negations and mediations, the most important being the change of consciousness and, especially, the change of perception.”61   I can do no better than to leave this point hanging as I will not address it directly with this research. As I will discuss further on in the methods section, an investigation of action and agency in the wake of increased reflexivity is not within the scope of this study. I remain committed to avoiding the path of infocentric art bearing an instrumental agenda to teach, or inspire, or motivate a population to move towards predetermined values. But I accept the risk of Raulet’s critique. A novel subjective landscape may open up through a different means of fostering the relationship between art and environmental concern, this landscape may originate and germinate in the fictional realm of our subjective, imaginative dimensions, and then stay there, while realities of practice carry on unaffected. Raulet’s critique remains useful both to raise the question of practice and also to keep my own argument honest. If I slandered ‘information’ for its inability to single-handedly shift behavior, then surely ‘imagination’ (in this Marcusian sense), is subject to similar limitations - a vital but insufficient condition of change  I hope this serves to clarify where I expect the point of agency in the ‘art and social change interaction’ to lie and to justify proceeding along the lines of Marcuse, Dieleman, Scarry, Weil, Murdoch, Steiner, and Heidegger. It strikes me that there are at least three good reasons that allow us to accept Raulet’s worthwhile                                                       58 Gerard Raulet. 2004. 123.  59 Larry Hartwick. “On the Aesthetic Dimension: A Conversation with Herbert Marcuse.” Contemporary Literature 22(1981), 417-424. or available online at  http://www.marcuse.org/herbert/pubs/70spubs/78InterviewAesthDim.htm 60 Marcuse 1978. 1. 61 Hartwick interview, http://www.marcuse.org/herbert/pubs/70spubs/78InterviewAesthDim.htm   21 critique yet forge on nonetheless: First, by exploring this approach, it is not as though we are calling any triumphant Marxist art-environment interactions into retreat. This exploration is a response to frustration with such approaches cited at the outset and so we aren’t retracting artworks that have been triumphant within the reality of practice. Secondly, there is broad evidence supporting the agency of ontological reflexivity and refuting Raulet’s suggestion that our subjective, imaginative dimensions are i