Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Accuracy Matters to Us

For the past three years we have been working exclusively on climate change. In this work, we aim for as little slippage as possible in our use of scientific or quasi-scientific terms. We recognize that we have no independent means by which to gauge the claims of the IPCC or any other scientific body with respect to perceived changes in global mean temperatures and the likely cause for this change (anthropegenic forcing from greenhouse gas emissions). We seek to confirm rather than subvert the authority of these scientific bodies. We would like, as much as possible, to use their langauge according to the rules of their language game.

Which is not to say we have no epistomological agenda. We consider our work research. We are very concerned with knowing the landscape and how we know it. We are concerned with the limits of this knowing and and are concerned to respect and inspire respect for those limits.

The photographs of our project (such as the one above of the mountain with vanished glacier) say nothing in and of themselves about climate change. They are like a blank stare. Only by placing them in context (the context provided by science and history) can we begin to penetrate that stare.

Where we have begun to appropriate material is in the use of imagery from various disciplines mostly ethnographic, archaeological and scientific. We are interested in understanding this present moment (so sudden and dangerous-seeming) as the culmination of various histories. We believe that we can only progress in this understanding by being comfortable with fragments and contradictions, complexity. (Even if in certain iterations of our project we banish such complexity).

This interest has led us to use images such as those above from the Peabody Musuem at Harvard. Like our original photograph, they from Peru. (Peru, which depends so heavily on the Andean glaciers that will be gone by the middle of the century).


Chris Drury said...

Hi Ed,

How do you know these landscapes? Actually or virtually? If you know them on the ground, do you spend time there?
Also are you connected to any climate change scientists?
I am listening in on the discussions of a group of scientists at LSE trying to make models of non linear systems so that they can predict accurately for governments just what exactly is likely to happen to the climate and when.
This seems to me quite a pointless exercise because it allows politicians to do the minimum to keep it all going, when really we need to examine just how destructive the whole of our way of life and thinking is. Piece meal won't really do it. so I think the way you are putting those images into a wider context is good.

Susannah Sayler said...

Hi Chris,

Great questions. Thank you. Hope you see this response.

We (or usually just Susannah) go to the locations. We work with scientists. First we consult with scientists in the states about where we should go and why. Then when we travel we meet up with local scientists and experts. They show us the landscape.

Piecemeal might be our only hope at the moment. We (meaning Susannah and I) are undergoing a bit of a crisis of confidence in our ability to really change the minds of large numbers of people.