Future of a Materializing (FOAMing) is an action, a blessing or sacralization, to consider equally the future of human, water, land, and animal bodies, along with the toxic ‘immortal’ bodies of plastics that we have created. FOAM investigates the entanglement of these relationships by reimagining the use of our waste stream.
Object-Oriented Ontological Regenerative Research Tool is an artful investigation of an object that reveals its reflection as a social mirror and creates new spaces for illuminating our exchanges in an evolving archive of human and non-human histories.
How can we modify our aesthetic experience of an object to free it from the confines of heteronormative colonialism and give it a renewed symbolic power that incites care?
Can a deepened intimate relationship with the anthropocene help to dispel the myth of helplessness and muster up counter strategies for the future of all materials?
"Styrofoam invites us to think again about the associations that whiteness brings: not innocence, cleanliness, or absence but a teeming, leaky, permeable, and therefore ironic set of associations.”- David Farrier
IMPRESSION OF OUR OPPRESSION
Gomitaku is an invented printmaking technique based on gyotaku, a Japanese method that uses the inked body of a fish to create a mono print. My iteration is a pictorial writing system that uses styrofoam and other detritus fished out of waterways. There is a similar intimacy of record keeping through the tender touching, inking, and rubbing of each piece of styrofoam during the printing process. This creates an unlikely meditative space for acknowledging the magnitude of each object, suspending analytical thinking to instead allow a state of open awareness.
These prints reveal each object's dark shadow that casts a history of the past and a glimpse into the future.
“I see you, I feel you, I am you.”
The broken fragments of larger objects speak to their missing pieces, phantoms limbs that remind us of their possible futurity in the stomachs of fish and birds, nestled into folds of a shoreline, or added to the 51 trillion microplastic particles floating in the sea.
The endlessly reprinted patterns reference the dichotomy of its ceaseless reproduction while exposure to styrofoam can cause endocrine disruption and ecological sterility. The illusion then of whiteness as it exists in our perception of all things is called into question. It is an illegal undead dirty object entangled in a web of capitalist industrial destruction.
Their stamp of blackness is not a void but an imprint of their deep impact.
The history of Styrofoam begins with the Dow Chemical Company, which invented foamed polystyrene in 1954. Polystyrene manufacturing processes are known to pollute the air and create large amounts of liquid and solid waste that end up in streams and landfills. If we look at the company’s other contributions, we find it is also largely responsible for producing Agent Orange, napalm, and other “Rainbow Herbicides” that were used during the Vietnam War.
Millions of Vietnamese have suffered horrible health effects from exposure both during the war and for many years afterward until the present day, as the dioxin from Agent Orange still lingers in the environment, amounting to over one million birth defects and the defoliation of around 24% of the land.
Dow has continued to damage landscapes and participate in the “slow violence” of colonial-capitalism. The 1984 Bhopal disaster in India was one of the worst industrial accidents of all time. The damage of interior landscapes can also be witnessed by the 170,000 women who developed autoimmune diseases as a result of silicone leakage from breast implants produced by the subsidiary Dow Corning company.
It is the essence of this colonizing black magic of plastic and pollution that I am interested in exorcising out of our waterways, our bodies, and our psyches.
As neurotic sacks of water-filled flesh that constantly leak and subsist off of other bodies of water, we are completely indebted to water for our livelihood and well-being. Even our identities are defined by the boundaries of the islands we live on and the water’s edge we are closest to. How then have we so profoundly lost our perspective on water’s priority?
In acknowledging our familial interconnectedness with water, our bodies can then be seen as agents of resistance that can stand in solidarity with all of the water bodies of the world.
As a decolonial hydrofeminist, I maintain solidarity across all watery bodies and identify as part Potomac River (Virginia), part East River(New York) and part Sông Sài Gòn (Saigon River, Vietnam) These three particular bodies of water define my identity and their currents run through my body by way of blood, provenance and proximity.
Nước in Vietnamese means water but it also means country, depending on the context of its use. “Một Nước” then means both “One Water and One Country.” Can our watery bodies be countries and our waters be bodies?
“Our watery relations within a more than human hydrocommons thus presents a challenge to anthropocentrism and the privileging of the human as the sole or primary site of embodiment.” - Astrida Neimanis
Our culture needs a detox. Let us begin by decolonizing all of the bodies in the hydrocommons, then upcycling the leftover detritus to build new ways to support the movement.
"As I write this, we are 4 months into the coronavirus pandemic that has left over 135,000 people dead in the United States alone. With single use PPE and the uptick of take-out, plastic is again becoming a popular signal of a sanitized and safe world. Most of us have been quarantined in our homes and virtually connecting with one another, while going stir crazy in confinement and experiencing time in new ways. This has laid bare the cracks in the foundation of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Our forced quietude has allowed the appropriate mass introspection for a deep rage to set in our hearts and souls as well as the time to directly express that anger in the streets. This anger of course had been welling up for decades in black, POC and activist communities but COVID 19 enabled the message to reach the mainstream and those who previously had the privilege to turn a blind eye. The collective consciousness has now been officially altered and as we move forward, we can no longer unsee the imprint of everyday structural and systemic oppression on black and brown bodies. Let us all now begin to see that the fight for climate justice is intimately tied to the fight for racial justice. Art can be another connecting tool, a productive strategy in presenting clarity and giving visibility to what the public is often too busy to notice, too enmeshed with the weapons of mass distraction. Art can then be a positive virus, shaking us out of our conditioned mind states, infecting us with new ways of seeing and ultimately empowering us to reclaim our balance and relationship to the natural world by taking inventory of our consumption, waste, and disconnectedness with one another. Art can be funny and weird, strange and beautiful, poetic and haunting, challenging and uncomfortable. We will need to be versed in all of these languages in order to survive and survive well."
- sTo Len, July 24, 2020