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Symposium—Conserving Active Matter: Philosophy—Degradation as an Aesthetic Value - Bard Graduate Center
Are there important conceptual distinctions to make between different kinds of instability? What is the relationship between instability and activity (here thinking of the title of our overarching collaboration, Conserving Active Matter). To what is activity opposed: passivity? inertness? stability? permanence? What are the significant varieties of matter’s instability and activity—for instance, growth, decay, degradation, and disintegration—and how do we distinguish them from one another? What role do matter’s other properties play in making these determinations? A second and related set of questions that will interest us in the symposium pertains to how we value or disvalue matter’s instability and impermanence. When is matter’s instability something to avoid, prevent, arrest (or attempt to avoid, prevent, or arrest), and when is it something to embrace, celebrate, appreciate, exploit, or facilitate? When does matter’s instability make a positive contribution to our experience of it, and what is the nature of this positive contribution (for example, aesthetic? practical? ethical?)? What values guide us, or should guide us, in answering these questions?

This symposium explores these philosophical issues in an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural manner under four headings: Worlds in Ruins; Wabi-Sabi, Kintsugi, and the Joys of Deformation and Rupture; Puzzles in Modern and Contemporary Art and Material Culture; and Growth in Decay: The Pleasures of Fungi and Bacteria. Each of these four topics highlights the underlying tension between the results of human action—making things, using them, and attempts to preserve them—and phenomena beyond human control, such as decay, degradation, and the actions of non-human living things. Can a consideration of these topics open ways to reconceive or rebut the inherited division between the artificial (the human-made) and the natural, and all that follows from it in the Aristotelian tradition of Western thought? Join us for a day of intense discussion of the aesthetic qualities deriving from the instability of materials, and the puzzles they prompt, addressed by scholars prominent in philosophy, conservation, and art and architectural history.
repair  conservation  preservation  decay 
17 days ago by shannon_mattern
How Britons forgot that history can hurt
September 19, 2019 | | Financial Times| by Simon Kuper.

Centuries of stability have created a country careless about risk... the British mainland has meandered along nicely since Newton’s death in 1727: no conquest, dictatorship, revolution, famine or civil war. The sea prevented invasions; coal made Britain the first industrialised power. Few Britons developed strong ideologies that they were motivated to kill for.

How to square this historical stability with the UK’s newfound instability?......What explains Britain’s transformation? I suspect it’s precisely the country’s historical stability that has made many of today’s Britons insouciant about risk. They have forgotten that history can hurt. Other countries remember....their citizens remember how countries can go horribly wrong (see Uganda, the French in Algeria, etc.)......Britain has no comparable traumas. Terrible things do happen there but chiefly to poor people — which is how the country is supposed to work. Even the losses suffered during two world wars have been reconfigured into proud national moments. The widespread American guilt about slavery is almost absent here.

And so, Britain has a uniquely untroubled relationship with its past, and a suspicion of anything new. No wonder the natural ruling party calls itself “Conservative”.

Britain’s ruling classes are especially nostalgic, because they live amid the glorious past: the family’s country home, then ancient public school, Oxbridge and Westminster. They felt Britain was so secure from constitutional outrages that they never bothered to write a constitution.

But it’s wrong to blame British insouciance (embodied by Johnson) on the elite. It extends across all classes. Most Britons have learnt to be politically unserious. Hence their tolerance for toy newspapers they know to be mendacious — Britons’ ironic relationship with their tabloids puzzles many foreigners.

Postwar Britons — the most shielded generation in this shielded country’s history — voted Brexit not out of fanaticism but in a spirit of “Why not?” Many Leave voters argued additionally that “Things can’t get worse”, which any Ugandan could have told them was mistaken. Some Leavers even seemed to crave a bit of history.
'30s  Argentina  Brexit  carelessness  complacency  constitutions  decay  false_sense_of_security  German  history  historical_amnesia  insouciance  ruling_classes  Simon_Kuper  social_classes  United_Kingdom  worrying 
7 weeks ago by jerryking
Opinion | The Lessons of a Hideous Forest - The New York Times
"My God, I breathed. It was suddenly, momentarily beautiful. From a coyote’s-eye view, you could see what the trees were up to: Growth, failure, decay and the drip of acid water through the gravel were mixing a dirt out of the detritus. This hideous forest, I suddenly realized, was there to repair the damage done, and not at our bidding. Its intent was not to look good. Its intent was to stay alive, year by year, century by century, until at last it had recycled even the nylon stocking.

We know how long it takes most kinds of leavings to decay. Organic material goes quickly: cardboard in three months, wood in up to three years, a pair of wool socks in up to five. A plastic shopping bag may take 20 years; a plastic cup, 50. Major industrial materials will be there for much longer: An aluminum can is with us for 200 years, a glass bottle for 500, a plastic bottle for 700, and a Styrofoam container for a millennium.

A fallen willow tree sprouting new growth.

The forest does not know this. It does not think. It just acts. Because it is so good at sprouting, resprouting, reiterating, and repeating the entire process, it can keep up the living and dying for as long as it takes, even if that is a thousand years. The trees are not conscious. They are something better. They are present.

My colleague Laura met the genie of Fresh Kills one sodden afternoon among the garbage. It was not the only plastic doll’s head we had seen there, but this one was different. The cropped gray fusilli of its hair had become the matrix for a crew cut of living, growing moss. A sort of real-life Chia Pet. Well beyond the imagination of its makers — and almost in spite of them — the doll was coming to life. No human strategy of command and control had made it so, but rather the insistence of the wild.

We think of woodlands as places of beauty and repose. We are accustomed to judge a picturesque woodland as a good one and an ugly wood as bad. When Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980, there were endless plans to make it better. Instead, the rangers and scientists mainly stood back and watched. A new forest is slowly emerging. We need to change our thinking: Ask not just what these landscapes look like, but also what they are doing. Fresh Kills Landfill taught me that they may be places of struggle and healing as well, particularly when they come to restore what people have deranged."
forests  trees  nature  statenisland  nyc  anthropocene  resilience  plants  via:aworkinglibrary  2019  multispecies  morethanhuman  garbage  healing  williambryantlogan  damonwinter  mountsainthelens  restoration  growth  failure  decay  life  time  woodlands 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Veterinary Oral Health Council Accepted Products for Cats and Dogs
Veterinary Oral Health Council Reviews Products that Stop Plaque and Tartar Buildup in Dogs and Cats
brushing  cleaning  decay  dental  dentist  dog  health  pet  pets  recommended  teeth  tooth  treats  vet  veterinary 
june 2019 by tylerham
The Digital Unconformity | Linux Journal
In the library of Earth's history, there are missing books. All were written in rock that is now gone. The greatest example of "gone" rock first was observed by John Wesley Powell in 1869, on his expedition by boat through the Grand Canyon. Floating down the Colorado river, he saw the canyon's mile-thick layers of reddish sedimentary rock resting on a basement of gray non-sedimentary rock, and he correctly assumed that the upper layers did not continue from the bottom one. He knew time had passed between the basement rock and the floors of rock above it, but he didn't know how much. The answer turned out to be more than a billion years. The walls of the Grand Canyon say nothing about what happened during that time. Geology calls that nothing an unconformity.

In fact, Powell's unconformity prevails worldwide. The name for this worldwide missing rock is the Great Unconformity. Because of that unconformity, geology knows comparatively little about what happened in the world through stretches of time ranging regionally up to 1.6 billion years. All of those stretches end abruptly with the Cambrian Explosion, which began about 541 million years ago. Many theories attempt to explain what erased all that geological history, but the prevailing paradigm is perhaps best expressed in "Neoproterozoic glacial origin of the Great Unconformity", published on the last day of 2018 by nine geologists writing for the National Academy of Sciences.

Put simply, they blame snow. Lots of it—enough to turn the planet into one giant snowball, already informally called Snowball Earth. A more accurate name for this time would be Glacierball Earth, because glaciers, all formed from snow, apparently covered most or all of Earth's land during the Great Unconformity—and most or all of the seas as well.

The relevant fact about glaciers is that they don't sit still. They spread and slide sideways, pressing and pushing immensities of accumulated ice down on landscapes that they pulverize and scrape against adjacent landscapes, abrading their way through mountains and across hills and plains like a trowel spreading wet cement. Thus, it seems glaciers scraped a vastness of geological history off the Earth's surface and let plate tectonics hide the rest of the evidence. As a result, the stories of Earth's missing history are told only by younger rock that remembers only that a layer of moving ice had erased pretty much everything other than a signature on its work....

I bring all this up because I see something analogous to Glacierball Earth happening right now, right here, across our new worldwide digital sphere. A snowstorm of bits is falling on the virtual surface of that virtual sphere, which itself is made of bits even more provisional and temporary than the glaciers that once covered the physical Earth. All of this digital storm, vivid and present in our current moment in time, is not only doomed to vanish, but it lacks even a glacier's talent for accumulation.
geology  strata  preservation  historiography  decay 
april 2019 by shannon_mattern
How a Wet Crawl Space Can Threaten the Health of Your Home
Wondering about that weird scent coming from your crawl space? See how that smell can affect the health of you and your family.
crawl-space  decay  odor 
april 2019 by Adventure_Web
Symposium—Conserving Active Matter: Materials Science - Bard Graduate Center
When one examines a painted surface, whether a New Kingdom Egyptian sarcophagus or a John Singer Sargent portrait, it appears as though the paint is dry, and is therefore no longer interacting with itself or its environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paint is constantly active, responding to its surroundings and reacting with (for example) the water, light, and oxygen in its local environment. This can result in fading, darkening, or any number of other visual and physical phenomena including chalking and spalling. Other works of cultural heritage are similarly restive, from medieval stained glasses to modern and contemporary works prepared from a diversity of alloys and plastics. Objects that appear stable (such as a bronze with a green patina) can be rapidly reduced to dust in the wrong environment. More than one type of museum object (such as ancient Egyptian faience and cellulose nitrate film) have been known to degrade via explosion, and in the latter example to also “infect” their neighboring objects through the production of volatile corrosive gases. While one can easily identify a “dirty dozen” of artists’ pigments that are among the most active (such as Vincent Van Gogh’s infamous geranium lake red), the constant innovations of artists, chemists, and materials scientists means that there is a ready supply of challenging new objects and systems for art conservators and cultural heritage scientists to study and preserve. The input of art historians, historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists in this type of object-oriented study is critical to understanding the interpretation challenges represented by these altered works. Join us for two days of discussion about object change, from the molecular to the catastrophic to the magnificent, and learn about the surprising afterlives of works of art that are made from continuously evolving materials.
preservation  materiality  decay 
march 2019 by shannon_mattern

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