Gibber partially works in a conservationist mode to document ephemeral components of natural history through performative and/or poetic procedures (and through which the museum contents can be decoded via an act of synaesthesia). Photographing words housed in glass vials or printed and pinned on transparent paper is a performance in collaboration or interaction with environments. How can I offer objects to the will of water or wind?
Glass vials might represent the moment when the urge to identify, name, possess grips the body. These vials extend beyond encoded messages-in-bottles to become synaesthetic museums of soundscapes (recalling human utterance within Queensland locations); they also situate within environments words used to name those environments. In Vialence, the glass vial acts as a type of in/visible frame that encapsulates a part to isolate its wholeness. The vial could be akin to a novel (or book), which also can function as a kind of in/visible frame. Where the photograph offers an initial frame and field (akin to margin and page) in which the writing appears, the glass vial provides evidence of an attempt to possess. This act of possession is inherent in our naming instincts, where while holding the capacity to apply a name, we then use a word to indicate a vast field of knowledge within a succinct signifier. A word as signifier acts as a vessel to transport meaning. A body may also act as a signifier to transport meaning. A word within a body acts as a signifier within a signifier, thereby complicating an ability to connect with the word as an independent entity. The glass vial, in some ways, may represent this moment of translating the signified into a signifier (if a signifier is likened to an empty vessel filled with meaning).
In Gibberland, the English word 'land'— as it has been incorporated into 1,440 (anglicized) Queensland place names— was collected, sorted, and pinned for preservation. This offers for consideration how language, in particular English, has been used to colonize locations. Similar to the process in Vialence, the pinned transparencies were used in site-specific performance to juxtapose the act of naming with the places represented through the naming. In each instance, photography documented the performance, and the resulting archive could be simultaneously considered a visual poem, a sound poem (through an act of synaesthesia), a performance poem, or something altogether non-poem. Through the limiting act of the collector, the archive provides a chance to inspect English via the environments in which it has become dominant. This inspection helps to re-locate language within natural contexts, a gesture intended to thwart unexpected dangers associated with "slipping too far into a self-referential symbolic world (Stibbe, 2)" through representation that has neglected or forgotten its source.
Is the photograph the poem and/or the performance? Does the poem/performance commence once a bottle or transparent pinwheel is introduced into an environment? Does the poem/performance commence when words are first printed? Is all of this a process working towards a poem not yet composed? Is the process the poem? Does this documentation of the process form a kind of poetry suite, long poem, meta-poem as the signifiers arc to signified? What happens when the real is juxtaposed with the symbolic?
Societal attitudes are both programmed through and transformed by our vocabularies and how we organize language, which in turn both reflects and organizes how we perceive our relationships with the ecosystems in which we exist. One of the keys to address environmental disconnection, dissociation, and degradation may be to incite a shift that focuses on language awareness. Through this, we may evaluate and adjust our human actions to healthier, sustainable behaviours.
In English language usage, we might start by reflecting on the inferred hierarchy present within pronouns— where humans are granted multiple pronouns, while non-human entities are usually referred to by object pronouns (it/they/them) except in special, often familiar circumstances. When this hierarchical application is used by the animal industry (also known as livestock production), 'it' as a diminutive pronoun not only indicates hierarchy but also likens nonhuman beings to objects (Stibbe, 5). We might also look at how environmental terminology in circulation can hide the reality of a situation. In Queensland, the term 'free-roaming koalas' is used to refer to wild koala populations; this term is designed in some respects to invoke a sense of serenity in its witness. Conversely, however, the term hides the reality of habitat loss due to human construction (roadworks, towns, mining). The largest free-roaming koala colony worldwide is confined to Magnetic Island, a small island (52 km2) in the Coral Sea off the Queensland coast, half of which is allotted as a conservation site. In both the English pronoun and environmental terminology examples, the potential exists for standardized usage to shift (as it has in the past to reflect today's current applications).
Recently, I've become aware of my reliance as an English-speaker/writer upon nature-based comparisons, which can help us to learn about the world around us and to build resonance, compassion, empathy with nonhuman-beings and ecosystems on which we interdepend and with whom we co-exist. However, anthropomorphic idioms, colloquialisms, and clichés, as forms of comparison that have entered oft-used linguistic use, may be contributing to contemporary ideological unwellness by normalizing comparisons that strip their signified entities (nonhuman-beings, ecosystems) of beingness. In an increasingly urban world struggling with Nature Deficit Disorder (where less time spent outdoors leads to increased behavioural problems in humans), comparisons that obviate human detachment from direct experiential knowledge become part of the problem— a problem borne, in part, from ideology reified by language usage.
Is there anything ethically untenable about likening nature to humans or human behaviour? How do comparisons of one to another potentially reify an ideological separation of humans from nature? How could nonhuman entity comparisons potentially deride, devalue, or "krútt-ify" (make bizarrely cute or emotionally resonant in a naïve sense, to adopt an Icelandic term) represented species or places? Is the reflex or need for this ideological separation so deeply rooted that we are no longer sensitized to linguistic behavior that enacts this separation? What ethical responsibilities inform how we use language as our primary medium for creative production? For what purposes are we writing about non-human beings and ecosystem components in our literary works? Is it largely to draw anthropocentric alliances that support comprehension of human nature, while at the behest, belittlement, aggrandizement, romanticization, and/or lack of acknowledgement of nonhuman beings and ecosystem components? An anthropocentric viewpoint would argue that it's inescapable for humans to self-refer at all times and in all of our gestures. While I agree with this, I also believe it's both possible and absolutely necessary to embrace more ecocentric or biocentric views which respect the inherent value of non-human species and ecosystems. Given this, how can ecocentrism influence and permeate language usage?