Anthropocene: Limits Offering 1

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Living with Limits survey presented to ITP student body. 

I’m trying to keep a sense of play in my final project for the Temporary Expert: Anthropocene Edition, but it’s focus has shifted from the notion of a playground.  The heart of the project is definitely the notion of an OFFERING.  In my last post I discussed my conversation with two Jehovah’s Witness pamphleteers and the way the emphasize PRESENCE and INVITATION.


This week I’ve been trying to find ways to concretize and make more public these engagements.  One attempt was to create a survey — the ITP student body has been bombarded with surveys to fill out thesis projects, and I thought (in an analogy to setting up a stand near a farmer’s market) that I would offer an alternative kind of survey that allowed for reflection, gave as much to the responders as it asked for, and provided the potential for a COMMUNICATION TOKEN to extend the experience into the physical and into the future (in the form of a magnet that any responder could receive).  Only a few students took the survey, but I learned a lot from what they said.  After the break, some of the thoughts people chose to publish:

Is choosing to slow down the same as giving up?  “No way. Slowing down allows for deeper experience, thus expanding your time rather than reducing the amount you can do. Giving up seems like it happens when you cease to care whether most of your time is spent the way that you want/believe is best.”

How can acceptance be a radical act? “Acceptance changes behavior, and if the behavior is contrary to what those in one’s circles accept, then that person can be perceived as radical, regardless of the rest of her beliefs or actions. Acceptance into a group is an extension of that.

Another question in this direction might be, ‘is it possible to have incremental acceptance, and thus be incrementally radical’?”

Just what is “beautiful” about “small”? “There is a great deal of modesty and persistence about “small”. Making small gestures to love oneself and others, for instance, is much more authentic than setting a great goal of perfection and never achieve it.”

What if we see progress as a non-relentless process?  “What if we actually see progress as inevitable? that it will happen without us doing anything at all. that our activities are ancillary to the movement of progress, which uses us as a medium.”

Isn’t “going downhill” at times heading home? “Maybe. But you need to ‘go uphill’ first to ‘go downhill’, so I guess you still learned something, more or less.”

It’s curious to see the balance of introspection and philosophizing — I think this is inherent to the questions and brings up the design consideration of whether I can facilitate one or the other type of engagement, or whether the mixture is a success.  There is also a juxtaposition of POVs about the values that undergird each prompt: one person feels that “small” ≠ “beautiful”, while another accepts the equation of the two at face value.  My takeaway here is that the prompts are on the right track in terms of being universal and open-ended enough to invite a variety of opinions (taking on cliches or cultural axioms seems to be part of what makes up a successful prompt), and they can also be pushed further in that direction.

Here is the survey (maybe you would like to respond, reader?):


Another attempt to gift my Living with Limits project was stickers as reward for coming in early or staying late at ITP.  I put stickers on the snack table where home-made cookies, fresh fruit, and candy are often left, and sent out a message to the student list announcing that they were available, again in the same way that those comfort foods are promoted.  My stickers didn’t go as fast as, say, licorice candy straight from Scandinavia, but people did take some and my hope is that I will receive some photos of them out in the world (I included this request in the e-mail).




Wealth or Happiness by Steve Lambert
Aluminum, neon, enamel, electronics, antique knife switch

I’ve continued contacting experts about my idea of the public offering.  I heard back from Steve Lambert.  First thing he said, “these are huge questions”.  I think he’s a busy guy.  He was wiling to speak to me but can’t do it for months (I plan to take him up on it, though, as I know I can still learn from him and it will contribute to future projects); for now he gave me this bit of advice, “Always err on the side of clarity when doing public work. Accessibility – a way in – and legibility – speaking in a language people can understand.”  He also pointed me towards a podcast he has been doing called Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions, where three colleagues from the Center for Artistic Activism watch or attend detritus of mass, corporate production, and try to find leverage points to intervene and material to be remade for radical applications in social justice.

I also have a Skype meeting set-up to speak with a representative from the Climate Psychology Alliance in the UK.  Their statement of purpose includes the phrase, “Nothing less than a cultural transformation is needed in the direction of ecologically sustainable living to address the challenge we face,” and the first post on their website starts with the sentence, “Awakening is a radical yet subtle act,” so I’m confident that their work is relevant to my project.  I hope to get their feedback on how my Public Offering corresponds to effective (or ineffective) interventions they have instituted, supported, or witnessed.

  • Have they found that providing a prompt or conversation-starter as opposed to straight information has been impactful over time?
  • Whether what’s being presented in an intervention is information or provocation, do they use the same mechanisms for invitation/engagement (signage? barkers?)?


One thought on “Anthropocene: Limits Offering 1”

  1. Great work!!! I took your survey. I think some of the questions are murky. I also found myself wishing that instead of giving me reminders, I wanted you to give me an opportunity to experience slowing down, or accepting limits, or sliding downward.

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