Month: August 2010

How Project Apology came to be

Camera: Katie Osediacz

I had been lamenting for some time on the impact of humankind on our beautiful planet and how the system makes perversely utilitarian greed based decisions on behalf of humanity, our planet and the beings with whom we share it (and who have just as much right to the bounty of its miraculous balance as we do).

Sitting in discussion with Katie Osediacz and Megan Miller in a classroom of a Boston art school in 2007, we watched a video piece by Katie Osediacz. In watching the video, the viewer was asked to look into the eyes of a horse without respite and thus to focus on a quality that might be described as a sort of urgent nervousness and longing.

For me it was a powerful piece of work in this sense and I posed this question to my friends:

“How do we begin to apologize to the beings with which we share our beautiful planet and who have just as much claim to it as we do, and who live in harmony with their surroundings (until we create disharmony for them)?”

If one accepts that everything is connected at the most fundamental level (as long held by various eastern philosophies and now being revealed and disseminated through the, decades old, science of quantum mechanics) then our fellow beings are much more in touch with reality than most of us humans are, cut off in our civilization: our illusion of separation, our technological progress and our blind quest for material comfort.

And we have much to learn about our reality by looking into their eyes, whether an oiled bird in the gulf, a mercury-crazed polar bear or a horse on a farm in a seemingly unspoiled corner of the world.

To me Katie’s video was a opportune reminder of my own desire to be part of the process of acknowledging where we are as a species in terms of our  impact on our surroundings, in order that we can move beyond it and assume the positive custodianship that we are capable of and that we created the need for.

Katie suggested that I might take the idea of acknowledgment through apology into action, and actually start to apologize to our fellow beings.

And so Project Apology was begun.

With Katie behind the camera, I began apologizing to beings in and around Boston in the winter of 2007 .

Since the first series of apologies in 2007, life events put the project on the back burner,  and it is now regaining its momentum out of a renewed sense of urgency.

Thank you Katie for inspiring me to take the idea of apology into the actuality of apology. I could not have imagined the scope and breadth of insights that have arisen from it, and it is only just beginning.

Some would say that is is ‘sad’, and perhaps it is, yet it is where we are at, and only through mass acknowledgment of the reality, can we take effective action to change things, because what is required now in tempering climate change and habitat depletion (of which species extinction is a symptom, though it has other causes too) is a massive social, cultural and political shift – away from material considerations and greed towards the sustainable greater good for all inhabitants of our wonderful planet.

Introduction to Project Apology

Ever since billions of years ago when those first cells developed a way of recording for prosperity their recipes for success, ever since we made that first tool or used that first club, man has been destined to progress, to evolve. From single cell organism to beyond space – we’re somewhere in between. Yet one would think that, whereas with ‘animals’ evolution seems to be a process of unconscious positive adaptation based on the dictates of their given external circumstances, our unlikely transcendence of an ‘animal’ level of consciousness, if you will, would have endowed us with the good sense to take at least some of the variables of our evolutionary process into our own hands.

On the contrary, sometimes it seems as though we’ve lost the point somewhere along the line – that we’re stuck in a state of limbo, suspended permanently in consciousness between things that have happened such as technological/biological advances and their consequences and/or practical applications. Sometimes it seems as though we haven’t evolved at all or, at the very least, that we’ve taken a couple of wrong turns along the way.  And then again, in the same way that our mothers (hopefully) never said that life was going to be all peaches and cream, no one ever said that the twist in the cocktail of evolution was going to be a positive one. Perhaps everything is perfect just as it is, and whatever twists may come were always meant to be. What is more than certain is that no one is near being ‘in control’, no one except perhaps that human animal incarnation, greed. And, on the sixth day, greed gave birth to blind pursuit in the western colonial mould that has opened the door for a cultural and human void perhaps best described by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers in Californiacation as follows:

“Space my be the final frontier, but it’s born in a Hollywood basement.”

Why do we bother to hold events like the `World Summit on Sustainable Development’ (aside from its function as a large-scale business party for high-level oil execs)? How do we fail to see that we live in a closed system where the pain of our fellow beings is our own and where greed and blinkered self-seeking must be replaced, very smartly, with giving and nurturing, if we are to survive? For even so-called ‘love’ is questionable in the days of our lives where value systems are increasingly based on media stereotyped materiality and model citizenship defined by material wealth and/or good looks.

Against this backdrop, ‘Project Apology’ is an ongoing video project that involves the documentation of an undertaking to apologize, in person and as a self-appointed representative of the human race, to members of all of the non-human animal species on the planet that are being adversely affected by human activity. Obviously such a mandate includes every last living creature and, as such, presents a very tall order, the unmanageability of such an undertaking becoming a big part of its content as a piece of art – in pushing for a greater degree of acknowledgement of damage done and acceptance of the urgent need for responsible change – if we and our co-inhabitants of this planet are to survive.  My intent with this project is to use satire as a means to deliver a serious message in an unconventionally and ‘amusingly’ palatable manner (so as to avoid the alienation and preachy tone that often comes with the delivery of the realities of human impact on the planet), a message whose seriousness is evident in National Geographic’s estimation that 17 species of plants and animals are becoming extinct every hour, and the fact that the adverse effects of human industry that we are currently experiencing (manifested in accelerated climate change and increasing incidence of natural disasters) are as a result only of damage done up until 40 years ago.

As we are now only starting to come to terms on a large scale with our impact on the planet as a species, it is important to realize that the purpose of our new enlightenment is not to assign blame for atrocities past.  Rather it is to create awareness and dialogue around the issues that face us as a continent and a planet, so that we can move forward in a responsible and sustainable manner and hold accountable those who continue to commit crimes against our planet, our humanity and our future – despite the ‘new’ (decades held) indisputable insight into the reality of our times.

No longer can we allow ourselves to be blindfolded and bribed into feeling comfortable through social censure and the promise of material things, to be led by the carrot in front of the donkey that is the false promise of wealth and prosperity.  Let us wake up now, remove our blindfolds and stop playing a game that benefits a greedy, entitled sleepwalking minority that will destroy the planet and humanity if we do not intervene.

–          Paul Roux