Lost Matter

2022, One-to-one performance ritual

An act of intimate reflection, a collective mourning, and a recognition of the capitalism-caused climate crisis, colonization, and exploitation of land and resources. Visitors are invited to an infinity shadow dance one person at a time. A sound poem accompanies the ritual: a chorus of mournings about what we lose daily. Andrea’s back is there to be uncovered from the earth and written on with river water to receive their mourning onto the skin.

VestAndPage "Lost Matter"
VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

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VestAndPage "Lost Matter"
VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

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VestAndPage "Lost Matter"
VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

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VestAndPage "Lost Matter"
VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

VestAndPage "Lost Matter"

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While the mourning that Lost Matter wants to hold space encompasses all forms of loss –individual and personal, or collective and societal– the act has been born out of a profound sensation of solastalgia. Solastalgia is place-based anguish, a reversed form of nostalgia: the homesickness we feel in (rather than for) our own home (Glenn Albrecht 2019, p.38). Solastalgia has been felt for many centuries by many cultures: a depleted landscape where biodiversity is diminished can cause a sense of solastalgia. Elyne Mitchell (1946, p.4) pointed out that exploitative practices such as large-scale agriculture and colonization have contributed to an endemic disconnect between humans and the planet. Recent ecosystem distress and climate chaos have intensified the desolation people experience in response to environmental phenomena beyond our control, such as wildfires, flooding, drought, and volcanic eruptions. Invasive and irreversible human interventions such as land clearing, overfishing, deforestation, destructive mining, and more increase pressure on the natural world, people, and non-humans. It brings forth an irreversible loss of home environments, which causes existential angst about this process. But research indicates that solastalgia can have an adaptive function when it leads people to seek comfort collectively. Like other climate-related emotions, when attended through acts that allow for reflective emotion, this can induce growth and resilience.

This first Lost Matter ritual took place in Canada, a country where, through the insisting efforts of First Nations and environmental activists, a river can have legal personhood, being accepted as an entity with a right to live, evolve naturally, and have its natural cycles. The Mutuhekau Shipu (Magpie River) in the Québec province of Canada has nine legal rights granted in February 2021 after the local municipality of Minganie and the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit passed joint resolutions. These rights include the right to flow, maintain its biodiversity and take legal action, with the last right being crucial to safeguarding the river from potential industrial projects. The initiative is part of a global, Indigenous-led campaign echoing the rights of nature movement, which aims to recognize that rivers and ecosystems are not simply resources for humans to exploit but entities with intrinsic value and the right to exist.

 

The second ritual in Italy came when new UNESCO data highlighted the accelerated melting of glaciers in World Heritage sites, with one-third condemned to disappear by 2050, regardless of efforts to limit temperature increases. A significant challenge now is to save the other two-thirds by limiting the rise in global temperatures to not exceed 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period. The study shows that the glaciers have been retreating at an accelerated rate since 2000 due to CO2 emissions, and are currently losing 58 billion tons of ice annually and are responsible for nearly 5% of observed global sea-level rise. Half of humanity depends directly or indirectly on glaciers as their water source for domestic use, agriculture, and power. Glaciers are also pillars of biodiversity, feeding many ecosystems.

Presented at

  • Langage Plus, Alma, QC, on the occasion of Rencontre internationale d'art performance / RIAP presented by Le Lieu, centre en art actuel, August 25, 2022

  • Mole Vanvitelliana, Ancona (IT) on the occasion of Cinematica Festival Natura Naturans, October 28, 2022