book club: Writing on the Precipice

posted: 22-08-2020

Writing on the Precipice, James Bradley

Available online: Sydney Review of Books. 21 Feb 2020.

Consideration: Being creative practitioners in the Anthropocene.

Provocation: How might designers speculate on what it means to be human in a time of ecological crisis? How might we reimagine our role in the biosphere from 'extractors' to 'entangled kin'?

Although Bradley is primarily discussing the role and responsibilities for writers and artists, his questions and arguments apply to designer. From the essay:

“Yet whatever we call it, there is no question the new world the human race is creating offers profound challenges to almost every aspect of our societies, not just destabilising our assumptions about ecology, economics, social justice and politics, but altering our ideas about what it means to be human, and the relationship of the human to the world.

For writers and artists these challenges are particularly acute. Not only must we confront the inhuman scale of the transformation that is taking place around us, its temporal, physical and moral enormity, we must find ways of making sense of its complexity and interconnectedness. We must begin to find new ways of representing its effects, new imaginative and lexical vocabularies capable of naming and describing concepts and experiences that exceed the human. We must learn to talk about grief without being overwhelmed by it or descending into bathos. We must find ways of recording and memorialising what is being lost, of resisting not just the assumptions of hypercapitalism but the amnesia it induces, the constant Year Zero of a post-fact society. And perhaps most importantly, we must find ways to communicate ideas that are not just uncomfortable and frightening but actively difficult to comprehend because they demand we accept the ideas and ideologies that structure our world are, as Marx had it, no more solid than air.

Finding ways of doing these things matters, and not just because if we do not we are failing in our role as writers and artists.”