The thread increasingly surrounded by darkness Riding out the winter (decline) of industrial civilization


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Message to Alysia:
the source of my artistic inspiration…
It’s been awhile since I thought about that—its probably good you asked, the question is sure to come up again.
I don’t know how thorough an answer you’re expecting but I tend to be wordy so here’s a barrage of information.
There are four authors/thinkers whose work supports the four corners of my practice (conceptually speaking of course but I picture them holding up some heavy piece of stone whenever I use that analogy.) They are: John Michael Greer, James Howard Kunstler, Ran Prieur, and Dmitry Orlov.
To vastly oversimplify, we’re all looking into the decline of the industrial age: a longterm contraction precipitated by the global peak in hydrocarbon-based energy production. Basically, the end of the 200-year oil-fueled fiesta and the beginning of a messy period of restructuring where the complex systems that sustain us (industrial agriculture, etc.) will need to be replaced by local, bottom-up efforts.
Phew… ok.
So my thing as the visual artist in this “doomers” club is to not only muse about what the deindustrial age might have in store for humanity, but to take a look at some of these ridiculously complex systems we were able to build with millions of years worth of ancient sunlight (oil/coal/natural gas) and to frame them as monuments to what will appear in hindsight to be a very brief and special (400-year-long) moment in our specie’s history.
I photograph and write about power plants, refineries, mines, megastructures, water projects… it’s a long list. I’m also very into industrial ruins—abandoned places, mostly for their beauty and spiritual potential.

Another component of my work deals with this persistent ‘myth of progress’: the bullshit idea that the future holds only boundless opportunity for advancement; that our modern civilization is somehow exempt from the lifecycle of rise and fall that has been the dominant pattern throughout history. Because the myth is THE religion of our time, most people’s explanation for why the world is the way it is, when it’s exposed as the lie it is and walked away from, it’ll leave lots of room for emerging spiritualities, new stories about the human project, fresh ways of thinking. Telling my own “new story” is pretty much what I’m up to.

Well there you have it. As is probably obvious by now, I can go on about this for days (but I usually don’t). When it comes to other people I’d much rather be biking around or getting coffee, or biking to get coffee. Or dancing, which I must admit I excel at.
Anyway, I think I’m going to delete my profile but I feel like we might get along so we can pick this up on email if you’re down.
brett [at sign]

or the alias:

jockstockholm [at sign] if you g-chat
As is the routine, I’ll be at old ironsides on Tuesday night. Come with your entourage and we’ll take over the dancefloor.
Scratch the hypocrisy question.
its time to go. No more delays, no more bullshit—we’re off.
Look at it this way—50 dollars is two days worth of food, it’s 130 miles farther into the…
Wisdom from Edith:

Remember, never close any doors, never in contrast to one’s position, focus on yourself, speak from your perspective—“this is what I do…” the energy it takes to repel another’s position is wasted, to actively exclude—it’s too judgmental and makes you look like a jerk.

Miru Kim

Documenting isn’t enough

A living body inhabiting these derelict spaces—a character without cultural signifiers—naked

Realized that things can fall into ruins really fast—the man made world

Berlin—lots of ruins

Some of the best artists have defected from other disciplines. Miru Kim was going to be a doctor before she started photographing herself naked in abandoned factories and tunnels. Here’s her TED talk.

Animate and humanize the spaces before they are lost forever.

A playground—childlike

Do you guyse live existential lives?

I get the felling it’s a bit existential for you guys
Yeah when all you’ve got to do that day is figure out what its all about
Re-cut Koyaanisqatsi as one-month project for Corsica-- new audio, no stupid overlays.
The climate all shifting around.
Koyaanisqatsi:_Life_out_of_Balance__Powaqqatsi:_Life_in_Transition'>Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance & Powaqqatsi: Life in Transition
The first two films of Godfrey Reggio’s Qatsi trilogy have been captivating stoned undergraduates since the 80’s and, on the doorstep of a new decade, deserve a fresh look. Although a bit heavy-handed and didactic by today’s standards, the films are shot at a level of cinematic intelligence I’d be lucky to someday reach. None of the little moments of extraordinary depth and beauty that make the films worth watching were manufactured; the filmmakers were simply at the right place and time to capture them. It’s in this documentary sprit that most of the video content on this site is made.
Although Reggio frames the binary as the northern hemisphere (Koyaanisqatsi) and southern hemisphere (Powaqqatsi), It could similarly be thought of as first world versus third world or industrialized economies versus developing. I like to think of the pair in a temporal sense—with the human powered world depicted in the second film occupying space on either side of the Boeing 747-shaped curve that describes the industrial pulse.

Koyaanisqatsi relies heavily on time lapse, an approach that speeds an already hectic industrial world, making us and our activities look ugly and absurd. By contrast, all the slow motion in Powaqqatsi evokes dignity, grace and harmony. Although I’d like to avoid relying too heavily on speed adjustments to the footage I take, cinematographer Ron Fricke’s work dissolves any apprehensions I’ve had about taking really long shots. Not one of Fricke's but perhaps my favorite sequence from the first film is its rocket launch finale: not only amazing to watch, but a good metaphor for the industrial age.

The films have an anthropological lean that further ties them to my recent work. With the pair, Reggio has constructed a global cultural identity—a portrait of humanity (in the 1980s). He describes it as an attempt, at the moment of crisis, to take a step back and evaluate our specie’s situation. It’s this broad view of the industrial age’s conclusion I’m suggesting I can capture by giving The Illuminated Thread globally scaled ambitions.
Koyaanisqatsi touches on a bunch of my current interests: abandonment, demolition, power plants and energy, resource flows, freeways, consumerism, technology, space flight (as a symbol of limitlessness), megastructures, mining, modernist architecture and as the filmmaker puts it, “The beauty of the beast (our shining way of life).”
The films' official site.
The films are anthropological snapshots: portraits of a global cultural identity.

Global portrait of humanity


Parallels to the project

As director puts it, show:

The beauty of the beast (our shining way of life).
High tech base—

Not hypocritical to use the medium you’re critiquing

The medium most capable of revealing to us our situation

Reveal the subject most clearly

Avoid becoming

The computer

Highest magic, produces what it signifies—more symbols, more abstractions
More time lapse in the first—makes our activities look ridiculous

Slow motion—more beauty more dignity, more human, more delicate and more beautiful

A whole section shot through cars—transitions/cuts with traffic

The first is the way up—I’m looking at the transition on the other-side of the bell curve—images that look similar to how much of life will look in the industrialized nations as

There’s not enough time and not enough materials and not enough capital to construct
We got so busy selling each other stuff that we failed to notice or chose to ignore what we were doing to the habitat that sustains us.
Three sentences on the film pair—


Third/first world
The type of cinematography I aspire to be as good at someday
Recording what’s there—no manufactured situations
Capturing a lot of amazing moments—collecting them and assembling them into an archive.
an anthropological portrait—but aspiring to represent a global culture—a mix-ed up
Parallels to your work:
Energy, power plants, power transmission towers, megastructures, the critique of space flight endeavors (reinforcing limitlessness)—as a symbol of goals that must be abandoned, abandonment, demolition, freeways and traffic flows, energy flows, resource flows, consumer culture, debilitating and humiliating work and living spaces (little boxes). Hyper-consumption, a disconnection from the planet, etc.
Watching the film with each person as the guest. Taking notes of what they said during the film—this is the gift
So clearly we’re an absurd species.
I just saw Godfrey Reggio’s experimental 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi. Ron Fricke’s cinematography is some of the best I’ve seen and only improves in the films’s sequel.
Focus on the absurdity of the things we’re doing, the things we’re building, strapping ourselves to sophisticated canisters filled with incredibly flammable liquid and launching ourselves into space

The indignity of the places we’ve built to house ourselves—the tiny boxes many of us spend long hours in. ok, we’ve got everything we need scattered all over the surface, now just ease up on the throttle there—back it off a bit.

Type out a monologue for each shot sequence—audio recording might help with this.
Such a terrifically ugly species in many ways.
Interesting that the chosen word came from a Hopi tribe. A group very much in synch with their environment—treading particularly lighly on their landbase.
No more shooting off rockets people—we are going to have to put those toys away indefinitely. We live here assholes. It’s bleak out there. “But there might be stuff we can use!”—“something else we can burn to keep the cars and all the stuff flowing around, tv’s circulating the globe. Build more cars!” (demonic cackle-- )
In its openness—removed is the task of having to focus on a narrative—you get to sink into the cinamatorgraphy, the images, to have trust in the filmmaker’s decisions—the editing, the pairings—

Leaving more work for the viewer—space to draw their own conclusions, to make their own connections, to dawn their own insights.


Not trying to romanticize the southern hemisphere—saying that there isn’t just one lifeway—that these other lifeways are threatened because they’re human, fragile. The world of the machine is hard and brutal and self-perpetuating—means it creates its world.

Portrait of humanity in three volumes.
Re-listen to the filmmaker’s opening remarks on DVD “impact of progress” what this series is about
Although not without its faults—layering the first world people walking over third world children may have been a poor choice. Heavy handed and didactic, as well as some jarring transitions and weaknesses in Glass’s score.
Represents an epic portrait of humanity— comprehensive in scope
Represents un-fathomable amount of work
For some reason the disk still has subtitles—oh, for the
Really, watch it with the whole family on Christmas day.

Recommended for Christmas morning family viewing if its at all possible to arrange.

That final incredible shot of a failed rocket launch with the piece of flaming debris hurdling back to earth—miles and miles so that it takes several minutes—and just goes into this slow counterclockwise rotation.

Train shot—really long.
Kinda where I want to be in terms of an openness—nothing set up, no narrative, just showing, and letting the audience work a little harder, create their own narratives, come up with things in their own—connections/insights that they discovered, not that were handed to them
Also “pure cinema”:

Pure Cinema is the film theory that a movie maker can create a more emotionally intense experience using autonomous film techniques, as opposed to using stories, characters, or actors.
Unlike nearly all other fare offered via celluloid, pure cinema rejects the link and the character traits of artistic predecessors such as literature or theatre. It declares cinema to be its own independent art form that should not borrow from any other. As such, "pure cinema" is made up of nonstory, noncharacter films that convey abstract emotional experiences through unique cinematic devices such as montage (the Kuleshov Effect), camera movement and camera angles, sound-visual relationships, super-impositions and other optical effects, and visual composition.
Television shots—really frightening, frenetic, anxiety inducing.
The projects in St. Louis, Mo—abandoned then demolished.

What will future cultures think of us when they find the ruins of the modernist boxes we filed ourselves away in? God these people really hated the world—or were really frightened of it.. they just constructed smaller and smaller boxes to put themselves in.

It makes watching things of lesser quality seem like a huge waste of time.
This might be setting the standards a little high but I’d like to get to this level in terms of my shot construction—and composition, to introduce tracking
Some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen.

difficult to force two images together—don’t like the overlaps—justified use of excessive slow motion and time lapse imagery. Drugs come highly recommended for this one.

A but didactic at times with the whole exploitation if the third world—but if you view it as exploitation of the whole planet
How heavy handed is the soundtrack?
Makes you not worry about doing particularly long shots.
The United airlines taxi sequence—the longest single shot is incredible and a fantastic advertisement for United Airlines.

Advertisement for united airlines—coming through the heat waves.

Train passing, long pan across the facades of white high-rise dwellings.

Just stand somewhere with your computer running video—see what happens.

Oh you should learn how to disengage the auto aperture so you can let shots run in changing lighting conditions and you won’t feel that camera adjusting
To—nomadic existence essay

Doing this project that attempts to travel using minimal transactions involving money—trying to directly exchange labor for food or lodging whenever possible—

Santa Barbara Hostel

KunstlerCast #93

Academia is a rough racquet and its getting rougher

Your virtual self—you represented through the internet.

Cartoon of yourself

Suni, Albany campus—environmental science green monstrosity—dark satanic mill—updated version, enormous
Techno-triumphalism trap we’re falling into—techno yourself through the bottleneck—very poor idea to follow
Invocation of the connection of all things together—how we’re connected to everything else, articulated by architecture—informed by the structures that surround us
Discontinuity, intrusion, obscuring the relations of things to each other—object’s built today are this—interruptions. Things that suggest a fragmentation.

Cockamamie narrative to explain what he’s doing—because they’re paying the architect so much of the stuff we build reflects a discontinuity as a culture and as a nation.

Parking – inhospitable zones
The end of irony—if you can’t make yourself comprehensible doing whatever it is you do—then forget it—we won’t have the time or the money to listen
College as a commercial activity is over with.

Diploma mills

It’s the thought that counts—as the national slogan
College campuses built like office parks.
A portrait of the world we’re engineering built with images—and words.
Destroys hierarchical relationships—some activities are better than others, some pursuits, some human activities—just because there’s demand doesn’t mean it’s a good way to devote shared resources toward.
But someone owns those resources, they paid for them—whomever lives where they’re being stolen belong to those resources.
Evoking the death of the system—what things are we building/making that do this

monumentally monstrous and horrifying,

a culture not worth carrying forward
programmed to think cynically—leaving poorly designed college campuses—the world is already a horrible discontinuous, disorganized place

Does your story with the travelers have another chapter?

Donation gift:

Writing service—after conducting a thorough interview, I’ll write your OKCupid profile for you. $100

And the Baristas that were working at the Café where I spend my time all long for the days of late summer when I would come in wearing moccasins.
You could formalize the brownlands building project—live in the structure for a week, explore squatting laws and absentee landlords. You could own that property! The implications of building structures on “owned” property without permission. Ceremonially turn over the structure to the travelers when its finished
Maybe perform the tarkovski monologue at the brownlands—a place where it can be done loud and clear.

The NY green skyscraper—represents a huge pile of money—a tower of concentrated resources all brought to the site and stacked up. It’s great that we’re thinking clearer thoughts on the whole energy dilemma but if the usefulness of this thing in a very different paradigm isn’t being questioned then that’s a problem—I mean its still a intended to hold a bunch of drones shuffling numbers all day—totally abstract stuff that has a thin connection to meeting people’s actual needs.

Performance: running naked through the pitch black night on a perfectly smooth surface. Like running through the void. Is there a way to document this?

To the CLUI team:
I wanted to bring to your attention a project I’ve been engaged with for over a year. There’s significant overlap with the center’s arenas of interest and I’m wondering if there might be potential for a collaborate effort. The endeavor, known as The Illuminated Thread is a multi-year bicycle-mounted research project aimed at documenting and interpreting the contraction phase of the industrial age. Within the context of an independent cycling tour that began in Chicago and has made it all the way to the California/Mexico border, I’ve photographed and written about a variety of sites related to the industrial age: refineries, power plants (both hydrocarbon fired and nuclear), abandoned shipyards and industrial food production facilities, mines, megastructures and many more. I produce a short video vignette for each site I visit. The evidence is all archived on the project’s website: Because of the sheer amount of content, the site can be a bit overwhelming for new readers. There’s an ‘orientation’ post at the top of the main page that provides a directed first look.
I’ve used your land use database extensively for research and to select sites. The next leg I hope to do, Los Angeles to Houston, is packed full of odd desert stops including aircraft boneyards, copper mines, water pumping stations, chemical dumps, that sludge ranch in western Texas, the country’s largest nuclear power complex, and others. The stage’s finale will be arrival in the Texas petrochemical belt outside Houston.

Although I’ve only just begun to consider how the work might be integrated into CLUI’s mission, I envision the ride being this line (a “thread” if you will) that connects a bunch of your sites of interest. It could be done thematically: taking a look a the California Water Project by visiting pumping stations, reservoirs, and following the aqueduct from one end of the valley to the other, or geographically: taking a close look at sites along a predetermined route.

I received my MFA form the University of Chicago’s department of visual art and have exhibited material produced for the thread. I have plans to collaborate on a future leg with another artist, Jessica Lah, a Southern California native who’s finishing up her undergraduate (visual art) at Long Beach State. She was recently at your Culver City space and would be more than happy to represent the project and meet face to face with a member of the CLUI team. I can send her in with a sampler DVD and a more formal project proposal should the opportunity arise.
Thank you in advance for your time,

Brett Tracy
I would do it this way but would totally be open to suggestions if you’ve got any.

Include Jessica in the project proposal-providing her qualifications—she’s just been in china, just had a show. Also describe what the work might look like—the audio, the images—could be as connected or separate from the umbrella project as they see it—welcome collaboration in creating the project parameters—a sub-project done specifically for the CLUI. CLUI’s dessert southwest—a collaboration with the illuminated thread.

Connecting a bunch of the sites on your land use database—thematically, as well as linearly in space an time—a cross section. Also, a closer examination of the sites—a micro examination—a close up view revealing far greater detail. Or could be organized by megasystem—the state water project—or oil production. Or do it regionally—a look at land use in the dessert southwest.
Jessica could even go in and represent the project at the culver city space—drop off the proposal—a packet with a DVD, etc.

On the e-cigarette

I actually “smoked” one of these. It was a weird experience and seems like a really odd way to use electricity—it plugs in, has to be charged. It relies on intricate micro-technology (the thing costs like $50) and is a great way to push nicotine addiction into the next century. You buy little refills for it so the cost is protracted. The makers of the really tiny parts inside as well as big tobacco benefit.

Just because there’s demand for it doesn’t mean its an appropriate thing to be converting our resources into.
On genetic tests for dogs-- $70. This question generated a heated conversation on whether it was an appropriate thing to be devoting resources to—the assumption being that if there’s demand for something it automatically means it “should be done” this throws out other determiners of value and places all things on the marketplace as without inherent hierarchy beyond what someone is willing to pay. We had better get used to the idea of letting the locals make decisions about the resources found where they live—that is if we’re concerned with avoiding an exceptionally poor transition to a vastly lower energy state.

my arrow may take a circuitous rout to reach its mark but have no doubt, my sight is trained on your city.

Your name has to begin with a “K”. I know it seems arbitrary but for some reason it’s my most consistently required feature of a woman.
Link to hinter’s point property—from placard.
the rust belt as the El Dorado of Urban exploration—Detroit. We shall see if a city whose legacy is cars, has any reason to continue existing in an age where their wares are no longer viable.
The gift card—you get to carry around and keep track of this little piece of advertising for us—funds we’ve already taken and might give you something in exchange for provided you don’t loos the little strip of plastic.

Three ways of asking for a cigarette. The flirt, the buy, the authority/hierarchy/team-member.

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