"What the Earth needs now is a good housekeeper. Habitat was lost by increments, it can be restored by increments."
"Ghost Nets" is a conceptually based nine-year art project about restoration. The present focus is the on-site dialogue between the earth art and nature. The following points describe the project:
"It took me twenty years to put technological work, environmental art and an interest in the issues that degrade people, as rape, domestic violence and child abuse together. When I did, I called it "Ghost Nets" because the technology of the fishing industry traps sea life as we trap each other and our environment in the denial of our interdependence. It is important to me to see the loss of salt marsh wetlands anthropomorphically and its subsequent "rescue" as metaphorical but these are not simply poetic allusions. In "Ghost Nets" I set out to make connections between very small, documented decisions and the larger process of moving 16 truckloads of granite debris and collaborating with Bioengineers to make a viable ecosystem. My concern was not simply the immediate impact. If I wanted only effect, the project could have been accomplished in three months. Instead, I have spent ten years trying to see how very small things relate to very big things: for example how what is typically a very small source of forage, spawning and nesting in the fly zone and fish migration avenues, incrementally lost, fits in a pattern of global restoration our lives depend on. Weaving my life into the local fishing culture, being an activist in the community, these are all framing devices for a performance event. On one level this is old-fashioned housekeeping. In even earlier terminology, it is husbandry. (Making a digital site has depersonalized that entire process. The payoff is to create an elegant relationship to the process of salvation)."
"Ghost Nets" began attracting media attention with Lucy Lippard's book, "The Lure of the Local", (published 1997, W.W. Norton & Company); and publications in "Inter-Island News" (Island Institute from 1997-1999). Aviva Rahmani's work has appeared in several major books, including "The Power of Feminist Art", edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrand, "The Lure of the Local" by Lucy Lippard, "Art in the Public Interest" by Arlene Raven, "The Amazing Decade" by Moira Roth and "Through the Flower" by Judy Chicago. The work has been exhibited in over thirty solo and fifty group shows nationally, including collections curated by Leon Golub, Lucy Lippard and Arlene Raven. Early in her career, she was best known for her work as a seminal feminist performance artist. Recently, "Ghost Nets" has been presented at several international conferences including in Israel and Brazil.
The "Ghost Nets" site restoration was presented as a case study at the international conference on the design application of new technologies, "Manufactured Sites" at Harvard Graduate School of Design (April 3-4, 1998). An intense collaboration began in 1999 with Michele Dionne, PhD., Research Director at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve to study the salt marsh restoration, establish a protocol for and develop a theory about pocket marshes. In 1999, at the Los Angeles College Art Association conference, she co-chaired "Off the Mainstream, Into the Mainstream", a panel on the state-of-the-art of Environmental Art with Jo Hanson and Susan Leibovitz Steinman of the Womens Environmental Art Directory (WEAD). A book about the project has been completed. The project was also the a recipient of a grant awarded from the Nancy H. Gray Foundation and was a finalist for the Lindbergh Foundation & Creative Capital grants.
"Ghost Nets" culminated in 1997 with a state of the art bioengineered restoration of an on-site salt marsh in collaboration with Wendy Goldsmith, Chief Bioengineer with The Bioengineering Group of Salem, MA. Subsequently it was that work that was presented at "Manufactured Sites."
Rahmani's teaching experience includes at New York University, the New School for Social Research in New York, guest lecturing at the College of the Atlantic and the University of California at San Diego. Rahmani gained her Bachelors and Masters degrees from the California Institute of the Arts. There she studied multi-media and electronic music, working primarily with Allan Kaprow, Mort Sobotnick, Judy Chicago and Alison Knowles, after earlier studies at the Cooper Union School of Fine Art and New York University, where she studied Comparative Literature and Art History.
The working process of "Ghost Nets" has used various media for documentation of change on the site, including a range of collaborative forms. Ghost nets are the monofilament gill nets used by fishermen. When lost overboard, these indestructible, invisible nets drift through the ocean trapping fish indiscriminately, strip mining the sea. Aviva Rahmani claimed them in 1991 as a metaphor for how familiar habits and routines unchecked can trap and kill us all.
What if, in the boundless world of What If, every time a couple had a second child rather than adopt, every time a new housing development was built rather than integrated into existing urban space the "perpetrators" were charged with environmental abuse and given the same jail time as a case of child abuse? What if it were illegal to plant a lawn in arid parts of the world?
What if we demolished shopping malls and even cities to make space for waterways and animal migration routes? What if it would be unthinkable to own a car that ran on less than 100 miles per gallon of any kind of fuel? What if anyone entering an endangered ecosystem of more than 5 square miles, anywhere in the world, were required to undergo three years of intensive environmental education monitored by Indigenous Peoples to earn a license that would be revokable in five years? And the penalty were death by being staked to an ant hill and covered with honey?
Because we are killing our children. They will not have water or food or breathable air. What if we thought in terms of every child born kills 1000 future children by what they will consume of available resources? What if we tallied how many dead animals it costs to drive one mile? What if people were charged with environmental war crimes any time they exercised their greed at the expense of the environment? What if a family compound with a 10 000 square foot home were regarded as mass murder?
What if these are not extreme questions but actually conservative?
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