Vulnerable ecologies: This Woman's Work by Dr. Ian Bethell-Bennett / by Natascha Vazquez

Feminist ecology and ecocriticism have usually pushed for embracing the environment and awareness of the same in our life ways.  The intersection of art, ecology and a female’s perspective is often fertile space for serious discussions and new understandings of society, and its socioeconomic and sociopolitical challenges. 

The environment and ecology are under serious threat as we can see from Naomi Klein’s This changes everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014) along with the U.S. government’s recent report on the dangers of climate change as well as the United Nations’ Report on Climate change.  Capitalism, usually seen as the driver of economies and the joy of consumption, encourage a particular disregard for conservation and natural balance in favour of expansive and unlimited profits. 

Meanwhile, artists, nature lovers and regular citizens face the threat of extinction through rising sea levels and increased storm frequency and ferocity due in large part to human consumption of fossil fuels and living outside of harmony.  One of the links that we as island dwellers refuse to make is the link between  the patriarchy and masculinist discourse that deny the existence of climate change and sea level rise. They reflect a deeply colonial mindset that negates the outward reality.  They also offer the limitless life of market growth and profit.  However, all things are limited, there is no unending elasticity to profits. 

The Small Axe Project has recently focused a spotlight on climate change/environment in the Caribbean with an evening at NYU “Eye of the Storm: A Conversation on Capitalism, Colonialism, and Climate Change in the Caribbean” and were grappling with, “the ways in which neoliberal capitalism, colonialism, and climate change have come together in the Caribbean to reanimate and strengthen economic and racial hierarchies that have long marked the region and its place in the world”.[1]

These are points underscored by the works of Jo Morasco and Natascha Vazquez, who articulate through various artistic forms, the threat of capitalism on our ecologies/environment and lives. Yet many remain silent through consumption and state apparatus. 

Morasco asks us to: “Speak out! Speak up! Be heard!  Pick up! Clean up! Participate! Build responsibly and dispose respectfully”, while Vasquez notes:

“I have been collecting mangrove plants and roots that have been uprooted and destroyed to make way for new developments in New Providence. Upon witnessing these graveyards I develop a deep sadness, one that has inspired me to re-contextualize the way I see these plants dying. “

Works from the “Blue Carbon” series, (2018). Natascha Vasquez. Cyanotype on paper. 29 1/2" x 41 1/2". Work courtesy of the artist. Image courtesy of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

Works from the “Blue Carbon” series, (2018). Natascha Vasquez. Cyanotype on paper. 29 1/2" x 41 1/2". Work courtesy of the artist. Image courtesy of the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.

This is a part of the artist’s recognition of the fragility of ecology in the face of capitalist expansionism. As Klein notes, capitalism versus the environment is a dystopic space to inhabit.  As low-lying SIDS, Bahamian political agenda has maintained a non-proactive position on improving the environment to better support us.  The artists’ critique of this inertia is strong and beautifully crafted so that our risks and losses are clear.  At the same time, nothing national is being done to overtake the capitalist discourse.  

The Ninth National Exhibition NE9, gives space to those who manifest about the country’s vulnerable geography by showing the realities of climate change, unsustainable development practices and their fall out.  Vazquez works with mangroves, as she says, a vulnerable commodity as new developments take over and root out or deracinate evidence of mangroves in efforts to expand profit.  Morasco equally understands through her textile work Mal de Mar (2017) that Bahamian ecology suffers through poor and masculinist development deals that propose to surrender environment for profit.  Island sales along with continued use of known pollutant, exhaustible fossil fuels leave our low-lying, small-island, developing state under threat.  Morasco’s work explores this environmental degradation through the beguiling calm of tapestry, the everyday beauty of living art to bring to the fore the choices we take when we opt to bias our focus exclusively towards industrialisation and it contamination, which is easily attenuated based on simple more positive choices.  Her description is interestingly provocative.

See full article here