a gather: documenting death

I’ve been trying to articulate what I plan to work on in the next several years. This is a tentative effort to mark down whats been swirling and to think about the threads that tie a few seemingly disparate efforts together. All of this is subject to upheaval, reworking, revision, or dissolution. In general, I work on the media we use to count dead people, as well as the how, why, and with what impacts of that counting…

memory weaving

I’ve been thinking about ways to sit with the enormous cost of our encounters with COVID in the US and globally. I’ve also been trying to understand more about how “data visceralization” (a term coined by Kelly Dobson who was then at RISD and later used by Luke Stark in this piece for The Atlantic) might offer affordances that feel more in line with work I’ve done previously as part of the Vibrant Lives collective.

I’ve also been thinking about ways to make work while also being flexible enough to attend to care taking responsibilities during the ongoing covid mess.

To the left is a prototype of a woven piece connected to the daily COVID mortality count in New Hampshire

A Book Called Toll with Lucy Easthope.

Two wicked smart women write a trade book about how counts are done during mass mortality events, including armed conflict, pandemics, natural disasters, etc. Probably not what you want on your coffee table, but an important story to tell.

Cords, Quipus, and Pools

As with the weaving, I’m exploring more about data visceralization as well as how people can engage with data-based art as both pleasure and a way of learning/knowing. I’m fond of the visual and tactile qualities of this kind of work. I’m also enjoying supporting natural and recycled fiber producers.

Energy Pools (left) is an interactive data visceralization that has now been housed at both Dartmouth Energy Symposium and at the Beckman Center for National Academies (Irvine, CA). The piece invites visitors to enact the shift in energy sources (from petroleum and natural gas to renewables) that we need to cap global warming at 1.5 C Created with Nikki Stevens and Christy Rose. Original commission by the Irving Institute for Energy and Society at Dartmouth.

quipu london 1974

Cecilia Vicuna’s gorgeous quipu pieces were recently recommended to me and I’m both looking and reading more (above is a 1974 piece). Quipus have been a part of my research as a quantifying technology/quantum media.

Flesh Fiber Information

I think mostly about how we count, store, and transmit information about mortality but I am also interested in how we engage various media to do the work of knowing and remembering. I also really enjoy working with other humans who want to think about these things. Collaborators on the project include  Dr. Theodora Dryer, New York University, sculpture artist Molly Morin, Weber State University, interdisciplinary artist Romi Morrison, University of Southern California, and choreographer Sydney Skybetter. The grant will support a year of collaborative study of the ways information is embedded in “fleshy and fibrous ways of knowing.” The project will cultivate a collective, arts-centered  understanding of historically marginalized knowledge and communication practices and will culminate in a proposal for new, transdisciplinary and pathbreaking creative and critical work.

Documenting Death the book

I’m having a doozy of a time actually writing these days….but I’d like my next academic book project to help us all understand the media histories of how we count and record death. This is a truly bananas history here in the U.S. because of our federated states-controlled system and it meanders from paper and pen, to punch cards and tabulating machines, then telephony and fax, and onto computers and digital information systems. And it’s not a linear story at all – it has lots of great overlapping of technologies. So something like a social, cultural, and political history of documenting death…but I need to noodle in other spaces while thinking this one. A first step toward this has been pieces on the history of digital death certification and on writing a history of death in the midst of a pandemic…both of which are in progress currently.

And the project that began it all: Numbered Lives

Photo of cover of hardback copy of Numbered Lives

I continue to give talks and join classes to talk about Numbered Lives, which became relevant in ways that I didn’t expect when COVID hit…