READING THE WATER : part 1
The Bay, like the rest of the world, can be used or abused in a variety of ways, but it can't be explained in terms of one ultimate purpose. Science can bring us to know what is. Art can bring us to meaning. We can stand on the shore and if we are open, we can see clearly what is before us and awaken to the enormous mystery of Being Here. We would be better off both artistically and scientifically, if we referred to the body of water in question not as "Hamilton Harbour" but by its former name, "Burlington Bay". The aboriginal name, "Macassa", would be even better. A harbour can be thought of only as something functionally subservient to the fictional necessities of human economics. A bay is what it is, like a tree is a tree.
One of the great fallacies of our time is the notion that humans and what they do are outside of and different from nature. This belief is expressed in statements like, "Man conquers nature," or, "Pollution in the Bay is unnatural." Our activities are not merely subject to our good intentions. Everything we do obeys the laws of nature. We have dedicated our collective purpose to satisfy the demands of making money and driving cars, and in the process, immeasurable ecological damage is done. The planet could be made unihabitable precisely because what we do does obey the laws of nature. It seems we do not know the full scope of these laws yet. Many of them have been recognized for centuries but haven't been taken to heart. For example, "Violence begets violence," or, "World peace and harmony require that you love and share and be less greedy." These universal laws are often thought to be whimsically valid only in the sentimental realms of religion, but they are as coldly true and active as the law of gravity.
This observation has everything to do with the present and future condition of the Bay. We must see things for what they are. We must notice what deprives our world of meaning. We must be aware of those things we think and do that threaten the planet and anything on it. We must understand that toxins pollute not only our earth, air and water, but also our opinions and desires and beliefs.
READING THE WATER was a collaborative show by Bay area artists and scientists from Canada Inland Waters
at the BURLINGTON ART CENTRE
Nov 1 - Dec 14, 1992
READING THE WATER : part 2
THE BILLBOARD PROJECT
What kind of world do we imagine is fit for us and our stories? We've heard it rumoured that there isn't a single confirmed sighting of mermaids in Burlington Bay, and not once has the seductive songs of sirens haunted Cootes Paradise. We've also been asked to believe these waters were not meant to harbour sturgeon or trout, or the call of a loon. Mermaids aren't the only thing to face extinction. A certain vision of the world has six feet of good Canadian topsoil waiting for it. The stone has already been carved. It remains only for us to wash our hands of it.
How may more times must we hear the word myth used as if it means untruthfulness or lies? The purpose of myths is to bring us to truth. A bus labelled "Niagara Falls" is not Niagara Falls.
Whether or not our society aspires to follow The Way of Truth and Life, the Shining Path, the Ever-Upward Journey, the Trans-Canada Highway or the Yellow Brick Road, our fragmented life together now leads in all directions and goes nowhere. Even those of us who agree truth is a pathless land find pavement under our feet and One Way signs at every turn.
Mother Earth is bleeding. Don't worry, we'll protect her from further injury. See, our daggers are already drawn. We stand here like Lord and Lady MacBeth, but in our case the woods are receding. What's the matter with this water that our hands won't come clean?
OPPOSITE COPPS COLISEUM
on Bay Street North,
Nov 1 - Dec 14, 1992