Green shoots: deforestation and the ironic need for growth

For Garth Meyers final MFA exhibition LINE : 18th November 2017 at the Michaelis School of Fine Art – UCT.


Green Shoots: deforestation and the ironic need for growth

‘Even the earth is dizzy

Even the clouds are coughing

Even the leaves are wheezing

Earthbeats, Earthbeats’[1]

All over the world countries are measured, like plants, in terms of their growth. Have the branches of our economy withered or are ‘green shoots’ visible with future hopes of wealth?  Do we put down roots or do we transplant ourselves to more fertile areas? Investopedia describes ‘green shoots’ as : “A term used to describe signs of economic recovery or positive data during an economic downturn. The term green shoots is a reference to plant growth and recovery and has been used during down economies to describe signs of similar growth” [2]

The plant/nature metaphor is ubiquitous in business and economics:  Is Apple better than Blackberry or Orange or is the best Cloud storage system called Rain… and do they sell space on Amazon. Is ‘growth’, then, good for planet Earth and inevitably for us as a species?

Green Shoots, through a series of aerial photos and film, depicts economic growth in a different light: human economic growth-activity and development are seen as an injurious scar tissue, where roads cut and buildings fester; red earth wounds; all culminating in cancerous sores over large swathes of the Earth surface.

The beginning picture-edits are punctuated by drops of rain. These grow and develop in pace and density eventually being superseded by the tapping of a computer keyboard.

The tapping keyboard takes control: it manages rain manipulation, automated irrigation, conveyor belts and stone crushing machinery. Most aspects of economic growth are automated, computerised and ultimately controlled by the tapping of a keyboard. This then is the primary sound in many industrialised human lives; the tap, tap, tap of the computer keyboard. It is: moving money, playing games, buying stocks, building roads, bringing development to the poorer nations. This is human progress and it is rewarded by wealth. For a few; immense wealth, even, for some, exceeding the gross GDP of many small countries.

Success is rewarded, also, with accolades and applause.  So the next sound which morphs from the keyboard is the hand-clap. Applause is the ancient cultural ritual of bringing two hands together to make a loud sound. The hand-clapping, therefore, takes over from the keyboard and, though initially applause, a different clapping becomes evident. A morphing from applause to ritual clapping begins to underscore a presence of the human-ancient; the lost (or killed) civilisations, the performance of ancient traditional ritual as we (humans) seek the extinct, or the un-understandable, the non-logical. We need this to fill the psychological hole left behind with the death of god and the rise of the industrial paradigm and the new religions of Freud, Marx, Darwin and Nietzsche.

The present new noise of home-brewed ceremonies and dross meanings and incantations and rhythm brings us to the Earth beat generation of new-age ritual, and chant, and magical thinking which inevitably cannot bring new shoots or new leaves to the already too late destruction. The machine is churning faster and faster and we cannot hear above the human babble or the traffic noise or the air-conditioner or the washing-machine.

The washing-machine: This is the audio carpet which holds the room together—as Jeff Bridges famously quips in the Big Lobowski (1998)—and spin-dries us off into oblivion. It provides not only atmosphere—when pitched-shifted down—but also the critical sound edit points which take the viewer from static to moving picture—via the important OFF-ON switch. The washing-machine also gives us the mundane energy and tempo-surge as we rush, headlong, money belts spinning into a speeding blur of sound and image—to the final OFF button.[3]

[1] Earthbeat by The Slits from: Return of the Giant Slits (℗ 1981. CBS Records )


[3] ‘money-belts spinning’ reference to Lesego Rampolokengs poem ‘Johannesburg’ from End Beginnings (1989 Shifty Records)


Warrick Sony (2019)

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