Liminal Dissonace

Brett Bloom Visit

April 28, 2017

Brett Bloom Workshop and Public Discussion


Civic Studio
336 Straight Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI

Environmentalist, artist, and publisher Brett Bloom visited GVSU and Grand Rapids for a Workshop and Public Discussion on Friday, April 28th. Presented by the GV Sculpture Studio, Visiting Artists Committee, and Civic Studio.

The English author and journalist, George Monbiot, cautions us to not talk about “climate change” as the climate is always changing. He suggests, rather, that we should talk about climate breakdown, as this more adequately describes what we are witnessing.

How does our all-pervasive use of fossil fuels affect how we see ourselves and how we experience the world around us? How can we work towards an ecology that puts the concerns of the environment and other species on equal footing with those of people? What work needs to be done to shift subjectivity in order to prepare for climate breakdown and the chaos that ensues? How deeply does petroleum penetrate our bodies, minds and ways of being in the world? What are we capable of, and what do we suppress, when it comes to our emotions, senses, and aesthetic awareness of living in a petroleum-based society? What role does art and culture have in shaping the future?


The first part of this workshop explored the presence of oil in every aspect of our lives. This condition leads us to think and act through petro-subjectivity: an infinite set of metaphorical and psychological relationships we have to the world around us.
The second part of the workshop was an introduction to direct embodied modes of learning & perceiving, which offer us ways to practice leaving oil thinking-being behind.


We face the continued warming of our planet to more than 3˚ C in the coming decades. This will be too hot for most life forms to endure. What does a culture of survival built on compassion, empathy, and non-extractive relationships to our planet feel like? What can we do to shift away from our bleak future? This public discussion was a shared exploration of what our common ecological urgencies are and how we address them collectively.

The workshop and the public discussion engaged studio members and members of the Grand Rapids community through informal dialogues and group exercises. Participants were encouraged to contemplate climate breakdown and how contemporary politics and lifestyles affect our relationships to a constantly changing natural world. Bloom presented his large scale diagram on “Petro-subjectivity,” our industrialized sense of self and place, in addition to a “powerless powerpoint” on the ABCs of climate breakdown in the Anthropocene. Part of this visit also included a walk through the Butterworth Dump Superfund site to participate in a group exercise of Deep Listening, which has been practiced as a form of meditating within the affects of rapidly changing natural environments in varying sites.

Brett Bloom works mainly in collaborative groups and situations. He co-founded the art group Temporary Services and the publishing imprint Half Letter Press. He regularly works with ecological issues. Bloom coordinates intensive training sessions—camps, workshops, schools—part of a multi-year effort called Breakdown Break Down. Breakdown Break Down mobilize people to articulate and build a civil culture to prepare for and survive climate chaos and breakdown. One goal is to generate new stories that replace western petro-subjectivity with other narratives and possibilities.

Other projects from Straight St. and Wealthy

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