THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BIRD AND A PLANE (IN THREE EPISODES)
Laura Malacart - June 2020
…to be continued -18/05/20
Until we truly acknowledge and embrace difference as disparity we will remain on pause. To acknowledge diversity is to accept that we are all interdependent and part of one ecosystem.
In February 2020 I completed the editing of a film called The Difference between a Bird and a Plane (in three episodes). The video was partly shot and developed during a residency in Canada in isolation with the occasional buying of groceries in the local store, pretty much like now, except for the hand washing and the fact that the isolation was my prize.
It is true that time in isolation is experienced differently from time stacked with external routines and activities, just as time spent meditating acquires an entirely new dimension.
Yet, biology doesn’t stop, ageing doesn’t freeze, what we are accustomed to call time is something that we identify with linearity, progression and expectations of productivity - it is a form of time that has suffered an entanglement with capitalism. Biological time instead is cyclical rather than linear and aims at balance rather than exponential growth (some would argue that actually economics perform in the same way).
However engrained, capitalist time is relatively new to us, as pre-industrial or present traditional societies would self-regulate according to a time bound by light, seasonal and planetary rhythms.
I noticed that my immediate (and unconscious) strategy on lockdown was to order a series of tiny plants. I waited hopeful for their staggered delivery and when most of them arrived, I have tended to them with devotion on my roof terrace (of which I feel very fortunate). I observe small changes, transfer them indoors to protect them from the chilly nights and am amazed every morning at the staggering rate of daily growth as the radio announces markets collapse. I realised I needed to be anchored to the time and logic of the plants, an inexorable time that is life affirming, evolving with beauty, bound by light cycles.
And in the city when the noise of traffic and planes went, we all begun to notice and distinguish birdsongs and also begun to savour our local daily ambling with a nature in bloom and a 50% reduction in pollution. A local event catalysed the attention of residents: the birth of nine cygnets to two proud swan parents in the canal. We visit the family daily and notice them grow. One day a journalist with a wildlife lens appeared for a shoot and featured a cygnet in the Guardian newspaper.
Sights, sounds and scents: a newly regenerated sensorial palette becomes evocative of a time past, an unknown past devoid of motor vehicles feels ironically or naturally more familiar than the simplistic zoomification of social interactions. Our cityscape re-purposed to cycling, running and dog walking, looks like a benevolent and innocent utopia, almost un-citylike, and thus, without the tension of crime and traffic transgressions, police vehicles crawl at walking pace, monitoring and deterring all suspect and unlawful sunbathing activities.
The Difference between a Bird and a Plane weave dialogues between modern and traditional epistemologies to challenge the oppression of the former. When it comes to languages this is witnessed by the exceptionalism attributed to humans above all living beings that we find displayed in colonial languages: exclusively designated by the pronouns ‘he/she’ humans set themselves aside from the remainder of living beings who are instead all together relegated to the domain of the ‘it’. Wonderful thinkers such as Robin Wall Kimmerer are engaged in seeking counterstrategies to our exploitative approach, because as first nation speakers have asserted for centuries, we are all nature, we are not separate from it in spite of the sense of ourselves we have created and that is informed by technological props. In the third episode of the film I revisit, what seemed ‘at the time’ (last February) a sombre and historically situated quotation: the tragic extermination of first nation people caused by the Spanish flu epidemic brought by soldiers returning to Canada after WW1. [da capo]
Laura Malacart - visual artist and independent researcher, recently a contributor to “Feminist Art, Activisms and Artivisms, Ed. Katy Deepwell. Valiz Publisher, 2020.