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Becoming Pizza: Teaser from my forthcoming book: WHAT's NEXT? Eco Materialism and Contemporary Art

on Wednesday, 03 May 2017. Posted in Blog, Eco Issues

In this book, the reader is challenged to suspend the cultural habit of thinking ABOUT the material components of the world. Instead, we experiment with thinking AS a material component.

Imagine yourself comprised of substances and energies continuously circulating among other collections of substances and energies. This mental image represents a radical revision of the historic conception of humans as discreet entities existing in an environment occupied by entities (living and nonliving) that are stable, knowable, and controllable.

A perplexing conundrum accompanies this simple narrative. It involves the baffling question of determining how to distinguish ‘you’ from your surrounding ‘environment’.

The following narrative exemplifies this complexity.   

Imagine a slice of pizza, just the way you like it.

You salivate in anticipation of biting into a slice. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You lift a slice, savor its smell, feel its warmth, and absorb its oils in your fingers. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You take a bite. A morsel enters your body through the port of entry known as your mouth. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You chew, altering the pizza’s chemistry and transforming its molecular identity so that it can be absorbed by your cells. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You swallow. The ingredients of pizza begin their journey through the dark interior of your digestive tract. Some components are absorbed by your cells. Is this the moment the pizza stops belonging to the ‘environment’ and becomes part of ‘you’? 

You expel unused solid components of the pizza through your body’s exit portal. Is this the moment ‘you’ become part of the ‘environment’?  

These perplexing questions suggest that no precise border exists between ‘you’ and the ‘environment’.

Membranes enclose your organs, bones, and muscles. They prevent you from blending into uniform consistency with your environment. But your peripheries are not sealed shut. Membranes that account for your physical separation from the environment are perforated with openings. Life can only be maintained by the entries of resources and the exits of wastes. These occur in multiple tiny pores and a few large portals. In addition, sensory cells and nerve fibers connect you to the environment by collecting sights, smells, sounds, tastes, temperatures, and tactile sensations. They transmit this information from the environment to cells located deep within the recesses of your brain. Thus borders perform concurrent, contrasting functions. On the one hand, they separate inside from outside. On the other hand, they connect our insides to our outsides. We are never 'me', but always 'us'.

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