Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

Materializing Transversal Potential: An Ecosophical Analysis of the Dissensual Aestheticization of a Decommissioned Missile Base

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (Online)

Materializing Transversal Potential: An Ecosophical Analysis of the Dissensual Aestheticization of a Decommissioned Missile Base

Article excerpt


Our survival on this planet is not only threatened by environmental damage but by a degeneration in the social solidarity and in the modes of psychical life, which must literally be reinvented. The re-foundation of politics will have to pass through the aesthetic and analytical dimensions implied in the three ecologies - the environmental, the socius, and the psyche. We cannot conceive of solutions...without promoting a new art of living in society. (Guattari, 1992/1995, p. 21)

In this article, I introduce a decommissioned missile base located in North Texas that has been transformed into an artist's residence and community space. I introduce the current owner, Mike, and his community of friends who assisted in the social and material transformation of the site. I analyze how subjectivity was produced through their collective social and aesthetic practices and how the materiality of its past resonates today.

Rather than simply examining the site's new use as an example of repurposing an abandoned space, the goal of the place-based research is three-fold: 1) to consider the life of the base and its broader implications for reordering the social and material structures of institutional spaces (Guattari's [1992/1995] environmental ecology); 2) to consider the radical potential of DIY practices and informal art education by exploring how Mike's process of coming to and transforming the site affected his subjectivity (psychic ecology); and 3) to provide an example of collective anti-capitalist aesthetic practices by examining the community of makers who have assisted him in repurposing the site (social ecology). These three goals relate to Guattari's three ecologies described in the quote that opened the article. I developed a methodological assemblage that combined nomadic inquiry with ethnographic methods to research the materiality of the base and social relations among its occupants.

To analyze the interrelated significance of the site's environmental, social, and psychic elements, I employ Félix Guattari's (1992/1995) ecosophical approach. As Guattari argues in the quote that opened this article, considering solutions to the increasing damage being done to our environment has to start with changes in our social and psychic life. We cannot consider nature or man-made environments apart from our individual and social relations on and with them. The concepts of tranversality and dissensus, explained below, are introduced to consider ways that we might work together across established social groups to change habituated ways of thinking and acting. Analyzing the political potential of the collective and anti-capitalist aesthetic practices of the owner and his community of friends may illuminate art education's revolutionary potential to contribute to "a new art of living in society" (p. 21).

Becoming Curious

The following vignette describes how I discovered the missile base while working on a photographic inquiry into backyard underground shelters in my community.

I had never really thought about bomb shelters before. The suburb 1 grew up in was developed in the late 1970s, so bomb shelters were not a consideration. In the spring of 2012,1 worked on a project that required regularly driving around neighborhoods in my community. I was surprised how many houses had underground shelters in their backyards. 1 became curious about the characteristic rusted vents sticking out above cement slabs. Once 1 became aware of them, 1 found myself looking for underground shelters all the time. I would get out of my car and snoop around people's fences to photograph them where I could. I tried to capture their mystery in the photographs (see Figure 1).

I thought about the culture and mental climate of the U.S. in the 1950s, and how fear of war and natural disaster might produce the desire to install these kinds of structures. 1 talked about my new interest with friends and learned that there was an old missile base just north of town. …

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