a scythe-borg manifesto
about markings, culture and permanence
From Old English and German roots, the -borg is the borough that is a civic community atop a hill. Through scything, this civic community is opened up to a relationality that becomes an inclusive organism with porous borders; the land that surrounds the hill is vast and has no limits —let us let go of the fear of the beyond.
In holding and putting a scythe to work the multiple actions that conform this particular plurality are carefully invoked. First there are hands holding, feet touching, sustaining a verticality, a tract of movement between land and sky. There is also a handle and a system of parts that historically developed into scythe. There is need and propelling —an intention, a relation— there is growth and trimming; there is affect and touch, there are bodies. There is a history with metallurgy and a history with woods. A sylvan wisdom dancing as it spells. There are also (zoe)biotic systems of ebbs of life and decay. Then and always there is the sun and rain. No matter which land is witnessing this action, it is most probably distributed within a structure of land ownership that historically parceled it according to topography, resources and potential human use, regardless of the intricate paths of biomasses that are/were part of it already—there are power relations of all sorts.
Scything is an assemblage that is motion to caress.
I’d rather be a scythe-borg in a forest.
And yet as I get here, slowly taking days to ‘land’ on this land chosen by Holes in the Wall Collective for a cascading group of artists to respond to a field of maize left alone to its own devices two years ago (Lat: 40° 26' 2.9904"; Long: -75° 43' 43.302"), where the geopolitical and biophysical collide with my own perspectives, my intentions change —I have arrived. Because it is then that I realize that scything might also be intruding into the webs of life existing aside the human —all the more-than-human that consistently builds up across, against and along our doings as cultural phenomena that we are. I reconsider the idea of scything the maize field as I see it recovering from years of monoculture, its micro-formations of plants and minerals and animals that I don’t want to infringe on. I decide to scythe in a field across the barn instead, finishing the markings already left by a machine –the borders with the forest let to live and grow as the terrain seems to be too unleveled for this machine to cope with.
Drawn to markings that signal layers of meaning past and future, as many of the other artists in this collaboration have been, I take up impermanence to mark ma(i)ze-like connections within a multiplicity of dimensions including the unknown. I set off with a wheel barrel to collect stones in the maize field, not knowing first what I will do with them. As I approach the field I am attracted to the 7 bird-feeders Dana Hemes built before my arrival reflecting on the need to replenish nitrogen to the field via bird poop and positioned as the star cluster Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, which historically has been used in the planting of maize by indigenous people. This celestial entity that is part of the web of meanings within the macro geopolitical and biophysical maze of Mahiz as represented in this micro landscape, this ‘abandoned’ field in Pennsylvania, holds the sky and the dirt together and all entities between them with forces known and unknown, named and unnamed. I collect the stones around each ‘star bird-feeder’ within a radius of seven large steps, then bring them out of the field and re-purpose them to hold the markers for yet another signaling. As I begin collecting stones, I am struck by another realization—I should not be surprised but I am, as I’m surprised in my hands and in my body as it hurts when I disrupt life when I remove a very superficial stone from the field. I should not be surprised to find such exuberant micro-cosmos involved around each stone and yet I am, as life and the inert blend their and my boundaries in invisible ways. Thinking about this, it a-mazes me how every single step we take towards creation is also a step towards destruction, as if there was no way around it, at least temporarily. I carry on, attempting to respect all there is within the field, knowing of this impossibility. Such ethical aporia faces me under the sun as I grab and dig and pull and place each stone into the cart. Such ethical conundrum follows me to the typing of these thoughts that hope to communicate the limits of doing, undoing the limits. I continue the saga under clear sky as in a trance. For doubt may be the arrogance of the intellectual and creative yet it is also the parameter of doing, because ethical immanent resistance is born from it.
bibi calderaro, spring 2016
text written in response to a week-long residency in an abandoned corn farm in PA, US, thanks to HolesintheWallCollective.org