What do you keep when the storm comes in, and the tide goes out?
Dark Mountain: Issue 22 is not an ARK you might expect: a store of testimonials from the custodians of a planet in peril, a seed bank to buffer us against an uncertain future, or a queue of iconic animals rescued from extinction, a museum hoard of civilisation’s spoils.
Instead its pages hold a cargo of another sort: an assemblage of stories gathered from the wreckage left by a flood that has already come, art and writing that reveal the beauty, resilience and strength found in being fully alive in a troubled time. Our seeds come are collected from felled trees and activist front lines in Aoteroa New Zealand and middle England, from a community surviving a bushfire in Australia, from guardians in the Amazon defending the forest against gold mining, along the banks of 16 compromised rivers in North America. Our disappearing creatures are held in dreams, in the grief of a mother who lost her rebel son; our artworks made with ochres from the desert and polluted shoreline, with peat from endangered bogs; words and images wrought from remembered bird song, insect wings, gourds, microorganisms, unloved spruce needles, tilting ocean horizons. A hold that treasures tales about what might happen next.
This ark has been made in collaboration with the Wilderness Art Collective – a work of creative salvage, with a cover and content pages forged from the flotsam of abandoned archives and old typewriter keys, its editorial collected from these water-damaged fragments shored against our ruin. Most of all, it is a testament to the imagination of writers and artists, gleaners in a world that has lost its way, to show how we can build and regenerate an Earth-centred culture from what has been bequeathed us on a vanished tide.
Notes on The Finding of This Logbook
Tear down the house and build a boat!
Abandon wealth and seek living beings!
– The Epic of Gilgamesh
Translated by Maureen Kovacs
What we found deposited by the tide: boards waterlogged and broken at the ends, as though the surf had chewed them apart; bright shards of plastic going pale in the sun; sodden cardboard; thin films of tape. So much was clearly flotsam of some lost vessel. A chest wrapped in bands of iron; a painting depicting heaven and hell, though tipped on its axis and half buried in mud; a pile of matted canvas, tent or sail or burial shroud; a crumpled mask; a carved flute; a knot of human hair. It was not so easy to say the origin of other things: an erratic granite boulder on this shore of shale and mud; a cactus somehow taking root on a bare peninsula; fungi fruiting from the shaded mould; chips of ochre in the silt; the yellow bloom of a wild sunflower; a clump of woody heather, black soil still clutched in its roots.
Had they come on the tide or been revealed by the tearing of the waves? Everything in flux, every object melancholy in its broken edges, speaking of a lost home. Everything luminous in its disjointed mosaic beauty.
We went to see what we might save, what might be of use, what exquisite scrap we might glean. We paused at the edge of the forest, where the mudflats begin. Scanning for salvage, we were met with the scent of this small cold stream emerging from the stone, flowing down to meet the rotting sea wrack, reflecting shards of light on the tree trunks. The electric shrilling of cicadas. The flash of an antler in the dappled light of the forest, caught in the corner of the eye. The sounds of now-rare birds off in the woods: nightjar, blue tit, mistle thrush. Turtledove, dunnock, carrion crow.
We shaded our eyes to follow a line of prints toward the tideline, large ovals with the marks of claws, slowly filling with water. The curving ribs of a ruined craft rose before the horizon’s clouds. As we blinked against the sharp light, the colours of the world seemed to invert, the foaming waves turning storm-black, the boat keel white as bone.
Some things were left intact: beside the little stream, as though in memorial to the vessel that had carried it, rested a child’s toy boat still bearing its enduring passengers. A coat with words stitched into its fabric, folded as if to pillow some absent head. And this book, found held in the crook of a tree limb, as though set on a shelf by the hand of the tide.
If you take out an annual subscription to Dark Mountain you can buy this issue for a reduced price.
To celebrate Dark Mountain: Issue 22’s release, do join us for an online launch on Tuesday 25th October starting at 19:30 BST. To book a place on board just follow this link. We hope to see you there!
IMAGES Cover and Content Pages artwork by Graeme Walker
After the flood, our digital lives rusted away, papers from the world’s libraries float to the surface, to be collected and reassembled by future explorers and archivists.
I designed three fonts for this issue: ‘O Brother’ is based on my old Brother typewriter, ‘Discontinued’ and ‘Issue’ are both based on rubber stamp sets in my collection. A fourth font, Telegraphem, was designed by Volker Bussse,. Many of the engravings and drawings were source from the Internet Archive’s extraordinary public domain book images repository.
Graeme Walker is an artist who makes contemplative objects, paintings, poetry and stories; philosophical prompts that explore paradoxes in our relationship between life, mortality and nature, and questions around the cultural inhibition and release of agency. His work calls humanity to resist nihilism by entering into aliveness, meaningfulness and potency. All the fonts Graeme made for this edition can be freely downloaded from graemewalker.art/fonts
‘The Great Unravelling’ by Angela Cockayne from Radical Fauna
‘The truth was cooked, the gulf too wide, no one knew what to believe’.
Wax birds, beach plastic, oil, crustacean, wire
Radical Fauna is a commentary from a compendium of chimerical creatures in the closing days of the Anthropocene and the first bewildering days of a new age yet to be defined. These ‘strandliners’ – ever-changing tidal offerings – are the remains of the day, an era, of millennia, and the last 500 years of oceanic discovery, enlightenment and annihilation, all in the blink of a planetary eye,
Working as an artist and curator Angela Cockayne uses found objects to create artworks that comment on the human predicament within the natural world. Her recent project ‘Ark Embrace’ repurposes an old fishing vessel as a contemporary ethical cabinet of curiosity housing over 500 artworks to explore our relationship with the ocean and its mythologies. Radical Fauna, a limited edition publication was released this week at Hweg Gallery Penzance, UK.