Sanguine Through the Storm

At Gallery 2, Grand Forks art gallery. Grand Forks, BC. 2019.
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Image: Ivan Binet. 2017
This is the first iteration of the project in 2017.
Image: Ivan Binet

Some thoughts on Sanguine Through the Storm.

My views of this have changed a lot over the years.  The work itself changes only based on architecture, and which sounds I find pleasing at the time – but the context in which I think about it changes.

When this project was conceived around 2015 it was a more optimistic time, and I was more able to describe the work in terms of a simple moment of joy I’d experienced one night in a pub.  It’s a small thing, but I tend to experience such feelings when confronted by absurdity and ingenuity.  I have a collection of stupid inventions to attest to that.

But back to our story.

The problem of a leaky pipe in the ceiling of the toilets had been solved by hanging successive leaky buckets, beginning at the source of the leak, and from each other, to redirect the leak to a sink drain. I’d never seen such a solution before, and this was a joyful moment of absurdity and ingenuity; both clever and stupid. And therefore delightful.

This is why it was first proposed for Manif D’Art 8 in Ville de Québec, with a theme of L’Art de la Joie.

Maybe it’s the frightening changes we’ve seen in the world since 2016, but this has since taken on a darker subtext in my mind.  A leaking pipe, or a leaking roof is a sign of decay (present in every representation of a post apocalyptic world), and I find myself thinking again of the gloomy warnings in Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Ahead or Ronald Wright’s A brief history of progress.  Numerous articles have been written over the past years warning of an approaching dark age, and I find myself conflicted between their scholarly, well researched arguments and my desire to present a hopeful and wondrous world to my 5 year old son.

One of the signs Jane Jacobs references of an approaching dark age, especially dear to me, is a popular rejection of science. Here is something we see every day in the popular rejections of climate change, vaccinations, “western” medicine, and bioengineering. Important knowledge that benefits all our lives is treated with suspicion.  The rejection of knowledge and evidence – seeing experts as untrustworthy – was evident in the Brexit and Trump votes.  Mistrust of experts makes all information suspect.  If it continues, maybe nobody will know how to fix the leaky pipe.

The following paragraph was written in 2019, pre-pandemic.

But to turn away from this darkness, a wave of desire to understand what is true has sprung from the looming shadow. Having been active as a sceptic for many years, I’ve recently been heartened to see an uptick in formerly credulous or quietly sceptical people working to debunk fake news on social media, and simultaneously discovering the wonder of reality.  This, coupled with waves of defiance and protest have given me hope.  Much of the world, looking at the US with anxiety, may wake up to what they could so easily become if they follow suit.

And this is me writing at the start of 2023.

At this moment that many are – I think prematurely – calling the end of the pandemic, I now find myself disheartened to discover that people are much more stupid and selfish than I’d hoped. 

There was hope at the start that humanity would come together and understand our deeper connection, and embrace the scientific method that would lead us out of the darkness. But that didn’t last. Our threshold of what constitutes an acceptable number of deaths has dramatically shifted. The tiniest effort to protect the people around us has been shouted down by the threatening voices of those who revel in their ignorance and selfishness. Basic scientific facts are being rebranded as political opinions. I’m currently finding it very difficult to hang on to any optimism. But this struggle is what this piece is all about.

I’m not sure if Sanguine has quite the same meaning in French, but in English it refers to remaining cheerful and optimistic, especially in difficult times.  This is where the title, Sanguine through the storm comes from.  It’s an attempt to make something beautiful and optimistic out of a sign of decay, and in defiance of it.

Image: Ivan Binet