Georgia Aquarium say it all: Oliver, relaxed, with his hands in his pockets, sighting enormous beluga whales; Iris reaching up to touch the glass to verify or count something, to keep track and annotate as she goes; and Eleanor, little pixie, twirling about, engaged in some imaginary dance with the belugas, which she adores.
phenomenal tunnel where whale sharks (which are huge!) and enormous manta rays and dozens of other sea life swim above our heads. It took our breath away: the gentle beauty, the ease, the enormity, the flow, the quiet purpose, yes, the seamlessness of it all. Which brings me to a realization: that aquaria are starting to be our image of the ocean - that we see more of them than of the actual ocean; that while these gorgeous environments entreat us to do all we can to preserve the ocean, they also allow us to forget its actual demise a little. Reading Bennett and LaTour has made me increasingly excruciatingly aware of the categories and boundaries that have been set up and (more importantly) of the work that these do to perpetuate our primacy (which is not (always) a good thing - wait, is it ever a good thing?). We categorize nature As Such and make it a place apart, while in lived reality, we are utterly enmeshed in it. To quote Graham Harman on Tim Morton's blog: "Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized." At the same time, there is an aesthetic (oh no, not that word again!) to Nature As A Place Apart, that of natural history (there's a great term) museums, and museums in general (perhaps Art "in general" is the entire idea of "a place apart) that I wouldn't want to give up. I don't think that any of the people I'm reading for the ecocriticism class are calling for the end of aquaria or museums, but they have become increasingly strange places to me, symptomatic of our will to make nature an aesthetic rather than, say, a politics, or even at times, a reality. The challenge is to understand all of this within living my life; the other is to make this gripping for students. In the absence of subjectivity, they have a really hard time staying interested. And I know that one of the aims of ecocriticism is to provide nature with a subjectivity (that is not anthropomorphic) that we can all more interactively engage in - but it's still a challenge.