My current exploration of ‘ the ecological’ age as a social concept for cultural programming was inspired by my recent visit to Brazil. I had the opportunity to be resident in a community in Bahia for two months. The community of artists come homesteaders and agriculturists included DJ’s and dancers, fashion designers and jewelry makers, circus performers , writers and visual artists. They came from all over the world including South America, Spain, France and the UK. Residing in Bahia for most of the year or for as much of the year as they could afford, they had bought land, built homes, constructed personal irrigation systems, planted vegetable gardens and were living in nature, using natural materials, organic resources and their own imaginations and creativity to make a living and work a life out. I would call these people pioneers of the emerging vision of ‘the ecological age’. Yet for one thing, there disconnect from the digital society.
Choosing as they did to live as much as possible outside of the urban world and to live ‘locally’, they were inspirational to be among. Bahia provided these creative people and families with a low-cost lifestyle which in turn enabled them to exist as artists and creators in the world. Locally their livelihoods were funded by cultural tourism but many often and some less frequently had to visit the city or other countries to make an income by doing other things. Here we had social progressives, pioneering new approaches to lifestyle which are more connected to natural cycles and the rhythms of nature that urban life or the 24 hour digital world, eeking out a living through art and tourism yet separated and disengaged from the connected thinking and practice that will lead society to making the transition to the ecological era. It is common to find sub cultures not engaging in technology or digital art, as if new media was the antichrist or only for pleasure and communication purposes not lifestyle or education. I would expect that in the ecological age, our attention will have turned to being human and not digital as the digital will be part of the economy of reality – and perhaps the physical and natural world.
For some members of this community, the removal of the technological, global and digital from daily life was most definitely welcome and a positive choice or rather a life decision made, to be outside globalised economies and practices. It is worth noting here that there was some engagement with technological culture and it took the form of Internet (Facebook and Skype) and electronic music parties. I often went some distance (8 – 10k) down the road or to a nearby village cafe to use internet facilities which were patchy and rudimentary, in the old style and likely to shut down with storms and monsoon weathers at any minute. This got me thinking about the relationship between ecology and economy and the ways in a partnership between tourism destinations and the outdoor digital arts might be able to give us the connective tissue we need to link the worlds of art, environmentalism and the digital society more naturally and integrally to develop new thinking around the local and global life and the nature/culture disconnect.
Thanks to James, Mariana, Sebastian and others for their inspiration, hospitality, generosity and vision.