Saturday, September 08, 2012

Petrocultures: Tarhands

e·ther - a pleasant-smelling colourless volatile liquid that is highly flammable. It is used as an anaesthetic and as a solvent or intermediate in industrial processes.

- also: chiefly literary the clear sky; the upper regions of air beyond the clouds.
What's in a handshake? Not much, unless it's a dirty one from old Tarhands. I just came from the Petrocultures conference at the University of Alberta's Campus Saint-Jean in Edmonton where I had the privilege of catching Warren Cariou's keynote address. For those not familiar with Cariou or his pursuits, he's a prof in the University of Manitoba's English, Theatre and Film Department, a filmmaker and writer.

(Land of Oil and Water)
Today, Caroiu gave an engaging presentation based on "Tarhands: A Messy Manifesto" and on his forthcoming book of fiction, Exhausted. He started with the multiple definitions of "ether", and riffed on the ways it can be understood as an explosive, anaesthetic and the region beyond the clouds...heaven. He drew parallels to our addiction to oil and suggested that a new approach involve serious consideration of the genuine pleasures we experience from it. Without this, any attempt to change our petroculture will be as ineffective as the Copenhagen climate summit was in 2009.

Cariou made reference to Tarhands, a trickster-like character from a "stink-tank" committed to addressing the environmental crisis plaguing his "nation" by adding more stink to an already stinking situation. This way people will be forced to see what's right in front of their eyes. The answer lies in the question everyone must ask: How dirty are your hands?

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