Correspondences: vines and anthropology – part 4

illustration by Jono Nussbaum

The concluding instalment of this challenging discussion between Katia Nussbaum, her brother Jono and Chris Howard. See part 1, part 2 and part 3. See images of the authors and their spouses at the end of this last instalment.

Katia writes I am very happy to be involved in this project. I truly find all these issues (ecology, viticulture, politics) extremely, insomniac-makingly concerning and feel the need to DO something … somehow, in this project we would be active. I shall wait to hear back from you and in the meantime think, too, about illustrations. Could be photos of places, cornerstone people, or illustrations in the real sense.

I showed our correspondence to my brother who is a wonderful artist. Please take a look at his work if you have time – the drawings and sculpture-furniture. We see eye to eye on practically everything and his art feeds into our conversations. If he gets a brainwave I will let you know and he would be willing to add a piece if appropriate.

I wish you the very best and send you warm regards

Chris writes What a talented and inspired artist your brother is! Im moved that he took up his pencil in response to my article. A few years ago I worked with a painter on a project called ‘The aesthetics of the Anthropocene’ and it was so enriching. I wasn’t sure at first about the power plant sinking into oblivion because I was careful in the article to balance romantic notions of ‘getting back to nature’ and the reality of damaged environments in which life nevertheless goes on. Given the power plant will eventually disappear and give way to solar or wind energy, your brother’s drawing is probably accurate. Ironically, the plant is what’s protecting Evangelho from housing developments, so the story is twisted like an old vine. I think that’s what spoke to people – the uncanny realism that what we’re witnessing isn’t a crisis, because crises are always transitory, but an ongoing ecological mutation with no way back and a very uncertain way forward. In spite of this situation, it’s important not to succumb to fatalism (ie we’re completely doomed) but focus on adaptation and mitigation. Life, as we knew it probably is doomed, but new and altered forms will emerge. I’m not sure if people noticed, but I deliberately laid out the photos in the article to tell a visual narrative. The first one signifies death and the apocalypse, the last life and hope. Not quite utopia, which is literally a ‘placeless place’ anyway, but a heterotopia that is subvivable.

WWC21 Howard C - Evangelho_winter evangelho
WWC21 Howard C - Evangelho_spring

Katia writes Guess what! I had forwarded our correspondences to Jono as I thought they may inspire a drawing (which they did) and seeing the result assumed he had read the original article. But he hadn’t as he is not subscribed to Purple Pages. Hed just heard my account of it. Now he sees the photos and says how uncanny it is! Well, well, well.

Chris writes That is so interesting! Says something about your powers of description and Jono’s channelling intuition. Welcome to the fold, Jono. The drawing is wonderful and I really like the work on your website.

Jono writes Thank you Chris, I find your discussions with my sister so fascinating and stimulating and it provokes an easy response visually. I love illustration and am happy to give my hand to your cause.

I am so happy to eavesdrop on your conversation not only for the interest, but it keeps me in touch with my sister and gives me a window into her world. I love how she thinks and admire her greatly.

There is so much going on with the rising panic of the realisation of a global systems change; I am no academic and hate to feel mute on a subject that should be everyone’s priority, however uncomfortable it is to face. Art is a wonderful medium to communicate more than just ideas, and is my way, so maybe I can find it more of a voice. It would be great to do more with illustration, so please, if anything more turns up, I would really like to make more connections and build on this.

Chris Howard with amphora at Loveblock, Central Otago
Chris Howard with amphora at Loveblock, Central Otago on a recent trip there to celebrate his wife Paula's birthday
Paula Howard with babydoll sheep
Sociologist Paula Howard with two week-old babydoll sheep, perfect for keeping Terra Sancta's Central Otago vineyard trim
Katia Nussbaum and husband Gigi, reminiscent of the famous American primitive painting of a farming couple
Katia Nussbaum and husband Gigi in a pose reminiscent of Grant Wood's American Gothic

Illustration by Jono Nussbaum.