On caring

By Allison Cobb
IMG_0302 Deborah Forster gives Feldenkrais to Djerassi dog Hank

I've been thinking a lot about caring--"taking care," having an attitude of care and concern--and what that might mean for we humans now living in the Anthropocene. While here at Djerassi, I came across some of my old notes about "care and concern" related to Donna Haraway--whose work is often discussed here. I hadn't cited the source, so I asked the primatologist and cognitive scientist Dr. Deborah Forster about it. Our discussion and an internet search led me to this beautiful blog "Care" by Thom van Dooren over at the multispecies salon. van Dooren, citing Maria Puig, writes that care is a "particularly profound engagement with the world, 'a vital affective state, an ethical obligation and a practical labor.'" This is the kind of engagement I've been attempting over the past few years with plastic trash as part of Plastic, an autobiography. I work to engage with plastic garbage with a level of care that demands, as van Dooren writes, a "deep contextual and critical knowledge about the object of our care, a knowledge that simultaneously places us at stake in the world and demands that we be held accountable." How would practicing that radical form of care--even in regards to garbage--transform our relationships? I've been humbled by the artists and scientists here at Djerassi and their profound engagements with the world. The artist Christine Lee works with painstaking devotion to transform the discarded into objects of aesthetic beauty and power. Eathan Janney spends countless hours understanding the rhythms of bird songs. Eleni Sikelianos meditates in elegaic poems on the species that have disappeared from our planet. I've also been moved by the way in which the people here care for one another, both as people and in our work as artists and scientists. We have opened ourselves to one another, sharing expertise, offering time and energy for collaboration, developing new ideas. The results have been beautiful, transforming.