Brett Michael Tracy
28 January 1980
BA, University of California at Davis (2004)
MFA, University of Chicago (2008)
my Vimeo page (a.k.a 'The Archive')
Rejecting the imperative of endless growth, Brett Tracy positions the human species at the onset of its deindustrial phase. Using video and audio field recordings, the artist reveals the splendor and tragedy of a world built with phenomenal amounts of fossil energy, offering both a glimpse of the industrial sublime and a critique of the religion of progress.
Since receiving his MFA from the University of Chicago in 2008, Tracy has been engaged in a bicycle-mounted research endeavor documenting structures and landscapes that epitomize the heroic feats of the industrial age. Water conveyance systems, power plants, mines, shipping ports, and other megastructures are all part of the project’s growing archive, a collection of more than sixty video-vignettes.
In 2007, the artist traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to document the effects of the ‘Clean City Ordinance,’ a set of laws abolishing outdoor advertising in South America’s largest metropolis. In recent years, he’s been committed to the mystification of several contemporary ruins including the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL, the former Hunts cannery site in Davis, CA and eighteen decommissioned cold-war-era ICBM silos near Tucson, AZ.
Fighting Traffic – Peter D. Norton
The experts who formulated the elements of social control were often engineers. In the Progressive Era, the language of engineering was extended to include the ordering of society; no longer was it confined to the design of masonry abutments, iron drive shafts, or electrical windings. Engineers developed their own forms of social control to manage the problems of modernity. “We are trying to accommodate human nature to new physical facts,” Engineering News-Record editorialized in 1924. Traffic control was one such effort.
The Glass Bead Game – Hermann Hesse
What I am seeking is not so much fulfillment of idle curiosity or of a hankering for worldly life, but experience without reservations. I do not want to go out into the world with insurance in my pocket, in case I am disappointed. I don’t want to be a prudent traveler taking a bit of a look at the world. On the contrary, I crave risk, difficulty, and danger; I am hungry for reality, for tasks and deeds, and also for deprivations and suffering.
The People of Paper – Salvador Plascencia
The moments where we look back and think about other loves and towns. Places we have visited and think that maybe we belong, among the orchards and shade of oaks, that place with real rivers and seasons. Or with that other person, perhaps, with her in that other town where there are no flowers or ash. Rarely does anything come of this, but at least you exercise the memory and the muscles of nostalgia.
Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse
A wolf of the Steppes that had lost its way and strayed into the towns and the life of the herd, a more striking image could not be found for his shy loneliness, his savagery, his restlessness, his homesickness, his homelessness.
The Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey
When the cities are gone, he thought, and all the ruckus has died away, when sunflowers push up through the concrete and asphalt of the forgotten interstate freeways, when the Kremlin and the Pentagon are turned into nursing homes for generals, presidents and other such shitheads, when the glass-aluminum skyscraper tombs of Pheonix Arizona barely show above the sand dunes, why then, why then, why then by God maybe free men and wild women on horses, free women and wild men, can roam the sagebush canyonlands in freedom—goddammit!—herding the feral cattle into box canyons, and gorge on bloody meat and bleeding fucking internal organs, and dance all night to the music of fiddles! banjos! steel guitars! by the light of a reborn moon!—by god, yes! Until he reflected soberly, and bitterly, and sadly, until the next age of ice and iron comes down, and the engineers and the farmers and the general motherfuckers come back again.
The Ecotechnic Future – John Michael Greer
Human limits, not human power, define the situation we face today because the technological revolutions and economic boom times that most modern people take for granted were a product, not of science or such intangibles as “the human spirit,” but simply of a brief period of extravagance in which we squandered half a billion years of stored sunlight. The power we claimed, in other words, was never really ours, and we never “conquered” nature; instead, we raided as much of her carbon assets as we could reach and went on a spending spree three centuries long.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter -- Carson McCullers
Mick frowned and rubbed her fist hard across her forehead. That was the way things were. It was like she was mad all the time. Not how a kid gets mad quick so that soon it is all over—but in another way. Only there was nothing to be mad at. Unless the store. But the store hadn’t asked her to take the job. So there was nothing to be mad at. It was like she was cheated. Only nobody had cheated her. So there was nobody to take it out on. However, just the same she had that feeling. Cheated.
No Exit -- Jean-Paul Sartre
Open the door! Open, blast you! I’ll endure anything, your red-hot tongs and molten lead, your racks and prongs and garrotes—all your fiendish gadgets, everything that burns and flays and tears—I’ll put up with any torture you impose. Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.
The Giver -- Lois Lowry
Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences. … We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others.
Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality -- Tim Edensor
Fostering notions about how the world might be differently ordered in accordance with looser aesthetics, less managed spaces, bodies and things, and multi-interpretable signs, ruins can hint at potential futures in which individual creativities and desires are nurtured rather than being subsumed under individualistic consumption.
Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization -- S. High and D. Lewis
Like tourists in search of the pleasures of the imagination, urban explorers value the intensity of emotion and sensation that these abandoned sites afford them. Their sense of awe can frequently be heard in their hushed tones, and their attention to the aesthetics of deindustrialization. For some, industrial ruins are monuments to a vanished way of life – less a lament than a reminder. For most, these abandoned buildings are little more than post-industrial playgrounds. Nostalgia takes a back seat to the thrill of transgression.
The Long Emergency (again) -- James Howard Kunstler
The idea of beauty will surely return from it’s modernist exile, as one of the few consolations in the years ahead will be our ability to consciously craft things for reasons other than to merely shock and astonish.
The Long Descent -- John Michael Greer
It’s not going too far, I think, to call belief in progress the established religion of the modern industrial world. In the same way that Christians have traditionally looked to heaven and Buddhists to nirvana, most people nowadays look to progress for their salvation and their explanation for why the world is the way it is.
Small is Beautiful -- E.F. Schumacher
The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.
Galapagos -- Kurt Vonnegut
Somewhere in Mandarax there should have been, but was not, a warning to this effect: In this era of big brains, anything which can be done will be done—so hunker down.
A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition -- Ernest Hemingway
A girl came in the café and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair black as a crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.
The Picture of Dorian Gray -- Oscar Wilde
A grande passion is the privilege of people who have nothing to do.
World Made by Hand -- James Howard Kunstler
Motion is a great tranquilizer.
Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change -- William R. Catton, Jr.
The Age of Exuberance in which the American dream unfolded was an early seral stage in the succession of New World community types. The post-exuberant age is a later stage in the same sere.
Sculpting in Time -- Andrey Tarkovsky
And what are moments of illumination if not momentarily felt truth?
Here's a reading list of project related texts.