Cape Farewell officially launched in Toronto this week. The events were kicked off by a great concert headlined by Patrick Watson and the Wooden Arms and more than ably supported by Amy Millan. It was at Koerner Hall, Toronto. What an amazing space! The story of Jonah comes to mind and there we were…sitting in the belly of the whale! The sound in that cavernous place is tremendous but the attendant feeling of "how did I land inside the belly of the whale?" seemed well-matched to the odd sensation of dislocation I was feeling this night. What - after all -does a building like this mean? How am I to situate myself within its glorifications? And what is being glorified. And finally what task am I avoiding? Because why else would I have ended up in the belly of the whale?

To be clear

Koerner Hall is beautiful. By this I mean it sounds great, the seats are very comfortable and I was awestruck at its grandeur, its glass tower facade, the vision of humanity's ribs stretched out in tree-slices on the roof. I was josteld by the intentional details to human scale which aided in making me feel both lesser than and greater than… all at the same time. Now disclosure is important here…the night was fraught with multiple stories. Nothing in the world of the over 40 can be lived as a thin line. Any Toronto event is rich in conflict and these are only the ones I am able to recognize.  We are occupiers (by "we" I am referring in this instance to the Euroline of Canadian dwellers who walk the concrete slabs of Toronto without a thought to the cost of laying that concrete down. By "we" I mean "me".) Okay ENOUGH! The building was big. I felt small. The sound was great. The fit of artists to venue was uncomfortable. There is no good reason why women were not wailing and men were not gnashing their teeth during Patrick Watson's deep minor chords… save for the fact that we (OH SHIT) I mean me, could not locate ourselves within the space of the event.  And this disconnect is - I think - worth considering as I launch into why Cape Farewell, and all that it is attempting to do, and in particular with its ambitions for North America, is both a gorgeous idea and one inextricably linked to failure. Not to fail I hasten to add, this is not the same as failure.

I got to sit at the table of giants. Scientists, Economists, Curators, Entrepreneurs, Journalists, Academics, Politicians, Writers, Musicians, Architects, Ad Men and Artists. It was a heady meal filled with the sacred and the profane. A two-day conversation spearheaded by visionary David Buckland and his Canadian partner in co-curatorial crime, Claire Sykes. Together they created an avenue for a difficult conversation,  all in an attempt to bring forward startling (my adjective) artistic contributions to the ambivalence surrounding climate change. It was stimulating, harrowing, intoxicating, enervating, terrifying, depressing, delightful and incredibly thought provoking.

Did I learn things I did not know? Absolutely. The Ocean does not need our love. We need hers. History did not start with our recording of it, nor did it begin in the cave, history is so old that it can't even register that we are here (and yet history knows it is dying and so someone new - like humans - must have arrived on the scene). I learned that we may have to STOP copying natural metaphors in our system maintenance and creation. Growth may be the very thing that is killing us. It is! But it also isn't!

AND THERE IS THE RUB.

All things that grow die. They really do! So in economic terms - well - we are simply fulfilling the promise of the process. I recently read (Homi Bhabba for those who note such things) that the colonizing project itself might be purposefully constructed to fail. This can be read several ways but I will split it in two. In the one sense we can say the failure is conscious, man-made and done with purpose. In the other sense we can say that we live in a world with a mystery that far surpasseth our understanding of it, and that this failure may be an inexplicable part of this larger mystery. In either reasoning two things - at a minimum -  can occur: New growth or dead zones. The choice is ours.

Dead Zones were described as huge parts of the ocean where as a result of several man made issues, the living parts of the ocean eat themselves to death. Literally. The metaphor, while badly told here, strikes me as a good one for the choice that we face with how we deploy failure. New Growth is, I suggest still yet to be defined, and may forever remain in the realm of about to be defined. As such we can always look ahead to the possibility of what the next intake of breath will reveal, while knowing that its attendant exhale will bring with it the end of that idea. Failure on the way to growth. Growth on the way to failure.

Look at it or don't.

Failure is your new best friend. Count on it.

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