Everybody Talks About the Weather

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
– (from an unknown source, debatably attributable to) Mark Twain

Dialogue and climate change call to mind that other great modern catastrophe and its remedial strategy: nuclear holocaust and the Cold War. The collapse of our natural environment is not unlike global obliteration via nuclear bomb: they’re both total and abstract, and, in their own ways, unrecoverable.

The “solution” to nuclear conflict – most dramatically pantomimed during the Cold War – is dialogue. The idea: were we to engage in true nuclear combat, the world as we know it would end; so, time is bought with talk. Similarly, changes in our climate are perhaps beyond a “fix.” What can be done to assuage our unclarity and anxiety about the issue: buy more time with talk. Dialogue is a phenomenological cease-fire: a pause, a prompt to listen, a means to be present in (at least) a moment. A moment engaged in discussion is one less felt as lost.

For this project, a public reading will take place – by volunteer and assembled participants – of segments of Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. Life on the Mississippi not only meditates on the natural world, it reflects on another great abstraction: the Midwest. Unlike the South or New York, the Midwest lacks a distinct literary identity. It is a no-place, a middle-zone that is also a margin. Like the world’s imminent end, but far less storied, the Midwest is a spatial and temporal rupture in people’s idea of America, let alone specific place.

This reading will replicate a dialogue, in the sense that it will take place between a chorus of voices and a listening audience, and function as a kind of temporal filibuster against distraction and destruction.

Jessica Baran is the author of two books of poetry: Equivalents (Lost Roads Press, 2013) and Remains to Be Used (Apostrophe Books, 2010). Her art writing has appeared in such journals as Art in America, Artforum.com and BOMB; her curatorial work has been featured in the Front Room of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, White Flag Projects and COCA, among other spaces. She teaches at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art and is the Director of fort gondo compound for the arts.

Special Thanks

“Everybody Talks About the Weather” is supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Pulitzer Arts Foundation.