The End of the End of the World.

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Described as a spatial essay, the recently finished exhibition “After the End of the World” at CCCB in Barcelona, presented a tour into “the Anthropocene planet” through a selection of speculative design, architecture, scenic arts, photography, science, and philosophy works.

The exhibition space was solved with a series of screens, like thresholds, transporting us to different present and future scenarios of climate change at global scale. The territories, the urban and domestic landscapes recreated by the different installations of the exhibition reflexively depicted the logical result of years of neoliberal extraction and dispossession; a result that we have swallowed without question under the mantra of progress, skillfully sweetened with several years of marketing.

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Sea State 9: Proclamation. Charles Lim Yi Yong

The beautiful and disturbing satellite images curated by Benjamin Grant and the terraforming systems in Singapore shown by Charles Lim put us face to face with this extractive and testosteronic logic of domination, with which we have learned to perceive the environment: as an object to be exploited and which purpose is basically to satisfy our needs. Somehow, these installations seem much like those head news announcing major catastrophes to which we are practically anesthetized, because let’s be absolutely sincere: in reality we have not achieved much with good intentions, moral appeals or discouraging forecasts, while we continue without questioning the Western-welfare model, the production system, the continuous growth and the consumption level that allows them.

The installation of Kate Davis and Liam Young – Unknown Fields points to the production and consumption problem stated above, highlighting the landscapes and human stories behind one of the most globalized industries on the planet: the textiles. This installation brought to our mind that in 2016 H&M featuring M.I.A. already tried to touch our sensibility with a global call to recycling labeled #WorldRecycleWeek. However, the 2017 collection and the subsequent ones, kept arriving on time to their stores.

Superflux displayed an urban domestic space of emergency and self-production. The installation had an atmosphere of certain oppression and isolation that is disturbingly familiar. This installation didactically speculates on the chains of production, consumption and food sufficiency that will allow some form of subsistence in the metropolis to come. In our opinion, it was the best installation of the exhibition.

Natalie Jeremijenko re-edited the Environmental Health Clinic, a proposal to take science to the citizens at the street level, it was coupled with a program that jumped outside the limits of the museum and gave a unique and interesting didactic dimension to the whole exhibition.

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Mitigation of shock. Superflux.

With all the above, it was a bit problematic to digest the poetic-philosophical-narrative thread of the exhibition, entrusted to Timothy Morton incarnated as “Minister of the Future” [sic]. It is not that ideas like hyperobjects (e.g. climate change) or ecology without nature are not consistent. In fact, they would have given solid arguments for a narrative that challenges the natural-artificial binomial and our perception as beings embedded in nature.

Because there is nothing more authentically human than the bureaucracy and its institutions (including Ministers and their Ministries). So, unless the intention was to revisit the masterly irony of Orwell’s farm (without a hint of rebellion), the scenarios, arguments, and promises developed by Morton still drag a lot of “anthropo-” and little of “non-human” [1]. It seems that WOOO (Western Object-Oriented Ontology) has just discovered something that so-called animists cultures have been cultivating for some time ago with exquisite sophistication [2]. Under this current of thought, it seems that after the collapse of the industrial society, we were just waiting for the arrival of white shamans to explain us the agency of our environment.

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Toxic waste from an aluminum plant in Darrow, Louisiana. Daily Overview.

It is precisely this Western, white, human and still testosteronic view that in our opinion dismantles the main narrative of the exhibition. It has missed in making visible the interconnections, in making evident the mesh that shows the interdependence between humans and non-humans (if we still want to involve Morton); the latent power of the networks of affection around us, the conviviality and the conflict, or the myriad of life thresholds beyond human biological tolerance.

We left the installations with the certainty that there are still many worlds, and they will be here long after the end of this exhibition.

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[1] Timothy Morton as Minister of the Future in the exhibition “After The End of the World”. Plus: Morton’s Opening speech and ministerial programme.

[2] Dylan Rainforth – How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Object-Oriented Ontology.
un Magazine 10.1 36/39.

 

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