The first thing I need to explain about this piece is why I chose the word planet instead of world; the latter being specific to humanity and all of its concerns, whilst the former describes everything that makes up the ball of rock, gas and liquid that constitutes the earth. I need to do this as it is evident that what I am trying to depict here is life in the grips of the dynamics of the human-made system. The word planet seemed more specific to dealing with an infliction on the earth of this all-consuming human system. I wanted to look at this culture (or civilisation) as something that, despite its initial intentions, has coated everything, making its logic inescapable, a logic that deals with maximizing all resource extraction, destroying the body upon which this civilisation needs to survive. This is why the word world simply did not suffice in representing the extent of the saturation of the issue we have here.
In a completely unreligious way, I see humanity as being life’s brain: its ability to think about everything that is and has been; the ability to look back at what came before it. I don’t mean it in a sense that it is our destiny, more that the evolutionary process has placed the human being in this position. Yes, this way of seeing has been inspired by the Gaia hypothesis (a scientific hypothesis), which argues that all of the ecosystems on earth, and each living thing within it are interdependent to the extent that life has adapted this ball of rock, gas and liquid into a super-organism, self-regulating the earth to maintain conditions the best it can for life, in the way that a smaller system regulates itself in order that its stability is maintained. And I am in no way a new-age hippy: I’m too saturated in this wasteful and exploitative cultural logic/too infected with this globally-spread mental illness to be anything that comes near to genuinely fitting such a persona.
The term mental illness applies at every level here, right down to the individual. As we now clearly see, this life-sapping system is now creating a mental-illness epidemic, where the use of anti-depressants has become on commonality, and it being rare to walk around a shopping street without noticing a victim of eating disorders. Earlier this year, my friend spoke of how such a high number of his friends were complaining from migraines due to the stress of being unable to fathom out what the hell is going on, from the local to the global, that it couldn’t be dismissed as mere coincidence. I situated such heads, fit to burst, in isolated computer screens within this piece of work, as more and more of communication between one another is mediated through mechanisms. The spaces between us, in cyberspace, are full of arguments and attempts to explain what just is going off all around us. However, rarely does the action transcend the screens and have effect.
Computer screens seemed like the best place to position individuals separated from each other to suffer from the exact same causation, alone. It may be worth adding here that the scientific methodology that dominates our culture, has always sought to reduce everything to its individual components, to see everything as atoms per se, rather than as interdependent/connected atoms. And although this is certainly very useful, it seems to be a methodology with penetrating perception in one eye, but utter blindness in the other. The philosopher Martin Heidegger uses the term ‘modern technology’, where I would always use capitalism, to show how it is not a coincidence how a system based on reducing everything to “standing reserve” for future exploitation appeared historically not long after the beginnings of modern physics. This one-sided view of the world saturates our culture to an extent that it’s hard to imagine anything else, even whilst it slowly makes us more and more ill.
The tube-like tunnel this landscape is situated in is just this: the hegemony/the logic that has spread so intensively and extensively that one cannot imagine a world outside of this tunnel, even as it leads us into a darker and darker place. Towards the end of the last century, as systems that tried to challenge capitalism began to fall apart, the theorist Fredric Jameson claimed that in this time of late capitalism (or what he called ‘a time of no time’) “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world that an end to capitalism”; and as humanity stumbles into the second decade of the 21st century, this diagnosis is becoming terrifyingly tangible.
As the heads inside the computer screens veer closer to the dark ends, they burst, re-releasing the cultural logic, in a chronological waterfall of the destructive cycle in motion since early European colonialism and the beginnings of the industrial revolution pours out, recreating the only world they know, as they self-destruct. It is almost the genealogy of the system being revealed, like DNA within we who know no other way even as it causes us to break down.
The landscape being constructed from the genealogy of our culture is of course intended to be the world we have now. As much as we see the brutality of the social gradient, from the private houses, and finance skyscrapers to the corpses of the global poor as they are the first to reap the harvest of climate breakdown, and those who are cultivated to sell their bodies in whatever means as the only means to earn a living, it is still clear that nobody is safe from these destructive dynamics. The lyrics of the late Richie Edwards in the Manic Street Preachers song Motorcycle Emptiness claim that “every where’s death row, everyone’s a victim”; this is the case under a truly global capitalism. Whilst this doesn’t excuse the vast injustices, where more and more millions are being dumped on the waste pile, whilst a minority enjoy the luxuries of kings, it certainly makes the case that we all have an investment in a different the future to the bleak one the logic of capitalism has in store for us and the planet