The Walking Dead? No, Portugal circa 2017. Via BBC.
The country is on fire, in some kind of vivid anticipation of a fictional climate warming. There are also fungus-ridden trees that fall vengefully and brutally, and kill several people during some innocent religious celebration. Dry places get drier, with 80% of this land (and a good part of Southern Europe) now classified as under severe drought. So, with Barcelona just hit by terrorism, local people go to the beach, and masses of tourists roam around Lisbon 2.0, as if jointly commemorating the last global peaceful resort in a bright Ballardian tale.
It seems as good a time as any to share here my curatorial essay on the uncomfortable transition from 500 years of utopian ideals to a situation of permanent dystopia.
Alas, this is the subject of the fairly successful exhibition I’ve curated with João Laia and Susana Ventura, which is now just about to close at maat, Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology.
As I’ve tweeted earlier to those who will probably miss the show, the book will always linger on, available through Mousse Publishing — and with its original contributions by Franco Berardi, Rosa Braidotti, Keller Easterling and Antoine Picon, this is indeed a publication not to be missed.
Meanwhile, in a recent text for DAMn magazine, I have already offered some personal reflections on the more unexpected outcomes of this curatorial endeavor. As I’ve also stated in the intro to the book:
The final juxtaposition of artworks and texts offered us the evidence that utopia may effectively be giving place to dystopia. If some works revealed that boundaries between one term and the other were increasingly blurred, others jumped straightforward to the notion that dystopia has become prevalent and is the concept that requires examination. And this is an important assertion: it makes us shift the ways in which we address society and its ideal self-representations; it makes us again question the role of cultural producers in face of a broader, unescapable political situation.
To the joy of many, including the politically correct, utopian ideals are definitely dead. This is a fact at least since the great recession of 2008 – the theme for Tension & Conflict, the upcoming international group show at maat. And with bad global jokes such as Trump, dystopia is no longer a thing of literature, or science fiction.
Just get used to it.
Which brings me back to the most powerful text I’ve read over the last weeks – even if I must disclose that, while preparing for maat‘s next “manifesto-exhibition” on the subject of Eco-Visionaries, I’ve been reading a lot of disturbing shit.
So, here is almost half of “#MISANTHROPOCENE: 24 Theses,” a poem by Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr. You can find the whole of it hiding in pages 379-384 of this open-source pdf of Art in the Anthropocene.
First of all. Fuck all y’all.
Second of all. We would all like to be violet-haired pure honey-smiling Sappho hanging out at all hours of the day and night in the air-conditioned $83,200-a-night Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson with twelve bedrooms and twelve marble bathrooms plus a wraparound terrace with views of the Alps singing the praises of Anaktoria. The misanthropocene has proven to be a time when this is possible for some and not for others.
Third of all. It keeps busy. It makes deserts bloom. It makes luxury towers just like it makes architects. It makes blockbusters and it makes producers to make them. It makes universities roads conceptual poets it makes oil-drum pyramids it makes ships of a size called Malaccamax. It makes endless small plastic representations of the African jungle or plains animals and fish ingest them and vomit them up or don’t and there they sit in their stomachs and then they die.
Fourth of all. You know: it. The it that seems to be nothing but the doing of the world. As in it’s raining. It’s Raining Men is a moment of happiness within the misanthropocene.
Fifth of all. But then there is this other rain tilting in to soak vast acres of eurodollars and we call this west melancholy. West melancholy is related to but not the same as the misanthropocene.
Sixth of all. When we speak of time we speak of processes. Things going bad. We speak of entropy and the shedding of particles. A cold caesium fountain deep underground.
Seventh of all. The sheer scale of the misanthropocene. Our minds feel small and inert. Once every fragment seemed to bear within it the whole. Now the whole being too large for the mind to see stands before us always as a fragment.
Eighth of all. Fragments. The new Sapphic rage. Fuck Water Garden Condos Camel Garden Condos Royal Garden Sea Garden Garden City Beach and everyone who lives in condos named after gardens. One day gardens will come to get you. If they don’t we will do it for them.
Ninth of all. Fuck the French Revolution the concept of the quintile Burning Man “England is a nation of shopkeepers” capital-L Literature and the citizens of Passy. Fuck Whole Foods sustainability the Piketty craze of 2014 Harvard University Press indie rock and Fight Club. Fuck community policing. Fuck poststructuralism The Universal Declaration of Human Rights the rock banjo. Fuck critiquing the rock banjo. Fuck self-reflexive meta-commentary about critiquing the rock banjo. Fuck cupcakes and/or Park Slope fuck the martini fuck your Noguchi Coffee table fuck the crisis in the humanities Jonathan Safran Foer’s Chipotle-cup literature home ownership HBO and fuck pedantically explaining that “the bourgeoisie” doesn’t really apply to any part of US class structure.
Tenth of all. Fuck the propelling of sand from the bottom of the ocean floor in a high arc so as to construct new islands. Fuck that this is called rainbowing. Fuck any sort of dredge. Fuck how racehorses don’t get to fuck each other but instead the stallion is trained to mount a dummy mare made of plywood and fuck a heated plastic vagina. Fuck the prince of any country ever fuck Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali and atrazine. Fuck everyone who has bought a big bag of ant poison because ants have a social stomach and you are one selfish motherfucker if you can’t let them have the very small amounts of food they want to share equally among themselves. And fuck this list with its mixture of environmental destruction and popular culture smugness and fuck every one of you that laughed at that rock banjo joke and fuck us all for writing it. And fuck not just the Googlebus but the Googledoc this poem rode in on and fuck us for sitting here reading you a rock banjo joke while the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse went extinct. Fuck that this happened two days and twenty hours ago. And fuck that next up is the Sierra Nevada yellow legged frog because we’ve always liked frogs their vulnerable skin our vulnerable skin.
Eleventh of all. And fuck that self-insulating move where you call yourself on your own bullshit to prove you aren’t self-righteous. Fuck it for just being a version of liberal “please don’t hit me” politics. And srsly how did this poem come to revolve around the rock banjo?
Joshua Clover & Juliana Spahr