*
The
human
race:
state
of
the
self

- JUAN MANUEL ESCALANTE

 
 

 

 

A fire is burning, alarms are off, red lights turned on, but who is answering this rescue call?

¦

Guy Debord’s rescue call seemed to go unnoticed.
No echo, no feedback, not even the necessary to keep the call active loud enough.
Instead, 63 years old Guy shot himself.

His sound is losing amplitude, Orwell’s sound. We must remember it.

¦

But something else has transformed memory lately.

 

After giving the world a taste of nuclear weapons horrors, Norbert Wiener and Vannevar Bush (parties involved somehow in the project) urged scientists to focus on more noble tasks (now that the war was over).

It is important to notice that -blinded by anger and ambition- atomic weapons projects were also being developed by other countries (most notably, Germany). Perhaps, if the Trinity test had failed, our current world map would look entirely different. Could there be a relation between Hollywood's action movies cliché, on completing the mission at the last minute, be a revival of this historic moment?

Nonetheless, the world would never be the same again. A permanent scar was left in human spirit.

One of this noble tasks -as we all know now-, begged for a new system, a new global archive: mankind’s encyclopedia. But as we have witnessed, the mixture of great knowledge happens to be a highly combustible material. From the infamous destruction of Alexandria (two thousand years ago) to the National Archives of Bosnia Herzegovina (in 2014 Sarajevo), we have experienced the fragility of memory.

In Bosnia large amounts of non retrievable material was destroyed, including valuable information of the Ottoman empire.

Our generation’s archive -the w3- is just waiting for its own fire: a plug being pulled off.

Nowadays -as it has always been- access to knowledge doesn’t equal possession of knowledge, and possession of it doesn’t equal any proportional action as well.

I feel sometimes, knowledge is something my RAM(short term memory) generation is not grasping, and therefore unable to take action (of any kind).

¦

selfish

 

Distraction kills action.

In terms of traditional photography practice (apparently now obsolete), a piece of film material can receive light information only for a very short period of time. Otherwise, an excessive exposure would create an empty image (blank), a saturated image. One of my colleagues Keehong Youn puts it quite simple “If we put everything (into an archive), then we have nothing”.

Overexposure kills action.

¦

Of course, this is not a call to limit valuable information. I am trying to focus in the consequences of today’s change of speed; and focus is perhaps, the golden grial of our generation, because focus keeps feeding movement, prevents paralysis.

Many things abut speed are meant to be said, starting with Paul Virilio’s concerns, to a total disconnection from the ‘natural’ world and its velocity, pace and rhythm.
¦

But how to suppress all of the stimuli flooding our screens and streams?

Human mind is as fragile as our body, madness and physical damage is prone to happen at any second. Great thinkers have -quite often- lost themselves on layers and laminations of their own worlds/works.

In this case, I specifically refer to some logicians, inspired on “Logicomix: an epic search for truth” by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou.

Even when life -certainly- is not only an accident waiting to happen, death continues to be our centuries old measurement scale. However, our ways to understand and engage life, could shed a light on modern global culture.

¦

A recorded William Gibson, sitting at the back of a running car in LA speaks: -we are no longer surprised by hearing the voices of the death-. Sound memory (again) and oral tradition no longer enters the frame. At the same time, contemporary bioengineering practices are trying to reshape the notion of life: who are we exactly? Our bodies? The mixture of organs and substances? All of the microorganisms that live inside us? Are they ‘us’ or we are just their recipients?

I must say, I was introduced first to this notion at BioArt Think Tank that Dr. María Antonia González Valerio leads at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

PornHub, the world’s most visited pornography streaming website, released their visitor´s statistics according to: country and part of the body preference. We learned that people from the American continent and Africa prefer butts, while Europe, Rusia and Asia prefer chests. Legs, feet and other body parts are equally balanced worldwide.

The human body is already treated as a fragmented construct. Stelarc’s work deserves some recognition here too. A person is now understood per slice, per layers, per areas of their online persona. In 2012, the World Health Organization estimated a new ‘organ’ is sold every hour in black market operations, the official term is: transplant tourism. A vast majority of the consumers, are US or EU citizens, while a vast majority of the ‘sellers’ are from poor countries.

What else could give us a sense of our present world order, than identifying who is taking away parts from their own body (for money) in order for the other person to survive?

An ever present of inside / outside relationship has shaped humanity for centuries. An outside territory for the majorities, a no man’s land where all atrocities are encouraged. As a counter force: an inside territory where people can behave civilized and enjoy the many pleasures of the mind and body, that can only sustain by the oppression of the outside.

 

 

On this same account, Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s brilliant’s exhibition: Aujourd’hui, le monde est mort [lost human genetic archive], proposes different scenarios of a failed species (ours). The one relating to the General League of Nations director reads:

“Today the world died. Or maybe yesterday. […]
We caught on too late that freedom and equality are nowhere to be seen, only chance.
So what need for any League of Nations?
We ought to have just fought it out to the end, winner take over the world

UN Flag”.

¦

It has been extensively documented the harsh labour conditions of the world’s manufacturing center in Asia. Nevertheless, successful earnings from clothing corporations (like Zara, Adidas or H&M) are rising. Brutal violence in Mexico -for example- has severely damaged social tissue in the country; at the same time, cocaine market (amongst other drugs) has never been more profitable.

On this same tone, Casey Neistat documented the black market’s presence on iPhone 6 waiting lines in NY. At launch day, hundreds of apple employees cheered happily and clapped their hands, as many unexcited Chinese immigrants entered the store, later to deliver those same devices to their dealers, who would sell them in turn at the black market for three or four times their cost.

¦

What powerful desire drives the urge of acquiring these devices? For many of their future owners, they will fulfill Paul Virilio’s prophecy on cybernetic urbanism: “[…] the digitalization of all exchanges”. Matt Novak asks rightly -Will Google sell all your emails to your grandchildren?-.

As far as we know, there hasn’t been any other period in history, where any individual is capable of leaving such a huge data footprint. At the same time, the very personal relationship with our memories is no longer neuron-exclusively only, but recorded, registered and stored in remote servers. This is not the future, but the present.

This idea entirely eloquent at BBC’s Sci-Fi series “Black Mirror”, S01 E: “The entire history of you” (2011).
¦

selfish

 

Ironically, such a selfish society couldn’t care less about the individual. The person -or customer- is encouraged not to take action. Or -with different words- numbed with repetition and fireworks. The formula: make any individual vulnerable enough.

An authoritarian scent surrounds our planet. But then again, has it ever existed any other type of human made construct?

¦

Leonardo’s masterpieces were finished while the aztec cities were being destroyed to be lost forever. Old greek masters were shaping western culture while slavery was considered normal. Cybernetics and electronic arts foundations being shaped while the World War II divided the world.

¦

So there we are.
With no answers but -hopefully- grasping focus,
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · overcoming voluntary blindness,
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · and with the energy and desire for action.

Hopefully with a question, as Marcos Novak asks his students at the beginning of his course: “What is your question?”

 

¦

This is a rescue call.

// This brief text was written at the University of California Santa Barbara, inspired by the Transvergence sessions, led by Marcos Novak during the last motnhs of MMXIV