Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hyperobjects Exhibition in Marfa, Texas starts in two weeks!

Here's what I've written for the guide:

Will All Artists Please Come to a White Courtesy Telephone
Timothy Morton

Art has one foot in the past, and one foot in the future. All the decisions, deliberate and not deliberate, that a host of things made--we could call this host the author or the artist (historical era, economic system—these two are often included, ecosystem not so much quite yet). Then again, just what exactly is this work of art? What is it “saying” (and so on). Such questions trail off into a kind of quietness we might call the future. Threateningly gentle, it haunts the machinations that brought us to wherever we’re calling “here” at the moment.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? (As my old Oxford tutor Terry Eagleton was fond of saying.) At whatever scale we zoom out to, we aren’t in control as humans at all—not even on the ones we inhabit, not in control as much anyway, because the whole point of inhabiting is that it’s unstable, it’s in motion (hint: it has to do with time). There is at every scale not a smooth transition but a dizzying whirlpool of spinning disco ball lights illuminated by lasers, that feeling of uneasy relative motion, moving while still, stillness in movement.

Ecological awareness just means being aware that things happen on a bewildering variety of scales all at once, and that what that looks like on one scale is very different on another scale. What looks like a boiling kettle to my human eyes looks very different from an electron’s point of view: suddenly finding that you’ve teleported to a higher orbit isn’t the same as the smooth, chattery-sounding phenomenon we call boiling.

And once you become aware of the idea that there are all these extra scales, you begin to notice that some scales are so big or so small (that also includes “long lasting” or “fleeting” too) that all we can mostly do is report and observe—or, if you like, undergo or endure. Perhaps things we call fate or chance or destiny or karma are just effects of entities that happen on scales we can’t do much with right now except report and observe. And maybe sometimes undergoing such things, scary and passive as that sounds, might help open up the possibility that things could be different—the future. Assuming, that is, that the way things are right now doesn’t work so great—for instance we are now aware, because we have the recording apparatus to help us (such as supercomputers) of global warming and the mass extinction that it’s causing.

These scales are where the hyperobjects live: entities that are so massively distributed in time and space that we humans can only see or deal with little pieces of them at a time—they might not even look as if they’re present or real, especially if we find that we’re inside them or are parts of them (such as being a part of the biosphere).

They’re almost invisible precisely because they’re so huge and powerful and immersive (we have them inside us, radiation for example). They’re scarily to-be-observed or to-be-endured. They require very special kinds of awareness and handling, the kind that we’re not well socialized to cope with, but which, in the case of global warming, we must cope with.

Sounds like a job for art to me.

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