DAY 13 /// RESPONDING TO DOUGLAS COUPLAND – SHINY, BY RENATA LEMOS MORAIS
Let’s Just Hope We Accidentally Build God
Kim Jong-un and officers from the North Korean Airforce, Photo: EFE, 2014.
North Korea’s shiny is red,
Uncle Sam’s shiny is blue,
sunshine is sweet,
it burns holes through you
The musical equivalent of shine is noise. Like that weird buzzing sound in your ears which can either come out of nowhere, or be created by sustained exposure to extreme loudness, like when you walk out of a club or a party. I can hear this kind of buzzing in my ears right now as I write this, and in this moment it seems to be coming out of silence itself. Extreme silence is loud. Extremes touch each other and become one another. Extreme loudness becomes silence, extreme light makes one go blind, extreme motion becomes stillness.
Extreme size anything and there’s a hyperjump into infinity and anything becomes everything and everything becomes anything. Extreme size communism and it becomes capitalism plus everything else above and in between, the shine plus the weird plus the grungy plus the raw. When we are moving beyond the speed of light, we cannot feel the wind blowing on our face. There is nowhere to go, because anywhere is everywhere, and we’re already everywhere anyway.
The angle of your perception determines the every or the any as it shifts from one to the other, stretching the present in all directions at once. This is the extreme present in its state of absolute acceleration. Reminder: don’t let yourself be fooled by the word acceleration, which usually implies movement towards something. Absolute acceleration is in fact absolute stillness, however its stillness lies at its core, like the eye of a hurricane.
People become dizzy and disoriented with this reality because they are so attached to their maps. All of our ideological systems were built as maps and moral compasses to the vision of a future - some where in the future we were supposed to be moving towards, and those maps gave direction and a sense of purpose to entire generations. Politics became a fight about who had the right set of maps with the best instructions on either how to get there or to avoid going there. Contemporary art as a social system and the linear succession of its avantgardes has also been transformed into an aesthetic guide of cultural footprints which claim to lead us toward the “world to come”.
The not so new news is that there is no world to come, for the world has no future. This is the void lurking behind the shiny surface of an art world which still pretends to contain all the world’s futures. Shininess is a distraction from the absence of any future, both in the world of politics and in the world of contemporary art. Systems which were built with the purpose of creating futures now have little purpose left. Keeping up appearances and tightening their grip on power has become the main game.
Maps do not work anymore, not only because there’s nowhere to go but also because our territory has changed. The earth beneath our feet has become a naked singularity and it is pulling us into the next dimension where there is no left nor right, up and down, outside or inside, and while we’re fading into darkness, people are still desperately holding on to the question: where is the future?
They’re stuck inside the illusion of believing that if there is no future, their whole life has been lived in vain. No future means death right now, but death right now is like a supernova: take a dive and you will explode and turn into not only all the world’s futures but into all the universe’s futures at once. All the world’s futures within the extreme present, which is like a black hole - it absorbs every past and every future until it all collapses into atemporality.
Time-space phasing in and out. How much time is in atemporality? How much space is in infinity? The metaphysics of the extreme present is in fact a pataphysics. In 2012 I did an interview with Bruce Sterling about atemporality in which he said something very interesting about metaphysics:
“We human beings never fully conquered metaphysics with ink on paper. Now we’re losing ink on paper. So, why do we still pretend that our expressions about these things are stable, or timeless? They’re no more stable than the artifacts by which we learn about them and promulgate them.”
Our artifacts are our new nature. New versions of ourselves sprout through our multiple platforms, a swirling kaleidoscope of interactive possibilities, of metamorphing, loops and serendipities. Shininess and the void it tries to hide are still a part of our new nature, but we are present. All the world is present. EXTREMELY SO.
Renata Lemos Morais is a Brazilian scholar who lectures in Media and Communication at Deakin University, Melbourne.