Thoughts on Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) Exhibit, Després De La Fi Del Món
The most striking aspect of the exhibit was its conveyance of continuum. There is a flow to events, a stream, but throughout it a change that isn’t so much a change in the evolutionary sense as it is one that beckons your compliance with its expectations. This is opposite of those slow-motion events in our life that are best described as “I saw everything as it happened, but was unable to act quickly enough to prevent it from happening.” My assumption is that the artists believe this is how we the audience perceive the world, especially in terms of the present climate change crisis.
With a name like Després De La Fi Del Món (from Catalan, After the End of the World), you expect things to be a bit drab and dystopic. What was most jarring was the neutral attitude the exhibit took towards the annihilation of the human species. You begin with a wonderful L-shaped wall projected video meditation. In this meditation the concept of You (or I), Earth, and Jellyfish are introduced. What is carried on throughout the rest of the exhibit is a sense that these three concepts cannot exist together, but rather, overlap towards an accelerating mutually assured destruction. The visual essay is told in eight pieces, each incubated through the transitional “waiting rooms” narrated by the Ministry of the Future, which is half Big Brother, half Kyle Reece, the time traveling protagonist of the Terminator franchise. These narrations take us on further meditations into the self, society, anxiety, and the options available at each step.
From the present, designated by the signing of the Paris Agreement in December of 2015, the exhibit walks us through to 2050-2100 when the success or failures of the Agreement’s proposal will begin to manifest. Then finally on into the end of the world. We are shown the Anthropocene and the human footprint as it currently stands via various aerial photographs and the work being done to increase industry and challenge the Earth’s limitations. We are shown the world after the end, how the shock will be dealt with, and how life, travel, and health will change in response to a, for lack of a better term, broken Earth. We move through industrial production in Bangladesh to the invention of more land in Singapore at the highest exposure to the now, the audience is asked to sit in a room with strangers and think.
In a claustrophobic theatre of infinitely deep walls, a voice guides us through a meditation that has us look into a mirror at each other, tell our names and then speak to our opinions of who in the room will live longest and die first. Then we are taken into the future as jellyfish populate the screen. We learn the simplicity of their ways and that they thrive in the destructive environment we produce. Finally, we see the next group filter in to a theatre on the other side of the screen as they tell their age and who they think will die when. Then comes future shock.
The second half of the exhibit is a dystopic world of tomorrow. Plants are grown in the home as the atmosphere can’t support them out there. New techniques and trinkets find themselves in a common small and fluorescently lit abode. Styrofoam from head to toe comprises the health clinics of tomorrow as we learn about medicine and fashion in the future. New forms of travel follow wind patterns and must occur under a strict zero carbon footprint. Political institutions lose the faith of their people and while no picture is left for us at the end, we the audience can’t help but think of what that picture is. Be that floating lost in the ocean, little to no life left on the planet, or confined to a dystopic horror show.
The most important thing to consider while viewing this exhibit is that it is the here and now. This all is an image set in the present and I believe it is quite aware of this fact. The obvious idea is that the artists wish for the audience to move into the future with more conscious of themselves and the here with a desire to change their practices. The I, the Earth, and the Jellyfish are not mutually exclusive. In fact, consider them all to be the same. The balance is not the object of the game, it is rather, awareness. Unfortunately, the exhibit does not give us too many proposals to contemplate, just an image. Like a painting, it is there, what remains is how we the audience take the physical presentation and apply it to our life.
Some Questions I am Left With:
This exhibit takes on climate change as its emphasis for driving the dystopic course of future events. What are the most important issues that will have the largest effects on life in the next hundred years? What is it that makes these issues so powerful over the state of future life?
Does it help to reflect on the annihilation of the human race? Is this just a scare tactic, and are those effective in giving people agency? How do you prevent the mindset of “Whelp, looks like we are doomed anyways, might as well make it a comfortable ending…”?
What solutions are there to this problem, how do we stop the End of the World? What will go wrong with those solutions?
by Scott Jordan