We are the surface of something more than individual, more subtle, abstract, complex and ultimately more real than we can know. What if abstraction is the ultimate essence of life? Abstraction turns chemistry into genetics, grunts barks and sighs into intimacy. Is that not spiritual as well as infinitely useful?
Something like the ‘ghost in the machine’ of life. It is how we reach out against the gravity of entropy. Reach far and persistent enough and you might just have a revolution. Regardless of what we call them, all the major revolutions in human history have been technological revolutions. The last one, the industrial revolution, introduced a rapidly accelerating increase in the extent of agency.
We can do much more, and do it much more easily, which sounds great until you consider how much ‘hard’ contains valuable feedback signal. Human agency, increasingly extending beyond the reach of human observation, and by extension, human awareness introduced an age of blind externalisation. Of course, the externalisation of costs and consequences is merely an illusion in as far as this planet is surprisingly finite. Presumably, when normal observation fails, the information reflecting base dynamics may manifest in ever grosser character – the gradual congealing grime of the Anthropocene, and get noticed. It is no coincidence that industrialization heralded the birth of Romanticism, as it also brought urbanisation and travel.
All these three are not only still with us, but increasing and accelerating in the increase. Urbanisation’s increasing density implies increasing spatial constraints, and these we counterpoint against increasing mobility. But the more we move the more we leave tracks, and there is friction. The more isolated we become the harder it becomes to care. The harder it becomes to care, the more valuable care becomes. It is a sad song with a sweet melody. Part of the beauty in music seems to be how it tells of the care between musician, instruments and method. So it is with pictures. Perhaps it begins in the ‘taking care of’ something.
It can manifest in a great many different permutations of style, ethos and spectacle. Attention orbiting something that matters enough to be engaged with, to be cared about, and care is the seed of kindness. The care and kindness applied to a material, gesture, interpretation, intervention or indulgence in a work of art, inevitably invites extending that attention, that ‘care’, to subject and environment as well. From this point of view, art is perhaps the realisation of kindness, or in a more common vernacular, ‘giving a fuck’. If we are in the fulcrum of a new technological revolution, with scope, magnitude and impact beyond what we can imagine.
And like everyone before us, we are. Then it is a good time to look around, and it is a good time to care.
Eric Duplan & André Clements, 2018