IN SEARCH OF ANTI-ENVIRONMENTS
Our world today is drowned in a misty pool of endless time where we are not able to see beyond our outstretched hands. Our experience of time is limited to human-time, while the world changes in relation to geological-time that leaves us blind to the changes in our environment. Despite our lack of vision, the world carries on, constantly morphing; still echoing what the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus noted many centuries ago. Change is a function of time, and as long as there is time, there will always be change. But, from the industrial age to the technological era that we live in today, the speed of change has superseded the change itself, which has formed the stage for much of the ecological dialogue in the last 50 years. Technology became the facilitator of the environment, and to a limited extent the anti-environment over the course of time. However as we have seen, the anti-environment cannot be reduced to merely mathematical abstractions. Therefore, despite technological advancements aiding in breaking the distance between humans and nature, it has reshaped the environment creating more uncertainty.
In regard to the ecology, where are these anti-environments that seem more important now as ever before? In this instance the crucial interplay perhaps needs to happen between government (environment) and arts and science (anti-environments) for any real impact to take place. Joseph Beuys experimented with an ‘extended concept of art’ for social change, but I suspect his environment was not yet ready for people to accept this idea. But today, events such as the Arab spring shows that such a collaborative act can have a difference, and the question is how do we utilize this enormous collective creative force for change? However moving in this direction requires treading on a very fine line between ‘art for art’s sake’ and propaganda, which then becomes nothing more than a form of the political environment.
There are other relations that also exists where art returns as the anti-environments of perceptual awareness vis-à-vis the society. It is ironic, but true, that in the age of the anthropocene, the human-animal has somehow been displaced as the sole inhabitor of the foreground, and there has emerged from the background this other non-human object thereby dissolving this duality.
If we thought that the outer environment was brought into art through the likes of Duchamp, Andy Warhol and others, therefore blurring the lines between art and life in the late 20th century, then the 21st century art and reality seem to have split altogether, or perhaps the veil of technology has distracted us from the real issues. It may once again be useful to revisit McLuhan who states that in an electric environment of instant information, the distinction between ‘mirror', and ‘action’ gets blurred. The first step then becomes to break the illusion of the illusion of technology. The times seem to call for the investigation of the unknown (hyperobjects), rather than the known (objects).
If in the past artists wrestled with the problem of the object,
then in the future they will be consumed by the hyperobject
(if in the present we remain blind).
So the question at hand is ‘how do we know when to scream? The time to scream is over, and we are now living in its echo. The new technological advancements are already creating a new unknown environment while we are still bathing in its spectacle. Today the challenge for art to act as the anti-environment then lies in rethinking the role of technology in the artwork.
Excerpt from “In Search of the‘Anti-Environment’:Breaking the ___________ distance”
– Harsha Biswajit