(continuing the collection of essays i'm writing for school...)
ARTH 520-3 - Disappearance, Violence, and Death in Art
Response #2 - Atomic Sublime and Mass Death
27 February 2011
“Monuments usually have specific functions: to uphold a current regime, explain or educate, pay homage.” So says Julia Bryan-Wilson in “Building a Marker of Nuclear Warning.” The challenge this article is describing - how to build a symbolic structure that will warn people thousands of years into the future about the danger of a specific site - is so gargantuan, I almost thought it was a joke. The idea of trying to create a marker of warning that will be fully understood, for thousands of years, for its meaning and warning of mass destruction, seems like an impossible task - “the marker must transmit its warning information to any and all future societies whether illiterate or unthinkably technologically advanced.” It would take a foresight on par with both genius and omnipotence in order to predict the interpretations of generations that we know will supersede us, both in intelligence and technological advancement. How does one predict such a thing?
Then again, it can be argued that mankind’s discovery and build-up of its nuclear arsenal was driven by a lust to achieve ultimate power, bordering on god-like - so, a solution to the problem of its disposal should be expected to be nearly impossible. This divine comparison was made by journalist Dennis Stillings in his essay “Theology of the Atom Bomb,” which was included in Apocalypse Culture, a book of collected essays. In the essay, he compares the bomb to the Second Coming of Christ. A more detailed explanation can be read at the link provided below, but his basic summary is that Jahweh manifests himself in the Old Testament as “a cloud and pillar of fire,” with many parallel references to what we consider the effects of a nuclear bomb - “fires that burn forever, that burn cities, that are unquenchable.” And, in the Book of Zechariah, a plague created by God is described as having the effect of “flesh being consumed away while they stand on their feet” (Zechariah 14:12). This is just one of many examples given in the Bible of God’s wrath that sounds very similar to the effects of a nuclear holocaust. Hence, the added fear that many cultures fear from such an event. Drawing this comparison to an even higher degree, how does one dispose of “god’s wrath”? It makes sense that the disposal of such a devastating arsenal would be anything but simple.
If the ultimate goal is to deter people from wandering onto the disposal site, then it can’t help but become a political issue - which is why stories like Fumiko Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm could be used as a very effective deterrent. Why is it dangerous to meddle with what is buried at the site in question? Because the underground materials are products of radioactive waste from nuclear arsenals. If it is that dangerous, then the question that future (and most of the current) generations will conclusively ask is why the weapons existed in the first place. That’s where it gets political.
After all, if the leftovers are destructive enough to warrant such attempts to warn generations thousands of years into the future, then the source from which they came must (and is) be much, much more devastating. If there was a way to permanently include stories like the above-mentioned manga as part of the site, then maybe these basic ideas of warning mankind of its seemingly inherent nature to harness immense power and use it for political leverage and war will serve a double purpose - to warn of what is underneath both the ground and ourselves. Then, this disposal site could fulfill Julia Bryan-Wilson’s definition of a monument.
Dennis Stillings article (read “The Bomb as Jahweh”), reprinted in The Dakota Beacon:
Dennis Stillings, “Meditations on the Atom and Time.” In Apocalypse Culture, ed Adam Parfrey (Los Angeles: Feral House, 1990), pp. 335-6.
27 February 2011
16 February 2011
12 February 2011
Come to The Swell Gallery - SFAI's grad student art gallery - for a show in which I'll have an epic, oppressive video projected on one of the walls! Imagery created by me; low, rumbling sounds mixed by me, from a song by SUNN O))) and some of my controlled feedback. The show, as a whole, will be pretty rad, so check it if yr in SF, February 17th!
10 February 2011
09 February 2011
08 February 2011
an excellent documentary about the transgressive filmmaker, Bruce LaBruce, is in competition at the Berlin Film Festival next week. i DP’d a bunch of los angeles footage and shot several of the interviews. if anybody is in berlin, check it out!