Popular ecologically geared art in Finland (art which aspired to advance global ecological sustainability) of the early 2000 was founded on the premise that if people would be made aware of their personal impact on the environment, they would automatically rectify their behavior. This dream lives on in apps which measure domestic power consumption and personal carbon admissions. The assumption of these dreams is that if rich people (people who are responsible for the ecological collapse) are made to see the scale of resources their lifestyles depend on, they will seize their harmful activity and better themselves.
Evidence shows that representations or even direct depictions of suffering rich people cause, are not enough for stirring up a desire for personal change. Which is why the current grant scheme is that audiences have to be trained how to relate, experience and to feel their impact on others. Feeling the suffering of others is expected lead them to adjust their behavior accordingly. In other words artists are aiming to affect change by re-working on their audiences skills in empathy.
Both approaches assume that humans are benign or rational, and that catastrophes are a result of a lack of knowledge or a lack of skills (in empathy). I think we should develop approaches which are based on the assumption that people harm others intentionally and enjoy doing it. It should be argued that western lifestyles are a death cult and people desire death. This does not mean that they want to die, but it seems they need to be in its proximity for stuff to make sense. There exists an addiction to blood.
Both approaches deploy sneaky pedagogy. The audiences curiosity towards arts and artists is used as a vessel for infusing them with knowledges which alter their behavior. Early ecologically geared art in Finland attempted to shock audiences back on a track of rationality (Wake up! To the suffering eating meat causes!). Later ecologically geared art seduces and allures audiences to modify their emotional responses and behavior (What is this think with sleepy metaphors? Whats the deal with people being simultaneously woken and shamed for not dreaming of anew?) These changes echo the shift from the control of bodies, to the control of desires.
I want to acknowledge artistic responses to ecological concerns, which assume that people are evil but that it is ok and can lead to fun results. Its fun to be alive. I, for one, have been bombarded by depictions of global catastrophes since childhood. When I close my eyes I can visualize the color schemes of movies, where the survival of the human race is dependent of the resilience of special individuals. Dealing with this imagery and the trauma it caused, is what I’m after when identifying as a recovering survivalist.
The survival stories are centered on character arcs but what supports the arc is the actuality that everyone else is dead. Those movies (and that art I made), are not a celebration of the resourcefulness of man, they are enjoyment over the succulent presence of death. Dead is the only thing a resourceful man is not. It is the landscape or backdrop which offers contrast to their shape.
These depictions (and all representations of human resourcefulness) are reboot-fantasies. They enforce the idea that a singular moment in time, the moment of innovation, could work as a fixed point in which the fate of the world is in human hands. A space rocket launch is good illustration of this dream. A monumental gesture, pushing a button to launch a ship from earth, enforces the idea that all life is progressing at the same pace and that all life is in contact. But I think life is not necessarily in contact with all-other-life and not-all-life on the planet makes sense.
The environmental collapse (we are intentionally progressing towards) is presented as a global phenomenon which resets all-life to the same baseline. It gives a rush. But this depiction is a manifestation of a particular and particularly modern mindset. It has aesthetic baggage and assumes what life is like.
A good example is a recent article on rural cat communities in Finland. (Paheneva kissakriisi… / yle.fi). The article details how escaped cats have formed super-local communities (some groups had 250 cats) and focuses on groups which habit very small areas (one population lived primarily under a bridge). As these communities don’t move, they inbreed, which brings about an array of anomalies. The text depicts a case were inbreeding led to a kitten growing the organs inside out. This is not how life is not supposed to look like, hence their existence is interpreted as suffering – According to the article these rural mutant kitten groups are terminated regularly.
This is evidence that time does not progress at the same pace for all. Some of us live in pockets. An environmental collapse only makes sense if you assume that we are all equally effected by pollutants. We are not. It carries with it a dream that we will all come together in death. We will not. The resourcefulness of the mutant kitten groups is deemed horrifying because it shows the shape of things to come.