Through our technologies we have become omnipresent, looking at nests full of hatching birds or peering into the ocean depths, but in doing so are we forgoing the whole body experience of nature for a flat-screen version of it? A big challenge for us will be reclaiming a sense of presence.



Modernity was a quest to achieve a new age, a new world.

It was intended to be an age of order, where the reckless and unpredictable chaos of the world could become systematized. To be modern was to be on the front line of the new, the avant-garde, yet it was tempered by a sense of exclusion and a sense that what was being undertaken was right and morally good. Modernity embraced rational irrationality, the controlled chaos of the machine and a faith in progress. On August 6th, 1945 modernity ended, though few will agree that it did. In the first flash of our nuclear future, all sense of trajectory was deleted. In the post-1945 world, the postmodern world, the coming world no longer made logical sense.

This would be a world predicated upon mutually assured destruction and the order of a nuclear age informed by the logic of militarism.

— Michael Rattray

The postmodern is an infinite array of sign signifiers, at least in theory.

It is said that in the postmodern, or pomo, all of life is registered as simulation. Freedom is a moot point because what used to be known as freedom cannot be known in the pomo . . . it can only be repeated, or copied, in an infinite chain or referents to a past definition that was never experienced. The pomo mind witnesses life, past, future and present, as form. It is alienated from the actuality of existence and resists consequence, favoring ambivalence, but still considers itself to be the result of phenomenal force. Politics becomes an everyday virtue, rarely practised but consistently preached. In suspended animation, the whole of consciousness is consumed by the culture of the spectacle.

For the first time in recorded history, the global is achieved.

— Michael Rattray

Increasingly, artists have come to judge their own success through money, too.

This is the reason today that we feel the genre writer’s cry “I sold millions” so powerfully, even though in truth it can say little about the art form other than “it sold millions.” Changing disciplines, if we take this commoditization of art to its natural limit, we arrive at Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull (2007). Commoditization has here become the only point. The work, such as it is, centres on its cost and value and comprises also (I would say mainly) the media storm surrounding it: the rumors that it was bought for £50m, or that Hirst himself bought it, or that he offset his tax bill by claiming diamonds as tax deductible artistic materials, or that he didn’t buy it at all, or that nobody has bought it… And so — postmodernly — on; the paradox being this: that by removing all criteria, we are left with nothing but the market. The opposite of what postmodernism originally intended.

— Edward Docx. First published in Prospect Magazine, August 2011

Today, we are real-time.

We carry with us gadgets, small inventories and surveillance equipment that monitor our every move, every thought and we accept this state of global order. This systematization of life in real-time is far more frightening than the postmodern mind could ever have imagined. Rather than seeing a march of eras, a narrative progression towards a better future, today we are contemporary, simultaneous and a resistance to the ethics of place has developed as a consequence. Today we face a global pause, the time of no modernity, or nomo. Each one of us is a behavioral algorithm, clocked, analyzed, monitored and conditioned. We exist in a panopticon and we willingly pay our membership dues so that we too can feel connected to it, this real-time network of simultaneity . . . the permanent now.

We are in an endless flow of simulated ambience which comes to a grinding halt the moment the network signal is lost.

—Michael Rattray

In place of the neurosis of modernism and the narcissism of postmodernism,

pseudo-modernism takes the world away, by creating a new weightless nowhere of silent autism. You click, you punch the keys, you are ‘involved’, engulfed, deciding. You are the text, there is no one else, no author; there is nowhere else, no other time or place. You are free; you are the text; the text is superseded.

— Dr. Alan Kirby, from The Death of Post-Modernism and Beyond, 2006

It is strange to think how, in spite of so many young artists now playing with digital aesthetics, it was actually Warhol who saw it coming most clearly. The massive shift from depth to surface that Warhol explained with celebrity culture and advertising has now taken hold of language itself and spread across the planet. It’s no wonder that since the 1990s, the political, social and economic aspects of artistic production have become increasingly interchangeable and hard to distinguish from one another. Planetary networks have become places of profound confusion and dislocation. We know from the start that we probably won’t find what we’re looking for, so we learn to search sporadically and asymmetrically just to see where we end up. This might look and feel like drifting and traditional or conservative notions of substance will always try to dismiss its noise, its cat videos and porn, bad techno and bombastic contemporary art, but one should be careful not to underestimate the massive distances being crossed in the meantime.

These distances are themselves very quickly reformatting our consciousness and cognitive capacity to absorb entire worlds made of contradiction—not only in language but far beyond language as well. Some people might already be there: scammers and tricksters, the frazzled post-studio artist and the post-institutional independent militia, political dissidents and unruly journalists who know never to trust their maps. They know that contradictions don’t resolve, rather you surf across them using empathy and solidarity, emotional blackmail, jokes, pranks and vanguardism as norm. Our ability to traverse these contradictions may very well become the backbone of the global telecommunications network we used to think was an Internet.

— From the The Internet Does Not Exist edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood & Anton Vidokle

A Philosophical Journey Through The Eras

From AB120: Manifesto for World Revolution, Part 3