Continuously growing horizontal underground stems: Geopoetics in times of anthropocene
APART collective with Matej Gavula, Chaosdroid, Lukáš Likavčan
Anthropocene is the new geological epoch of our planet. As hinted at by its ancient Greek root of anthropos (άνθρωπος), it is the age of humans. Today, humans hold the position of the main powers shaping the Earth. According to some authors, the beginning of this era dates back to the end of the 18th century when Watt’s invention of the steam engine opened the gates of the industrial revolution and fossil fuels became the drivers of early capitalism. The aroma of burnt oil products has since then become our daily companion. Other scientists place the turning point between the Anthropocene and the preceding epoch of Holocene (which started at the close of the most recent glacial period) in the 20th century. Sometimes they even cite a very concrete date – namely July 16th 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated as part of tests carried out in New Mexico. The invisible, thin layer of radioactive substances which enveloped the planet after the explosion, has been forever imprinted in the future layers of the Earth’s core, which will be studied one day by geologists of the distant future in their core samples.
As it tends to happen with technology, new inventions generate new accidents. What Chernobyl means for nuclear energy, climate changes means for technologies driven by fossil fuels. The way we approach our future can therefore leave nothing to chance – we must plan, think, recalculate and contextualize our existence within the planetary ecosystem. That is why we need radical political and technological imagination which pulls down the ideas of what the limits and possibilities of individual human bodies are. The theoretician Benjamin H. Bratton even challenges the humankind to engage with prudence in the practice of committed geodesign to avert the impending ecological disaster. In other words – we need more daring geopoetics and less stupid geoengineering. This calls for sensible interfaces set up for the frequencies of interspecies diplomacy, which may include the use of the Sun as the supreme source of energy for human and extra-human activities, from the level of individual cells through our bodies to large collectives of heterogeneous agents.
The Anthropocene is a daunting epoch, anticipated and ushered in by the horrors of modernization. Modernization took many shapes and forms and we intentionally opt for a very non-Western variant – namely the modernization that China went through under Mao Zedong. By the gesture of including one of his poems in our exhibition we want to show that the brutal modernity and the no less brutal Anthropocene share the strangely delusional sense for the planet combined with a total negation of its autonomy – the Earth does not belong to us, yet we pretend that it is in fact ours.
With our exhibition, we want to escape from this paradox by means of patient construction of a new planetary perspective which does not differentiate between nature and society, the wild and the city, or people and plants – on the contrary, our perspective draws its energy from the radical idea of equality of all things; including people.
Thus, we ask: How to write the planet? That is to say: Not to straightforwardly follow its lines or fold its pages, but to genuinely co-write the planet?
Text: Lukáš Likavčan
Translation: Michal Spáda
Photo: Jan Trnka
Graphic design: APART
Documentation: Peter Sit, Andrej Žabkay
Video: Denis Kozerawski
Plusmínusnula gallery, Žilina, 2017