Built with Indexhibit
We're all going to die horribly or how I learned to love Percy Pig.
'What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such.... That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.'
'The End of History and the Last Man', Francis Fukuyama
Is there a sense in which we have come to an end point of understanding, arriving at a culture of chaos and confusion which has come to dominate our world view? A blur of persistent vision from the ticker tape of 24/7 media which drowns out the ability to see beyond the noise?
In his book, 'The End of History and the Last Man', the political economist Francis Fukuyama argues we have reached an end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution, signaling the arrival of post-history, where liberal democracies clash intermittently with an 'historical' world of countries that have not yet made, nor indeed might wish to, such a transition. Post-history presents itself as the ultimate reality show, its ideal aesthetic that of the city as theme park. Culture and sophistication function as its veneer, but in tandem the 'junk-space' of shopping malls, convenience stores, and cheap furniture flourish, whilst a virtual space where 'twitter storms' is a concept and Kim Kardashian, presented as a 'reality' star perhaps fittingly seals her status via her backside.
Narcissism has rejected Culture in favour of the experience of self in the moment, outside of history, a mirror which continually projects the same flattened impression of presence. A place where Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, the 24-year-old vlogger, can breathlessly present beauty, fashion, and lifestyle tips to over 4.9 million YouTube subscribers, with views often exceeding 12 million a month.
Jean Baudrillard spoke of,
'... the perfection of the social. Everything is here... the heaven of utopia..., hyper-information, hyper-sensibility...' which in his words has become '... a catastrophe in slow motion.'
As the tear gas canisters cascade across the plazas of Europe, the No Parking signs ripped out and used as weapons against the forces of (dis)order, the struggle to maintain the facade of wealth creation and privilege march on, whilst the fabric of the world grows ever more unstable. Shopping arcades hunch over empty units to let, millions 'disappear' into the statistics of Government schemes focused on austerity, and so charity shops compete with 99p stores. The patina of culture has shifted in an age where putting food on the table takes precedence over the idea of a leisurely trip to the nearest art gallery or theatre, yet perhaps this presents a new view of art - Infra-culture, that which plays to the gallery of the crowd.
If culture as a form is in a dialectic with the real, today it is the emptying of both which we see enacted around us. Illusion and fabrication are banished, the separation between them abolished, culture goes onto the streets and claims its everydayness; it claims to invest the whole of the real, dissolve into it, and at the same time transfigure it. But what has it become?
The spectacle of media has crashed into our lives and faltered on the desire for authenticity stripped of the alienating impact of commodity; the circuit between need and desire has fused. The demand for a fixed centre has replaced the simulation, that which Baudrillard defined as '... the real... play[ing] with its own reality, that plays with the disappearance of the real while exalting its appearance...' . The luxury of such 'playfulness' requires examination as it appears at odds with the experience of so many; no longer corresponding to desire, it has become the geegaw of those on the nineteenth floor of irony, peering over the balcony at those slopping through the trenches of a fabricated actuality.
Casino capitalism, that state of things which Flemish philosopher and art historian Lieven De Cauter, in his book, 'Entropic Empire' describes as 'the Mad Max phase of globalisation', has run its course and destablised culture through a saturation of media; the static of YouTube, Facebook and Google search has led to a frustration of identity for many and left a chasm of privilege demanding a response. The social has become meaningless in the face of the seeming obsession with skydiving pitched as a recurring theme of success, whilst wars rage across continents and people die for the cause of a self-realised identity. The tension between the real and its simulation has broken down under the strain of artifice, to reveal a core of empty value.
The consumer does not desire. He submits.
The lights of the Asian economy call as beacons day and night on every street corner in a blaze of LED rainbows, like metronomes counting the pulse of time. They vie for ones attention, enticing the eye with the promise of gratification; a figment of excitement to meagre ends: the food of the blurry late night, the out of date pint of milk, the bored child swinging feet impatiently waiting their turn with the barber. They function contrary to their optimistic glow of satisfaction, their simple construction inviting a phantasmagoria of glamour but offering a mere shadow in return.
Illuminating the theme of daily life, free from artifice or concern, these electronic fires signal across the land to offer up distraction. They cast their piercing light away from culture, illuminating our physical persence in the 'Now'. They function as signifier to a new perspective of dissolution and decay: exposing a landscape of discord, a society at odds with itself and where nation states look increasingly inward for fear of the outsider, that which brings change.
They oversee a dialectic of failure, of society in regress. The built fabric of the urban landscape permits a new shape to this narrative - the language of the riven, abandoned, of the dismantled and abused as metaphor for a society in entropic decline.
It dresses our streets in the disguise of things torn but quietly is telling us how things are.