Ultima Thule:

…Here the medium of installation becomes a receptacle for the narrative of a Faustian traveller, gripped by romantic myths of freedom despite a genuine desire for a truth unfettered.

Even so, his journey is not initially inspired by a higher ideal but a disaffected need to escape a home that seems hollow and somehow insubstantial compared to a constant stream of media beamed into his television set.

At the end of his travel, in a makeshift hut, realisation dawns that he has only assembled another cage to surround himself both physically in the form of the shack and mentally vis-à-vis his confused notions of liberty.

They entangle like a knot.

The only thriving wildlife still barely touched by man is the hot, confusing, and poorly lit world within himself. The strangely shaped glands and bones, the transparent lungs, the dense tangle of cells in the brain hold worlds within worlds; and through it all, streams of blood.Leo Vroman

So obsessed is he with the search for some absolute reality outside himself that when he comes to the realisation that there is none to be found, he falls into its opposite – a state of nihilistic relativism; in that, all things being equal, all value collapses.

“…The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference.” Elie Wiesel.

This narrative is played out through documents, the relationship of objects, sounds, and video. Sound emanates from an experimental surround-sound setup from under the floor and placed at various angles in the installation to envelop the viewer.

Mise-en-scène is geared towards creating the illusion of a neurotic thought space: cluttered, confused, with multiple points of reference for different senses. A heterotopia as such that it exists as the representation of our fictional traveller’s mind. An architectural space one can physically inhabit and which space in turn inhabits the mind of the interloper.

A red light bathes everything in a similar hue, giving any object the appearance of being of the same substance and substrate; the colour of the sun when seen through closed eyelids or the Rectum nightclub in Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible. An effect lifted and made flesh-tone from the cinema of social realism, where colour grading turned cineritious, a metaphor for encroaching standardisation, blankets all in grey.

The eye of the bulb is scratched and battered, its wires hooked around a wooden beam and twisted through bars; some out of sight and some into hastily positioned sockets.

But this head is not yet complete – for we have already said that this is a place where mind and architecture meet, a zygomatic arch, with pounding temples – without sound there can be no inner voice and so there are speaker cones and diaphragms that mushroom from the walls, under the floor, and hanging from the ceiling.

These emit waves, birdcalls, and blips. What would be amniotic bliss if not for the promise that sometime soon this world will collapse. Are these infrasound vibrations the swell of the ocean, human regulatory fluids, or the evidence of the ground falling out from underneath this musky, dust-filled hut? For all we know there is nothing outside, pas de plage sous le pavés (no beach underneath the pavement) and no noumenal truth to cling to as we whirl delirious though space, protected by our walls and one-way mirrors.

The readings of dials and gauges in our vessel are only the measurements of one arbitrary point to the next, sufficient as much as our bowels keep time with our meals. And yet there is no time but in clocks and what they measure is the metronomic movement of their own hands from one point to another in uniform secession, whether brass or atomic. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius is now, the A-bomb over Nagasaki now, the origin of all life now, your own death now, now and why not? “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

This living space is rapidly filling, not only with human waste but with the dust of words and ticker tape from the readings of the machines; like the mulched shreddings of a gerbil cage, you can smell it on your skin, taste it in your mouth tainting your saliva.

Today I am a cyborg, tomorrow debris.

Know that this creation of constant change and novelty is to forge a sense of historicity in ourselves. Modernism, and the commodification of the world have cast us out into a space where all time is relative, making satellites of us all.

And so we try to create structures that in turn produce a sense of reality onto which we can attach each other and ourselves. Yet once the law of diminishing returns is enacted, this scaffolding collapses into a pile of dust and the process is repeated. Therefore not only is the earth a ‘Desert of the Real,’ its orbit is filled with debris that whips the eye.

The light fixture is not just a shiny red bauble; it is the Blepharitis of a culture blasted with its own images, with the sand grit of cracked mirrors. This reproductive process creates a kind of Kessler effect1. Will there come a time when there is nothing left to see or any space to see it?

“And it came to me then. That we were wonderful travelling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.” – Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

1 The scientific term for a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade – each collision generating fragmentations which increase the likelihood of further collisions.