She never looks up or raises her face
From the ground. She is like a rock or wave of the sea
When those who love her try to give advice;
Except that sometimes she lifts up her pallid face
And mourns for her dear soil
Her roots, and the home she betrayed.
What a lucky accident of primate evolution mankind was. How clumsy it got on his feet and marveled through my world as a fresh unseen creature. When I saw how humanity was evolving I realized what had struck me. Humanity had planted an inescapable arrow from its golden bow in my chest. So intensely vibrant: my heart battered for mankind. Love compelled me to save mankind. We joined our forces, created a bond. I saved your skin.
And humanity’s devotion is clear: humans possess an unstoppable tendency to seek connection with nature and other forms of life. Humans bond with other species is profound, it is exploring and affiliating with blossoming life. The appearance of nature is universally admired, and the experience with it is rooted in the evolutionary history of the human species. The practical dependence of humans on me, the satisfaction they gained when interacting with me, the physical attraction and emotional connection. It eluded positive feelings, uncompromising attractions.
So intense its impact has been on my surface. So little geological time mankind needed to be where it is now. How it continued to wipe out my wildlife and plants. Disasters occurred, domestication arose. And humanity keeps on growing, promising to populate this surface with nearly 10 billion people by 2050. Pressure on existing wild nature rises further. And I helped mankind, I let parts of my limbs die and held up the light of safety for it.
Yes, living together with me, mankind has been involved in nature in an influential way since it was there. Just like everything else in an ecosystem: it is responding towards its environment, and the environment responds to them.
Yet the human divergence, which happened by means of the technological developments from the 19th century on, is growing more profoundly and has impact upon the surface and air. It fundamentally changed human interaction with nature. Already the notion of them not being constantly near me, but in enclosed and sterile spaces such as houses, workplaces and cars seemed to have an effect on our relationship. The balance of power changed, humanity became the ruler, the architect, the caretaker of my soil.
Mankind grew wary of its relation with me. I feel ruined - driven to exile. Should I let it go then, is humanity wicked? Doesn’t it know how much it owes to me? This is not daring; this is not courage. I wonder, a reshaped relationship with the earth, can this be found in visual art manufactured by mankind itself?
While mankind seems estranged from me, there are still three living spirits that are connecting us together. The children of Mankind and me are my only hope: for they will show me how the balance between us can be found. Mankind made our children stronger and more swift of foot than any other. They are made from my roots and earth, and from its flesh and blood. They can comprehend mankind so much better than I can at this stage.
The Silk Gardener in the Lime Lava Greenhouse, will you plan a construction of my garden Earth, where mankind and I will live in harmony? Or the Pigmented Cavewoman on the Sandstone Bridge, will you show Mankind a portal to an ancient civilization, the glory days of mankind and me? Or will it be you, Crystal Dusted Witch in the Pearly Pebbled Valley, who will enlighten me with your crystal dusted wisdom? Oh soft skin and lovely breath of my children, my energy is running low. Fatigue is taking hold of me.
Oh unhappy mother, you are not in love with disaster!
It is at once great pleasure, and great pain. Let me wait a short time, in case some tower of strength will occur to me. I will take my rest lying on this foreign soil. I only hope it is my luck to grow old. For now, I will close my eyes
SHE REPOSES ON A COMPACT MASS OF SWAMP, HER SOUL STOLEN BY THE DARKEST SHADOW. FADING INTO OBLIVION.
The biological crisis hanging over our mother needs to be soothed.
PIGMENTED CAVEWOMAN (looking up):
What is this intrusive scent?
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH:
I guess we have entered Gardeners territory now.
SILK GARDENER (Moving her body towards Gaia):
You know me, mother, I will not be the one telling you the end of nature has dawn to mankind. But I will be the one telling you that its ancient meaning is obsolete and nature needs a redefinition.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH:
I believe this too, mother.
As do I. Yet in my own way -
SILK GARDENER (Gracefully gestures her brother & sister to be quiet):
Gaia, we both know humans are neglecting the nature which is commonly accepted as pure and wild. And now I noticed that next to that it is also refusing to embrace the expanding wild growing right before their eyes.
Earth has been influenced by humans ever since they came into existence. For instance, when men altered the soil in North America 15,000 years ago, they influenced the landscape in such a matter that enormous animals such as our sublime mastodon became extinct and with that the entire ecosystem changed. Grasslands turned into forests and the forests changed their vegetation with all its mighty trees and animals. Prehistorical humans changed the earth, just like humans are currently changing it. Humans, conscious or unconsciously, have always been terra-formers. But today on a different scale, and Earth will have to adjust to it in a different manner.
Geologically and ecologically humans have completely influenced the planet. Until the extent that the air they breathe has been altered and with that every millimeter of terra is directly influenced by them. Where is this placing you? Is that also what you were asking yourself, mother?
I think humans need a dramatic new perception of nature. The current definition of nature seems to be those rare unstirred pompous landscapes. This definition is outdated and simply not feasible in this new epoch. To preserve endless untouched forests dazzling in humanized landscapes is unrealistic. However, not only these seemingly intact angelic places, that remind humans of an earth without their existence, are to be called nature. Let me start by defining what nature is not: all which is ruled by impermeable surfaces. There where concrete flows and bricks are built. And then suddenly, eyes are opened and nature is everywhere. Everywhere around their urban homes: a new urban green. There where life thrives.5 All life. Abandoned and unmanaged spaces in the middle of the cities radiate with numerously biodiversity. Secret wilderness.
Remember how we both carefully watched over the shoulder of Ilkka Hanski, the ecologist from Finland? How he decided to stop cutting the grass, or for that matter engage in any gardening in his backyard, for a year?6 I recall his garden growing completely out of control, and after he examined his new oasis, it turned out more than 373 plants and animals were living on this little piece of earth - two of which were endangered species. His garden had completely run wild and the effect could not have been more exciting.
But humans seem to be more amazed by a certain type of spectacular and distant nature. Someplace far else than their backyard or rooftop, it simply makes me bored. For example, the Calanques in South-France, which is infamous for its difficulty in accessibility, or Yellowstone National Park in the United States, which is known for its geysers and hot springs but needs a careful maintenance to be able to meet the visitor’s expectations.
Maintaining these places, like national parks, is done rigidly and carefully. Because of that, these ecosystems are exactly growing like they did hundreds of years ago. A conservative restoration takes place, where all the original flora and fauna is being kept intact. Yet the world and its climate is changing, and more and more these protected areas seem to look like historical imitation models to me. Nature never grows backwards.
While these places painstakingly are being kept intact, biodiversity is flourishing in more unexpected places. Perhaps you did not follow his walk, mom, because you were already weakening. But there has been an ecologist last year, Kevin Matteson, who simply walked a straight line through New York City and counted the amount of bees he could find. Cities are stacked with people, and people love flowers, consequently bees find plenty of space to nest in metropolitan areas. He examined every flower and every bee he could find on his way and discovered 227 species of bee.7
The result of this promenade and Hanski’s garden give me enough reason to believe mankind should not latch tightly on to established ecosystems in order to augment the biodiversity of the planet. Rather, they should know exactly when and where to release nature in unexpected places.
Yet only letting go of control is not what I suggest. To start with some interventions that need to be done in the realm of invasion biology.8 Unfortunately, it seems this topic stirs up some commotion.
I understand the resistance towards the subject, since history has showed us how it has not always been a success. Invasion biology has been done for thousands of years by mankind, bringing species from one side of the planet to the other. Species were being put out of their rightful context and this resulted in small scale exotic invasions such as the South American Coypu in Europe, or in tremendous catastrophes such as the Black Dearth of medieval Europe. These plagues can be called ecological explosions, in which a bursting of uncontrollable growth of one species can have an unbelievable effect. But this effect could also be positive.
There is a common idea that the animals, plants and fungi which are originally living in a place are surely the best options, since these are the organisms which you, mom, choose to place there. Here the conservative idea of wilderness is present and results in a lack of questioning and fear of systematization. Invasion biology could bring balance, the thriving of life in more inorganic choice of areas. Assisted species migration could flourish the soil when done meticulously and could decrease the current loss of biodiversity. The diabolic nature mankind projects on alien species says more about how they think about themselves and their fear of change, than about the actual nature of the alien species. Hatred for the foreign and unfamiliar. Real nature often is random, not a perfect stable balance. It is constantly transforming. Change is the norm, and alien species are just like any other species part of this.
A good example for a man-made controversial ecosystem in which countless alien species have been introduced is the volcano Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic. Ascension Island is a place where for the last 200 years almost all the vegetation has been introduced, as bits and pieces from around the world joined together. Some vegetation settled, other creatures failed, and a flourishing ecosystem commenced. People proclaim it to be the most cosmopolitan tropical forest in the world. Although it feels like a primeval place, untouched by mankind because of its primitive beauty, where among others introduced animals such as mammals, rabbits, feral sheep, cows and donkeys live.
Ascension Islands shows that humans classic association of alien species being bad is not always true. Instead, they should applaud the dynamic stream alien species can bring to ecologies and fully take upon them the role as terra-formers.
There is a visual phenomenon I would like to mention, that illustrates humans as terra-formers perfectly. It is the systematization of nature in natural history museums. It seems to be a grand paradox: nature unnaturally structuralized in a geometric three-dimensional grid. Divisions, subdivisions, classifications. But it is embodying opportunities to explore, comprehend and penetrate the wonders of your soil, mother. For example, in the Natural History Museum in Geneva, divisions between collections of minerals, insects, regional fauna, tropical animals and geosciences have been made. Animals are being placed on pedestals, behind glass windows, on Styrofoam trees and numbered by little cards next to them. It is exactly this structuralizing which should be embraced. Untouched nature is antiquated, the new wild will flourish by introduction of invasion biology and on urban ground affected by humans.
5 Marris, Emma, 2011: Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Nature World. Bloomsbury
6 Chambers, Neil. B, 2011: Urban Green: Architecture for the Future. Firsttion: St. Martin’s Press
7 Marris, Emma, 2011: Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Nature World. Bloomsbury
8 Pearce, Fred, 2016: The New Wild. Beacon Press
Welcome in my universe.
Silk Gardener, how foolish you sound when trying to rationalize a situation that needs everything but ratio. I am repelled by your hope in this new season, while you refuse to think with a more imaginative approach. You cannot treat rational discourse as a separate act from imaginative discourse. In order to gain knowledge, one must use as much as possible ones capability to imagine. Generally, thinkers who have theorized the functioning of the brain, have put these two extremes, Memoria and Fantasia, in separate compartments.
Yet in the ancient Greek times, myths and theatre plays were written in order to let the audience gain a better understanding of the political and social structures of their own civilization. And hundreds of years later it has been Leonardo da Vinci who very literally visualized this idea, when sketching the brain and drawing different compartments, reason, imagination and memory, that were physically entangled together under the skin. Only recently scientists of cognitive studies have shown the humans that this entanglement in the brain is indeed happening under their skulls.
So siblings, why am I emphasizing this imaginative part, you might wonder? Well I am convinced this cognitive switch is necessary in order to understand the spiritual core in mankind and to actively reunify mankind with natural essence. The natural and the supernatural is inescapably connected. Men’s capacity to make tools and to survive, defines them less than their need to create belief systems. Homo Sapiens is Homo Spiritualis.9
As well as mankind’s urge to create belief systems, also its primal urge to create, is crucial to investigate. A special work that humans have produced needs to be analyzed, in order to tell you more about the unmistaken spirit, which flows in all their bodies.
Be careful, mother, she will bring up the paintings again.
Exactly, brother. I want to talk about the Gwion Gwion paintings in mid-Australia. The reason I am choosing a work made in the prehistory, is because I think it is possible to understand and reconstruct the primitive mind through the work, when approached correctly. First of all, I will reveal more about the appearance of the cave paintings. Then I will elaborate on how to approach these works.
The Gwion Gwion rocks paintings are to be found in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Although no man knows for certain, the paintings are estimated to be approximately 15,000 to 20,000 years old. The figures that are depicted are enchantingly different than all other figurations of known cave paintings. More dreamlike silhouettes of people are depicted, all individually painted with ornamental clothes and decorative props. Graceful figures whose curves remind one of calligraphy and who seem to fly on the rough surface of stone. They bring to mind animal-human hybrids, caused by the dendrianthopic ends of their bodies which are resembling an ancient Baobab tree. The connectedness of the Baobab and the Gwion Gwion figures goes further than the visual similarity: just like the Baobab grows steadily skywards for over thousands of years, the painting’s pigment is also growing steadily they remain vividly coloured. Also the baobab tree is often hollowed out by for example fire, and the trunk provides a natural cocoon under which water can be kept fresh for passing humans and animals. Just like the Baobab tree can be seen as the tree of life, nurturing its environment and playing an essential role in their environment, I believe the Gwion Gwion paintings have the ability to nurture their environment. And because of that are playing an essential role for mankind.
Unusual, expressive, elegant. My treasure from earth, my sanctuary, my shelter to understand how every puzzle piece fits together and can collide. When time becomes overtly, cyclic, and events are bound to happen again and again. In endless repetition causing eternal events.
This Paleolithic rock art, when visited, unveils its spiritual flesh. It is breathing, talking, living. And still extremely visible and vividly coloured. As if the spirits of the men who painted them maintains in the mysterious paintings.
SILK GARDENER: At the same time I think it is extremely important to let the people investigate the rock art in a scientific matter. Detailed inventories and diagrams on the way that species are grouped on the cave walls, on their gender, frequency, and position, on their relation to the signs and handprints. Laboratory experiments. It has been these actions which have told humans that physical nature has intervened in these works. Actual fungi had colonized the paint on the rocks.10 The fungi eroded their way into the stone and because of that, they are constantly repainting the surface. It became a self-generative image, that is repainting itself over and over again. Yet this trajectory has only been possible for us to see, sisters, those who transcend space and time.
But here the fundamental question arises: until which extent is this scientific truth about the pigment important, why do these paintings need to be viewed with such a scientific eye? People need to experience the paintings presence: the rock art is demanding it from them. Have you ever heard of the Dreaming?11 A parallel, co-existent world in which ancient ancestors and past, history and future join together, accessible for living people who can cross into it. A shared space with an alternative concept of time, which gives time not a linear motion but a more cyclic motion. Everything that happened in ancient time can be accessed through the Dreaming in the present. The mentality of the primal ages can be discovered and absorbed. I am demanding this imagination. The scientific truth you are referring to will blur the capability to access this mindset.
All humans have is the physical, intact remains of the paintings. They can experience them, and this does not exclude reading and engaging with them. There will not be something to appropriate, there is not something to interpret. There will only be the experience itself. They will discover the magical messages of prehistory, by lacking the desire to know.12
Yet there must be an overwhelming desire for you to seek meaning beyond the literal images. Find the truth.
That is the crux. I do not.
Indeed, some prehistorians have the ability to find a rather notable pathway which is taking in both scientific and spiritual matter, such as Jean Clottes. He took a leading role in studying the famous primal paintings in the Chauvet Cave in France and was the co-writer of the book the Shamans of Prehistory. He used his scientific studies to comprehend the paintings as spiritual mediators with powers from nature.13 He saw the paintings as a gateway to the metaphysical underworld. Yet he received a lot of negative feedback upon his theory, even researchers of his own team were sceptic. It shows that although spirits and science are thoroughly interwoven, often this is not present in practice. But with an exclusively scientific approach, humans will overwrite the experience itself with only rational knowledge. Both Memoria and Fantasia are necessary to learn them about the spiritual connectedness of cavemen.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH: In theory this can be plausible. But many earthlings are learning to approach artworks in a different, scholarly matter.
PIGMENTED CAVEWOMAN: Indeed, a lot needs to be done before humans can alter the world of the prehistory through the Gwion Gwion paintings. Now it is important to talk about how this artwork, and for that matter all artworks, could be approached in an alternative matter.
In general people seem to be approaching artwork with an almost pragmatic attitude. They are overemphasizing the idea of the content and want to ‘decode’ the works. Instead of theoretical explanation, the so-called intellectual revenge on art, a more mystifying and primitive experience of art can be desired.14 Here I am obviously referring to the earliest experience of art in primal times: art that possesses magic powers, that can be used as a ritualistic instrument.
There is a difference between the first experience of art and the first theory of art. Regarding art theory, for Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, art was only understood as being mimetic. Forever attempting and failing to replicate the wonders of nature. Within this theory, art would have to be interpreted. Hermeneutics, the theory of interpretation start playing a role.
Hermeneutics can have the pitfall to suggest there is no other meaning without the interpretation, that it functions as an absolute value. An artwork with solely one absolute value gets reduced. The actual capacity of an art work to touch someone remains unexplored. There lies a magical energy in the experience of an artwork which could make you jumpy and nervous, and it is exactly this (I would like to call it understanding) that does not need a interpretation solely based on content. It cannot be categorized, the energy has to remain as it is. Only when unexamined we can access the true experience of the rock paintings.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH: So what happened with mankind’s attitude towards the paintings?
I speculate something like this might have happened: the paintings became inaccessible, yet they cannot be abandoned because of their radiating power. Interpretation became a radical mode to still approach the works: excavating and revamping. Metaphorically digging behind the pigment to disclose their true meaning. So called evidence is found to reconstruct complete allegories about the people that created them, “revealing” by means of asking themselves questions like: Who painted them? What do they represent? What do they tell us about the authors? A shadowed sphere of meanings gets constructed. And this shadow world is comfortable, graspable. The true nature of art, which can be stirring and skittish gets domesticated. It is the modern way of comprehending art.
Thick sedimentary rocks of interpretations have been formed in the Kimberley area in Australia. Suddenly the works are composed of items of content, for them to decipher. Yet these interpretations are not what makes these works enchanting.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH: Then tell us how the paintings need to be approached.
One proposal is that there needs to be more attention to form, rather than content, when describing artworks. If the emphasize on content is blocking one’s ability to experience the paintings, perhaps giving priority to form would ameliorate the operation. For this, the most crucial act would be to acknowledge the lack of precise vocabulary for this new preference, and to come up with a more descriptive, rather than a rigid, vocabulary. Sensible neologisms could be the answer to describe an accurate description of the appearance of the works. A new language to describe artworks.
Yet I cannot help but feel a slight resistance towards this solution. Since I do think the mere distinction between content and form is a fruitless invention of humans, aimed to clarify things. How to experience the paintings, being what they are? How to excavate the sediments of interpretation around the Gwion Gwion figures?
Essentially, I believe the issue lies within the act of translating the experience into words. Humans have been fixated on rules, on language structures.15 They have learned to think in words, only then true knowledge can be achieved. They are a civilization of the written word, there where prehistory ends and history begins.
But when imagery gets a translation from visual experience to words, a reduction takes place. Visual substances cannot completely be duplicated in linguistic messages: they are two different universes.
There is a dangerous role of language: language can be myth, and myth naturalizes culture. It removes questioning, it makes something self-evident.
So, I think it could be more relevant to not seek redemption in language, but in senses. It is important now more than ever to regain sensibility. Mankind’s culture is based on excess, imagery is overflowing, and senses are overstimulated. They need a more harmonized combination of all their senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. This will make the experience I am constantly referring to possible.
The reason behind this is that there is a big difference between viewing the paintings through reproduction imagery16 and visiting the actual site where the works are to be found.
Media gets read as ‘media’, which is transmitting a certain meaning as a vehicle. People are so used to seeing the image as a mobile thing, ever transporting. Seeing works of art in all sorts of contexts and solely relying upon the visual aspect of the imagery, deprives the work of context and diminishes the meaning of it. Here the uniqueness and quality is reduced.
With cave paintings the actual space where they have been created is essential to understand the work. The works are completely place bound. The landscape, the space is part of the work. The geographical distribution of the rocks is for example very precise, certain reliefs are used to accentuate certain forms of the figures. This is for example also very present in the Chauvet cave in France. Several backs and other body parts of animals are drawn in line with the rock relief. The location of each specific figure could not have been anywhere else than it is.
The experience must be had as a whole, not only the visual senses, but also the smell of the rocks, the sound of the fungi strengthening the pigment, the touch of the place where the women and men that once drew this thousands of years ago had stood as well, and the taste of the dusty air of sandstone burned by sunlight. They will see more, hear more, feel more, taste more, smell more, experience more with a site specific experience, engaging with the work in its context.
Also, the journey to the rocks should be a part of the experience. The location is remote and has a spectacular natural setting. To start a journey to these rocks means persistence, time, exhaustion.
It is important to create a system that allows people to access the region where the paintings are. To let them physically experience all the senses around the paintings, together with the paintings themselves. Only then a mental reunification and integrating with you, mother, can occur.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH: Oh dear sister, what are you proposing to poor mother? A pilgrimage to a remote site by all people? How foolish and dreamlike you are, hopelessly soaked in your own pursuits. Your primal myth attempts to be ancient wisdom. I do not fall for this seductiveness: not all primordial relics are better than modern design. Have you ever considered that the findings for your quest can also be find in the contemporary realm? The rock-ribbed texture of your universe, Cavewoman, has metamorphic over time and the rocks turned to crystal in my universe. Yes, the story I am about to tell I see as an evolution of yours. It has been Werner Herzog who made a documentary about cave paintings in the Chauvet cave in France. Yet this film exceeds the informative expectations one has of documentaries. Next to the informative layer, the viewer, just as the scientists that are depicted in the movie, gets spiritually dragged into the paintings by means of tension building, beautiful string-based orchestrations and attentive shots of the line-drawings. Yes, the primal connectives you are longing for, sister, seems to have not only been captured but also passed on in this work.
You see, it is of so much more relevance to seek redemption in new stories, rather than echoes of old stories.17 Certainly the new story I will tell you. This physical endeavor of yours, Silk Gardener, and mental endeavor of the Pigmented Cavewoman, makes me nauseous throughout my wired veins. Mother, I know you are in a state of imbalance now, like a mainframe breathing in exclusively 0’s. My brother seems so bound to preserve this world which is already there, and my sister even to bring back a lost civilization of several thousand years ago. I want to bring you further, mother, see with you in the illuminating light of the future and embrace that which is inevitable.
Two major phenomena are powerfully reshaping your essence, mom. On the one hand the decline of the natural physical world and on the other hand the rapid technological advancement. What if the solution for the first mentioned phenomenon, lies in the second mentioned phenomenon?
9 First Impressions, Article New Yorker by Judith Thurman, June 23, 2008, quote Jean Clottes
10 Interview Jack Pettigrew
11 The Dreaming, Australian Aboriginal Mythology.
12 Machosky, Brenda: Allegories of Knowing and the Desire for Meaning
13 First Impressions, Article New Yorker by Judith Thurman, June 23, 2008
14 Sontag, Susan, 1966: Against Interpretation. Penguin Press
15 Jasper, Adam: Lonely Rocks
16 Berger, John, 1972: Ways of Seeing.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH:
My landscape seems toxic, but do not be afraid. Nothing but nature flourishes here. Can’t you see how mother’s weakness arises from a technological shortcoming of the earth?
I agree with you, Cavewoman, the natural and the supernatural is intrinsically connected. However, I am imagining a completely different shape of this supernatural. The strongest supernatural force of the Earth, where dozens of rituals, symbols, actions, gestures and language are present, is technology. Magic is technology. Magic is something that is difficult to define. However, to me the ‘what’ of magic could be easily sidestepped, and I would prefer to look at the ‘where’ of magic. If I could just pinpoint down where exactly magic is to be found in human’s landscape, I believe it at once will become clear: it is there where gleaming screens suddenly have the opportunity to transform an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one. The place where people are angling themselves around, nestling to the attractive force they call machinery. Where they respond to how their fingers see as they touch and their eyes touch as they see.18 It is there where their body gets refigured, inferior to the machine.
SILK GARDENER: Is there not a single cell in your body that tells you the unnatural aspects of technology? Is there not a single cell in your body which screams “No”? Magic in the ancient Greek times already had negative associations. For example, the Greek took the words from the old Persians, Mayos and Maqeia, and they were referring to charlatans who were undertaking dangerous and peculiar ritual practices. Magic was associated with death and violations. I am driven to put your rant in the same category.
CRYSTAL DUSTED WITCH:
Well you are right, brother, I am proclaiming a full embracement of technology. Since nature and culture are in a continuous biotic relationship with each other, and technology is essentially linked with mankind, the next step is for mother Gaia to embody technology. Technology could mediate the troublesome relationship between humans and nature.
There is a passageway between nature and the human world, which is constituted in magic and myth. This passageway is manifested in liquid crystals. It is a curious material, discovered in 1888 by scientists, but experts found no proper use for it at the time. Now, the whole world unescapably has been remodeled through liquid crystal. This is a time wherein the liquid crystal is the chosen one to make her screen-based society function. In this liquid crystal world, there is no stillness. The liquid crystals are in their screen LCDs, computers and mobile devices. They are now ubiquitous, communicating, radiating entities. They made it possible to build a world of screens, the essential portal to connect to their technology. They have drained into all bits and pieces of communicating devices, watches, calculators and control panels. and have become solid into forms that are crucial in modern life.
And it is this entity, liquid crystal, which also exists inside their bodies. It is present in people. Although just a century ago discovered, the crystal-like properties are flowing through their bodies since their existence. They are embodied by organic roots and versatile wires.
So, the natural body becomes the screen. They will measure their age in iPhone generations. Nature is their artificial self. Their natural body ís the screen. And the components are already there. Inside their body: their brains exist over 70% of liquid crystal.19 And outside of their body: omnipresent gleaming screens. This is just the beginning: the gleaming extensions will be replaced by implants. The distinction between virtual reality and real disappears. Artificial intelligence will exceed human beings as being the most brilliant life forms on the planet. I am suggesting new forms. People’s one hybrid, techno-bodies. The emerging, enmeshing, hacking and entangling is already set in motion. The liquid crystal is remaking them, as people are remaking it.
There will need to be a freedom to mutate the body into its new form, since this is what nature commands.
Perverting the body! I cannot imagine mankind will accept the alien skin of technology into their bodies. I am surprised technology has taken such a glossy appearance in the first place. Technology has a smooth and glabrous aesthetic.20 It has a medical connotation, with the most slippery surface - sterile and conflicting with the heat of the body. Although technology itself often is composed of their earth minerals and metals, the appearance is everything but natural. The distant nature of the materials seems too cold. Apple succeeds in making the smoothest skin for their technology – no hair, no oils, no affinity for the human body.21 When Steve Jobs presented the very first iPhone in 2007, he said: “We have designed something wonderful for your hand”.22 I could not agree less, the iPhone feels cold in the hand, like the glossy pebbles on which we stand now. The only time the warmness of the technology feels like streaming blood is when the liquid crystal world stops working, when the tech fails.
It is true, tragically, mankind is raptured by hardware that is their opposite.
You are mentioning something which I would like to elaborate on:
mankind has more and more difficulty keeping up with the technological development. The possibilities of machinery are reaching a higher and higher level of magic. Technology has felt like an unnatural addition to mankind’s life, something difficult to hold onto. Because of that, they have designed it in such a manner as well. Alien-like skin is wrapped around the surface of their second nature. Which I think is a pity. In order to decrease the fear people have for artificial intelligence to outperform them, the form of technology needs to change completely. The substance poisons the most natural connection people could have with their tech. And this synthetic realm is what is troubling you, isn’t it mother? I am encouraging a technologization of the body and the biologization of technology.
Mankind’s strive to a synthetic world is telling something about their relationship with you, Gaia. In laboratories people attempt to simulate nature. The imitation of nature in the laboratory brings to mind the possibility of independence of nature. Industrial production has poisoned you. It suggests a reorientation of life around the artificial. In this way technology sets in motion a replacement of natural force, while it should actually go hand in hand. An example of this embracement of the synthetic realm is the attitude towards this materiality in the Third Reich. Synthetic products were admired for their promise to not be unpredictable, to not show any decay in time. This promised for the Nazis a reign over the natural world as well, humans included. The spontaneity was to be flattened.
This spontaneity is what technology lacks. I am imagining devices completely in harmony with nature. In that way machinery can form a body in conjunction with humanity. This will function as an intermediate: improving the step of mankind to transform to its own hybrid and reconcile with you, mother Gaia.
I have different skins for their hardware in mind. Skins that are more everlasting, more in harmony with mom, always in full conjunction with the body’s needs. More durable and satisfying materials. A mutual merging of the both synthetic and the organic: fleshy rubber which resembles the humans skin and is easily moldable in different shapes. Cork, harvested from oak, which is elastic yet impermeable. Leather, which shows the passage of time. Wood, being both rigid and tender, rounding the sharp edges of the hardware.23
These materials are familiar, are in close contact with all the nature around us that we will lose. The substances will not break down, won’t wear out, last long. Change little by little in relationship with the hand. Spontaneous fleshy materials which show the sweetness and the humanity of the touch.
It has been film director David Cronenberg who was occupied with this theme in his movies. And visualized what I am referring to in the most exquisite way.
The movie in which he does this, is ExistenZ (1999). Existenz is a science fiction movie, made in Cronenbergs distinctive style: a shocking and disturbing piece, exploring the boundaries between flesh and machinery. In the movie a group volunteers have the possibility to try out a new virtual reality game, called ExistenZ. It is a game designed by the most well-known game designer in the world, Allegra Geller. However, during the demonstration an assassin shows up, and attempts to kill Allegra. Afraid of another attempt, Allegra gets together with a bodyguard named Ted Pikul. Together they enter the new virtual reality world and at the same time try to stay unharmed in the physical world. The movie is revolving around organic machines, which changes the conventional imagery of both human body and machine. The way to access the new game is through a bioport. This is a rather sensual hole in the lower back of their bodies which allows the players to access the game once their spinal cord with a wire is linked to their game pods. The game pods, regularly portrayed in icy metal, plastic or silicon, are instead fantastic artificial living organisms, made of organs taken from mutated amphibians. The spinal cords connecting the game pod and the human resemble a human umbilical cord. As the machines are becoming part of the human body, the boundary between the human and the mechanic becomes obsolete. Machines are organs of the human species, and technology is a universal biological phenomenon.24 Exactly this change of appearance will make the transition most smooth and natural.
In the end mankind as liquid crystal entities will flourish most, when merged together with their screen. And when the biologization of technology will be set in motion, you will have a role in this too moth-
17 Warner, Marina, Monstrous Mothers, 1994. Essay in Witches: hunted, appropriated, empowered, queered 2013
18 Leslie, Esther 2016, The Science and Art of a Fluid Form: Liquid Crystals. Reaktion Books
19 Leslie, Esther 2016, The Science and Art of a Fluid Form: Liquid Crystals. Reaktion Books
20 Virginia Heffernan/Marina Warner lectures at conference Internet: The Always On Player and Life Itself 2016
21 Heffernan, Virginia: Interview, referring to lecture of Marina Warner
22 Heffernan, Virginia 2016: The Internet as Art – Magic and Loss. Simon & Schuster.
23 Surprised how essay Woorden Toys, Roland Barthes 1959, was usable for this paragraph
24 George Canguilhem, Machine and Organism
How could I dare to say what I will say?
It is all gone, my sweet expectations. I had high hopes for you, that you would care for me in my old age. Much you have tried to lighten the sorrows I am suffering. But my heart is not in it - when I look at your gleaming eyes of hope of reconciliation. How could I let these soft words in my heart? I could not possibly make a compromise.
Oh Pigmented Cavewoman, your dream to let people reunify with me is admirable, but that which has happened cannot be undone. Backward flow streams of holy rivers and granulated time, are all things that will stay merely a dream. Nature will never grow backwards. And Silk Gardener, how much aware you were that nature does not grow backwards, your lack of insight in my fundamental desires is bitter. How could your realm, where concrete flows and brick are build leave any oxygen for me? Impermeable surfaces will win from the new wild. And Crystal Dusted Witch, your suggestion of letting my roots grow into their hardware is that which frightens me most, since it has been this new love, who took humanity away from me. My heart is touched, but my weakness prevails.
After your pleas I have come to realize that the biosphere does not belong to mankind, neither does it belong to you, children. Terra is not meant as a paradise bubble specially constructed for human purposes. To all the changes that have occurred on the surface, earth always adapts. Earth cools, earth warms. The temperature affects living things, living thing reflect this and change gasses to change temperature. As something goes in one direction, earth responds and brings the balance back. It can provide for its own stable condition, homeostasis. An immense interconnection of all the elements. A complex interaction between the living systems and the geological systems is ever-present.
My name is one of treacherous mythical powers, but it is time I start explaining who I really am. Let us not rush and say that I am a living star, neither that I am the planet Earth considered as one single living organism. No, because as soon as one starts thinking about an organism that is functioning as one unique spirit, there is the underlying current of superior order which goes with that notion. Now this is how I am often misinterpreted. In the interconnectivity of organism there are neither parts nor a whole.25 Let me guide you through that: there is not one grand engineer who makes everything tumble. There is only one Gaia, but Gaia is not One.26 Organism do not develop in an environment, but the environment gets bended around each organism: the surrounding of each and every organism gets manipulated by every organism. So Gaia is the intentionality of all these different organisms together. And this is not a structure, but much more a collection of waves of action.27 Without the idea of a whole and hierarchy, the problem of the individual and the totality vanishes. There is no humanity versus the rest of the world, it simply does not exist. Let me expose once more nature and nature’s power to crush. How my face cannot be sketched as a subtle figure of harmony.
Now I will tell you the road my thoughts took. When love wounded me, I considered how to bear this destruction. My starting point was to conceal my malady with silence. For the tongue is not to be trusted. My second intention was to bear this madness bodily, overcoming it by means of self-control. But third, when with these means I was unable to master Mankind, I resolved to death, the best of plans, as no one shall deny.28 I will tell you all my plans, listen to my words carefully - though there is no pleasure in them. I grieve over the deed I must do, but I know this will cause Mankind the most pain. I will be the sorriest of women. But I will dare this most unholy deed. I will kill my own roots and earth, mankind’s own flesh and blood. I will murder my children. So humanity will never see our children alive again.
Unhappy one, how you are made of rock or iron who will kill the children, whom you birthed, with death by your own hand. I have heard of one woman before this who laid her hands on her own dear children: Gaia, maddened by mankind. She plunged, poor woman, into the sea, for the impious death of the children; she stretched her foot over the seashore and with her three children she lost her life. What could be still more awful?
25 Latour, Bruno 2017: Facing Gaia essay number three: Gaia, A (finally secular) figure for nature. Medford: Polity Press
26 Conway, Philip, 2016: Back Down to Earth: Reassembling Latour’s Anthropocenic Geopolitics
27 Yes it seemed rather difficult finding the right term, since structure and so many other terms is going besides the point which I am trying to make now. This term is an assemblage from Bruno Latour, C. H. Waddington and Ruyer
28 Euripides, Hippolytus (including small revision)
At last, I will stop blending my convictions into the voices of my protagonists and use my own voice. During the process of writing the stories of the Gardener, the Cavewoman and the Witch, I noticed it was more natural to let them talk. The words were fluid. At the same time, I was able to contemplate on weightier subjects, and give them saturated convictions which were occasionally hyperbolic and ironic. They have been my vehicles to transmit certain ideas, while sometimes the words took their own direction and transported me to unforeseen routs. For now, I will not talk about the actual content of the tragic allegory to mother Gaia, but more what the structure around it has come to imply for me.
I would like to believe it is not solely a shape of escapism, that makes it perhaps easier to hide behind fictional fantasies. This allegory has been much more a mode to comprehend the reality better by using imagination, just like the Cavewoman is describing this method in her talk. The actual concrete of the road my vehicles were moving themselves on, the frame of the story, seems to disclose a general tendency I lately have started to notice around me more, but which is already in motion for decades: The fantasy of the universes of the Gardener, the Cavewoman and the Witch, has been just one of the many extensions of what is happening in contemporary media. A clear distinction of the real and the imagined is blurred and depiction of magical stories seems to be more present than ever. Mythopoeia, fantasy, different modes of consciousness, disembodiment and alienation are omnipresent in our destabilized reality. Legendary examples as J. K. Rowlings Harry Potter and Tolkien are still relevant - but also series such as Game of Thrones which holds so many people under its spell. A century ago a case of disenchantment was current, caused by secularism, the negative associations of organized religion and rationalism. Now the re-enchantment of the world is overwhelmingly present.
In Western Society we are individually looking for new energies to believe in. Here we want spirituality29 to be completely distinguished from religion. We create our own supernatural from natural spiritual experiences. Open-ended, in solitariness of the individual. We are perpetually tasting all different flavours, through meditation, solitude, mystical ecstacy and freedom. Perhaps we can talk of Designer Gods, where one can merge all sorts of existing spiritual paths to shape its own.
Well aware of the fact that we prefer to use solely our mind when we are under pressure, the tendency is rising to give more attention to our intuition. Although I do believe that there should not be a clear distinction between rationality and spirituality. Ultimately, they are working in conjunction. Still it may be the time that the dominance of exclusively rational thought is diminishing. The interest to advance the capacity of the intuitive skills, to appreciate the sea within us, is expanding. Concluding this thought stream, I am suspecting this allegorical story to mother Gaia is also an homage to our spirits.
29 Paradoxically, before 1800 spirituality was also used as a term in opposition materiality. Spirit was metaphysical, materiality physical. The matter and the spirit. However, as all things become products of consumption, also spirituality is often accompanied by all sorts of purchasable objects which are needed to fulfill one’s spiritual path. Well, I am going of topic but it stays some food for thought for now. Topic talked about in Spiritual but Not Religious, Amy Hollywood, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 2010