There is a division between those who advocate repairing and those who advocate preparing. In the latter category are ‘homeland survivalists’, 4×4 drivers, investors in gold and those in the market for panic rooms; in the former category are the progressives, the revisionists, people with retro style. Perhaps it is a question of how long you think we have got. When you see the vortex, do you see it winding out, into the space in front of you, or screwing ever deeper away from you? Differences collapse. The hurricane flattens.
The North Pacific Gyre is the largest ecosystem on Earth, located between the Equator and 50°N latitude. Circulating clockwise around a low energy center, it draws in the North Pacific Current, the North Equatorial Current, the Kuroshio Current and the California Current. In these horse latitudes, with little precipitation and light winds, floating material is drawn into the center of the slow spiral, and remains there: a never-ending trash vortex rotating over an area equivalent in size to Turkey. Bottle tops, lighters, balloons get mistaken for prey and fill the stomachs of Albatross and Turtles. Microscopic particles of plastic become suspended in the upper water column beneath the surface of the ocean. Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, plastic photodegrades, breaking down into ever-smaller units, which remain polymers. It is at this stage that the plastic may be ingested by aquatic organisms and enter the food chain.
There is an expanding area of increasing homogeneity and equivalent toxicity that is being eaten up, and broken down. In Jennifer Chan’s ‘Equality’, the characters proclaim ‘I am an athlete’, ‘I am a scientist’, ‘I am a future architect’. In the supra-presence of the simultaneous network, indivisibility is the same as invisibility.
If there is a difference between the tenor of the images that we see in both ‘Equality’ and ‘Love Fighter’, and that of the commentary by the artist Liam Gillick, it is that in so many of Chan’s images we witness a confrontation with something that can have no rational response, something abjecting. By contrast, Gillick’s response to the damaging effects of the ideologies of the right is that we confront, and take up, the challenges that the modernist project presents us. We do so, he suggests, by occupying for the first time, by claiming authorship, by engaging with the organizing structures of modernism, with its systems; in short, with its rationalism.
But we are left wondering about the little dog at the core of ‘Equality’s’ emotional impact. It is unable to deal with the reality of what is before it, intent instead to try to bring its fallen comrade back to life by frantically pawing at its chest. Here, there is another kind of breaking down that is no less terrifying, I imagine, than that of our own, which we face in the Anthropocene, and is suggested in the opening scene of ‘Equality’. This terror unifies those two groups, the preparing and the repairing. It is just beneath the surface: behind the young men’s efforts in ‘Love Fighter’ to become #bulletproof, and behind the equally impermeable smiles of those masters of cupcake-individualism in the social network.