A Map of Dead Ends
Excavating the dark tunnel of the internet, the staid indifference of the desert, and an essay about climate change.
notes toward a PROPOSED COLLABORATION
"Visitors to the exhibit will not help but notice, spanning the gallery’s entire western wall, a projection displaying an active web browser. Within the browser stand over 350 tabs, each open and attempting to load every webpage referenced in the author’s Notes. This crippled image, which shows a computer straining at the limits of its processing power, struggling at the bounds of intelligibility, offers an eerie analog to humanity's apparent inability to process and respond appropriately to its own query.
We've known for decades that the earth is warming at an unprecedented rate and that we are responsible, and yet despite the overwhelming evidence of factual inquiry, we remain stuck as a species, unable to act—frozen like the browser window projected on the gallery wall. And while the computer begins to overheat and meltdown, we still think that perhaps it's something we can fix. We'll just close the window and walk away."
WANTED: A Los Angeles based visual artist interested in creating a multi-media art installation that travels further into the deserts and dungeons literal and figurative that China Lake inhabits. The artist, if such an artist exists, will use China Lake as a launch pad from which to explore a range of questions related to the text and the artist's own thematically connected work. This installation, were it to exist, would constitute a serious and immersive climate change oriented collaborative work of art. Book and installation refract and merge in a collage that deepens the resonance of both works as together they blur the boundaries between visual art and the written word.
CONJECTURE: The image described above in mock gallery copy constitutes a central event within the installation but it is only offered as a collaborative starting line.
"Here—despite all our learning, despite all the articles, international reports, and a virtual scientific consensus surrounding climate change—lies the true desert: It is the poverty of our imagination. This, no doubt, is one of the contradictions at the heart of China Lake and the human psyche, and it proves, in this era of fake news, politicized science, and looming environmental crisis, that the Web, with all its expanding information and stored knowledge, may be no more a force of liberation than any desert. Both are but landscapes in which we're lost and perish."
EXPANDING: China Lake, mining "the dark dungeon of the internet", attempts to make visual and palpable the imminent existential threat that climate change poses to our species and all life on earth. The artist, ideally, through additional multi-media gallery works, would ask as well: How it is that we can know so much and yet do so little?
As the eminent climate scientist, Dr. Marty Hoffert, asks of our current climate impasse:
Stepping back from the immediate moment, one could say that all this is implicit when naked apes with a big brain adapted to live short brutish lives of hunter-gatherers on the African Savannah stumble upon agriculture freeing some to develop writing and culture and eventually the scientific and industrial revolutions leading to their explosive growth, like a cancer, over the entire planet Earth. We invented the technology which extended our lives and changed everything about what we need to survive, but never adapted in a genetic Darwinian sense to the new global environment we created. Some might say this is necessarily a time bomb, that we have all the wrong instincts to live with our technology, and that climate change is the leading edge of a wave of destruction needed to restart the process. The fact that people aren’t willing to make the personal sacrifices to combat the climate change they created is interesting and true but it isn’t in my opinion the most important question. The most important question is whether Homo sapiens can adopt a narrative leading to the sustainable existence of high tech civilization on Earth.
A Map of Dead Ends continues China Lake's exploration of what such a narrative might look and also asks, similarly, what may happen if we fail?
PERIL: Climate scientists at the nation's top universities have begun to research several ways in which mankind might artificially lower the temperature of the planet. The most promising proposal, known as Solar Radiation Management, would involve dumping millions of tons of sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere annually to reflect the sun's light back out to space. “Solar radiation management has three essential characteristics,” David Keith, a professor at Harvard, told Congress in 2010, “it is cheap, fast and imperfect.” Among the known side-effects associated with this "quick fix," one of the least disturbing is that the technology would likely turn the sky permanently white and block out the stars, in effect shutting our window on the world. Without drastic and immediate global emissions cuts, solar geoengineering will likely be inevitable.
POETRY: The data gathering of scientists, the article writing of academics, and pundits, all the measurements of Antarctic ice cores, and sea level rise, and the tedium of international climate talks, it all must continue. But after so many negotiations, climate simulations, and sobering revelations, perhaps we need to find a way to transform our acquired information into art. Our survival may rest, now, not simply on a wealth of research, innovation, and political will but, equally, in the way in which artists process factual claims, curate their discoveries, and begin to integrate them into a convincing and ever-expanding global web of poetic connection. A Map of Dead Ends hopes to suggest a narrative path that may point a way out of the desert.