Region/Concept: East Asia, Space
Sub-Concepts: Mapping, Urbanization, Dislocation, Geoscape, Ancient, Phantom
Description: Chinese artist Yang Yongliang creates industrial dystopias in shan shui landscapes.

Theory: Stitching innumerable series of electric pylons and half-built/half-demolished high-rises, for the eye yearns to see graceful contours of a mountainous landscape. The wrecking force of a developmental power that only knows creating, building, making, raising, multiplying—a menacing positivity threatening the natural environment with its own relentlessly reproductive nature. The micro-twitchings of an eye compiling. Algorithms thriving on indeterminacy. Computational landscapes fecund with affect. Natural perception nothing more than primal projection of reality—“there are only relinkages subject to the cut”—Taoism’s pure perception sees through contrast and past juxtaposition to pierce the emptiness of what is—“instead of cuts subject to the linkage.”

Link: https://medium.com/vantage/visions-of-a-future-that-draw-on-the-past-b9d36e02a7e7

Posted by: Una Chung



Region/Concept: East Europe / Space (Vampiricism)
Sub-Concepts: Dracula, Contamination, Arithmomania
Description: Dracula’s castle goes for sale and inspires speculation on the nature of vampiric force.

Dracula has never been more popular, as numerous TV shows and movies attest. Perhaps that means that he is truly dead, now living posthumously not as the aristocratic undead but as a pastime of bored twenty-first century audiences. Journalists are quick to announce that he is a “fictitious character” (they are not fooled, the fact-checkers). In Transylvania his castle is being sold. (Yes, the castle of Vlad Tepes, the legendary prince upon whose exploits the tale has been based.) It currently belongs to the Habsburg family, former rulers of the Habsburg empire. But let us get our facts straight. Dracula is just a spectacular manifestation of a much older, subterranean force that runs through southeast European tales and the everyday in the 1700s: that of a vampir. It is no coincidence that vampires rose (from the dead) to prominence when the Habsburg empire was at its peak, like a counter-current running from the edge of the empire, spreading disbelief and paranoia. What is more, this vampiric chemistry trickles through centuries, even millennia, both as a political and as an aesthetic force. It always appears as a disturbance at the heart of a “civilization” (Mesopotamian, ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, etc.). Contamination, proliferation. Is there a more revolutionary tactic for a movement? And yet, the greatest terror does not come from the spilling and sucking of blood but from an internal compulsion, a terrible flaw: arithmomania (obsessive need to count actions or objects in one’s surroundings). One can only hope that new owners of the Bran Castle will also get bit (it is the least they deserve), then close the castle to swarming tourists, and count the bags of spilled peas into eternity. A passionate mania is always better than a passionless spectacle.

Link: http://www.businessinsider.com/draculas-castle-costs-80-million-2014-5?op=1

Posted by: Dejan Lukic



Region: North America, Space
Sub-Concepts: Surface, Debris, Erosion, The Underneath
Description: Photographer David Maisel releases book titled Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime

They appear as hallucinatory vistas, these sites of devastated terrain: thus the earth betrays its commitment to solidity, and fractures the once-unified ground (the dust cannot be trusted). From an inhuman floating vantage, we are made to stare upon the surface now opening beyond recognition, and this aerial perception allows us to detect an irreversible thrust toward debris and cracked axes: deforested realms; excavated pits and mines; erosion patterns; seismic tremors; plane-shifting; dirt-in-upheaval; barrenness; aridity; harsh soil; the uninhabitable. There is almost something whimsical in each armageddon-scene, these serrated lines that form no path or sequence (only vagueness). Planetary havoc; badlands. Thought must therefore adjust itself to the geo-existential uneven, and walk along the compromised scaffolding of the underneath (that there is nothing secure below us).

Link 1: https://cuartmuseum.colorado.edu/exhibition/david-maisel-black-maps-american-landscape-and-the-apocalyptic-sublime/
Link 2: http://www.steidl.de/flycms/en/Books/Black-Maps/0615374955.html

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: North America/Europe, Space
Sub-Concepts: Melting, Wonder, Brokenness, Frigidity
Description: Environmental photographer James Balog leads the Extreme Ice Survey, a collection of images documenting the effects of climate change on ice formations.

Once more, what is the crossing-point between artistic vision and an age of ecosystemic wreckage? As the vanishing accelerates, the dissipation and vaporization of forms, we come upon another series of epic images (this time of the fall of extreme coldness, polar hostility, and the once-absolute reign of the glaciers). What does it mean, then, to speak of beauty at the end of things? Is there not wonder at the sight of miraculous catastrophe? Where once there was millennial-imperial frozenness, there is now an alternative destiny of melting (both elegant and horrifying). Brokenness; downward eventuality; the crystalline; frost; chill; intersections of the fragile and the jagged; dance of unnatural temperatures; the thawing motionless; the colossus-that-shatters. Thought must therefore adjust to this radical disappearance of frigidity, the subzero-degree of arctic loss; it must train itself to enter an era of dying winters.

Link: http://www.chasingice.com/about-the-film/james-balog-photo-gallery/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh

Ilulissat Isfjord, Greenland 24 August 2007


Region/Concept: North America, Space
Sub-Concepts: Inferno, Conflagration, Epochal Blaze
Description: Photographic images of the King Fire now spreading throughout the California canyons.

What does it mean to aestheticize ecological disaster? These varied images (of flame, ignition, and fever) cannot help but capture the visual glory of environmental ruin, the enigmatic attraction of the smoke and of the hills burning down. Inferno; conflagration; consumption; engulfing; arson; immolation; world-as-furnace; world-as-incinerator; world-of-ash. There is no speculative end to the psychoanalysis of fire, nor to the phenomenological power of the wildfire (its transmission, disquiet, and searing effects). Thought must therefore adjust itself to the rise of an epochal blaze; it must inhabit the red mosaic of the pyres.

Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/09/californias-king-fire/100815/

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh



Region/Concept: Outer Space, Movement (Soundings)
Sub-concepts: Darkness, Music, Physics 
Description: The solar system is populated by sounds that result from various movements of high-energy electrons.
We always knew that darkness is palpable, first and foremost from cats and from fairytales. Perhaps we also always knew that it cannot be fully mute. But what does its sound say, besides that darkness is darkness? Let us proclaim: darkness speaks. Is this not what the very first impulse (of a child) announces before she can articulate anything (fear of darkness)? And further, are not symphonies of great composers the accurate and infinite articulation of this impulse (that darkness is alive)? Does not the sound itself occur in the first place to dispel darkness (lullabies)? Or better yet, to tell us that there is no such thing as darkness, only very low degrees of light… True. Infinite space “sings”, that is to say, the spheres sound back at us, wailing, squeaking, vibrating. The cosmos is a dance of high-energy electrons; accelerations in the electromagnetic field which suddenly sound like birds. (This also means that birds can sound like something completely different than themselves.) Indeed, insects and birds: two of the most important groups of animals for the understanding of music. At the heart of their sounds lies darkness that moves. And solarity is therefore heard (with one’s eyes). 
Posted by: Dejan Lukic


Region/Concept: Middle East, Space
Sub-Concepts: Engulfing, Aloneness, Anonymity, the Stranger
Description: Artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein releases photographic series of a faceless man standing amidst barren landscapes.

Theory: There still remains a particle of Being here (enough to leave the outline, contour, or silhouette of this someone). Still, this does not amount to anything substantial: he is not entitled to act or speak with meaning; he is not allowed to influence the event. He has all the agency or importance of someone condemned to watch a tidal wave: he can only stare forward. Nevertheless, he is no survivor or even witness (both are pathological types). Rather, he is the figure of the engulfing…where the immensity of space conspires to drown one into final irrelevance. No identity or alternative to this drifting-across; no greater station than to serve as random, infinitesimal shade against the backdrop of a coastline, stadium, oasis, apartment complex, or vacant city square. Diminished form. His aloneness is not tragic but totally impersonal; it is the imprint of neutrality itself. And what becomes of Man when he is no longer the central player of history, no longer the inheritor of the destiny of the world? A gift; a curse. Some will die from humiliation; others will learn to appreciate the possibility of being unburdened by supremacy (toward slightness). They will learn the pleasure of immateriality, anonymity, supplication, and the imperceptible nights of the stranger.

Link: http://www.taymourgrahne.com/artists/tarek-al-ghoussein#18

Posted by: Jason Mohaghegh