dinsdag 8 oktober 2013

A derive in the Anthropocene [A transcript] [edited]

Ladies & Gentleman,

I thank you all for joining me on this walk titled: "A derive in the Anthropocene". I hope to explain both the term Derive and the term Anthropocene in a short while but right now I would like to focus your attention to our immediate environment. It's an urban environment, made from wood, metal, glass, bricks and concrete, and long after we are gone the environmental consequences of the mountains that were levelled, the pits that were dug, the forests that were cut, the stuff that was sucked out of the ground and the stuff pumped into the air to built it all will still be there.
The anthropocene is the proposed name given for to our era, the era in which mankind became so dominant that it became possible for a lowely species of primates to influence the history of the earth itself. The rise of the human population is the main factor that creates our planetary influence and the city is the most visible result of that.

We are going on a walk, perhaps you are familiar with the neighbourhood, and I want you to look around it and think of us living our own Vinland Saga. The Vinland Saga is, as you might remember, the story of a small number of Viking sailors colonizing first Greenland, then Baffin island, Labrador and finally New Foundland.

The need for the Athropocene comes from the recognition that the continents and ecosystems that have been brought in contact, the goods that have travelled around the world and the climate, soil and trace element balances that that have been changed, are irreversible actions. And like for Eirik the Red and his people, the overbearing sentiment we bring to Vinland is one of loss. Landscapes, pristine nature (so far it exists) are forever altered, extinction rates are up dramatically. What is happening now will never go away. But it IS a new world, with unexpected sides. Despite mass-extinctions overall biodiversity in many places is rising.  

There are differences too of course. Eirik travelled with family and clan from Norway and reached new shore in Greenland. We are not travelling in isolation, we are legion. We have no solitude but crowds. The anthropocene has no places of departure and of arrival. The anthropocene is a mess and in that it is entirely suitable for an age that takes not the clock or the grid but the network as its dominant model. 

Another difference is that the Vinland Saga is a tale. The Anthropocene is a grand narrative.

How often will you witness the beginning of a new geological age? This is a time of exploration.

The derive, the drift, known from the past and defined for us by the Situationists in the 1950ties, has lost almost all of its intended radical meaning. In a leisure society where time for sports and play, fun and games is a billion dollar industry the drift is a sanctioned way of approaching places perfectly understandable to consulting agencies and NLP-frauds. But instead of using it to get an insight in the hidden patterns of our surrounding, we might as well use it to reveal the mundane and the sameness of it. It doesn't matter how extreme your psychogeographical techniques (triangulating a route to the Northpole with a .walk in Brainfuck) the anthropocene is everywhere.

Now let's go and I'll tell you more as we proceed.

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