Spaced Out in Outer Space

Behrang Karimi Paul Wiersbinski
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14.08.2021

The video project Spaced Out in Outer Space explores contemporary notions of nature and society. The work is structured into four Chapters: Immortality, Space Travel, Nature as Computer Code and Equilibrium. For this approach, Paul Wiersbinski wrote short stories to explore narrative itself as a political tool and to talk about what future communities might look like. Based on these narratives, Behrang Karimi produced drawings and paintings. Within this backdrop inspired by science fiction, art history, and cybernetics, they constructed a space ship at Lacuna Lab in Berlin, which also functioned as a Dionysian bar where motifs of madness and wilderness intermingled during a concert performance. In this respect “Spaced Out” has a double meaning: It plays with motives of both leaving the earth and one’s own mind. The two artists want to open up possibilities to re-read scientific phantasies about controlling the limits of our existence in order to explore what Donna Haraway refers to, when she says: “It matters what thoughts think thoughts.”

Immortality

We’re always glad when they come. But also to see them go. The things that remain, the arches and ornaments, tell us of a life that has been lived. Single shards spell out eternity. Jars and vessels are libraries and witnesses all at once: the outlines of eternal travelers who never arrive, but shouldn’t be impeded. Decisions should only be made when one is aware of various possibilities. Retreat into one’s own existence. Dilute one’s identity. ‘I’ is only a construction, too. Swim. Be water my friend. So limpid as to provide a large area for the phantoms and projections of others. Transparent bodies. A heart of glass. Back in the days, people never got old enough to get cancer. Procedures. The representation of death as sickness. The metaphysical order of things. An understanding that living beings in the world are compositions standing side by side, tightly bound enough to make it through the day, and that in spite of everything they are of this earth, in life and death. And this way of being an ‘earthling’ is a kind of counterpoint to the transcendentalism of philosophy, science and politics, as well as all the other, different regimes that involve a commitment to deathlessness. The spider weaves the world.

Space Travel

Earth before humankind can be seen as a golden age for life or as a silent and dead desert, in which no human sense was capable of experiencing the beauty of nature. A world without observers, defined by the absence of perspective. A world, in fact, that is radically dead. Humankind after the world has ended can be seen as a race of star-bound superior beings or the desperate survivors of the planet they have devastated. The enormous energy of the twentieth century, turning the entire planet into a vast concrete desert. Enough to drive earth into a new orbit around a happier star. This one is made of machines and the dreams we dream about them. The paradox of global computational power. We started to fantasize about the spaceship earth once we have seen images of the planet from outer space. Yet as an inverted nightmare, we now cannot stop thinking about the end of the world. A daydream, which behaves towards thinking in the same way spiral-fogs behave towards stars. An atmosphere inhabited by living transparencies: The beginning of the unknown. Yet behind it is the infinite impossible. Other beings and other facts. Not the supernatural, but the occult continuation of nature. Sleeping is a rupture, our daily link to enter the unknown. When our consciousness fades, we space out into the night. And this night is a world in itself, an entire universe of thought. This is the untouched wilderness of a nature untouched by human interference from the dawn of time until now. For all the clearness and openness of the rational mind and science, it cannot exist without its inverted double, the vast, ferocious wilderness surrounding the Garden of Eden, Gaia or the Spaceship Earth.

Nature as Computer Code

Every historical constellation has its own paradoxes. The paradox of our time is our own relation towards technology. We believe in mathematical processes to solve every problem and spin a net composed of sensors over the world to collect all data available, but in the end we will always miss a lot of relevant information. The more we believe to have captured everything, the more we trivialize the world and ourselves. Technology is not just a tool, it is transforming the users itself by usage of it. So maybe it is not the algorithm, maybe it is us, living in the times of shrinking historical horizons. The constant erasure of history is connected to efforts of designing timeless devices, offering constant and immediate gratification. They convince us that they are unavoidable artifacts of the future. The machines we worship won´t save us from them or ourselves, even though we would wish they would do so. Just because we are conscious that we are destroying the world, does not mean that we are being capable of changing that behavior. After all, we have been conscious of our mortality, yet despite all efforts, we have never found a way to overcome it. We know our world will come to an end, yet do we know what end we imagine it to be? Is it the end of personal selfs, our death? Is it the end of civilization and of all humankind with its planes and computers, plastics and antibiotics, the mythical scheme of a world without us? Or is it the end of the cosmos and the whole ensemble of spatiotemporal entities and processes contained within the laws of physics? Can we even imagine this end if we are not even capable of imagining the beginning? Can you imagine what happened before the big bang?

Equilibrium

At Hera’s command, Dionysus was torn to pieces and boiled. He then was put back together again. Hermes later turned him into a fawn and gave him the Nymphs. We can name the atrocities filling history, the world and ourselves. They are real. We can name abuses, but even through our stories we cannot pretend that they do not exist or will ever cease to happen. Pain is a state of being. And when it arrives, one knows. One knows, it is real. Of course it is right to heal illnesses, to prevent hunger and injustices, in the way our social organism does. Yet no society can change the nature of existence. We cannot prevent pain as the root of reality. In the end we and everyone we ever loved will die. It is the state we are born into. And yet sometimes one wonders, if instead of fearing it, running away from it, fighting it – through constant advancement of science and technology and by giving in to our fears and the constant heroic story of endless progress, which are destroying the very physical nature of our planet – if there is a way to overcome it, to outgrow it. If there is something behind it. This “I“, which suffers. If there is a place, where this “I“ ends. This reality, this truth, which only exists within suffering, yet not within happiness and satisfaction, that the reality of pain is not pain. If one can overcome it. By enduring it until the end. If you avoid pain, you will never experience how it is to return. Fulfillment is a function of time. And then you can go home and enjoy the end of the world as you know it, if you realize that home is a place you have never been before.

This contribution was developed in the framework of the Whole Life Academy.

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