Introduction to‘Dr Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers’ By Milton Glass
Prologue – Excerpt of final scene from’Dr Strangelove’
The Hard Part
Introduction to‘ Dr Manhattan: Super-Powers and the Superpowers’
“For those of us who delight in such things, the twenties century has, in its unfolding, presented mankind with an array of behavioural paradoxes and moral conundrums hitherto unimagined and perhaps unimaginable. Science, traditional enemy of mysticism and religion, has taken on a growing understanding of the universe suggested by quantum physics differs very little from the universe that Taoists and other mystics have existed in for centuries…Children starve while boots costing thousands of dollars leave their mark upon the surface of the moon. We have laboured long to build a heaven, only to find it populated with horrors.
It is the oldest ironies that are still the most satisfying: man, when preparing for bloody war, will orate loudly and most eloquently in the name of peace.”
Professor Milton Glass (Moore.A)(1986)
It was inevitable now, through the machinations of a quite insane Colonel Jack T. Ripper and the unlikeliest of absurdities, President Mervin Muffly was coming to terms with the fact that it would be under his presidency that everyone was going to die.
Dr Strangelove wheeled out of the shadows into the centre of the room, “Mr Pressident. I would naht rule out the charnce to preserve a nucleus auf human specimins. Et vuld be quite easy.. he.. he et de bottom auf some auf aur deeper meinshafts. Rediactfity would nefer penetreit e mein sam thousands auf feet deep. End en a matter auf weaks, sufficient emprovement en dvelling speice cauld issely be provided.”
“How long would we have to stay down there?” asked President Muffley.
“Vell lit’s sin au,” Stangelove reached into his pocket for his handy radioactivity lifespan chart. “Cobalt sarium G?” He began to calculate the possibilities, mumbling something about radioactive halflifes he concluded, “I vuld think think that er, possibly er, van handred yirs.” His gloved hand, forced to release the chart, snatched away into the air.
“You mean, people could actually stay down there for a hundred years?” the President was struggling to come to terms with the concept.
“It vuld naht bi difficult Mein Furher, Nuclear reactors vuld… he, Ahm sorry Mister Pressident, Nuclear rectors culd profide paver endefinetly,grinhauses culd mentein plahntleif. Enimals culd be bred end slaughterd… qvik servey vuld hef to be done auf all die eveilebel meinseits en die cantry. Bet I gess det er dvelling spies fur seferel handred thausend cut be prevaided.”
“Well I would hate to have to decide who stays up and who goes down.”
“Det wuld naht be necessary Mister Pressident. It culd issely be accounted vith a cahmpewter. End de cahmpewter culd be set end programmed to eccept fector from Euth, hellth, sechschul fehrtility entelligence end e cras sechshun auf necessary skehls. Auf cos et vuld be apselutly vaital that all auf aur tahp gafenment end military men be encluded to fahster end empart sehr recvairad pencepls auf leedershep end tredischunnnnneerrrghh!”
Strangelove briefly lost the rising battle with his right arm as it shot into a ‘Nazi’ salute. Regaining control he continued, “Netuereli de vuld breed prodigiously eh, der vuld be much time end litel to do.” He let out a meek laugh, President Muffly and General Turgidsons faces belied much optimism about this survival plan. “But eh through der proper breeding techniks end a rescho auf ten femeils to each meil. I vuld gess det dedy culd den verk aur vey bek to der present gross neshunel product vithin sei tventi yiers.”
Excerpt of final scene in ‘Dr Strangelove’ (1964 90mins)
“There have been two capital events in the course of human history: The making of tools; themaking of art objects.”
It finally happened; the strange thing was no one knew there was a war on. There were no weeks of tension, no failed diplomacy talks, no hoarding of supplies, it just happened, the passing of modern civilisation into the new era of hell on earth. As television and radio communication died out we all stopped and pondered in confusion while, admittedly without everyone realising, we were all listening to St John Cage’s 4’ 33’’. After that, wherever you were in the world it was very loud, if you were lucky not too loud, although many speculated that the luckiest were any one of the 3 billion ‘Cagians’, who never heard anything else again.
It was impossible to say how long the missiles rained across the globe, no dawn to mark the end of the night, only unnatural clouds that came up from the ground. How many missiles were enough to do the job? Who has that job? One would suppose the type of person who would sit in an overflowing bath with the tap running because he had more water.
Within hours all major cities had been destroyed, within days it was announced that within 10 months, all life on earth will be extinct. So as not to cause widespread panic those candidates selected for survival underground were informed in secret. In the rare event of refusal the candidate would be killed to preserve discretion; under the circumstances this action was considered of little consequence. A measure of ethnic diversity did survive however, as the rich white folk quickly realised that they didn’t still want to do the dishes. Eventually the favoured few were selected to make their exodus down.
Across the planet there were extreme reactions to the end of the world; mass suicide, hedonistic sex parties, mass hedonistic suicide sex parties. Organised religion suffered the most due to the fact that The Apocalypse had come and gone and apparently we had not been saved, and yet, the human spirit, the living God inside us would not allow us to simply roll over. The vacuum in our souls could no longer have faith in religion. Ultimately It was an artist whose vocation had proven time and again; to be pure of intention, to inspire, to embed within the conscience, it was his message that guided our race to redemption.
“Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is happening to it.”
Before the fall, art had suffered the same affliction as much of popular culture, obesity. There was just so much of it; an artist proletariat liberated by the internet, which in itself spawned a school of art devoted to reinterpreting images from the net. High art, the most neurotic form of expression, polarised by self justification and self examination, engaged in a bulimic struggle for originality that mimicked the widening of the class divide within the society around it; arts superstars and the glut of the rest, who could be original with swarming numbers of us, art locusts? No more original than drug manufacturers who change chemical compounds within a legal high street drug by a fraction of a degree as the previous form was outlawed.
Gormley, Kappur and others had left us with monuments across the globe that in the event of, well, precisely these circumstances, future visitors to our extinct world might be forgiven for assigning religious significance to their work. As a child I used to suppose that the days spent between the weekly episodes of Star Trek were filled with the crew of the Enterprise visiting planets across the universe where bygone civilisations had reached industrialisation and shortly after annihilated themselves.
By the 21st century we had opened Pandora’s box, turned it upside down and shook it violently to see if anything was left. Two choices stood out to artists; to overwhelm the external senses of the audience or to tickle the brain with ideas of internal consequence. One groundbreaking vision of what was to come was ‘Tunnel 228’ by ‘Punch Drunk’ and Kevin Spacey at ‘The Old Vic’ in 2009. The combination of installation and performance within disused tunnels under ‘Waterloo’ train station allowed us to enjoy the nightmare of a dystopian future we thought we had avoided. The project ushered through an audience clamouring to have their senses overwhelmed, similarly arms outstretched within Antony Gormley’s ‘Blind Light’ at ‘The Hayward’ in 2007; members of a society desperate to be released from their cynicism. By 2011 the tunnels had adopted ‘The Old Vic’ moniker, taking on similarly powerful and emotive subjects. The ‘Mindful’ exhibition by Stuart Semple was an examination of the powerful arcs of mental illness and art meeting on their axis, ‘pinpointing the cathartic potential for the artist and the viewer.’ (Semple 2011), noble intentions featuring the work of; Mona Hatoum, the Chapman brothers, Tracy Emin and Sarah Lucas. Some weeks before Gavin Turk had been selling his surreal interventions from a boot-sale in a car park in Brick Lane; selling personally signed eggs for £25.00.
But who was it all for? The media saturated; media conscious art consumer?
Once upon a time ignorance was bliss;
“Lacan gives the example of the mural paintings that adorn the great hall of the palace of the Doges, in Venice: “Who comes to these places? Those who form that which Metz calls the people. And what do people see in these vast compositions?…” The long history of the multiple forms of decoration and pageantry in society demonstrates the inseparability of power from visible display: the element of hypnotic fascination in voluntary submission. However, such means of control are unstable, and the history of authority is also one of struggle for the mastery of the “twilight reverie.”
Burgin V. (1997)
Monumental and inconsequential are uncomfortable bedfellows. Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc’ (1981) was monumental yet became an inconsequential discussion after its removal from the Federal Plaza in New York. Controversial performance artist, Santiago Serra, proven in the past to produce works that balance provocative with acceptable, was rightfully chastised by the Jewish Community for his ‘Homemade Gas Chamber.’ From birth the human animal is predisposed to test it’s boundaries in order to grow. Every child learns what it is to steal, it is a lesson that stays with us for life and we each choose what boundaries are acceptable to us. The power within this kind of art must be tempered with responsibility. Why not have viewing platforms from the 4th storey of the book depository and the ‘grassy knoll’ in Dealy Plaza, Texas to look through sniper-scopes at a life size sculptural replica of the Kennedy motorcade constructed by Jeff Koons? (Not least because thousands of people would look out of the same 4th storey window and realise the implausibility of the given account.)
I had also worked as an interventionist, also in Brick Lane. In October 2010, the 100 artists 100 hours exhibition at the Britannia Building on Hanbury St featured a diverse collection of work involving 100 artists of the time, the exhibition was open 24hours a day for 100 hours. On the first visit, during the daytime it intrigued me greatly. My colleague and I, equally qualified in exploring the potential of this expansion of the concept of an exhibition, visited again at three in the morning, explored a little and found ourselves in conversation with the curator. We wanted to discuss the Sarah Lucas piece; a deformed maquette of the ground floor of a surreal urban building. The piece was presented on boxes of twelve packs of cans of Carlsberg lager, unclear whether this was part of the piece, we sought clarification. Nope, it was a last minute idea as they had not considered previously how to display the piece. We considered that , as the cans of beer were meaningless, would we as artist be able to give them meaning by taking a couple without disturbing the art itself; we took those cans drank them while we continued to enjoy the exhibition, we even continued the conversation with the lady we had the earlier conversation with.
Thrilled with the absurdity of the previous twenty minutes, we decided to celebrate. The one security guard working grabbed both of us by the collar and proceeded to escort us off the premises. Unfortunately, a fair man doing his job was frankly unprepared for a two hundred yard escort through a gallery, down a flight of stairs with no banging club music, no fight, just two people he had by the collar that were very nice to him all the way down. We debated with him the critical theory of what had just taken place; whether or not, as practicing artists, our actions could be considered a work of art and if he recognised himself as part of the piece. ‘Cheers mate,’ we said as he let go, to which he replied in kind. ‘O.K, see you later.’ As he waved, his face froze. We left him to his musings.
After the Americarian race went under the broadcasts from the leaders of the free world just stopped and we all could have been forgiven for thinking they had died with the rest. President Merkin Muffley, who had failed his former people in every conceivable way, decided that the least he could do now was to finally stop lying to them. As with everything else that had gone before the powers that be couldn’t even get killing all life on earth right; they forgot about New Zealand. The British Government had thought about sending a couple to Australia as revenge for declaring themselves a republic but it was decided that it would be difficult to tell the difference and a waste of a good bomb.
New Zealand, a modern country with an island mentality, had to agree that this was a world event that affected them. With a manageable population, modern inventions like; PDQ and fibre-optic internet cabling were all tested over there first. New Zealand would be the last place in the Western world where people would remain healthy; this was where our best and only hope had materialised. Of the many threads and message boards only one viable plan filtered through and it demanded the sacrifice of many. As it was, New Zealand had its own problems, the sea levels had unprecidently risen, the land mass was shrinking rapidly. The Noah’s Arkists had proposed to head to Antarctica, a much more hospitable clime now, but this would have only been an extention of the inevitable.
We were to build super-heating domes in key locations where the worst firestorms raged across the surface of the planet. The diamond domes focussed rays from the sun into super heated inverted cauldrons of fire, like boys burning ants in the back garden. The domes were formed with the colours of the rainbow and had vents at either end. The spectrum of colours generated an air current within the domes, cold to hot. Once built, a nuclear bomb would set off inside the domes, strong enough to contain the blast, maintained by the heat from the sun; so hot that would suck in air and incinerate every particle of dust within the air, so hot they would change the wind patterns of the globe, sucking the dirty air north, holding the poison cloud at bay. Visionary monuments of the lives that were given to build them, saving the planet, filtering the air, super-accelerating a process that would have taken over a hundred years. It was going to be windy for a while.
There were no formal elections for the counsel that brought about the mobilization of a world united work force. The existing government was, apart from everything else, still reeling from the bewildering assassination of their Prime Minister just weeks before. The counsel had three members; The Civil Servant, along with the Architect, was the one who presented us with the means to our salvation. The Civil Servant remained an anonymous figure, yet had forged links between countries around the globe with irresistible diplomacy and had been integral in determining the precise locations for the domes. The Architect, incredibly, had a modicum of experience in this area. Originally from Staffordshire, The Architect had made a nice little living turning the cremated remains of people into diamonds. He had been commissioned to manage the moulding process in Serena Korda’s Dust collections. The Architect who; conceived the domes, perfected the process of compressing carbon matter into diamond form and provided the terrible key to solution of the dome’s construction.
The only resource available in the vast quantities needed was that of the many humans on the planet who it was too late for and were already developing cancers were offered the chance to play their part in saving the world. Faced with the choice of an unmedicated prolonged death or being turned into a diamond became an easy choice.
Finally there was the Saviour, unwilling to be recognised as a politician yet, truly, when he spoke, his words reached the people, charismatic and contradictory, yes, but he would argue that he did not come here to save us, rather to show us how to save ourselves. Out of the ashes came someone who we were ready to follow, willing to believe in, JR.
The Hard Part
We have to collect all our force to establish a government of workers and soldiers, to create a new stately order of the proletariat, an order of peace, of fortune, of liberty or our German brethren and of our brethren all over the world. We stretch out our hands to them and call on them to complete the world revolution.”
Karl Liebnect (1918)
Work began. The remains of the human race were united under one cause, it was very difficult to opt out; there was simply nothing else to do. Sacrifice for salvation, the best of ideologies from both Socialism and Religion; even the most subversive of criminals acceded to indisputable facts, they could not threaten, coerce, tempt or otherwise bend people to their will, there was nothing more or less to gain than the shared desire to survive. Those who had survived the missiles, even when faced with extinction, still wanted to keep busy. Once people had been given a reason to return to work, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do. In fact it was really only the sales, marketing and recruitment industries that were vastly at a loss.
New technology industries were crippled; many internal systems were able to be switched back on however Microsoft was no longer sending updates. Generally, email was not missed as 40% of the world’s email traffic had become spam and the rest of it was facebook and twitter updates, which, had any social network platform been running, would simply show every-one’s status as dying.
The first industrial revolution was world changing, with, who could have predicted a second bite of the cherry for fossil fuels and no complaints about emissions this time. Across the globe there was only one product to manufacture; the Rainbow Diamonds for the Domes. The only truly saddening loss was the teachers. Children still went to school in the dead zones, it was somewhere to go, but regardless of the endeavours of mankind these children would be dead within the year, there were creative workshops and a lot of playtime.
There was the temporary boom in the road-sweeping industry. The incinerating properties of nuclear war had left an abundance of the raw material needed to get the manufacturing process of to a good start. Those left alive, facing death themselves, still needed to go through the mourning process. While many had lost faith it was hard to break years of habit, each religion had it’s own response; Jews were quite quick about it, Buddhists were stoical about it but were unsure as to what everyone was coming back as, Islamists were halfway there, not allowing the women to wail but burial was no longer an option, Christianity, the youngest of the faiths suffered from the first in first out policy, fragmenting as the colonies all had their own religions to revert to. The Sikhs came out on top with coping strategies where the soul itself is not subject to the cycle of birth and death. Death is only the progression of the soul on its journey from God, through the created universe and back to God again. In life, a Sikh always tries to constantly remember death so that he or she may be sufficiently prayerful, detached and righteous to break the cycle of birth and death and return to God, handy. Still, nothing like a good tidy up to lift the spirits.
The initial sweep set the foundations for the project but there seemed no time to waste and the ‘Procession’, as it came to be known, began. Anyone going into these places did so of their own free will, volunteers; heroes’ to our cause. There were benefits; you could choose which colour diamond you wanted to be. A very real trace of you would exist for long after any of your future relatives. It was perhaps just as important to forget that we had no other option. Nevertheless, they were treated as such; a hero’s send off from the clean lands of the south, held in the same regard as warriors from tales of old, off to make war with a dragon. It seems unreal to remember now, before the cataclysm, this notion was all but lost, only existing in books or films. Wars were fought on television. We were proud of our soldiers and, on the whole, glad that we did not have to do it ourselves. Capitalism had one toe over the finish line; by the 21stCentury politics had all but been reduced to governments that spent every effort trying to rock a cradle a sing lullabies to an electorate baby, hoping it wouldn’t wake up and notice that a nappy change was long overdue.
Almost a whole generation fell asleep at the wheel. A child of the eighties lucky enough to be born in the West grew up with assurances that everything was just great. In the nineties those assurances were still there, they were just unfounded. When adulthood came knocking the only thing to protest against was that the party was over and we don’t know how to clean up. By this time however, another generation grew up abundantly clear that they had no future. They used to say that kids were taking longer to grow up but this generation knew too much too soon. We only paid attention when we realised that the playing field had truly been levelled and that none of us had a future unless we worked together. By the time of the London riots of 2011, (the Brixton riots with BBM’s,) this generation had grown up already knowing what the rest of us so tried to ignore; that if this was our future, there was already no future. JR saved us, picked us up from our knees, gave us something to believe in.
I had seen JR once at a photography festival in France, before this his anonymity was a necessity. From inauspicious beginnings at the heart of Parisian graffiti art in the late 1990’s, JR began to photograph the work created on the walls of Europe using anywhere that someone might equally use to advertise a club-night around the corner, adorning it with prints of his work and proclaiming ‘This is a gallery’, this he told us was one of the best ways to avoid being prosecuted and fined for his work. The galleries were open twenty four hours and were as likely to exhibit for the same amount of time. The mark of JR’s career is that even though the posters were scrubbed away, they left a mark in the viewer. They also mocked the system that oppressed this particular kind of artist. By sticking posters containing images of graffiti he was achieving the same intention of the artist without the criminal damage charge.
In 2005 rioting in the poor areas of eastern Paris proved to be the touchstone for a project Jr was already engaged with. The portrayal of the rioters in the media was something that we are all familiar with from one time or another. Having already established links with the community in the Cité des Bosquets housing project, his efforts to show the real face of the community was realised in postering the sides of the building. When the riots started his efforts to humanise an isolated community led to one of the major posters one of these images became a focal point for a frustrated community and a key media-byte for the public. Later it grew into a conduit that allowed for a new dialogue between the government, the media and the socially deprived.
His integrity shone through his anonymity, both had been credible tools to gaining trust of those who might otherwise shun a photographer. Much suspicion would have been removed in the commonality of their relationship with the authorities: ‘The enemy of my enemy…’ One thing I am sure of is that the man’s natural charisma played no small part; by the time he won the TED award the JR persona had become something more, almost a superhero costume, hiding in pain sight, preferring to continue to focus our attention on what is important; the art; the cause, the healing, the growth of a community, even the elevation and empowerment of those in the community to hero status. The images themselves were monumental, the temporary nature of the poster negated through documenting the process. Even after the end of the world, my memory for a favela in Brazil I have never visited remains. An exhibition in a gallery, temporary or permanent has agreed opening hours. Even now, it would take nothing short of a recent image of the same place to show me what has changed, maybe the locals took on the upkeep of their gallery; One thing New York’s ‘Supercop’ Bill Bratton’s controversial zero tolerance policing policy showed that taking civil pride in your neighbourhood had a direct impact on the reduction of crime, even if that meant Jack Palance as the gunslinger from ‘Shane’ (1954) whispering, “Pick up the litter!”
This revolutionary way of presenting these subjects also had an adverse effect on the viewing of the work of photographers that had gone before. Take work by Mary Ellen Mark, there is no denying that this was a prolific career by a vastly talented person but in the wake of JR, something did not sit right. Quoted in 1987 saying, “I’m just interested in people on the edges. I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence”. What were considered groundbreaking photo-essays now fall short, particularly when a basic google image search would throw up portraits of street kids next to portraits of Dennis Hopper and Kris Kristofferson, the same strong aesthetic makes distinguishing between the subject matter difficult, diluting the power of the socially conscious images; I sincerely hope the secret cache of JR’s portraits of Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis never see the light of day. Beyond this, however, who are the images for; a lifestyle magazine reading, gallery visiting, coffee-table book buying consumer, willing to be socially pricked but able to put the book down, able to leave the gallery. JR’s galleries adapt for the people who live there, particularly in the Kenyan shanty-towns where, for the first time he worked in vinyl. The vinyl posters served the added practical purpose of waterproofing the roofs of numerous shacks, providing much needed protection during the rainy season.
But could JR ever hang up his trademark hat and shades? The Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, even Batman went back to the mansion; Robin Hood did have a castle but it was repossessed by the authorities at the time. Were we dealing with an artistic Spartacus striking out at injustice, oppression and hypocrisy with integrity, altruism and humour in his march across the globe? At the time the JC analogy seemed, well, blasphemous but after the apocalypse… Perhaps it was that I first saw him in a Roman amphitheatre, it was an easy leap.
Even in this unhinged set of choices, there was still room for choice, free will and ultimate bravery. All were resigned to their fate, however, the domes still needed to be built. Of those that chose to prematurely change their form, simple, painless euthanasia was provided. Yet one more call to arms was there for those who accepted their fate and chose to not go lying down, somebody had to build the domes. In the worst affected areas the average life expectancy was two weeks work. Perhaps my first real understanding of the difference between how to live and how to die was Chernobyl; the video footage of workers rushing in to quell the fire knowing it meant certain death. In fairness, every builder east of Germany showed up, (no complaints about jobs being stolen this time.). Hells angels, Millwall fans and other old school gangsters applied; anyone with pride and belief in their own version of working class institution stepped forward. There were actually many takers for the role of staring death in the face; For some, the inspirational messages from JR brought about a fanaticism not seen since the building of Machu Pichu.
His ‘Outside-In project’ where he made posters for anyone going to work at the dome, still resonated, the posters were hung from the masts of the thousands of vessels floating in the, now vast, Auckland Marina, welcoming all those that made it to sanctuary. The images built a bridge to the survivors and those that had gone before. The survivors could now put faces to the names of those they owed everything to. The simplistic black and white passport photo that makes the faces familiar, that allows us to connect with the person in the image at our most basic empathic level. The 28mm style offered participants the opportunity to be remembered with pride; the pride that comes from facing the deepest adversity and still look the world in the eye and laugh.
Crime had become obsolete, there was only one punishment; being turned into a diamond, how you reached that state was very much dependent on the justice at hand. On the other hand alcoholics, junkies and anyone else who just wanted to was offered the option of indulging in their favourite combination of vices. ‘Last Orders’ parties quickly took off, a bit like the best New Years Eve party ever although I don’t think they rang a bell. It’s no secret the dome building sites were the closest thing to the ‘Wild West’ of hell on earth, many Catholics though they deserved to go there, there are no records of how many realised they didn’t by the time they got there. True enough it was armageddons version of The Wild West, the same spirit as a gold rush frontier town but with an unglued moral code. For even the strongest there was the certainty of a maximum two week life-span but you could just as easily die in minutes.
There were two main professions; diamond production and dome construction, outside of that there was a need for the same industries that supported a frontier town, namely saloons and hookers. Documentary photography found a strange home there, once the domain of war correspondent, life threatening situations had become the status quo. The desire for humanity to document its existence prevailed. It’s said that these photographers persevered as the Russians on the Eastern front of WWII did; “When the man in front of is brought down, pick up his rifle.” Apparently there is an extensive archive in storage somewhere although who would want to see them, I can’t imagine. Who could to endure the nightmarish ‘Roy Stryker’ role of sorting through the horror and for what purpose? Most people had lost their appetite so not many places to eat, amphetamine and morphine was readily available which suited most everyone. There were no marshals, no point. There was just something about the area around the dome that made you feel a little closer to hell.
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’sfun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real!”
‘It’s just a ride.”
Bill Hicks (1993)
The domes went up with the efficiency of a German prefabricated house. Within a few short months the first dome was lit. The last workers in the Frontier towns, as it happened had never seen a nuclear bomb go off and wanted to see the big show. It was certainly beautiful as the bomb detonated, the initial blinding light was not so blinding from the protection of the diamond structure and for a brief moment a shimmering rainbow split the sky from horizon to horizon. An unexpected surprise was felt when the shockwave cracked against the inner surface of the dome; a symphony of chimes as the diamonds cried victory over their prisoner. The rainbow flickered away as the mushroom cloud sent everything into darkness once again. Having nowhere to spread to the cloud turned in on itself again and again, it beame a smoky snake eating it’s own tail until the brightness from within took hold, consuming what it had borne moments earlier. One can only imagine how the townsfolk cheered when their sky was bathed in rainbow one again, it had worked, they had witnessed the rebirth of life on Earth, then the winds came. The German prefabricated houses that the frontier towns were built from were sucked into the mouth of the dome like starlings into the engine of an Airbus, although they did stay together as they were ripped out of the ground. Still it must have been like flying, what a glorious way to go. Many had given up on Heaven or Hell but Oz was still a possibility.
Weather reports in the south became increasingly favourable; sunny with Northerly winds. The air was crisp and clean and a little thin, like being at high altitude. The lands north of the Domes had become a maelstrom of hurricaines and typhoons battling each other, walls of wind that could not find a way south without being sucked back in to the system. Yes the domes had worked, the planet would be clean, cleaner than ever in fact, in less than ten years. Just by leaving a handful operational and harnessing the wind produced clean, free energy for all, a fragile but breathing new society had been born. There will always be those who look to corrupt a system and bend it to their will but each individual now recognised their worth within society, the all too real fear of the complacency that allowed us to be governed like sheep was a constant reminder to the common man to believe in his own voice, we had all become Kiwi’s. The Architect had begun work on something called floating gardens. JR sought some well earned solace in his anonymity, satisfied that he had finally got the whole world to see eye to eye.
One dichotomy of the human condition is its need for balance against its want to rock the boat. In art, the incidental, the intimate thought connection and the monumental assault on the senses are two sides of the same coin; Mr Jupiter and Mr Flash, one looking high, one looking low. Meaning and intent are interchangeable as much as good and bad. An artist may choose which way to work but the audience requires both at different times. They are each others spoon full of sugar. JR combined the best of these attributes, achieving global intimacy, the medicine and the sugar all at once.
Transparency became the basis of the new government and its first major act was for those who had carried the burden of the secret of the Domes to reveal the price of salvation. The Civil Servant was a former officer in the R.A.F., Colonel Lionel Mandrake. Colonel Mandrake had originally attempted to avert the holocaust set into motion by Captain Jack D. Ripper. For his efforts he was offered a place in the underground society. He initially accepted but did not want to go to hell. His plan was not one of retribution nor was it arbitrary, the vast underground facilities that had been provided for the elite of the world had been fitted with super extraction filters to protect its occupants from the nuclear fallout above. The domes were located above each of these facilities to utilise the technology for the good of all. Once Col. Mandrake had secured the locations of the facilities, it had been a simple matter to convince those left in charge to participate in the plan to save the world. Now that this had been achieved, many argued that the world had become a better place, the question of what to do with the underground dwellers. The filters had not been designed to run at the capacity they had been. It was supposed that the concentrated balls of fire above the facilities would have made living in a large underground metal box more than a little uncomfortable. They had provision for one hundred years but given the living conditions and the breeding program, how much could a society change in that time, ours changed overnight. We all felt the burning desire to hold our former leaders to account. They are already living in a prison of their own doing yet they believe it to be their sanctuary, and what of their offspring; could we condemn the son for the sin of the father even if they are the prodigy of a warmongering Arian breeding program locked in a hotbox for a century? The machinations of those who saw fit to run our lives had led to their own downfall and inadvertently set mankind on the path to truly saving itself. Compassion, the Achilles heel of the just, would not let us have our peace.
Two polarised societies now existed one above and one below. We had survived; our work with JR had eased our survivor’s guilt. Now we had to figure out how to live again, now that everything was free. None of us believed our utopia was guaranteed, society’s values, just as much as it’s economics, are predisposed to a state of flux from Roman debauchery to Victorian Puritanism. Was this pendulum at its peak of oscillation? Could we hold onto this perfect world?
The 20thcentury saw changes measured in decades turning on pivotal events; world war, LSD, mobile phones… The 21st century; wireless, plugged in but disconnected. Isn’t everything in computers just ones and zeroes anyway? It’s impossible to steal ones and zeroes, something the art world embraced. What was ‘Google street’ view invented for if not for artists to draw reason and pattern from a humanly incalculable resource?
“The hero is no longer the technician, the expert or the professional armed with their specific savoir-faire, expertise or metier and in quest of a certain quality, but much more the amateur or collector the impassioned practitioner of a hobby. At issue here is no longer the ‘death of the author’ proclaimed by Roland Barthes in 1968, but his simulated suicide. For the appropriationist working in the totally digital age, the point is no longer to deny his status as an author but to play-act or feign his own death in the full knowledge that he’s not fooling anybody. Clearly then, the issue is not one of newness but intensity.”
Cheroux C., Fontcuberta J., Kessels E., Parr M., Schmid J. (2011)