MICHIEL VANDEVELDE
INFINI #4: Annex

Based on texts by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Jean-Luc Godard, Hito Steyerl, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and Michiel Vandevelde


A glitch. A black box. An obstruction in the void. A box in a box. A space representing other spaces: a tunnel, a forest, a data centre, a wall, the desert, a harbour. The outdoor space. Memories of landscapes you were once part of, or memories of landscapes were you have never been. The black hole. Superseding all imagination. A negative space. An anti-landscape.

The image: the only thing capable of denying nothingness is also the gaze of nothingness on us.

The image is light.

Nothingness, immensely heavy.

The image gleams.

Nothingness is that thickness where all is veiled.

In 1977, human history reached a turning point. Material landscapes, as we used to know them, disappeared. They were not destroyed by an apocalyptic event, but were transferred to another dimension: dissolved, transformed into ghosts. The human race, misled by new kinds of immaterial landscapes made from deceptive electromagnetic substances, lost faith in the reality of life, and started only to believe in the infinite proliferation of images.

1977 was the year when material landscapes faded, transmigrating from the world of physical life into the world of simulation and nervous stimulation. This year was a watershed moment: from the age of human evolution, the world shifted to the age of de-civilization. What had been built through labour and social solidarity began to be dissipated by a rapid and predatory process of derealisation. The material legacy of the modern conflictive alliance between the industrious bourgeois and industrial workers was sacrificed in favour of the immaterial nature of digital networks.

In the second decade of the twenty first century, post-bourgeois dilapidation took the final form of a financial black hole. A drainage pump started to swallow and destroy the product of two hundred years of industriousness and collective intelligence, transforming the concrete reality of social civilization into abstractions – figures, algorithms, mathematical ferocity, and accumulations of nothing.

The seductive force of simulation transformed material forms into vanishing images, submitted visual art to viral spreading, and subjected language to the fake regime of advertising. At the end of this process, real life disappeared into the black hole of the digital. What is not yet clear is this: what happened to subjectivity, to sensibility and the ability to imagine, to create and to invent? Will human beings be able to come out of the black hole, to invest their energy in a new creative passion, in a new form of solidarity and mutuality?

At the moment, it is impossible to say – we don’t know if there is hope beyond the black hole, if there will be a future after the future.

Imagine you are falling. But there is no ground. Paradoxically, while you are falling, you will probably feel as if you are floating – or not even moving at all. Falling is relational – if there is nothing to fall toward, you may not even be aware that you’re falling. If there is no ground, gravity might be low and you’ll feel weightless. Objects will stay suspended if you let go of them. Whole societies around you may be falling just as you are. And it may actually feel like perfect stasis – as if history and time have ended and you can’t even remember that time ever moved forward.

As you are falling, your sense of orientation may start to play additional tricks on you. The horizon quivers in a maze of collapsing lines and you may lose any sense of above and below, of before and after, of yourself and your boundaries. Pilots have even reported that free fall can trigger a feeling of confusion between the self and the aircraft. While falling, people may sense themselves as being things, while things may sense that they are people. Traditional modes of seeing and feeling are shattered. Any sense of balance is disrupted. Perspectives are twisted and multiplied. New types of visuality arise.

A black box. A black hole. A black space. A box in a box. The concept of the concept. Nothingness. Non-knowledge. A concrete abstraction. A landscape that eats itself.

A landscape that explodes.

Once it was said that there are no shadows in a black space. Now the black space has its own shadow, its dark twin: a box in a box. A hole in a hole.

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