PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE PAST YEAR
For it could be that contemporary philosophers have lost the great outdoors, the absolute outside of pre-critical thinkers: that outside which was not relative to us, and which was given as indifferent to its own givenness to be what it is, existing in itself regardless of whether we are thinking of it or not; that outside which thought could explore with the legitimate feeling of being on foreign territory – of being entirely elsewhere.
After Finitude: An Essay On The Necessity Of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (Continuum, 2008)
Quentin Meillassoux, a French philosopher, an excerpt from whose sensational essay you’ve just read, understands ‘ancestrality’ and ‘arche-fossils’. Ancestrality he understands as any event preceding the emergence of consciousness; an event, which cannot be thought of as an event-for-us, but which we, at least we who are scholars, have been able to date in absolute numbers (when ascertaining the date of a star formation, for example). Arche-fossils – as certain material carriers, we use to carry out experiments assessing ancestral phenomena (when deriving the information on the exact date of the star formation based on its radiation, for example).
In the sensational essay by Meillassoux both concepts are used to introduce a long conversation on the failure of correlationism – any school of thought that rejects any sort of opportunity to consider the spheres of subjective and objective independent of each other. By correlation the author means a claim that we can only access a correlation of thinking and being, and never anything one of them in particular. In other words, Meillassoux’s ancestrality serves as an introduction to a long conversation on the failure of the whole post-Kantian thought. Can we, indeed, say anything genuine at all about being and things, or are we always limited to just how they are revealed to us? Can we ever get out to the Great Outside?
All this rhymes with the project presented here, but the project began in a sensual experience, not reading. Once upon a time (last year) Katya came to admire the exhibition of living dinosaurs, taking place at the VDNG. The living were represented by twenty-four rubber exhibits, all in real size and partially mechanized. The authenticity (the credibility) of the color and texture of their outer shells, sets of their movements and sounds were all under strict control of Sebastian Apesteguia, a well-respected Argentinian paleontologist. Katya made quick shot the exhibits – the film, the light, and the defocus helped Apesteguia in achieving the desired effect. Judging by the photos, living dinosaurs were indeed walking around VDNG.
This accidental experience made the one who lived it ponder: what else ancestral, conditionally or unconditionally living, exists alongside us? What else pushes us out the usual sense of time or place? Exactly why does it push us? What is so different in the ancestral? Texts by Meillassoux were found when searching the answer to the last question, but this search was preceded by a hasty inventory of relics readily available to a city inhabitant.
It showed that:
1. some relics are perceived by us as pests that we, people, hate and destroy (cockroaches, mistletoe) or use to produce medicinal poisons (horsetails);
2. some relics that previously impressed us now carry a completely neutral attitude (ferns);
3. other relics that previously impressed us still manage to cause that impression at least once a year (Magnolias);
4. there exist relics that we eat, collect or use as beads (walnut);
5. there exist relics that symbolize better life for masses (palm trees);
6. at times we reproduce relics that are no longer physically alive (dinosaurs, made of rubber or not), we reproduce them so desperately that they become present;
7. there are even such relics, which despite being arche-fossils are available in any flat of the world equipped with a TV-set (relic noise).
The exposition you find here is based on the principle of total installation and consists of photos with the anaglyphic method, stereo images, objects printed on a 3D printer and/or cast in plaster, generated online for five dollars, inserted into magnetic frame, embedded in the video. The exposition, therefore, consists of objects made in almost all possible ways — but especially those helping to create a sense of presence.
curator, co-founder of Ukho music agency