For the moment, the globe seems to be following its course of shrinkage’: because of the disappearance of worlds of difference, the dismal accuracy of the Western telescope-eye and blindingly quick effectiveness of transportation and telecommunication, the Earth is living in times of a ‘new narrowness’. With the world-wide homogenization of culture and nature, the transparency - the proclamation of the new invisibility - and the decline of distance, things have come to be so dangerously close to one another that the possibility of an implosion can’t be excluded. This means nothing as sinister as the end of the world; no, just the decomposition of its old form, due to the mind-boggling fusion of things with their images and with one another. The moment of consummation will come unnoticed, without drama, blood and death, but, afterwards, nothing will ever be the same again. Do they have french fries on the Moon?
The times when the world grew larger by the blunt crossing of borders - real or imagined - seem gone for good, since topography has completely mastered the earth; all the measurements have been taken and the pitfalls removed. (America was a discovery, a ‘new world'; after the mass murder of the Indians, it became a European fata morgana, a vacuum to be filled instead of another reality.) The Wests drive to expand * the growth of Western culture - the course of shrinkage. Incredible shrinking world. Columbus only dared to undertake his great voyages after he’d read Pierre D’Ailly s Imago Mundi, which convinced him that the earth was round. Thus, he sailed the Atlantic for thirty three days without sighting land or plummeting into an immeasurable abyss. Because he had no frame of reference at all, he measured his ships' speed by spitting in the water and watching the little foamy clot float by.
The growth of exoticism
While the difference between 'here' and 'there' (far away and close by), between nature' and culture' (real and fake) grows hazy, the memory of that which was lost is cultivated desperately, in the zoos, museums and reserves. The museum haphazardly preserves the things which we do not dare to throw away; in the semi-wildness of the preserve, we force a number of cadavers to continue to live. The zoo: one used to go there to see strange creatures from faraway places; now, one goes to see the last members of species doomed to extinction. (A Spanish newspaper recently reported that three quarters of the animals in the Kuwaiti zoo had been eaten by hungry Iraqi soldiers: cannon fodder celebrating with giraffe meat.)
The exotic has disappeared, but that doesn’t hinder the growth of exoticism: the pangs of nostalgia lead us to the barnyard-grown chicken and its authentic eggs. But its artificial cackle-freshness is laughed at by salmonella (just as the computer viruses chuckle at the chip whose demise they accomplish and AIDS, with a macabre smile, squares accounts with eternal life’).
As nature disappears, the 'environment' appears; a disturbing remembrance, a phantom imposed from above, which only aggravates (who still believes in that one tree?). Seven Herb Shampoo and The Country Freshness of Irish Spring produce convincing, intoxicating odours. But perhaps we’re now parting with the long-cherished idea of a nature which is 'picturesque', identified with innocence, Romanticism, Primitivism, butterflies and roaring lions. If nature can be a creation of literature, painting and philosophy, it hasn't really disappeared... the city is a jungle and quantum mechanics is Zen Buddhism.
Our supersonic jets take you to a place in the sun in no time. Feel completely at home in one of our three-star ultra-luxurious vacation bimgalows, in a carefully chosen, exotic eninronment. Feel at home! Be gone, and at home at the same time. Everything is possible in the air-conditioned world of insured tourism. It's a matter of indifference to the tourist that his trips don't take him to something different from what he already knows, but to something which is the same. In the end, it's not adventure which he's looking for. but nice weather, and as evidence of his temporary repotting, he sends a postcard with a foreign stamp on it and buys an 'authentic' souvenir. (Natives were once seduced by the sheen of 'fake' beads. Sweet revenge.) Nothing upsets the tourist hunting for cheap, lightweight exotica as much as the discovery that things in his vacation country 'suddenly' are no longer ‘dirt cheap', but cod: as much as they do at home: low cost shopping in the duty-free shops at the airport can't be interrupted, so, when the sale has ended, the country which has meanwhile been re-shaped to fit the tourist's image of it is inexorably abandoned and replaced with the paradise which is next in line to be plundered.
Let the Jabulous surroundings dazzle you. Blindness is no hindrance to the tourist in accomplishing his fate: his eyes have been replaced by the camera lens, which nervously scans for the picturesque mise-en-scène, using panoramas and monuments as braille dots. But what is looked at no longer needs to be seen or read, as the memory has been replaced by the video tape and film roll. The tourist's place in his environment is like the head which juts from the hole in a life-like cardboard facade only for a moment, for the photograph to be taken.
The efficiency of household equipment such as the answering machine, auto telephone, fax, video recorder, Walkman and personal computer isaimed at allowing nothing to be lost, nothing to be left to chance, to be missed, at losing no time, ateliminating the difference between presence and absence and day and night: the perpetually ’connected' individual can remain awake while he sleeps and do his work: he can send and receive messages. He's become the faltering stand-by of his own electronic equipment, and has disappeared into his self-made communication 'loop'. What's increasing is redundancy, what matters is the interface, and what is shrinking is the message. (Once again, he heard the message tape of her answering service and repeated, for the thousandth time, his message of longing after the heep... For the thousandth time -she had just begun doing her hair - she heard his tearful voice echo through her room. Irritated, she adjusted the volume knob to zero and went on to the next curl.) The spontaneous censorship which can be effected willfully or by accident with the new equipment, isn’t ultimately very different from the censorship to which, for example. Vaclav Havel's correspondence with Olga was subjected by the former Czechoslovakian authorities. The well-oiled machinery contains a multitude of sentences spoken in vain.
Dial 063241054 to have your naughtiest fantasies fulfilled (live!) by our willing 'team', for whom nothing is too wild... An enormous amount of trust is demanded from you. because nothing proves that your telephonic partner indeed, at your insistence, is stretched out naked under the kitchen table (the realistic sounds are deceptive). The telephone line deprives sex of its physicality and makes the game, in spite of the direct connection involved, completely virtual. Solitary self-gratification through the 'peep ear', in which the fantasies of the caller are converted into sounds: he no longer needs to pant in secret, but can be connected directly via the telephone to... who else but himself.
Brain machines: electronic food for the mind, a means of relaxation, meditation and creative stimulation. Now that we've discovered that we can influence our brain waves with electronic 'relax glasses', we've finally been freed of the duty to make ourselves 'feel good by doing good'. Nothing to stop one from hitting old ladies whom one meets on the street, or giving one's friends' babies vidous pinches. While doing the deed, you simply neutralize your old fashioned feelings of guilt with a jolt of alpha waves: with the push of one of the buttons on your new glasses, you'll feel wonderfully relaxed. For when you've had enough of the radical boredom of your existence and find 'drugs' too untidy...
The arithmetic expression of all sorts of matters in graphs and tables triumphs, as if it actually clarifies the world: as if the calculators are proclaiming Platonic truths, instead of simply reproducing. A return to the Sat world of the aerial perspective in the contemporary form of statistics, a method which is in fact archaic. A disarming travel guide: Barcelona: 2000 years of history. 3 million inhabitants. 12.556 streets (including 34,000 trees), 3 big parks, 1 airport, 3 universities, 1 opera building, 1 philharmonic hall, 2 cathedrals, 47 libraries, 98 hospitals, 53 consulates, 42 museums, Countless movie theatres, theatres, cabarets, discos. Every kind of sport. Every kind of sport.
During the transmission of 'live' events, a tennis match, for example, the TV attempts to compensate the viewer for the extra dimension which is lost by not being physically present (the smell of sweat, the crack of joints and balls flying about one's ears) by flooding him with extra information, which doesn't only consist of the commentator s emotions, but. to an increasing degree, of the computer s alert analyses, counting and classifying each of the players' moves, which are then repeated, needed or not. at the bottom of the screen, in gams, sets, matches, tournaments, complete carters. (John McEnroe. 1 /a final flushing Meadows 1990: first set: 3 aces. 2 personal fouls. 5 smashes. 4 'scenes': McEnroe 1980-1990:1000 aces. 1497 personal fouls. 3929 smashes. 2001 ‘scenes', etcetera.) These figures, in combination with the slowed down replays of the winning or losing ball and dose ups of the facial expressions of 'personalities' in the crowd, as they change in response to the ups and downs of the game, outdo the actual match, which seems, like a great video game, more to be following the computer and the cameras than the other way around. All that's lacking now is the replacement of the players’ video images with X-ray images, so that the viewer, unhindered by the flesh, can enjoy the varying heartbeat, the hinging of the joints and the stretching and contracting of the muscles. The art of calculation and the impertinence of the camera are causing the contest to become more than transparent, and the original spectacle of the game is disappearing, to be replaced by the simultaneous simulation of it.
It will soon be common practice to supplement 'live' sport events with giant, on-the-spot video screens, upon which one can see much more of everything than when one looks at the 'real' thing. Not long ago, at a concert given by a renowned popstar in an enormous stadium. I became aware that the star was deceased. The distance between my seal and the stage was so huge that I no longer believed in the little doll that I saw. When I then attempted to find out for myself and began forcing a path through the mass of standing spectators. I lost sight of it entirely, just in time -I was getting quite sick of the joy of the whole 'live' experience - the giant video screens came to life... I could go bock to my seat and turn my back an the stage. The following morning. I read about the death of a renowned pop star, who had died, moreover, at 22:00 the evening of the day before, precisely when the concert began...
I used to create a feeling of space for myself by writing in my notebooks, after my name and address: North Holland, the Netherlands, Western Europe, Europe, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Milky Way, The Universe. Childish megalomania! One's awareness of space is often largely created by what one sees, and what one can’t see but suspects. In this sense, space has to do with the invisibility of 'afar': today, what one doesn't see plays a smaller and smaller part- The unseen has been accorded a minor place in comparison with the attempt to disrupt space's distance with telecommunication and supersonic transport: to let 'here' and 'there' coincide, to let 'here' and ’there' coincide, to let today disappear into the horizon of the future- Space ripped to shreds by the violence screen. The telescopic eye doesn't result in clairvoyance, but requires more and more minors: the motor s speed doesn't get one anywhere any more, became It has conquered distance and made the ’lag" in 'jet-lag' into normal time-space. The persistent desire to increase our field of vision and exceed the speed of light has brought everything dose up (as if ones nose were pressed so dose to a book that only a kind of haze was visible).
TV most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald's. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonalds. The most beautiful thing in florence is Mcdonald's Peking and Moscow don't have anything beautiful yet, America is really die Beautiful (Andy Warhol).
'Big Mac' is eating us: the universal hamburger which everyone wants. The McDonald's University's graduates cum laude have a good chance of being posted overseas. TV newest McDonalds is located on on Aboriginal reservation at the foot of MacDonald Mountain (long live coincidence) in Australia: considerations of efficiency have required that the traditional McDonald’s architecture be departed from - the counters are 10 centimeters lower than usual). There are also plans at the reservation for the establishment of a museum of modern art which will be situated diagonally across from the McDonalds (It's still uncertain whether the paintings will be hung 10 centimeters lower than usual). An anonymous art collector from Sydney has offered the museum a number of pieces, out of sentimental considerations which he didn't go into detail about. (Van Gogh's Sitting Woman, a piece by A. Reciet (?), one of Appel's silkscreen prints,eight of Pollock's unsigned and undated chalk drawings, three sculptures by a certain Bazinet, a Dali dated 1987, an Edparbé-Gasca and other works by known Western masters.) The museum commission was extremely pleased with this 'generous gift', which they said gave a ceherent image of modern art. Meanwhile a Mcdonald's representative hinted that the restaurant was prepared to offer a free ticket to the museum with the purchase of two 'Big Macs': McDonald's takes pleasure in stimulating the local population's enjoyement of art. A number of Aborigines had protected against these remarks and informed the museum comission and the directors of McDonald's that they are not in agreement with the lowering of the counter by 10 centimeters, out of ethical considerations; they also indicated the abundance of Aborigine art present on the reservation. An as-yet unidentified institute in Tokyo, Japan, which got wind of the case, has indicated it's interest in the reservation's 'rich collection of ethnograohica' and has made an official offer of 2000 HDTV sets in exchange for it (to be continued).
The supremacy of the Western idea of art (history) - to cite just one, particularly persistent creation - guarantees it's shrinkage, museums full of Christian missionary ideals and false universalism which show the exact same things the world over, like an endlessly tautology. The Western tradition, in all its smugness, doesn't seek to join together with others, but, rather, demands that everything which it deems unsable and of 'value' join it. Folklore is valuable, once it's been de-fleated and given a good wash: the perverse exploration/annexation of all that is authentic and exotic, and which must at the same time be compatible, degenerates into bami-rolls, world music, and Magiciens de la Terre, which portrayed the irony of the whole business by giving the orimitives the opportunity to exhibit their coffins made in the form of a Mercedes-Benz. In the end, they, too, are more charmed by the 'unreal'.
It's quite imaginable that al the masterpieces which fill the museums are not the real thing at all, but exact copies, and that the State has secretly hidden the real ones away in its bunkers. (Art finally goes underground again). A naive reaction to the phenomenon of the disappearance of art - not only because of theft, vandalism and time's acid - but because of large-scale, traveling retrospevtives and media-exhibitions. People used to make long trips to see a particular work of art; now, it's art which must travel. Well-insured and packed, it travels the world, like a rich, American tourist. When will a plane crash occur in which, for instance, thirteen Mondriaans die tragically? (The real ones, of course, are still safe and sound in their bunker, but the State will have to execute them anyway, in order to keep to its schedule.) If the masterpieces survive the trip, they'll be devoured by thens of thousands of eyes during the exhibition. Assuming that they were hanging there, who really saw 150 masterpieces? The Year of Van Gogh (1990) was the art-shrinkage occasion of the decade. This was amusing, but science took part, too: the Rembrandt 'research' ploject provides, in scientific fashion, for the removal of a number of Rembrandts.
The keepers of culture, driven by a blind urge to conserve, try with the desperate hope of the damned to remember the real, separate it from the false, label it and store it. A grand historicizing of the present, which implies that we don't live in any time at all. (The fictional films about South Africa which have appeared in recent years transform the actuallity of the 'terrible truth' into a fantastic story and an innocent piece of fiction, as though the reality was too dull.) Nothing must be allowed to disappear. The joke of the whole strategy of conservation and reproduction is that it only evokes the losses, just as the scent of extinct cultures hangs in an ethnographic museum. In the end, the remembrance, too, fades... Vondel is a park, Marx a café, Jesus Christ a superstar.
The linear movement of progress has attained the false movement of walking in place: the dejected soldier's tread which lives in a permanent state of expectation. Just as the image of the present is beginning to resemble a video 'still' more and more, one which the pixels can't hold on to, the Earth is contained precisely within the rectangular form of the screen, even though it does bulge out a bit. (Thus making it easy to guess it's future form.)
The movement of shrinkage is expanding, so they're certain to be selling French fries on the Moon. (flash Bulletin: In reply to the institute in Tokyo, the Aborigines have stated at their most recent press conference that they already have TV and will accept only Van Gogh's Sunflowers as payment for their collection.)
translation Jim Boekbinder