If we want to learn to live in the Anthropocene, we must first learn how to die.
”The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine”.
Mary Shelley’s Modern Prometheus is an early product of the modern Western world. In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a doctor who represents and almost foreshadows the romantic disillusionment with the established order, especially with the high ideal that society could be transformed by individual effort.
Emir Šehanović has presented us with his own puzzle.
His latest commision engages with the phenomena that belongs to the human now – the present geological epoch of the Anthropocene in which the Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity are being slowly disrupted by human intervention. He sees the Anthropocene primarily as a sensorial phenomenon — the experience of living in a progressively diminished and toxic world. Emir’s objects portend a world that is increasingly hostile to human frailty. The show’s convoluted materiality looks as though these objects are destined for some future museum. Plastic storage tubs filled with dry ice and ultrasound contact gel contain various organically shaped specimens with their mysterious, alien functions. Placing focus on brightly illuminated polymeric pillow fillings wrapped in polyester with digitally printed patterns, hanging from a dreary looking hospital rack, the gallery space suddenly rings something strange, suggesting a future anthropological museum devoted to the fragile remains of this outgoing human culture.
The basis for all our experience and knowledge is the medium through which we can have connection with the world that we call reality. The sensual, the haptic, the intimate reception of the referenced realities provide a ground for our subjective understructure, for being able to experience the world as objective and independent from our actions of addressing and comprehension. The way world appears, among all its symbolic representations, corresponds to things and relationships in the real world. Fictions, on the other hand, are works that present us with unreal stories and situations. And yet, these fictions — novels, songs, pictures, theories, and so on — are, themselves, actual things in the world. They are processes, performances, and objects too. They portray unrealities, but as such, they are real.
Emir Šehanović is very interested in today’s world that has gone to pieces as the literal sediment of human activity. He is interested in bringing objects to an (after)life, or to the point in which they start to resemble life. Many works in this show are created from parts of different bodies, different types of hybrids of us and our image. Maintaining that the body is fundamentally plastic and that corporeal identity is constituted by a conspiracy of sensations, he pursues the question of how the body fits, or fails to fit into its aesthetic environments.
At the end, it is not entirely clear where we have ended up, but looking back over a landscape entirely made of Emir’s own artistic invention, it’s a hell of a view.