Images and stories burnt like shooting stars in the night sky of the passing year…momentarily ablaze with new narratives of changing times. Burnt out stories, survived by their footnotes. Their references and contexts stretching far and beyond the obvious. Incandescent, ephemeral theatre. Its argument and message to be found somewhere in the future perfect– “that point, where things land, are finished, over, and gone but not yet”. (Lia Purpura – ‘Future Perfect’)
This year, scientists at Cornell University were able to “print” a proto-type human ear through a 3-D printer and with it, it seems we have truly entered the post-human/ trans-human age, and it is perhaps time to confront existentialism in a renewed light. Leon Kass, a prominent bio-ethicist, in his book, ‘Life, Liberty and Defense of Dignity’ says, “Homogenization, mediocrity, pacification, drug-induced contentment, debasement of taste, souls without loves and longings—these are the inevitable results of making the essence of human nature the last project of technical mastery. In his moment of triumph, Promethean man will become a contented cow.”
Alongside, Google announced its Calico project – an enterprise “that will focus on health and well being, in particular the challenge of ageing and associated diseases”. In its report on the project, Time Magazine wrote, “The unavoidable question this raises is why a company built on finding information and serving ads next to it is spending untold amounts on a project that flies in the face of the basic fact of the human condition, the existential certainty of aging and death? To which the unavoidable answer is another question: Who the hell else is going to do it?” The pompous cover framed it in red – no one else could solve death, but Google – an organization, which has made its vast fortunes by parasitically feeding on all our private lives; The new frameworks from which we are to wrench-out the “future perfect”.
During the same time, the Chinese government built a new road to connect one of the most isolated corners of the earth with the rest of humanity – the road that stretched from Metog County in the Tibetan autonomous region to the Chinese mainland. A road that wound through the snow-capped hills – could be just like the first train line that wound through difficult terrains to reach Marquez’s Macondo – only to bring with it, the banana company hurricane, turning the town into a “fearful whirlwind of dust and rubble”… Also simultaneously, in another part of the world – people were protesting the building of new stadiums – the Brazilian people didn’t want their money to be spent on building megasporting infrastructure before their state could build better schools and hospitals. Meanwhile another “constructionmovement” began in our own backyard – one to build the tallest statue in the world of “Iron Man”, Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujrat. “Sacred soil” from all temples and Hindu religious places is being collected to build the grand statue of the latest icon who is to push India towards the grand dream of becoming a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
What lies in Metog’s or Brazil’s or India’s future, are deeply political questions, whose dialectics shape the fundamental ideas of how states build or destroy, include or exclude their people.
The year gave us many such grand new ‘structures’ to deal with –which we would be de-constructing in the years to come – for now, we just pause and reflect…
The line on the cover is taken from American artiste Krystle Warren’s song, ‘Year End Issue’… And on that note, we wish you a happy new year… let the music begin.