Postapocalyptic thought contains an anthropological and historical paradox, because it allows human rationality to observe itself after its own „disappearance”, through a posthuman optic. According to Eva Horn, this is equivalent to the apocalyptic fantasy of a futurum perfectum, in which the future is exposed as catastrophe within a present already sutured with the void of an abyssal future.
The anthropological paradox emerges when we reflect upon the following question: are humans capable of reflecting on their own disappearance? Furthermore, how may the experience of disappearance and extinction be integrated into experience, if at all? Furthermore, does the futural survivor of extinction have any historicity, is it a historical being, if the human world has been reduced to a state of ruination? Can history survive the apocalypse? Or, as Walter Benjamin held, does natural history remain the sole form of historicity in the wake of catastrophe, in which humans come to be reintegrated in the form of geological layers and mineral elements?
The Futurum Perfectum
exhibition attempts to uncover the content of the postapocalyptic paradox we have outlined above, in the context of an inorganic visual poetic context. In the center of the exhibit is Péter Lichter’s Frozen May
, an experimental horror film
, reflected by artists from the Budapest Horror scene and their occasional allies with different media strategies.
Up to the present the Budapest Horror has engaged in subversive representations of bodies, but Futurum Perfectum
presents viewers with a new dimension of uncanny aesthetics, for Lichter’s film explors the question if there is a landscape left for the „Last Man”. What we are confronted with is an experiment in Anthropocene art, art without human protagonists.
The exhibition presents us with an ambivalent tension between aesthetization and materiality, as the ethereal, artificial atmosphere of Lichter’s film is interestingly brought into contrast with a very real and palpable materiality. Within these aestheticized landscapes residual forms are contrasted with the apparent formlessness of nature, albeit we cannot forget that materiality itself is never clean, pure or untouched.
In their various ways, the works of Márk Fridvalszki, Attila Szűcs, Zsófia Keresztes, László Győrffy and Csaba Kis Róka represent materiality as always already constructed, artificial and impure. Matter is dirty, hence art attuned to the call of matter must rid itself of any idealistic attachment to a supposedly untouched, unblemished natural realm. Through a process of decay and decline, nature exposes the simulation of landscapes through a proliferation of material and objective simulations.
No longer can we identify any essence within nature, a non-substantial morass already mixed together with technologies, codes, constructs and structures. Nature, landscape, matter: these are all nothing more than elements of a stage, a theater in which emptiness mimes itself into presence in the context of an aesthetic strategy, a performance within which the role of humans comes to be ever more restricted. Neither actors nor viewers, we are doomed to disappear from the theater of Being.
Márió Z. Nemes