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Many years ago in a land far far away (San Francisco) I had a vivid nightmare that is now becoming a reality. I dreamed that I worked for a corporation that discovered that it's main product, cell phones, were killing off bees. Bees are pollinators. This may not seem important until you find out that one third of all food humans consume will disappear without them. Immediately my corporate bosses realized that the loss of bees would threaten life on Earth as we know it. Instead of solving the potentially catastrophic problem, however, we decided to cover it up. It was my job to invent a replacement for bees before anybody found out the truth.
For well over a decade I've been taking college classes to avoid defaulting on my student loans. At the time of this dream I was taking a late night City College class in contemporary art history located in a tiny, hot and cramped theater on the upper floors of a generic downtown high-rise. We were studying the scholarly article by Jean Baudrillard "Simulacra and Simulation" that is at the heart of Postmodernism. According to Baudrillard we are moving into a reality where simulated versions of our experience are becoming more "real" than the original. In fact, many of us have long forgotten the original. According to Baudrillard, we don't visit Disneyland anymore. We eat, breath, shit and live in Disneyland.
While I was taking this class the public was becoming aware for the first time of the troubling phenomenon that bee colony’s all around the world were abruptly disappearing for no apparent reason. Many were speculating that cell phones were the cause. I remember this because a survey came out of cell phone use among teens howling that many of our youth would rather die than give up their cell phones. Deep down I thought we were all going to die with our cell phones firmly in hand.
Today the bees are still dying in mass. While I don't hear any blame going to cell phones anymore, it's still an urgent and complicated problem with the billion dollar pesticide industry pumping out fake "studies" not unlike those funded by the global warming deniers who are obvious puppets of their fossil fuel overlords.
In the meantime, scientists are working on the task right out of my nightmare. Developing a robot replacement for the bees. Obviously there are colossal challenges to pulling this off but we already have models and scientists are supposedly optimistic about the chances of eventual success. Given our capacity for greed and the lack of political will to save the bees, it's no exaggeration to say we have a lot riding on this particular simulacra.
Right after awaking from this nightmare, I laid in bed wondering what will happen to the last of the real bees once we have replaced them. Perhaps they would become isolated and confused, performing some cryptic and obscure version of their original rituals and function. Then I began to wonder if we have similar lost souls among us today. We know that traditional seers and healers became "Witch Doctors" & later the more politically correct "Shaman" in the skeptical eyes of Western science and medicine. These individuals and their ways are still holding on and seem to have growing influence among those of us who are looking for new ways of understanding and coping with what appears on the surface to be a growing mess on an epic scale. A wise man recently asked me how many diseases Native Americans inflicted on the white invaders. I don't know enough history to honestly answer that question (and I don't want to be accused of romanticizing the past) but I can say this, I understand what he was trying to say. Black Elk... I for one, am listening.
One of my favorite definitions of art is that it is the religion for those who don't have a religion. For me there has always been something profound but a little "off" about art and the people who make it. Myself included.
Bees took evolution millions of years to perfect. Now human life may depend on humans developing an effective but flimsy (in comparison) replacement in a few decades. Perhaps we artists are the last of the real bees who have had our real work and identity hijacked from us by some shallow impersonator? While I may draw inspiration from the per-historic cave painters, alchemists and even the shaman living today, I don't have a cave, a tribe or artifacts to inform and define me. So I create my own. The Internet is my fountain, computer my archive and the smart phone my tool and the local copy store my laboratory.
It's been four years since my last entry. I wish I could say I was busy getting my life together and moved on from this silly blog. Instead I've been living in denial. I just turned 50 today, July 4th. I now have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, no kids and more cats than I care to admit. All of this in the wake of growing fascism (thinly veiled as populism) around the world with the center of gravity being right here in the good O'l US of A with the election of Donald Trump.
Baudrillard has never made more sense to me.
Making art has never made more sense to me.