Some Musings on the Apocalypse

a picture of a raggedy poster asking Are You Ready? Under a heading of 'Zombie Apocalypse'Image shared via a CC license on flickr by lukeroberts

For a small piece of Christmas/art intervention that Mr Andy Field released into the world this December passed, I wrote a snippet about moments. It was sort of about how I like the taste of cigarettes on some people, and mostly about what I wanted for Christmas, which, as it turned out, was a series of moments. This was one of them:

I would like something like a Zombie Armageddon, but not. Kind of like the kind of situation where you have to survive by your wits and strength, a well packed bag, and good fore-planning, but where no one dies, really.

So I guess, like, maybe camping?

I’m thinking about apocalypse at the moment. Well, more than usually at the moment. A couple of sniffs of apocalypse in the theatre air (including Andy’s piece ‘Zilla’), a couple of recent calls for ideas/work on the theme of it, and also, if I’m honest, much of my work –  ‘Home’ most openly – and reading continues to be fascinated with it. With the end of the world, or at the very least the end of the world as we know it. Ruthlessly nagging as my mind sometimes is, it now frames the question: ‘why exactly is that?’

There’s something that strikes me about the ideas of late capitalism simmering in my thesis-related reading; that of a culture in which the wars no longer physically approach us and our ways of life (this is why terrorism, rare though it is, makes such a good bogey-man for the state), where we are alienated both from production and from the processes behind that which we consume – our food, our clothing; a world where the cold war has passed, and no one born in the West need starve (though they do, in nursing homes, on the streets, in hospitals, and on housing estates; as the food mounts up in the skips around the back of Pret-a-Manger and Sainsbury’s). Imminent death isn’t around the next corner for you or I (a reasonably safe assumption, if you can access this blog). Oh it is, in an abstract, hit-by-a-bus sort of way, but only one person ends there; not a street, a community, a country, a way of life. Apocalypse is everyone, and everyone will always include you.

In a world where survival is no longer your main imperative, in a country where natural disasters are relatively rare, and in a culture which has become so multiplicitous in its things to aim for, is there something of an urge for something base, simpler, purer, more physical?

Or is fashionable bogeyman of my time, the zombie, another kind of cry against capitalism –writ of the ultimate fear of the consumer – the masses; of conformity, or the logical extrapolation of consumer culture (that what it is we consume, is eventually our selves)?

Or is it, instead, the psychological preparation of a generation pretty much brought up being taught about the environment, climate change. Are we testing ourselves? Is my urge for a self sufficient, high up house in the middle of nowhere driven by an urge to avoid reliance on the gossamer threads that hold our society together, because I expect them to fall apart? Not now, but soon. As the waters start to rise; as the food prices rocket; as the climate refugees crowd our shores.

Or perhaps not, before now there was Threads, Akira, the Death of Grass, War of the Worlds, before that Frankenstein and all that his monster represented of the fear of what we can make of ourselves. And well, the Bible had quite a few decades sorted in terms of scary stories about the apocalypse.

Thinking about an end of days is not a new thing. And probably it’s partly about survival, but mostly, I think, it’s about death. Though those things aren’t without the other. Perhaps we just watch the leaves fall from trees, and in their small deaths muse on how they outlive us. Perhaps we mourn the opportunity to sit and watch trees shed their leaves, and so invent monsters that move much faster, exponentially, that threaten us enough to make us feel attached to the ground again. Perhaps something inscribed in our particles knows we sit on an arrow of time; knows that out of order comes chaos, heat death, inexorably. Perhaps we tell stories about these things, because that is our story. Beginning, middle; End.

And theatre. Isn’t theatre, or live performance, or bodied artistic experience (whatever you like to call it to include non-trad theatre) exactly a fascinating place to explore the idea of ‘end’? With its nightly worlds that burn brightly, and are then snuffed out?

I think that’s a bit too pat, actually. And our end comes slowly, like a collage, built of moments. Maybe a slide from order to chaos. I think that’s where my ideas start at the moment – on using sound, collage, moments, finding a form, creating an audio experience that swims from order to chaos. Maybe.

Those are the ill-formed thoughts swarming around my mind at the moment. Add yours?

This is an new kind of thing for my blog, which I’m tagging ‘thoughts‘, and will kind of be about dwelling on my imperfect and incomplete ideas openly, and hopefully, collaboratively. So do comment. So far I have done two ‘thoughts’. Both have been about ends of worlds. I do think about other things, promise.

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3 Responses to “Some Musings on the Apocalypse”

  1. Virginie March 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    The other day I was saying to one of my cousins, whom I’m very close to, that I will not go back to France before 2012. (I meant 2020, but didn’t want him to get upset). He said well, maybe there won’t be anything after 2012. He then commented on the recent events in Japan and explained that this is pretty much how the film 2012 begins. I’m afraid he does believe the world might end soon, and he worries about it.
    It reminded me of stock phrases I came up with at school – I used to say them all the time: ‘the tragedy is not that we might die, it’s that we’re not dead yet’, ‘the tragedy is not that I may get hit by a bus any day, it’s that I may not’ and so on…
    Although myths around death are quite universal and very old indeed, the way we think about death and the end of the world at the moment is quite specific to ‘us’, early 21st century ‘Westerners’. An old man who once visited my school said he never thought about death during the Second World War – not even when the Germans put him and his friends in a row and opened fire. Not even when he realised all his friends were down to the ground and he was the only one still breathing. There was no time for the commodity of thinking about it all. Instinct took over. He ran away, without thinking at all, and didn’t start ‘thinking’ again until the war ended. Sadly, I imagine there are lots of places in the world where people function that way as I write.
    So, thinking about death and the end of the world the way we do could just be yet another commodity… I can nearly put it on the shelf between my DVDs and my iPod. I don’t think the world will end, but I’m fairly certain mankind will. And I’m convinced that the tragedy is now, while we’re waiting for ‘it’. Once we’re gone, what does it matter? Will the geraniums on our window sills mourn us? And I reckon that all in all, because we are the only species that cares about the concept, the apocalypse is now… and the tragedy is, the apocalypse might never end.

  2. Hannah Nicklin March 22, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks for this, Virginie! Brilliant thoughts x

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