Toxic assets. 2018
Toxic Assets or the Cave of Post-Consumerism
By Aristarkh Chernyshev
The modern world has a great variety options for anything, from entire lifestyle concepts to collar styles for your pet. The choice is humongous. The wider the choice, the less is the desire to carefully look through all the options...
The fundamentals of consumption are rapidly changing. Why would you invest in something expensive if tomorrow the trendsetters for this type of product will spin a new flavor of the month to make your choice helplessly obsolete so that you need to change everything!
Before the days of the internet, you could fix yourself a personal heaven with a wall cabinet set, fill it with crystalware, and stay relevant for decades. Now, the prized belongings of past consumer generations will be lucky to get moved to a summer house for indefinite storage or otherwise, in the typical scenario, get thrown away.
It is pointless to cram your home with excessive stuff since it is going to become a burden by tomorrow. Consumption is shaping to be a demonstrative ritual in the form of going to a mall. There, you can even take a nap on a couch in a furniture store, try on a dozen rags and get a cafe coupon or just have a promoted meal for free.
The modern consumer spends most of their time at work, in college, or in places where other similar consumers congregate. There is just no time for making your home a more welcoming place, but why would you do that?—more often than no it is a rental anyway.
Owning things—either real estate or movables—is making increasingly less sense, becomes a burden and takes the owner hostage.
The projects are sprouting left and right on city fringes and former industrial districts.
This new “residential” housing is basically overnight storage for consumer bodies that go to work every morning in order to expand their consum-er options that await them in the nearest temple of Consumption in the evening or on weekends.
The lifespans of consumer goods are rapidly shrinking; sometimes purchases are even binned in their intact original packaging. The aesthetics of garbage piles and perpetual city repairs permeate our lives and become part of everyday reality. This breeds a sensation of “perpetual temporari-ness”—as if this all is just about to end and you will be able to simply enjoy the flow of life. Yet, this temporariness has firmly rooted itself in our lives. We now need to learn to live with it or try and drastically change something, falling into the pit of temporariness again.
Accumulating possessions grow too costly to store and ultimately turn into a briefcase without a handle, or what is called a “toxic asset.” According to post-consumerism, the escape from this situation is in consumption relieved of a material good and, again, the options abound: rentals, subscriptions, networks for shared use of things or housing without transfer of property titles.
Post-consumerism is a new, “green” consumerism; it is an old, stale product in a new shiny package.
It’s a bargain!
Ruins of the Global Digital Archive
Power consumption by the servers that run the social media and other services for image generation or storage (video, 3D, neural networks) continues to grow. This electricity would be enough to power a couple of small European states. If you estimate the power demands of round-the-clock production facilities, government agencies and banking systems, then the question, which is often posed by the connoisseurs and collectors of “real art,” what would happen to media art if there is no electricity, does not just sound absurd—it’s a question of a person who has absolutely no clue and does not register their surroundings at all.
If there suddenly were no power, we would not in the least care about art. We will be preoccupied with survival, so the dim glimmer of media objects, screens and projections is, in fact, sending us the message that everything is fine and calm, the power plants are humming away, transactions are being made and the first responders are vigilant.
In this context, the inclination to materialize digital data appears far outdated, simply a desire to calm our own sense of touch, as in pinching yourself to make sure this is the material world still.
Since Autodesk released its beta version of 123Catch in 2012, I have been involved with photogrammetry. By 2016 I had a few terabytes of photogrammetric data. Sifting through and analyzing the data I saw that its structure is very much like human memory. When you recall a place, usually, your memory floats a space that you once saw, but you do not know what is outside your field of vision—this is very similar
to the structure of photogrammetric data. It is also fragmented and it may lack details, in this case discarded by an imperfect algorithm rather than your memory. This data is a three-dimensional grid with reality stretched over it as a texture and this is another commonality with human memory. It is a stage decoration or a crust that, unlike the real world, has nothing underneath.
At the end of the day, just like in our memory, there are true details, however they combine into an image devoid of reality, into a certain personal dystopia, ruined by its fragmented nature and flaws in algorithms that recreate volume in space using a sequence of photographic images. We exchange these replicas of reality, compare them and find matching points that can be arranged into a more faithful image of the world. Now, if you think of the vast expanses of user data stored on photogrammetry servers, Instagram, social media, messengers, then the ruins of the global digital archive come before your virtual eyes.