new wilderness gospel
new wilderness gospel
The term "apocalypse" is commonly employed as a simple synonym for catastrophe, but this casual metaphorization covers over a much richer range of signification. Used technically, apocalypse—from the Greek apokatalypsis ("a revealing")—refers to a genre of writing that has roots in antiquity. Apocalyptic texts are highly imaginative responses to situations of profound crisis, dislocation, and turmoil, that authorize their claims to knowledge by unstable practices of meaning-making, which resist institutionalization, e.g., dreams, visions, affective intuition, and concourse with otherworldly beings.
Although some apocalypses may envision the historical "end of the world," others are equally works of world construction and cosmology, instantiations of the practice of producing presence: acts of remapping an already-present world by way of a new imaginary. Our contemporary relationship to being in the world is defined by what we have ostensibly left behind. We are postmodern; post-secular; post-metaphysical; living after the "death of God" (Nietzsche) in a “disenchanted universe” (Weber); inhabitants not only of a "post 9/11 world," but at the "end of history" itself (Fukuyama). Tellingly, the Oxford English Dictionary's 2016 word of the year was "post truth." If our most cherished categories and guarantors of meaning have lost their power, does this imply that we have entered a state of consummate absence? If so, should our relation to the world be defined by an attitude of mourning or surrender? Might we then speak of the advent of the post-apocalyptic?
The New Wilderness Gospel is a meditation on what shapes "wild presence" might take within a cultural imaginary premised on absence. In collaboration with the research-based conceptual artist Kathryn Ian, I am working to realize this project as a multimedia episodic novel. More than a literary conceit, we employ apocalypticism as a methodology: geographical locations are captured through visual and audio documentation, then "imaginalized" through visual, audio, and textual manipulation, and respatialized as site-specific events. We are intent on creating a hallucinatory second world that overlaps with the everyday world—a space of interaction between the phantasmal characters and passersby. In this sense, it is an American apocalypse—not only a representation of revelation, but also, an act of uncovering. The text and images below are sketches and fragments of this work in progress.