virality_curve

Communication is a fascinating thing – because it isn’t really a thing. Nobody has ever seen ‘a’ communication. Of course, there are books, songs, emails and posts like this, but if noone ever reads this text, it isn’t communicating anything. A poem in a drawer that nobody but the poet has ever seen isn’t communication. It has to be shared, people have to read and ‘understand’ it (“I don’t get it, but this seems to be a poem”) and then to respond to it – for instance by writing another one. Or by today’s way of approval: “I like.”

This is why I prefer the plural: communications. It takes two to communicate, the same way it takes two to tango – taali do haath se bajtihai.

Some communications make a hell of a career for themselves. They go viral. Literally, they are infectious. Older examples are the Bible. The Quran. Homer’s Odyssey. Or think of songs by Taylor Swift, films by Spielberg, poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, paintings by Sadequain. Or even of everyday phrases like ‘You know’, and words like ‘like’. Other forms aren’t successful at all. We can call them flops.

As a theorist, I am interested in the mechanisms of this selection. Why do some terms become popular while others don’t? Take, for instance, the word ‘Globalization’, that was used long before, but only after Theodore Levitt  mentioned it in an 1983 article, the term itself became ‘global’. Or ‘climate change’. I would have never imagined that a term as complicated as ‘deconstruction’ could become so popular, but nowadays nearly everyone claims to be a deconstructivist.

The word that Paul J. Crutzen coined in 2000 has also made a remarkable career: ‘anthropocene’. What are the reasons for this success story?

To me, the main reason is that ‘anthropecene’ is not – as it claims to be – simply and solely a geological term. It has a deeply moral dimension to it. It includes a dramatic gesture that ascribes responsibility and at the same time asks for possible charges. Not humanity, so the idea, but the West, the European civilization is in the dock.This is why some prefer to speak of the ‘Eurocene’ instead. (Personally, I’d prefer to talk about those agencies that have acquired industrial techniques developed in Europe – and those agencies can include Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese as well as Germans or ‘Britishers’.)

This, however, is not the only reason for its success. It also matches perfectly with another semantic virus – the apocalypse. As Peter Sloterdijk has shown, the term anthropocene is conclusive only in the apocalyptic logic in which the world is evaluated from its end, as a sorting method in which the wicked are separated from the good. Which explains why it has become such an important part of the end rhetoric of the intellectual elite, especially in former European colonies like Pakistan.

I’ll be the first to admit that watching the world end in a movie can be fun, just like a rollercoaster ride. While buildings and people go down in flames and disaster strikes, we comfortably sit in our chairs, munching on some popcorn. But the prophets of the apocalypse are dead serious. They don’t just tell a horror story. They mean it: “Breaking news – the end is near!” What could be the function of this warning?

The answer is simple: visions of the end bring those who proclaim it an interested audience. And in the best case: converts. If the end is near and inevitable, then there is only one salvation – to profess the faith. It must of course be the right faith. Many of those who proclaim the end do have – coincidentally, of course – exactly this product to sell.

Communication is a fascinating thing, but it won’t save our planet – nor is it interested in doing so. All it wants to do is to continue. If this planet dies, it can’t. Maybe that’s why we should try to save it – so we can go on telling each other stories about the end.

no man is an island

Dear Friends

This is the second email about the EU referendum you’ve received from me since I uploaded my posters at the end of April.

We’ve now updated the posters, shifting the focus from voter registration to getting people out to vote Remain on 23rd June.

Please go to my website www.tillmans.co.uk to download both jpgs for social media and a PDF to self print posters. Please forward this mail and encourage friends to do the same. No need to hashtag me when posting.

A couple of nights ago I wrote a comment piece for Time Out London magazine and website to be published on Monday. In it I use an image that came to my mind the other day. Should a Leave vote happen next Thursday, Britain’s message to the 444 million remaining EU members will feel a bit like this:

We lived together for over 40 years in this apartment building of 28 flats. Every member having a key to their own flat and some having even an extra lock on like Britain. We lived together in peace and got used to each other’s oddities. We even got down the utility bills, like phone and air travel and many more, but now I can’t stand living with you any longer. I hate it so much that I want to move out.

Brexiters shelter the public from having to think about what a snub this would be. The EU is not a machine; it is the representation of 508 million people.

Please post the posters and messages, maybe one a day to keep Brexit away.

The xenophobic Vote Leave campaign is part of an international mood to break things. Whether it’s Trump or Johnson, these attacks on the pillars of our society all reflect the same divisive mood.

Best wishes,
Wolfgang

Dear Friends,

I’m sure you are also following with horror the rightwards drift and anti-EU sentiment brewing across Europe. The Dutch referendum should be the final wake-up call, alerting people to the real risk of the UK’s EU referendum resulting in a victory for Leave.

The official ‘Remain’ campaign feels lame and is lacking in passion. It also lacks an active drive to get voters registered – and with the deadline already falling two weeks before the referendum, this should be an urgent priority.

I want to get involved and actively campaign. In particular, I want to work towards maximizing turnout among younger voters by focusing on the first, crucial step: voter registration – the deadline for which is June 7! So anyone who hasn’t registered before this date has no chance of having a say, no matter how strongly they feel about the issue. So the really crucial date is June 7. Everyone’s grannies registered their vote long ago, but students no longer get automatically registered by their unis. This is because of a new law brought in by the Conservatives that makes it possible for them to disenfranchise up to 800,000 students, who as a group tend to move around a lot more and so drop off the voter register easily. I feel that we have reached a critical moment that could prove to be a turning point for Europe as we know and enjoy it – one that might result in a cascade of problematic consequences and political fall-out. Firstly, the weakening of the EU is a goal being actively pursued by strongmen like Vladimir Putin and European parties on the far-right. Brexit could effectively spell the end of the EU. It’s a flawed and problematic institution, but on the whole it stands for a democratic worldview, human rights and favours cooperation over confrontation.

It could prove to be a one-in-a-generation moment. Can you imagine the years of renegotiations for undoing treaties, and all the negativity that would surround that.

Over the past few weeks, my assistants at my London and Berlin studios and Between Bridges have been working with me on these texts and designs. Please download here a PDF (15 mb) of 25 ready-to-print posters which my studio and myself wrote and designed over the last few weeks. They are best in A3 but also work of course in A4. Just take the PDF to any copy shop and ask for A3 size colour laser prints. I noticed the images spread fast on social media but then don’t stick around. Please help make the campaign have a lasting presence by making prints and physically sticking them up. I consider them open-source, you can take my name tag off if more appropriate.

Let’s hope for the best – but hope may not be enough.

Wolfgang

unnamed1

transmediale iphone china

hi everybody,

I’m very happy to be able to show and discuss IPHONCHINA in it’s final version
at Transmediale Festival 2015 in Berlin.
the show will start on sunday at 6pm at Haus der Kulturen der Welt/ House of World Cultures.

http://www.transmediale.de/content/iphonechina. the version to be seen is in english and mandarin.

afterwards we should all have a drink together.
France seems to love my films from the very start on, so,
THE DUBAI IN ME will be shown in Marseille in february, and IPHONCHINA in Bordeaux in may.
I updated my website www.masseundmacht.com, and you can check all activities there.
I’m M and MOCRACY are now on vimeo:
hoping to seeing you here and there, and please comment.

love, christian