Search View Archive
Critics Page

Before the Storm Clouds of the 21st Century

Mel Chin, The Killing Blow, 2015. Digitally assisted drawing. 5 x 6 4/5 inches. Courtesy the artist.

The artists tried to change us with innovative models of social practice and the democratic socialist revolution laid a clear path in response to environmental change.

But most people never took on the burden of global warming. Their minds were still collared by a yoke fitted during the last throes of capitalism. Outlawed agents of free markets returned and re-hitched the weak, taking the reins once more to steer things even deeper into the ground. The previous headlock on the overall consciousness of a consuming population resumed, a full nelson, hell-bent on wringing out every last ducat from a whipped, whimpering, depleted world.

Some of the cultural workers broke ranks with do-goody activism, returning to trust the old market-driven drivel. Some, disgusted and busted with the reversal of developments, ditched it all to hide away as creative could-have-beens, eking out their practices in small locales without notice.

The art world was trumpeted as having a hot, colorful return. But that faded at about the same time that widespread temp. sensitive chromalveolata endosymbiont death occurred, prompting the mass coral bleaching in the oceans.

All the politics and economics really didn’t matter; the damage was done.

The waters came early. Alongside smoldering hot acid rains, the oceans, unable to sequester the added carbon, unleashed a last offensive on Greenland’s frail ice. The melt-watered-sea rose, obliterating flimsy, value-engineered coastal protections. The personal jets of now-aged billionaires, who never trickled down into environmental movements and orchestrated the overthrow of the socialist democrats, were unable to take off. They slipped and slid on shit-smeared runways, the discharges of excrement, grease and pharmaceutical waste, boiling out of un-flushable sewers. A few fleeing and unable to board, wallowed in muck. They were engulfed by swarms of sucking and infecting clouds, and choked on the mosquito miasma, as acrid smoke of exploding transformer PCBs further blackened the unforgiving heavens.

Mel Chin, Enhanced Full Nelson, 2015. Digitally manipulated image. 5 × 5 9/10 inches. Courtesy the artist.

With an unexpected irony, the poor, made pariahs as the cause of all ills, sheltered some of these undeserving .01 percent-ers—their skills, honed by outcast status, had made them adept at survival. Things had been bad so long they shrugged off the climate changes, reasoning that their sufferings could not be worse than the systemic violence they had lived through.

Urban basements became ballasted breeding pools, foul cellars fostering new pestilence. Über-drug-resistant infections, and blooms of opportunistic viral agents went riding on explosive puffs of mold spores. Once airborne, that dust fell upon acre after acre of sprawling, suburban conformity. Saturated streets became canals filled with bodies, bloated fatty rafts gently rolling in unison upon fetid waters.

Coastal refugees crawled their way up to the Villes. One group led by a museum trustee, once a champion of the preservation of culture, wielded a Brancusi Bird sculpture as a bludgeon and was swaddled in shreds of Christopher Wool. He loudly claimed this high ground, a “promised land, full of good Christian country folk” and was mowed down by an Appalachian child with a sharpened garden hoe. Hill people, spooked by years of unrelenting drought, were already fighting for the last drips of ancient springs.

Hordes of urban enviro-evacuees, hollowed and crazy-eyed, met crazy-eyed hoarders of guns, loaded up and ready. Fueled by paranoid predictions of take-overs and government control, the Ville people unleashed a shredding barrage of Second Amendment justifications, finally fulfilled.

Mel Chin, Endosymbiont Flight, Polyp Death, 2015. Graphite, colored pencil on paper. 10 1/2 × 8 inches. Courtesy the artist.

Once-empathetic souls, witnesses to acts so heinous, were muted into soulless self-preserving silence. The fearsome survivors, who reacted without reflection, did not value expression or emotion. Yet these new masters of the climate chaos were hounded by internal voices, whispers howling for meaning and direction. They began their hunt for the former artists, ingenious in their aesthetics of adaptation and abstracted camouflages, to yank them from dark hidey-holes. It was hoped that those with the shattered, frenzied imaginations could predict the next steps.


Mel Chin

MEL CHIN is an artist sequestered in Egypt Township, North Carolina. He is looking for new recipes.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2015

All Issues