Monday, March 19, 2012

What's with all the frakkin' apocolypti?

Updated: March 21, early in the a.m.
The canvas in the accompanying photos
to this posting is called
"Grief And Beyond"
It was begun after I received word about the
death of a friend's mother, recently.
My friend Z, lost his grandmother this winter
and my own mum passed, a little while ago.

The main character in the composition is "the survivor". The antlers are representative of "acquired knowledge or wisdom", in shamanic pictography, worldwide.

The main action in the background is the allegorical crossing of the Styx and an imagining of the transition from flesh and information to mystery.

I'll post the video about this piece, shortly.


"What's With All The Frakkin' Apocalypti?"

- That may be the question that you are asking yourself if you've been following my newest endeavour: The Zzorhn And BingoRage Show. An atavistic, yet intellectual, cultural review. Certainly, there are moments of quiet desperation, near-crying and sulky bitchiness...
but shit gets real, occasionally.

The title refers to this season's overarching goal: Staring down the Mayan Apocalypse, millenialism, armageddon-seekers, fear-mongers and the impending panopticon.

It started out as a comedy podcast, but is hardly ever funny; not that there aren't moments of humour amidst the pathos. We are the embodiment of "a little knowledge being dangerous" in a world where authority is being leveraged to make us stupid, reproductively overzealous, poor and docile.

"dangerous"? To whom? Certainly not to our neighbours, friends and family; our whole community. No. "Speaking Out" is a danger to the powers-that-be, whom are civically and morally obligated to oppress us.

So, we are exploring the ideas of apocalypse, cultural and imperial collapse, armageddons, existential threat and popular media.

That's what I've been up to. That and painting... and a little sculpture... and some #AggroDemocraticoDocumentarianism. I have been promising Zzorhn and our "viewership" that I would start publishing more videos. I must apologise; I feel that I have some sort of mental block that is preventing me from publishing what is already essentially done. A ridiculous inability to finish punching a few more buttons and make a few more decisions.

Tonight; I remedy this, with Media Trap. This piece was painted to accompany a previous "Zzorhn And BingoRage" episode: "Media and the Technological Apocalypse".

During our most recent show, we spoke about Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" and "Fight Club" as our relevant movies. This is my review...

[Spoilers ahead.]
Apocalypto; A review of the 1996 film as history and metaphor, keeping in mind who made it.
Eric C. Keast, March 07, 2012


Mel Gibson’s epic film, Apocalypto, starts out as an Anthropological tour of pre-Columbian tribes of Central America. There is hunting, sex and humour in village life, but a hint of darkness is creeping into their jungle, pushing refugees before it.

The main character, Jaguar Paw, wakes from a prophetic dream, warning him to flee, but it is already too late. Empire comes to ravage his village and enslave his extended family; it is all that he can do to save his wife and child, before capture. Thus begins the march to the top of the world.

As they approach the outskirts of the Mayan city-state, they skirt the edge of a tremendous clearcut stretching to the horizon; the jungle is being mowed back, one tree at a time.

It is at this point that the film’s universe turns.

The city’s newest slave acquisitions are marched past a strange sight beside the road; a crying girl standing over a fallen body... a woman. They are both covered in some terrible growths. The returning captors beat her back in disgust, when her cries for pity are rebuffed. She carries “the sickness”, which the captors know enough of... to fear.

All the fear leave the child’s character and is replaced by judgement. The child becomes an angel of doom and pronounces her judgement on the empire. The implication is that the child represents some sort of divine intervention.

But from whom? Quezalcoatl? Jaguar? Nope...

It’s Mel Gibson... in allegorical representation. We have left the anthropological reconstruction behind and have entered a story-space of cultural propaganda. The girl represents a physical wave of biological destruction that spread out in fron of the first Europeans and their new religion. Her appearance as an angel, bringing divine judgement is lacking a line: “There is a new god in town and he’s about to start kicking ass... Yay, Christianity!!”

Now, just wait... don’t get all knee-jerky, just yet. Just because Mel is a little right of the current pope in Catholic matters doesn’t mean that this is a bad movie. I think that it is a great movie and a great representation of a cultural era that it is hard for us to fully conceive of, as modern “western” viewers.

But as a rural-Canadian, obvious leftwing-artist-type and Ahnishnahbeh; I have to say that the movie should not be seen without considering it as a cultural object, with implications in its imagery. All cultural objects have an agenda, either constructed and/or acquired.

The captors lead the jungle-dwellers through various layers of the city, which has extended its feeding of wood, stone and blood outward, like the tentacles of an organism.

The film’s delicious visuals of mass human labour and epic civil endeavour resonates with the imagery of Dante and Hieronumus Bosch. The bound captives are being guided through the various layers of hell. They pass a column of slaves cutting and chewing up rocks for the city; varying in size from pyramid block to plaster dust. They pass through layers of charcoal-makers (fire), madness, sickness, poverty, failed agriculture, starvation.

As they enter the city, the central market is abuzz with activity and produce. Although the countryside is failing and the vast population of the culture is slowly being deprived of their lives, things seem to be just fine inside the city.

It is at this point that new “castes” of people are introduced, the “elite”. They sit around the city, laughing and carefree. Some are carried about the city. Others participate in its important religious duties. There are priestess and musicians working double time; singing and preparing the ongoing ceremonies.

Husband are separated from wife and child. The men continue the march to die; the others to be sold or discarded.

The raucus machine of death continues in an orderly fashion. The sacrifices are painted a special blue and marched past a beautiful painting of their impending doom, explaining the procedure. It is kind of like a boilerplate sacrifice-contract that you ink with your passing. Nice touch.

Then. It is up the ramp... to the top of the world.

The death that the head-priest and the King’s family have in wait for you at the top of this Mayan city-state really, really sucks. I’ll save that and the ending for yous that haven’t seen it yet. I want to talk about cynicism and history, now.

The obvious questions in your mind at this point in the movie should be “Why the fuck is this happening?” and “What the fuck?!!!!” You should be ANGRY, or at least feeling a little bit ill by this point. If you have no empathy or sympathy with the jungle people about to die or live in slavery for the rest of their lives, you really should. They are you. Let me explain.


The sacrificial lambs may not be all of you, but they are most of you. Most of us. They are the victims of a social machine evolved from spare parts of resource extraction, resource management, history and myth, labour shortage, technology, power and religion.

They are the victims of a cynical ploy by the super-elite class to buy some more time and power atop the apocryphal “heap” of the regional power system. Using their society’s intellectual and scientific resources, they time the tightly-managed harvest and murder of their neighbouring societies to coincide with a solar eclipse and “prove” their rights to rule as successful petitioners of the gods and their right to skim the very best off the top of their society as directors of its economy.

Now the question that would never be asked at the top of that pyramid is : “Is it OK for us to pretend that ours is an unquestionable path, even though everything is a lie and we live by the suffering of millions below us?”

The implication of the story is that the ceremonies are now over, because of the eclipse. It is not certain how long this bloodshed has been going on, but a later scene indicates that there are hundreds if not thousands of victims.

The gruesome imageries depicted in the movie are probably good representation of events that actually occurred at different times in the Mayan empire, perhaps at every significant astronomical event. It is not known to me if those types of mass sacrifice were still going on during the earliest contact period with Europeans. The height of the Mayan empire had already passed by that time, fragmenting into smaller city-states. The Mayans, of course, still walk among us.

The last portion of the movie completes the arc of Jaguar Paw and lands the judgement of the plague-angel's prophecy.


No comments: