When there is no signal, we can assume there is a malfunction in the system. It is the first sign that parts of our civilisation are experiencing a breakdown. We had a taste of system collapse during the pandemic lockdowns. Services we relied on were no longer available.
Service comes from the Latin term SERVITIUM, meaning slavery, and while it is not something we consider part of our daily lives, people still get bought, sold and moved for money. These days refugees and migrants are easy prey for exploitation and often end up in situations of total dependency or imprisonment. Officially, slavery was abolished in 1865, but there are more people enslaved around the world today than there were when slavery was legal.
There are many different forms of enslavement. Even working conditions can feel like slavery. Lately, a new enslaver has appeared in the form of technology, and with the rise of artificial intelligence, a whole new dimension of slavery has arrived on the horizon.
In this series, I have integrated trays used to serve food and drinks as painting grounds and combined them with familiar digital media icons and geometric designs. Since around 2000, the rise of cell phones and social media has dominated our interactions. With the help of these devices, a new digital reality has become normalised and has, in many ways, helped to connect us more easily. The downside is that many people feel separated, as actual human contact has decreased.
Due to our dependency on technology, we also have an increased fear of isolation. We feel uneasy when the batteries run low, the signal grows faint, communication ceases, and we are left alone in the dark.
Living through the pandemic, we experienced an existential crisis that made us question the structures we lived by. We had to examine our lives and reflect on what is important to us. What is the purpose of our existence, and can we carry on like this? We had to confront the loss of our cherished ideals of personal freedom.
At the same time, it was as if nature was breathing a sigh of relief. Without airplanes and cars polluting the atmosphere, we could breathe deeply again. What was obscured by smog before was suddenly visible again. It has been a wake-up call and a magnifier of everything that needs to be examined, re-evaluated and transformed.
By pausing our ordinary activities, we were suddenly able to see the impact our actions have on the planet’s environment. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear the alarm bells ringing. The pandemic subsided, and we returned to our old ways. 2023 has been the hottest year on record. The melting of the polar ice caps is accelerating, and extreme weather events such as fires and floods are occurring more frequently worldwide.
The ongoing inequality that pervades our society and affects all areas of life also came into clear focus. How is it possible that in 2020 homelessness is still on the rise, while a mining executive who helped to blow up a sacred aboriginal site walks away with $60 million in bonuses? We must transition from a society dominated by competition and greed to a community emphasising compassion and care that helps the underprivileged live dignified lives and fulfil their potential.
A. Spremberg 2023