Despite Our Ruination 尽管我们毁灭 @Shanghai Curator Lab

by Jenny Chen / Giulia Colletti / Kate Davis / Thomas Laval / Viola Yip
Artists: Adelita Husni-Bey, Hanne Lippard, Lu Pingyuan, Viola Yip & Peter Ablinger
Despite our Ruination was included in the exhibition It was a dream of a trip which was curated by 21 curators and hosted by Shanghai Curator Lab. We took one month to work together in a tense situation. That was too crazy to be true. Thanks for all friends/cooperators/enemies, I’ve learnt a lot in this long lasting dream/nightmare. 

“A constellation is made up of some stars that are nearer, others further away. It is only from our perspective, that of the here (and now), that they appear to take on a significant configuration."

Spencer, Lloyd. “On Certain Difficulties with the Translation of ‘On The Concept Of History’”, 2000


In an age of rising accountability over our most intimate gestures, where governance of borders, rights, and minds seems to be the norm, how can we evade regulation and take a journey into the unknown?


Taking cue from Walter Benjamin’s critique, Despite Our Ruination is
an exhibition that emanates from a constellation of objects. Displaying alphanumeric messages, a pager embodies impending automation, as well as the interdependency between humans and technology, which in our informational era is tinged with mysterious impulses. Within the constellation, these impulses are explored through the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text, using cleromancy to establish unexplored connections with the universe. Reimagining the rules that govern reality is a task also undertaken by science fiction novelist Octavia Butler, whose seminal book Wild Seed explores power struggles, eugenics, and cyborg identities. The blurred edges of actuality and fiction are at stake even in The Real As Imaginary, a piece by Peter Ablinger consisting of the recitation of a text over white noise that completely envelopes the speech. The white noise is, in fact, a theoretical idealization, assimilated to natural sounds such as the rain in a forest, which nurtures organic and inorganic species. In forests disturbed by humans, the matsutake grows. It is a mushroom utilised by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing as a trope to picture a post-Enlightenment natural world, one that can answer to the promise of cohabitation in a time of unprecedented human destruction. These entities are assimilated into a natureculture vision, aimed at re- establishing a synthesis of nature and culture in a time when the dualism of science and the humanities prevails.


The constellation opens up to a series of artworks that challenge normative structures of thinking while stimulating critical paths. This interpretative exercise draws on artistic practices that deconstruct limitative visions on the environment,
noise, and the future of human and non-human species. The invited artists’ research spans from visual to sound art to suggest further vanishing points that jeopardise Western normative accounts of measurability, language, and rationality. Fostering an object-oriented approach that rejects the privileging of human existence
over the existence of nonhuman 10 identities, Despite Our Ruination is an invitation to explore routes not yet standardised.


Lastly, Despite Our Ruination proposes a Virtual Reality experience of the exhibition. Accessible via an internet link it introduces an extraterrestrial setting for the artworks presented. In this free space, the conventions of the white cube no longer assert a rational framework rooted in the history of exhibitions.


Supposedly technology never dies, it’s just no longer dominant; like the pager. Mostly seen in movies, their obsolescence is assumed. However, pagers are still used in hospitals, as for urgent messages, their simplicity makes them more efficient than the pervasive smartphone. Today, we work alongside ever-evolving and increasingly intelligent machines already capable of independent learning and development. Imagine that we are the pager and these machines the smartphone; what type of future awaits us?

This, of course, is not an accurate comparison. As biological beings we have to adapt to new conditions; otherwise, we die. That being said, some humans and machines already function as cognitive units, as for the past few decades humans have bent the laws of natural selection that previously governed Earth and life. Despite the vast quantities of data being gathered, and the multitude of scientists, technologists and futurologists attempting to answer this question, future forecasts vary greatly and there are no conclusive answers or solutions.


I Ching

I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, is an ancient Chinese divination text and one of the oldest Chinese classics. Published in the Western Zhou period (late 9th century BCE), I Ching was first mentioned in Europe by Leibniz in 1703. This sparked philosophical questions, such as universality and the nature of communication. The foreword of the English edition of I Ching was written in 1949 by Carl Jung.

For Jung, I Ching was a way of exploring the unconscious, and an approach to the nonhuman field. As stated in his introduction: “The Chinese mind, seems to be exclusively preoccupied with the chance aspect of events. What we call coincidence seems to be the chief concern of this […] mind, and what we worship as causality passes almost unnoticed”. (1) The I Ching not only offers a path into the unknown but raises a counter perspective to scientific causality by investigating the asynchronicity of real events.

Wild Seed

Octavia E. Butler was an African- American science writer. Her novels and short stories tackle a scope of issues still omnipresent today, such as climate change, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor and pharmaceutical developments, as well as sexual identity. Her science-fictional storytelling warns of malignant possibles, and gives voice to destitute living forms, offering a path for an expanded understanding of the world.

Butler’s novel Wild Seed (1980) introduces Doro, a thousand-year-old cyborg living off the bodies of others. A gang from the New World destroy the African village Doro cultivated for centuries, and force him to leave. On his way, he meets a shapeshifting and equally powerful rival; Anyanwu, able to heal with a kiss. Their encounter triggers a century-long conflict jeopardising the essence of humanity.

Aside from her published writing, Butler’s notebooks serve as a space for her innermost thoughts. These pages enliven Butler’s practice and inform
her inspirations and horizons. Partial sketches of a novel, or an expression of a condensed state of mind, mirror the author’s profound wishes for humankind.

The Real as Imaginary

Peter Ablinger’s The Real as Imaginary is a composition for a solo speaker and noise. The performer can have any voice type; however, the text should be translated into a language that the audience can understand. The performance noise track should be generated by the sum of frequencies in the recording of the performer’s recitation of the text. The noise track, then, needs to be further filtered through oscillated frequency bands to create “windows”.

As a result, this noise track is played at a volume that is just loud enough to envelop the performer’s voice; but with the oscillated “windows”, the voice floats between the foreground, background and space in between.

The Real as Imaginary questions whether the “imaginary” and the “real” oppose each other in our perception. Ironically, perceiving reality relies on our imagination, as Ablinger expressed, “I had asked whether it would ever be possible to reach the real, whether it would ever be possible to break through the prison of my imaginations onto the real.” (2)

The monologue allows Ablinger to search for the idea of the “real”, and the relationship between the “real” and the “imaginary”. At the end of the text, he concludes that:

The imaginary as real, and equally the real as imaginary – this would then be, so to say, a formula for the interpenetration of the two, a formula for the living and for the being-here.” (3)



We are stuck with the problem of living despite economic and ecological ruination. Neither tales of progression nor of ruin tell us how to think about

collaborative survival. It is time to pay attention to mushroom picking. Not that this will save us – but it might open our imagination.”(4)

The matsutake is one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world, as it grows in destroyed forests across Asia and North America. Due to its capacity to nurture trees, matsutakes enable forests to flourish in human-damaged places. It
is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it can fetch astronomical prices. In The Mushroom at the End of the World, Anna Tsing offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms, using the matsutake to ask a crucial question: how are we going to live in the ruins we have made?

The matsutake becomes a metaphor to narrate a tale of diversity within our daunting landscapes, exploring the unexpected edges of consumerism, and challenging the connections between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes; demonstrating the potential for fungal ecologies to foster a better understanding of cohabitation in a time of significant human destruction.

(1) Wilhelm R. (trad.) and C.G. Jung (Foreword), The I Ching, or, Book of Changes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 3rd edition, 1967.
(2) html
(3) html
(4) Tsing, A., The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

星丛是由一些距离较近的星星组成 的,另一些则相对远。它只从我们的 角度出发,而在此时此地,它们显现 为一种重要的构型。

劳埃德·斯宾塞,《论翻译“历史概念” 的若干困难》,2000



假设技术永远不会消亡,它只是不再占据主导地位; 像寻呼机一样。 我们可以经常在电影中看到被过时化的它们。然而,寻呼机仍然在医院使用,至于紧急信息,它们的简单性使它们比普及的智能手机更有效。今天,我们与不断发展且日益智能的机器一起工作,这些机器已经能够独立学习和开发。 想象一下,我们是寻呼机,这些机器是智能手机; 什么样的未来等着我们?

当然,这不是一个准确的比较。作为生物,我们必须适应新的条件; 否则, 我们就会面临死亡。话虽如此,一些人类和机器已经被作为认知单元在发挥作用,因为在过去的几十年里,人类已经扭曲了曾经统治地球和生命的自然选择规律。尽管收集了大量数据,众多科学家、技术专家和未来学家都在试图回答这个问题,但未来的预测差异很大,也没有确定的答案或解决方案。



对于荣格而言,《易经》是一种探索无意识的方式,也是一种探索非人类领域的方法。 正如他的介绍中所述:“中国人的思想似乎完全专注于事件的偶然性方面。 我们所说的巧合似乎是这种思想的主要关注点,而我们所崇拜的因果关系几乎没有被注意到“。(1)《易经》不仅为我们提供了进入未知世界的道路,而且通过调查真实事件的异步性, 提出了与科学因果关系的相反视角



巴特勒的小说《野生种子》(1980) 讲述了一个有着千年历史的赛伯格“多罗”的故事,他依靠其他人的身体存活。一天,来自新大陆的一伙人摧毁了几个世纪以来由多罗耕耘的非洲村庄, 迫使他离开。路上他遇到了一个能变形并且和他同样强大的竞争对手:安言午,能够用吻来愈合创伤。他们的遭遇引发了长达一个世纪的冲突,并危及人性的本质。



彼得·阿林格的《真实如虚幻》由独诵和噪音演奏组成。表演者可以用任何音区演奏;但是,诵词需要被翻译成观众可以理解的语言。表演者需表演前把诵词录音,然后把音轧的所有音频重叠,形成噪声。然后,需要通过振荡频带进一步过滤噪声轨道以创建“ 窗口”。这个噪音音轨一方面能以音量包围表演者的声音;而另一方面,声音随着振动的“窗口”在前景、背景和噪音跟诵词的空间之间浮动。

《现实如虚幻》质疑“想像”和“现实” 在我們的感知中是否相互對立。 諷刺地,感知现实依賴於我們的想像力, 正如阿林格在词中表達:“我曾經問過是否可以達到现实,是否有可能突破想像力的監控来感知现实。”(2)

这独白允许阿林格寻问“现实”的概念,以及“现实”和“虚构”之间的关系。 在文本的最后,他得出结论:

“虚构作为真实,同样是现实的假想 – 这就是说,这是两者一个相互渗透的公式,和一个生活和此在的公式。” (3)


“尽管经济和生态破坏,我们仍然陷于生存问题。无论是进步还是毁灭的传说都没有告诉我们如何思考共同生存。现在是时候关注蘑菇采摘。并不是说这会拯救我们 – 但它可能会打开我们的想像力。“(4)





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