Karma Fails (2016 – ongoing)
“Visualization becomes a way of engaging with a political and existential problem of great magnitude.” (Joanna Zylinska)
“When we cut ourselves off from mortality and fear death, we become our worst enemy in this relentless story of making ourselves in the image of death.” (Donna Haraway)
Karma Fails is the first chapter of Turbulent Times. Nothing Happens in Nice Weather, a series developing in the frame of a wider debate about the Anthropocene, thus inevitably dealing with it. We approached the problem with a question: despite the fascination for geologic time scales, deep time, dystopian sceneries, the mainstream apocalyptic rhetoric and humanity self-subtle-celebration through the acknowledgement of its almost-divine agency on Earth, what kind of humanity is endowed with such a power? The answer is scary and discouraging, usually resulting in a laugh. A bitter one, maybe.
In the widespread consolidation of soft powers on the collapse of social contract, all problems become a personal test for the good life, while the global conflict for control is played through the use of memes, shitposting and nerd culture. We are taught to develop a deeper self-love while facing a catastrophe perhaps unparalleled in human history, living in a period of intolerable extraction, unequal human deprivation, multispecies extinctions, and blasted ecosystems.
Meditation perfectly fits the selfish ideology of wellness, where individual productivity and healthy living are status symbols, fueled by the trendy branch of wearable tech products. As Lordo Rinzler, founder of MNDFL, one of the trendiest meditation studios in NYC, says: “it’s no longer your spiritual friend saying you should try meditation, it’s your doctor.”
It is a natural development for the networked society, the roots of which can be found in 1970s Silicon Valley counterculture, deeply influenced by Eastern meditation. As capitalism appropriated of it, that ancestral practice became a trendy tool to increase economical profit, labour exploitation, soldiers performances, to decrease the costs of welfare and insurance premiums. Now freed from any New-Age influence and its original pacifist ideology, today meditation is often supported by a rhetoric of employability-boosting and mood-hacking, practiced in harmony with the so called AirSpace aesthetics and Apple products’ design. It has become an effective biopolitical device, keeping a growing percentage of people busy in smiling at life while the world burns.
Witnessing this phenomenon we asked ourselves if the malleability of meditation could be turned into a systemic weakness. We started to “hack” meditation to create an infinite-renewable source of energy and a tool for critical thinking, to turn it into a language that helps focusing on and deconstructing the pervasive visual stereotypes of capitalism in the Anthropocene. This activity is promoted and performed through a fake meditation studio, called Meditation Is Visualization. Introducing people and art-professionals to critical visualization, we try to generate a viral and partecipative process of visual analysis in an epoch of rising fascisms driven by the visual.