Love Letters from a Burning Building

"Everything that can be said about the apocalypse is already anachronistic, and everything that can be done about climate change is by definition too little too late." With this statement Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro indirectly confront the geological time with the human time—two antagonistic temporalities that rarely merge (The Ends of the World, 2016). Organizing a long-term action that transcends the individual lifetime of the human agents and spans across different generations consistently could provoke a change, but what are the odds for this to happen? Action seems to be done and subsequently undone with increasing velocity, mainly depending on which interests are at stake in that particular moment. To make and unmake, to create and delete, to sign and countersign. Sometimes, we are left wondering whether the only reasonable action would be a calm mourning of the future loss (therefore non-action). Elizabeth Kolbert stated that what is sometimes labeled as neocatastrophism, but is mostly nowadays regarded as standard geology, holds that conditions on earth change only very slowly, except when they don’t (The 6th Extinction. An Unnatural History, 2014). And so we move forward in our linear time, traversing ‘periods of boredom occasionally interrupted by panic’.

Love Letters from a Burning Building departs from the increasingly pervasive feeling of an 'imminent end' and its subsequent slightly paralyzing effect, to unpack the perceived velocity of what we usually refer to as a climate apocalypse. We tend to think about endings in Dantean terms, to imagine and represent them as explosive spectacles of flames, as sudden and radical transformations that make our familiar environment unrecognizable. However, what if the end actually unfolds as a silent retreat in slow-motion, as an almost unnoticeable disappearance that becomes perceivable only when it has already happened? What if the apocalypse does not unfold as a sudden, blinding burst into flames, but rather as an almost imperceptible disappearance, an incremental decay of structures and life-matter organizations—something that gradually fades to black even before we realize our blindness? The meteorite that provoked the K-T mass extinction may have taken several thousands of years to erase three fourths of life on Terra, not an instant—its worst effect being the looming blinding dust.

Love Letters from a Burning Building addresses the urgency to 'speak our last words' while facing doubts about the world to come, like strangely mourning a love story that seems suddenly worth saving only when we look at it through the distorting goggles of its imminent end. It presents a poetic response to the pervasive feeling of an apocalypse that increasingly surrounds us, attempting to subvert the visual expectation of sudden shifts into the ability to observe a collapse in its much slower manifestations. In this ending, which we are all unevenly part of, and in its subsequent cyclic renewal, we train our eyes to observe the seemingly-still disappearances. ‘And their eyes changed as they learned to see through flames’ (Massive Attack, Pray for Rain, Heligoland, 2010).

Photo credits: Anni Puolakka and Erika Roux, Vanitas, 2019