Inna Kolupaeva: Abstraction, Genocide and the Future Dying Sun
Inna Kolupaeva sent me this image when I was on the look-out for art pertaining to Power. I’m told it’s a still frame from “The Balance” – an art film Kolupaeva presented at an exhibition called “Me and the Armenian Genocide” at the Modern Art Museum in Yerevan, Armenia in 2015.
You must understand, dear reader, that beyond what I have written above, I have very little to go on here. In an age where the ubiquity of a more or less reliable internet connection is largely taken for granted in the West, communication with Inna has proven to be difficult because this is not a luxury she has. There is also a major language barrier between us. These two elements combined have made for a very brief, rather cryptic correspondence.
The experience has ripped me out of my Western context of instant inter-connective gratification. No matter. I will do my best to flesh out Inna’s concerns and bring them to your attention.
I’m told that the abstract geometric spheres relate to a universal principle. I’m not told which universal principle that is, nor how it relates to genocide generally or the Armenian genocide in particular. I thus propose to fill in the blanks with something I do know happens on a universal scale and how this might correlate with the process of murderous mass culling of a targeted group perceived as “other” than self.
When I look at that big red sphere encroaching on the smaller silhouetted one, it reminds me of an inexorable process that happens towards the end of a star’s life. All stars are born in nebulas. Over millions of years, these proto-stars eventually stabilize into main sequence stars.
For much of its life, a main sequence star is powered by nuclear fusion generated by hydrogen atoms at its core. But over billions of years, the star’s core atoms change: as it burns out its fuel, these core atoms change from hydrogen to helium. This makes it expand in size, but decrease in mass. Eventually, a main sequence star like our sun evolves into a red giant star.
During this last phase of its existence, our sun will certainly engulf and subsume Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. All evidence that these worlds ever existed will vanish. Our own planet – host to a vibrant biosphere, will perish. Like Cronus devouring his sons, our sun will cannibalize this planet and the life that it sustained on it for billions of years. And if we never figure a way to colonize another world, we will all perish and it will be as if we never existed at all.
That is the implacable narrative of the future of this planet. It is also an apt analogy of what genocide is and how it operates: like our future dying sun, a genocidal culture expands or otherwise consolidates its dominance over other cultures within its geographic proximity. This almost always involves war. And in the midst of that war, some very horrible and quite deliberate things will be done. Among these is a phenomenon called genocide: the pre-planned, systematic elimination of a targeted group that the expanding culture has deemed unworthy of participating in said culture’s “glorious” future. Often times that targeted group will be the scapegoat used by the aggressor to justify its radical self-affirmation. They will be vilified and dehumanized as the irreconcilable “other”; the horrible alternative to … insert cultural assailant here. No civilization is without its dirty laundry list of genocides.
Here in Canada (ill perceived as such a nice country with the most boring history in the world), we gave the Huron blankets deliberately infected with small pox and later, we set up residential schools for the native population. The goal was not to educate the children of First Nations people, but to abduct them and wipe them out. Some of these schools were still open for business in the 1970s. This is a drop in the world bucket of genocide. The phenomenon is so prevalent in human history that it’s a defining characteristic of our species.
Other life forms on this planet will cannibalize their own kind and I read somewhere that rape is documented among social mammals. But only humans will systematically plan and carry out genocidal torture and killing of their own kind on a massive scale. In our world, a higher intelligence correlates directly to a thirsty and sophisticated evil often framed as “progress”.
In the event that you are ever tempted to be weak willed and willfully ignorant enough to agree to participate or turn a blind eye to that kind of progress, consider that the better we get at killing each other, the more we hasten towards our inexorable end.
Milan Kundera was right: to be absolutely modern is to be the happy ally of your gravedigger.