Surrogate Activities: Industrial Society and Its Future
An Exhibition of New Works by Martin Chittum.
November 1-30, 2019, at eyevee arts +media. 657 Elmira Rd. Ithaca, NY
In his most famous publication, Dr. Theodore J. Kaczynski writes about the phenomenon of engaging in “Surrogate Activities” to make up for the loss of meaningful goals which disrupts the natural “Power Process.” Not claiming to be original in his theories, this echoes the ideas expressed by Freud in Civilization and its Discontents and by philosophers such as Nietzsche.
While different thinkers may have competing ideas regarding the causes of this phenomenon, they are disturbingly in accord when it comes to the effect this has on the human psyche. Georges Bataille called this the “Cursed Share” and believed it to be an over-abundance of psychic energy that must be spent, either creatively or destructively. Without a creative outlet, the eventuality of cataclysmic destruction is almost assured. There is near universal agreement
that artistic creation is one of the most overt of Surrogate Activities.
In analyzing my own compulsive motivations for photographic experimentation and creation, I cannot help but find myself agreeing with them as well. Photography, and specifically the obscure and historical processes by which I print my photographs, is my Surrogate Activity of choice. Though it is easy to condemn Kaczynski’s personal choice of Surrogate Activities, hisbroader statement about the potentially destructive effect of technology and industrialization, not just on the health of the planet, but on the mental health of the human race as a whole, is absolutely worthy of serious consideration. At a time when concern about climate change and the destruction of the environment is at an all-time high, we must not overlook the effects that technology and industrialization has also been having on our minds.
With these new pieces, I am asking the question of whether technology can find a comfortable place of mutual existence with wild nature. The subject of the photographs are trees, presented out of a deep love for Wild Nature. They are printed using various difficult and time-consuming techniques for the sake of fully engaging with the Power Process of my personal Surrogate Activity. There will also be an occult performance where I conjure the Spirit of the Forest through sound and “capture” it with digital storage, which is then embedded in a totem-esque object that will serve as the forest’s presence throughout the run of the exhibition.
-Martin C, October