Essay deals with phenomenons of identity, relationships, normalising powers, temporality, queerness, queer art, the Anthropocene, the climate change, the apocalypse etc...The whole essay consists of four chapters which are published separately as a four-part serie.

It is undeniably difficult to approach the concept of the ‘end of the world’ by its very nature. It is probably not natural and expected from us to think of the ‘end of the world’, since an urge of self-preservation is an instinct all living creatures are born with. For some reason, staying alive is essential for us (one might contemplate if it’s to blame solely on biology and/or our desire of reproduction). Even the idea of the ‘end of the world’ remains paradoxical by itself. Thinking of ‘the end of the world’, the thought itself is being constituted in a ‘world’ that is at the same time sentenced to its future ‘end’ by that same thought, becoming an inseparable part of the ‘world’. With the fulfillment of the idea of ‘the end of the world’, it would inevitably vanish along the rest of the ‘world’.

Let me start with an attempt to decode the term itself starting with ‘the world’. From one point of view, it might be understood simply as a three-dimensional observable ‘reality’ that each (non)living object/subject perceive individually by its own senses. The very definition of ‘the world’ is therefore based on what a subject may deliberately choose to recognize as ‘the World’ (which, ironically enough, might be similar to the definition of ‘art’ in general). In context of thinking about ‘the end’ (of ‘the world’ specifically), it is possible to address several distinct interpretations, be it the erasure of Humans (with an exclusion of other living subjects positioning ‘the world’ more-or-less directly in the pre-Adam, pre-Eve Garden of Eden-ish model of the universe), the demolition of all organic forms of life altogether, the destruction of the planet Earth, the disappearance of our solar system and/or the universe as a whole. All these interpretations commonly refer to vital and/or spatial conditions, while the most radical (as well as mysterious, at least to my understanding) vision is represented by the suspension of time itself. Since there are no given clear borders of the meaning and/or our understanding of these terms, the ‘world’ as well as the ‘end’ (not to mention ‘the end of the world’), it is probably on point to suspect, that both interpretations are constructed on a perspective and comprehension that are based on (almost) entirely subjective criteria.

Nevertheless, there are some – what are believed to be – generally valid theories and definitions of ‘the end of the world’ way above their dependency on the point of view of the individual subject. Through millenniums, different representations of all-of-a-sudden disastrous event based on religious prophecies, mathematical calculations, observation of the universe etc. were arising from different cultures around the globe – the incarnation of the antichrist, the Revelation, Kali Yuga, as well as the (in)famous Mayan Calendar etc.. Some of these my(s)t(h)ical theories are based on ascription of the conditions leading to the destructive event as written in ‘the holy books’ by their prophets (judaic Torah, chris- tian Bible, islamic Quran). The fact is these texts lack any specific information about particular time, in which the event(s) is(are) to be expected, since it is only God(’)s(‘) will and knowledge. On the other hand, the Mayan Calendar, based on the observation of the universe, finished precisely on December 21st 2012, one of the expected popculture-adopted ‘ends of the world’. I remember waking up on December 22nd 2012 with a slight hangover, laughing at another ‘grumpy cat’ meme, that showed its usual facial expression along with the text: “Still here. Worst apocalypse ever.” In fact, the Mayan calendar marked the end of the 13th Bak’tun, which was then falsely interpreted as a prediction of the apocalypse.

“I do not want to die again.”[1]

Let’s try to exchange ‘myths’ for ‘facts’ and look at ‘the end of the world’ as a continuous process rather than a single event from perspective of contemporary scientific research. The current geological epoch, the Anthropocene, is characterised by significant human impact on Earth’s ecosystem and geology, bound to the realm of the climate change. It is mostly dated into 20th century, even though some researchers argue, that the epoch of Anthropocene began at the moment we started to transmute our environment way back during Neolithic revolution around 12,500 years ago – the moment we turned from gatherers and hunters into peasants and farmers. Others connect the phenomenon of Anthropocene with the 18th century’s Industrial revolution, which marked the beginning of massive use of fossil fuels (coal at first, gas and oil following), bringing enormous pollution onto the environment. In any case, it is an epoch, when we, humans, became a geological force ourselves instead of mere inhabitants of the planet Earth. “The Anthropocene or whatever else one might want to call it, is an ‘epoch’ in the geological sense of the word; but it points toward the end of epochality as such, insofar as our species is concerned. For it is certain that, although it began with us, it will end without us: the Anthropocene will only give way to a new geological epoch long after we have disappeared from the face of the Earth.”[2] As Ray Brassier puts it “everything is dead already”, as we have already entered the uncertainty unlike anything we have ever known, the future that is unpredict- able by scientific and/or religious prophecies.

Under given circumstances the mythical figure of Gaia has arisen again. In greek mythology Gaia represented personification of the Earth, the primal Mother Earth goddess. Today, she is the personification of an effect of an effect that impacts all the inhabitants of the planet as those who caused it – us. An event, that we will never be able not to take into account again, the representation of our intrusion into geological order of the very Earth.

“I wanna hear the dogs crying for water I wanna see fish go belly-up in the sea All those lemurs and all those tiny creatures I wanna see them burn, it’s only four degrees”[3]

After prospective extinction of our species, the ‘world’ would become what we may call ‘world without us’ – a state that had (accroding to generally approved contemporary scientific theories) already existed. Our practices disrupting the ecosystem being finally sus- pended, the Earth would probably return, slowly but surely, back to its ‘natural’ course, a balanced condition of inner network(s), a romantic prelude of blooming wilderness. This idea tries to abandon the anthropocentric point of view on the problematics, but even negative anthropocentrism is just an anthropocentrism in the end, being obsessed with the human point of view, on life as we know it from the human perspective. With no humanity (and/or living organisms in general) there would be no senses, therefore no observers. Nobody could witness the ‘world’. It is (regarding certain theories) believed, that the ‘world’ would become its true self again – counting the very presence of life on Earth for a mistake, an unwanted bug in a software. What we haven’t encountered before is the state of ‘us without the world’. According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, life appeared on Earth in form of unicellular organisms at first, with the passage of time, these organisms were becoming more and more complex, shifting from ocean onto land, with Homo sapiens at the end of this process (for now, let’s recall the X-men). Even though we’ve never had a chance to deal with our species becoming completely ‘worldless’, there are thinkers balancing on the edge between actual science and science-fiction, relying on technology developing in mile steps.

“Singularity” is a radical theory according to which ‘Homo universus’ will emerge in the near future. Before mid-century we will arrive into a catastrophic point in which the capacity of global computer network will exceed the capacity of all grey matter present on the planet (The Omega point). For some reason, it is believed that it will remain subordinate to human’s will despite its newly acquired majority. Human biology and technology will come into fusion. This consciousness would then become programmable, creating kind of superior form of mechanic consciousness, which would have unlimited access to re- production within the network or synthetic, genetically-engineered, manufactured bodies. Physical death would, in that case, finally become optional. What’s more, it would become an inevitable part of reaching immortality – the one independent on the biological resourc- es of the Earth, independent from our to need of biological reproduction. We will know no limits anymore, as we will become the world. In the future, everything will be human.

“In your world, people are used to fighting for resources… like oil, or minerals, or land. But when you have access to the vastness of space, you realize there’s only one resource worth fighting over… even killing for: More time. Time is the single most precious commodity in the universe.”[4]

The ‘end of the world’ as theme is widely represented in pop-culture. Storylines circulating around catastrophic scenarios are a well-known subgenre of science-fiction. They tend to show mankind’s desperate fight against the disaster(s). Put in simple words, those who are left alive (which is often a few, brave male characters) are fighting for their sur- vival. These narratives tend to rely on a philanthropic undertone. Let’s recall movies such as Deep Impact (1998), Armageddon (1998), The Core (2003), The day after tomorrow (2004) etc., all of which depict the possibility of ‘world without us’ kind of situation. On the opposite side, there are several examples of ‘wordless people’ narratives, where we could talk about titles such as The Road (2009), Mad Max (1979/2015), even The Matrix (1999) etc.. What they have in common is a dystopian vision (or prediction) of the possible future of our society(ies), in which the humankind (or better say what’s/who’s left of it) must adapt to a new reality(ies) – the world turned into a hostile desert, being the exact opposite of capitalists excess of the western world. In these stories there is no more world to be saved, their characters fight mostly for their individual freedom and survival. The Matrix stands as an exception here compared to the other two, as mankind’s common enemy is nothing/nobody else but artificial intelligence (created, of course, by the very same mankind), which/who can only be defeated through mutual cooperation and unified resistance. In Mad Max and The Road, the ‘post-apocalyptic’ society completely abandoned both ethics and morality, which vanished alongside the inhabitable environment. The world is then ruled by slavery, killing and cannibalism. No fictional characters needed, only people against other people.

Over the last few years we have observed a huge re-emergence of (most probably) fictional characters such as vampires and zombies in popculture. Technically speaking, zombies, as well as vampires, are not precisely cannibalistic characters. Zombie characters tend to be depicted as more dead than alive – barely walking corpses dressed in (often) destroyed and filthy garments, that seem not to recognize their fellows. With an absence of lead- ership, the crowd is united through their sameness. Their only aim is to hunt those who remained alive, to eat their brains and, eventually, reduce them to their condition at any cost. Their ultimate goal is to reduce otherness. Instead of several zombie crowds, there is only one, whose power lies in its uncontrollable, undirected growth, in the ultimate mortification. The plot of the zombie-themed movies is frequently similar – a catastrophic event occurs (a new virus appears) etc., the majority of the population is then infected, but there is always a group of people/an area, which remained ‘human’ (thanks to vaccines, weapons, physical immunity etc.), searching for ways to reverse the catastrophe. Vampires on the other hand are, unlike zombies, presented as strong individuals, sometimes united in covens just to control each other. They do not eat human flesh, but to keep themselves ‘alive’ (in their death), they suck their victim’s blood, (mostly) needing to keep them alive. They are well dressed, they have good manners, they operate within the society(ies) and they are also an elite ruling over it(them) (counts, nobles). It is their more advanced state in comparison to humans that makes them more powerful. While zombie characters offer well suitable imaginary of contemporary society under normative social bourgeois norms, a vampire character, an elite feeding on the masses, is a perfect image for the capitalists and/or the tyrants.

In times of crisis, that we are currently experiencing, while it seems impossible to choose the greatest thread that we face, fantastic characters offer kind of relief to the audience. There is only one catastrophic event and/or one unambiguous villain. There are people fighting and surviving. Therefore, there is always hope.

1        Kopenawa, Davi, Kearns, Rick. ‘We Don’t Want to Die Again’: Yanomami Leader Kopenawa. 2014. Available at:
2        Danowski, Deborah, Vivieros de Castro, Eduardo. The Ends of the World. Polity Press, 2017, p. 5
3        Anohni. 4 degrees. Hopelessness. Secretly Canadian. 2016
4        Jupiter Ascending. Dir. Wachowski, Lana. Wachowski, Lilly. Warner Bros‘, 2015
19 / 6 / 2018
by Ľuboš Kotlár
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