by Nicolas Salazar Sutil
Please, please give me explosions. We love them. We want them in film, the more the better. Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise, where would they be would they? Explosive actors for an explosion culture. Oh, glorious explosion culture wherever you turn: explosions in the video games we play, explosions to celebrate every New Year. Chile, a country built on the explosion of its mountains, and the mining of its mineral wealth underground. Give me explosions. Bring down the mountains for me, leave a curtain of smoke billowing in the fume-filled air instead. Who needs mountains? Please, just give me explosions.
We revere them and embody them. Glory to those who turn into an explosion, those martyr- bombers who go to Heaven, past all the smoke, for detonating themselves in the name of their cause. We combust with them from within, with the bomb-like hatred that fuels this love of destruction. Oh, please, please, just make them bigger. Mushroom cloud-like. Make the whole world go boom. That is the vision of absolute human creativity. It is the vision of the forefathers of our atomic age: Jon von Neumann, Robert Oppenheimer. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” he cried with eyes glazed in orange by the site of nuke power. Oh, what power! They even gave us a new age, the nuclear one. Who would deny the creativity of their art? Human creativity at the limit: tested by the capacity to create explosions that can blow up the whole planet into dust.
Explosions are transcendental, and they are the heart and soul of our human hatred for life. They are the air to breath, and they deliver salvation, new year, new era, Heaven.
What if— and this is one of the conditionals Border Agency have raised in their work—the ground under your feet cannot be trusted for fear of hidden explosives? What if—this is the conditional I raise in response to Border Agency’s invitation to respond— accessing the minefield could allude to those glorious hidden explosives planted within mediated experience? Experiencing the world through the confines of flat screen media technology is a minefield. Utterly mediated life brings us ever closer to the glorified world of explosion culture. Living glued to a screen enshrines the vision of wondrous balls of fire filling the air—against that flat and depthless shimmer of ubiquitous flatscreen and reel-world, our eyes are becoming orange with the glimmering reflection of exploding things: houses, cars, enemies, and oh, yes, the land itself. Blow it up, please.
In seeking mediated access to the minefield, Border Agency are inciting something that will detonate not just the voyeuristic curiosity of our explosion culture consumers. What is afoot is an explosive media space, and an exploration of the minefield as condition of creative and critical possibilities in the broadest sense. From a drone-eye point of view, this invitation to tread the minefield is also a question concerning the ethics of techno-mediation via technologies that serve the war machine, that instigate the explosion culture both in a real-world sense, in real-world war, but also in mediated, filmic, cinematic, fictional and glamorised war games. Put differently, Border Agency provoke re-appropriations of the military minefield as testing ground for a media-rich exploration and explosion of the madness of human media explosivity. This can incite us to think again (and critically) about what lies underfoot in a world of explosion culture, ridden with mined human territorialities.
There are minefields left and right, not least because in Chile, of all places, the issue of militarization weighs heavily on media cultural imaginaries (in cinema not least). But this is not a question of digging up (again) the recent military past of this country, and a historicised issue of border defence. This is not just a question of having to defend ourselves form the imminent threat of the Argentinian enemy, the Bolivian enemy, the Peruvian enemy, the world around us as enemy. This is a question of transcendence. The minefield, the potentiality of a national border in flames, of fields littered with the body parts of enemy soldiers, would be the stuff of legend if it was to be realised. It would be as grandiose as the colonial stories of mass killing by the Spanish, upon which this history of ours is built. If those mines could explode, they would turn their conflagrations into a myth of new creation bigger and bloodier than O’Higgins. A new era.
Please, please give me explosions. Do not just leave the explosives buried in the ground, forever potentialised, wishing for the glory of destruction. Make them burst to life. Bring the fire out of those magic little boxes. Fill the air with blood. Because it is in that moment of sacred explosion, human culture sees creation, creativity, the start of new life. It is then that a sense of national self becomes transcendental.
Our media imaginaries are voyeuristic. We are fly-byers that want to see what the war machine looks like. Border Agency’s drones are searching for hidden explosions, but the quest is akin to the global news coverage and drone shoot-outs of war in the Middle East. New media is affording an ever closer proximity to the explosion, for the consumers of explosion culture to delight from the comfort of their living room sofas, or from the high-brow self-satisfaction of the art gallery space. Yes, I wonder how a human enemy blowing up into pieces looks like. Or what the suicide bombers defending Mosul look like when they practice their glorious embodiment of the bomb. Bring it to me. Show it to me. Fill the media with explosions, real and fictional, because the thrill is intense, and it makes me feel less dead. Fill the art galleries too if you can, but then, when the explosion suddenly hits home, and the victim is I, the sudden fetishist love of destruction, killing, military might, human hecatombism, seems too close for comfort. And media art, unrepentant about revealing a proximity that cuts to the critical core, reveals a seemingly unmediated access to my stupidity, my madness. And then, when the mine blows up in my own face, then what?
Now look again. See how many bombs are filling the air, and how many mines are waiting to blow up when the smoke clears. Sniff the world of mediated flatscreen experience, and sensitize your nostrils to the smell of potential smoke. New media is new smoke. The media technology we crave smells of war and smacks of death. Media is a minefield, a flat territorialised and hecatomb world waiting to explode in our stupefied faces.