Updated: Jan 23, 2019
The project “Right for supremacy” explores the interaction of human with the nature, the influence of scientific progress on natural surroundings and possible consequences of human activity for the environment.
The laws of evolution, formed on Earth, affect all living creatures apart from human being. Owing to the development of technologies, humans are no longer subject to the impact of natural factors and form a completely artificial environment. The start of biotechnologies development enables humans to enter a territory that used to be governed by the laws of nature and to change living creatures as they wish and for their own purposes.
Prior to 20th century, philosophy had not considered the change of nature by humans (the Greeks called the art of treatment or ‘techne’) an ethical issue. Philosophers either found these changes ethically neutral or asserted that it underlined the rule over nature and deserved admiration.
However, the supremacy of a human and their unreasonable actions until this moment have led to ecological crisis. The implications of human activity include extinction of rare species, displacement of endemic species by genetically modified organisms, and global warming.
Trying to respond to the troubles caused by technological development, philosophers came up with New Ethics. The foundation of it is the notion that nature is vulnerable, while technological progress and scientific knowledge are subject to moral judgement too. The preceding ethics was based on anthropocentric principle, according to which a human being is the measure of all things. The New Ethics ought to be based not only on panhuman principles but also on universal ones that include the whole surrounding world.
A German existential philosopher Hans Jonas has coined “a responsibility imperative” within the New Ethics, which is the main moral principle. It says that “one should act in such a way that their actions ensure the continuity of an authentic human life on Earth”. Jonas believed that the New Ethics is in fact oriented towards the future. In contrast with utopian ideas directed towards unfeasible future, the New Ethics does not contain utopias and corresponds to real needs of humanity and nature. The contemporary scientific knowledge has a real chance to bring the world to destruction. Taking this danger into account, people need new, rigid and solid moral guidelines.
“The right for supremacy”, consisting of five videos, visualizes the result of human progress and plausible ways to repair the imbalance between nature and humans. The solution lies in joining two human natures - the earthly and the heavenly - and finding balance between them.
The sky illustrates the spiritual part of a human being that allows them to establish contact with higher powers and discover the immaterial world. The images of cosmos and dance in the video allude to the spiritual perception, human’s soul and higher laws and powers that govern human’s soul. The spiritual aspect of reason enables a human being to build communication with the irrational world and to gain access to knowledge that science can not provide.
The rational part of personality is explored in the project too. The contemporary society obtains the visual understanding in the form of flying apparati and mass media. These products of scientific activity and the results of “taming” nature are the evidence of the human power that allows them to overcome physical limitations and act in defiance of the laws of nature. Mass media show the human’s capacity to create one’s own world (society) different from nature and ruled by one’s own laws. Despite this supremacy provided by science and technologies, a contemporary person finds oneself in the unbalanced state.
At this stage of development, the human’s earthly nature outshines the spiritual side, and humans gradually lose their connection with the environment and the irrational world. The image of a hexagram star in the video speaks about harmony towards which humanity should move in order to escape the spiritual crisis. The hexagram star symbolizes the balance between the Sky and the Earth, the material and the sublime, the natural inseparability of the two aspects. A personality and society as a whole should find a way to combine the rational with the irrational to avoid a catastrophe.
The rational side of human society is shown in the video in which ants symbolize the humans fuss. The video shows the fight for power in the society. The image of insects refers to “the struggle for existence”, the one described by Charles Darwin to show the process of some species survival and death of others. According to scientists, the struggle for resources takes place on three levels: within a species, between species and on the level of struggle with climatic conditions.
Before the advent of artificial selection and contemporary agricultural and breeding methods, the struggle had taken place in human population too. However, the technological progress allowed humans to outrank all the other animal species and to overcome climatic conditions. The ants symbolize humans’ bustle, the endless race to become the best in society. This struggle often produces ingenious ideas and inventions, but often leads to destruction.
Human’s bustle contradicts the spiritual aspect of life, depriving humans from contact with the higher powers. The action in the video takes place against the background of cosmos symbolizing the endless space controlled by forces that are beyond human cognition. A human is under supervision of the Universe and the powers above. The black hole is the symbol of the Universe eye. Black holes are space object that are not fully studied. It is believed that the object that enters a black hole can travel through time and parallel universes, or die. The image of a black hole shows instability of the human state. On the one hand, the technological progress and the endless movement can bring closer the knowledge about the laws of the Universe. On the other hand, humanity may be punished as were the Babylon tower builders.
The notion of punishment for the strive for supremacy is addressed in the video showing the contrast between the scene of natural fertilization of an apple-tree and the shots depicting the downfall of an airship. The image of an apple-tree refers to the Biblical story about Adam and Eve who violated the God’s covenant by eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. The burning of a zeppelin is associated with the lines from the Bible about the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Heaven: “So he drove out the man and placed to the east of the Garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword”.
The scenes showing the growth of the apple-tree and a smooth flight of the airship indicate a possibility of both scientific and spiritual development of a human. Two parts, natural and human, are in harmony. However, human’s greed and strive for supremacy, including supremacy over nature and its laws, leads to the downing. The burning airship is the symbol of technogenic calamities brought about by human manufacturing.
The creation of chemical fertilizers and genetic modification of plants give benefits to humanity but may cause catastrophes of the biosphere. The remains of chemicals are toxic to many animal and plant species, while genetically modified creatures supplant weaker wild species in their habitat. To express this idea, the shots of a falling zeppelin were used. If humans fail to stop before it is too late, they risk destroying the world around.
It is possible to tackle the crisis and return to the balance, if a human builds communication lines with the surrounding worlds. In accordance with the New Ethics, a human becomes obliged to take into account the state and needs of both nature and society. In the video, dance is the universal language. It shows the contact between an individual, the nature and the rest of humanity. Using this language, a personality can disclose one’s feeling and wishes and to enter the communication with the supernatural world.
According to the philosophy of Georges Bataille, humans have withdrawn from the nature and lost the ability to understand its laws, but they can become a part of this world again by means of transgression. Dance is one of the ways to transgression, for it allows to step out from the trivial being and contact the true and natural world order. Bataille gives shamanic dancing as an example. This dance is shown in the third video.
Since ancient time, dance has been the instrument of communication with gods. Shaman performs a special dance, reaching out to deities. It is a symbolic sacrifice, an act of dedication allowing to approach the spirit of nature and subdue it. This mystical method of controlling the universal powers is possible due to communication with the nature. A contemporary human willing to subjugate nature with the help of technologies ignores communication with nature and risks drawing punishment.
However, a human can not return to the primordial conditions. Humans have to find a new way to transgression. The necessity of creating the language to converse with natural world is depicted in the combination of traditional and contemporary dancing.
On the way to transgression, a person faces taboos, which are manifestations of an artificial nature of human society. Artificial environment is embodied in mass media, with fragment of soviet newspapers as a symbol of it. Mass media are the result of informational technologies development and allow to collect, analyze and send almost any type of information (audio, visual etc.) Mass media has been long thought of as a tool to inform people. However, nowadays philosophers and mass media theorists discuss the notion that mass media shape public opinion.
This is the reason why a German philosopher Friedrich Kittler maintains that mass media can be used as weapons. Informational war is one of the forms of contemporary struggle for political influence. The right for supremacy comes to the one that controls the media as they form political and moral views of people.
Political forces struggle with each other, using more and more sophisticated means, including mass media. Their actions are not based on moral or the strive for spiritual, but are driven by profit motive. Just as a human destroys nature by means of chemistry and biology, informational technologies and progress in communication means are becoming a weapon. In their pursuit of dominance, people lose connection with the spiritual world and forget about moral benchmarks.
The balance which a human strives towards is addressed in the video showing the image of a growing water crystal. Such crystals always have a six-rayed structure and, notably, the reason for this structure is still unknown to scientists. In the video this structure alludes to the ancient symbol, a hexagram star, which in Christianity symbolizes the union of the sky and the earth. The convergence of these beginnings, the material and the spiritual, embodies the foundation of nature. The union gives birth to every living thing.
The action in the movie takes place against the backdrop of red colour, the colour of blood symbolizing life based on the principle of balance between spiritual and material aspects. The process of a snowflake growth looking like the opening of a flower-bud is indicative of progress and natural evolution that is possible by keeping balance laid by God in all living things.
The image of a growing crystal also refers to the fragility of this balance. Human activity, their will to power and dominance can break the natural world order, leading to a catastrophe. Even if humans survive this crisis, they will never get close to the truth since they will be fenced off from the spiritual world.
Thus, the project “Right for supremacy”, by contemplating two aspects of human’s personality, spiritual and material, allows to objectively evaluate human progress and understand the the vector chosen by humanity brings on ruin. To avoid the disaster, scientific pursuits have to be oriented towards the spiritual development of humanity and need to be inextricably linked with moral principles. After all, history has proved many times that the right for supremacy remains with those who want to keep balance and not destroy.