The Song Remains the Same
the melody may change but the song remains the same
If Catastrophe is in its essence an unpredictable, devastating interruption of the natural rhythms of human community and continuity, it is, strictly speaking, impossible to speak of "permanent catastrophe." But the phrase alerts us to a new understanding of catastrophe, one that emphasises not only the "act of God" (whether literal or figural) but also the myriad ways that normal human order can contribute to violence, devastation and death. Some contemporary thinkers try to reveal the often-hidden connection between catastrophic chaos and so-called conventional forms of existence. In other words, catastrophe can be said to be permanent - it is a permanent possibility – once we understand how extreme threats to the human community cannot just come from "outside" but indeed from the very normal modes of functioning; the catastrophe is itself a sign of an omnipresent fragility.
Warning sign of things to come (turn it over, turn it over)
It happened before, it will happen again
Hear my voice, Move my hair
I move it around a lot,
But I don't care (what I remember)
What I remember,
what I remember
what I remember
(What is it?).
Chris Frantz, David Byrne 1978
Natural catastrophes might be the best example of this idea of permanent catastrophe. For example, the terrible violence and destruction caused by the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 was the result of extreme forces of nature, but its effects can be traced back to normal living conditions in the area. In other words, the Quake as a catastrophic "event" was just a catalyst that exposed the more permanent failures and shortcomings tied to weak institutions, systemic economic inequality, urban organisations and the structures of political authority and responsibility. Failure to see the deep relations between catastrophe as an event, and the pathologies of "normal" human order, can only perpetuate the regular appearance of the unpredictable.
America is waiting for a message
of some sort or another
Takin' it again
Well now... no, no... now, we ought to
be mad at the government not mad at
America is waiting for a message of some sort or another.
Brian Eno, David Byrne 1981
You are listening to a recording of the late John Bonham, the drummer of Led Zeppelin. In Steve Carr's Song Remains the Same, the video loop shows tiny particles exploding into space from a beaten cymbal, forming themselves first into the Milky Way, out into a wider universe, and then quickly returning to the undulating disk. These cinematic images open up the hidden world through the slowing down of time, just like water drops shown exploding on a flower. John Hurrell writes that the work shows "repeating cycles of expanding and contracting energies, and the cosmic forces and vast spaces created by God's drum kit.".
Ooh, how the darkness doubled
Lightning struck itself
I was listening
Listening to the rain
I was hearing
Hearing something else
Tom Verlaine 1977
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.