How SUPERFLEX Imagines the End of the World

Issue 2 | Making Art at the End of the World

What does the end of the world look like? It’s a difficult picture to form, should you seriously dedicate your thoughts to such finality. Popular culture tells us it looks like comets crashing into our oceans, upending the Statue of Liberty, or small cracks that become fissures in our concrete encasings so that buildings collapse all around. We’ve learned from popular culture that the end of the world is aggressive and unruly. It’s red, it’s rage. The end of the world is a fury like no other because it is, of course, the ultimate end.

But that’s not how SUPERFLEX saw the end of the world. The Danish art collective instead saw the world as its deepest blue; hollow, fragmented. Last year, the collective used the Cisternerne in Denmark, a former water reservoir, transforming it into a functioning sci-fi underground hall. The exhibit, which ran until the end of November, titled It Is Not The End of the World is a barren, eerie experience. 

From the project’s description, the piece asks its viewers to “reflect upon our present role in a world of escalating climate change and an apocalyptic human future while imagining a future world of lively, diverse and perhaps even humanlike lifeforms.” In the Cisternerne, viewers walked the halls of familiarity, encountering mementos of their own past, including a slowed down version of Justin Timberlake’s iconic break-up track, “Cry Me A River.” 

But the blue of the exhibit is so frightening. It’s ominous in ways the colour red could never be. Red is reactionary. It is anger. The blue LED lights of It Is Not The End of The World feel almost like disappointment. A cry once urgent, now dulled, to resemble only the solemnity that comes with truly being failed. In failing the planet, we have failed ourselves.

Art installation by SUPERFLEX It is not the end of the world.

SUPERFLEX tell us that “humans in our current form have roamed this planet for a mere period of 300,000 years – less than 0.01 % of the history of Earth. During our relatively short stay, we have managed to create a footprint on the entire ecosystem comparable to that of major natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and meteor impacts.” In such a minute window in an enormous timeline, we have managed to fuck everything up so monumentally. 

However, there is hope. It’s no coincidence to title such a thought-provoking exhibit that it is simply not the end of the world. Hope is beautiful, if only temporary. For hope to be truly fulfilling, there must be action. Passivity kills hope. SUPERFLEX reminds us of that with this exhibit. One must experience what the world could actually be. Rather than having a collection of our failures and our inactivity, we must do the work to not fail the Earth. 

It doesn’t have to be the end of the world, if you want it. 

Art installation by SUPERFLEX It is not the end of the world.

Photos SUPERFLEX/Torben Eskerod
Written by Sarah MacDonald