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 Material Information
Title: The end and how it looks
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Renner, Randall
Affiliation: University of Florida -- College of Fine Arts -- School of Art and Art History
Publisher: Randall Renner
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Eschatology
Armageddon
 Notes
General Note: Creative photography terminal project
General Note: Project in lieu of thesis
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 002288997
oclc - 37842382
System ID: UF00090020:00001


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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
    Table of Contents
        Page ii
    List of Figures
        Page iii
    Abstract
        Page iv
    Project report
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Notes
        Page 11
    Figures
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    Signature page
        Page 17
    Copyright
        Page 18
Full Text











THE END AND HOW IT LOOKS


BY

RANDALL RENNER


















A PROJECT OPTION IN LIEU OF THESIS
PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

1997


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Table of Contents



List of Figures................................ ...................... ............................................iii.

Abstract................................................................................................................iv.

Project Report...................... .......... ...... .................................... ........................ 1.

Notes............... ................................ ................................................................11

Figures...................................................................................................................









































II









List of Figures


Figure 1. Little Richard Visits Splendid China, Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation,
1996.

Figure 2. Miami Vice. Episode 13. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 3. Ride Sharing Program. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 4. The Frontier. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 5. The Road to Sunny Florida, Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 6. Forty Acres and a Subdivision. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 7. Crystal River Florida. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 8. Climbin' Season. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.

Figure 9. Night Fishing 2051. Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.









Summary of Project Option in Lieu of Thesis
Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Master of Fine Arts

THE END, AND HOW IT LOOKS

By

Randall Renner

May, 1997

Chairman: John Craig Freeman
Major Department: Art

My thesis exhibition embraces a theoretical model which proposes that we are currently

undergoing a slow gradual apocalypse of history, culture, and the environment brought on by the

modern day four horsemen of late capitalism and mass culture. These horsemen are:

overpopulation, environmental degradation, the malignant global economy, and the crisis of

meaning. We all recognize these horsemen's potential for disaster, but more crucial in this

metaphor is our inability sense their true nature, and in turn navigate them in a real, effective,

way. Simply, we have become willing to exist under a cloud of uncertainty, as long as we can

continue to exist under it. The thesis project depicts current conditions, as well as some future

predictions of the ongoing end.

Recent work integrates these four horsemen with my identity as a Floridian; and how

growing up in it in a period of steroidal growth has affected my perception of Florida, and the

world. The playful digital dye sublimation prints suggest the blissful naivete of a child imagining

the world through Disney's eyes. On closer inspection, however, a more developed complexity

appears. The "new Disney aesthetic" appropriates the real world and integrates it into its

synthetic universe; where, the real becomes a theme park. These works explore the four

horsemen and their effects through the hyper-reality created by mass culture and the spectacular

aspect of the Disney aesthetic as a mirror to our culture; and their contribution to the slow

gradual apocalypse.












The End


The traditional notion of the apocalypse would be the definitive catastrophe, the violent

cataclysm ending the world as we know it. Not only final and complete, but thoroughly clarifying.

From it, the confusing mass of the world, would unmistakably separate truth from falsehood, and

goodness from evil. This is the scenario of the apocalypse as portrayed in Revelations 6:17. A

more contemporary view of it's origins might include bioengineered plagues, nuclear war, alien

invasions, or a supernova.

All of these scenarios provide the historically cataclysmic "moment" typically associated

with the apocalypse. What I propose, through looking at the conditions that prevail, and

examining my artwork, is an apocalypse of a different nature. That is, a secular apocalypse

which is currently underway. It presents a slow gradual conception of the world's demise

culturally, environmentally, and even threatens our linear narrative of history.1 It is an

apocalypse which has been leisurely and undramatically inching forward for decades and we just

haven't recognized its shape as such. While we have adapted well to changes not so swift,

sudden, and terrible; it has allowed us to continue pretending everything is just fine as long as we

can continue to exist and sustain ourselves under our apocalyptic cloud of uncertainty.

The popular "alternative" band R.E.M. captures the essence of our narrow homocentric

perspective in one of its songs by announcing "Its the end of the world as we know it and I feel

fine." I think this speaks well for the blinded complacency and greed brought on by late

capitalism, but it might it be better to mediate myself, so as not to sound like a millenarist

apocalyptic crackpot, and acknowledge that while the sun's not going to burn out anytime soon,

the apocalypse is undeniably upon us in its new secular manifestation. It is "the end of the world

as we know it", as we've understood it in the past.

What is the tangible evidence that reveals that an apocalypse is already in progress? To

appropriate the metaphor from Revelations and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; those of











war, famine, pestilence and disease, we can think in terms of reinvisioning them to reflect who

the present riders of a post-modern, post-industrial society might be. The riders of post-

modernity can fairly easily be represented by 1) overpopulation, 2) environmental degradation, 3)

the malignant global economy, and 4) the crisis of meaning. But perhaps, more daunting a task is

to consider how they are inseparably interrelated, and to question how long the end will continue.

We can look at overpopulation as the lead horse in the metaphor, in the sense that

many of the situations associated with the apocalypse are created by the exponential growth of

the human population. Environmental demands and continued growth strains not only our

biological environment, but also strains or "flattens out" some of the intrinsically unique social and

cultural aspects of our population.

In terms of controlling overpopulation the predicament becomes largely political one,

because it's potentially misleading to talk of numbers and demands together when they are

separable. The issue is that if we want to reduce demands, the place to start is with the most

prolific consumers. Generally, we tend to think of overconsumption in "developed" countries.

The problem is however, that when the discourse is in terms of population, it almost inevitably

focuses on forcing the low consumption people, those in poor countries, to limit their

reproduction.2

This involves an implicit stand on the issue of who is responsible, the rich or the poor, for

global consumption reaching insupportable levels. In a world where the rich are the major

consumers and make the decisions about systems of production and consumption, it is important

to highlight their contribution to the mess we're all in. Maybe we shouldn't simply attribute the

mess to population growth, and implicitly exonerate the rich, blame the poor, and there by

legitimizing authoritarian controls on the poor by the rich.3 We should at least attempt to

recognize the issue at face value, that westerners do consume x-fold more than less developed

countries, and address it in a genuinely sustainable way.

Environmental degradation is by now a familiar part of the landscape, but all the

apocalyptic anxiety in the world can't seem to moderate our destructiveness. An accelerated loss










of biodiversity is among the top four environmental problems which are directly related to man's

mismanagement of the earth and its resources. Because of human activity and its ever growing

needs, manifest by clear cutting forests in North and South America for lumber, and pasture for

cattle grazing, biological diversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate. Ecosystems are being

destroyed or altered to satisfy an ever growing human population. Species within these

ecosystems are sometimes being driven to endangerment, or extinction; and unique species of

animals are being lost forever. At the very least one would expect that the enlightenment

ideology of "progress" would prompt us to actively preserve these organisms for the exploitive

potential.

Other concems dealing with the issue of environmental degradation are: 1) depletion of

the stratospheric ozone layer, 2) global warming and the sea level rise, and 3) toxic

contamination In the eighties Chloroflourocarbons were introduced as refrigerants because

they replaced other more toxic compounds such as ammonia. CFC's, like their replacements

have the "virtue" of atmospheric stability which enabled them to reach the stratosphere where

they proceed to eat the layer of ozone screening us from ultraviolet radiation. This increased UV

bombardment has shown to increase the incidence of malignant melanomas, impair organisms

immune systems, and reduce marine phytoplankton. I don't think it would be a stretch to see

findings such as the ones revealed, to bring us back to thoughts of plague and famine.

Global warming and the sea level rise are hotly contended issues which ebb and flow

with the statistics. Caused by the accumulation of "greenhouse gasses", especially C02

(deforestation and combustion of fossil fuels), methane (rice paddies and livestock), and nitrous

oxide (fertilizers): they have both health and ecological effects. Health effects include direct

mortality during heat waves, as well as a concern for northward movement of tropical diseases.

The ecological effects would result in a northward shift in climatic zones, placing great stress on

forest ecosystems. Nations like the United States can adapt to many effects of global warming

because we can financially afford to shift crops, build sea walls, and air-condition during heat

waves. But, small island nations faced with inundation, and farmers faced with desertification,










will have fewer options.4 As a Floridian I find it interesting to ponder the question of how long I

can remain one.

Finally, there is toxic contamination like leaking landfills, identified and unidentified mini-

super- and -megafund sites providing an unimaginable cocktail of toxins, which poison our air,

our aquifers, our soils, and create a scarcity of the major biological components that humans

need most: air and water.

Particularly pestilent, and entirely foreseeable, are the implications of biomedical and

nuclear waste; and how they might come together in their conscientious "environmentally

responsible" disposal. Remember, this apocalypse we're in has bestowed upon us not only oil-

slick eating organisms, but beetles that eat concrete. The newest solution "as seen on TV"

recently for the disposal of radioactive elements taken from the dismantling of cold war

armaments is glass encasement. How long will it take to mutate a glass eating beetle? The

point is if we don't soon discipline ourselves, nature will undoubtedly do it for us.

Andrew McMurry asserts in "The Slow Gradual Apocalypse" that unless a critical mass of

desperation is reached, it seems unlikely the advanced nations have the collective will to

acknowledge their own precarious situations. First of all, countries will be able to provide

meaningful work to less and less of its growing number of citizens. Secondly, liberal democracy

coupled with late capitalism will reveal their malignancy; by showing that irresponsibility and

profit-taking by corporations can add to a country as a net economic gain. Capitalism's inherent

nature is to destroy so it can create more capital. And it is further suggested by McMurry that

global capitalism destroys so that there is little left but capital. This, I think serves as an ironic

model which points us toward our final horseman.

Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco have both helped us grasp the fate of meaning in our

culture. They suspect a disappearance of reality in the face of the dominance of the mass

media. At first look, mass communication technology appears to capture reality in all its minutest

details. But on that advanced level of penetration into the facts, the technical and visual means

themselves construct a reality of another order. This newly constructed "hyperreality" is a










phantasmic creation of mass communication, but as such it emerges as a more authentic, exact

"real" reality than the one we perceive in life around us.

Baudrillard suggests that reality has disappeared completely from the contemporary

western world due to mass communication, and has been replaced by hyperreality which is

produced artificially:

"Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real,
preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium
to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a
sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes, reality for its own sake, the
fetishism of the lost object... the hyperreal."5

In this sense hyperreality supplants reality as truthfulness and at the same time

makes truth unattainable, the end of the real. In terms of recognizing the catastrophe of the

apocalypse as such, makes the other three horsemen facts which we recognize as only possible

remnants of the real, and no longer a threat in the new hyperreal world where we now live.

Baudrillard later suggests in The Anorexic Ruins, that hyperreality has already caused

the end and we are just still trying to navigate its consequences and meaning.

"It is as if the poles of our world were converging, and this merciless short circuit
manifests both overproduction and the exhaustion of potential energies at the same time.
It is no longer a matter of crisis but of disaster, a catastrophe in slow motion.

The real crisis lies in the fact that policies no longer permit this dual political game of
hope and metaphorical promise. The pole of reckoning, denouement, and apocalypse
(in the good and bad sense of the word), which we had been able to postpone until the
infiniteness of the Day of Judgment, this pole has come infinitely closer, and one could
join Canetti in saying that we have already passed it unawares and now find
ourselves in the situation of having overextended our own finalities, of having short-
circuited our own perspectives, and of already being in the hereafter, that is, without
horizon and without hope6



Unfortunately all of the horsemen are inextricably interconnected and must be viewed as

a team working together perpetuating the end. These riders are much like those in the

swashbuckling seventies movie The Four Musketeers and their motto "all for one, and one for

all." It is this embeddedness that I think is more easily understood visualized.










How It Looks

The thesis work integrates these four horsemen with my identity as a Floridian; and how

growing up in it in a period of steroidal growth has affected my perception of Florida, and the

world. The playful digital dye sublimation prints suggest the blissful naivete of a child imagining

the world through Disney's eyes. On closer inspection, however, a more developed complexity

appears. The "new Disney aesthetic" appropriates the real world and integrates it into its

synthetic universe; where, the real becomes a theme park. These works explore the four

horsemen and their effects through the hyper-reality created by mass culture and the spectacular

aspect of the Disney aesthetic as a mirror to our culture; and their contribution to the slow

gradual apocalypse.

This overview concentrates on four sets of representative characters viewed through a

Northcentral Floridian's perspective. They are: hyperreality's effect on meaning, the frontier,

nature as theme park, and future projections of the ongoing apocalypse.

Little Richard Visits Splendid China (plate 1) is a interesting example of the endless

hagiographic recirculation of hyperreality. Based on research conducted at the Orlando theme

park, Splendid China attempts to realistically simulate many of the social and historical icons of

China in a miniaturized scale. Among the most impressive replications is a two million brick

construction of the Great Wall. In my image, the rainbow over the wall serves a dual function.

The first is to suggest the simulation of a western tourist's sublime experience of actually

witnessing a rainbow over the great wall. Insinuated here is that the sublime experience of the

simulated theme park can just as well serve as that of the actual experience. Secondly, the

mythological connotations of the rainbow, that of the ever elusive pot of gold, is utilized as a

metaphor for the elusive ultimate revelation of the apocalypse. Little Richard, a constructed

mass media persona, is implicated in the conspiracy, through his complacent enjoyment in

accepting the simulation, and documenting the precious Kodak moments as reality.

A second example of the hyperreal experience and the sometimes unusual interaction it

has on real events can be seen in plate 2, entitled Miami Vice, Episode 13. Originally inspired by










speculations on TWA flight 800's crash into the Atlantic in the Summer of 1996, coupled with

trying to desensitize the specificity of the incident, this image tests hyperreality's recirculation of

itself and its meaning. Land to air terrorist explanations for tragic aeronautic disasters is not a

new idea. However, the precedence of the TV episode created an interesting inversion to the

typical "made for TV movie" where man triumphs over tragedy. The test attempts to investigate

mass media's hyperstate and to further question what this hyperstate has made of meaning.

Ride Sharing Program (plate 3) goes further in trying to show us what hyperreality has

made of meaning. As implied in the title, NASA's pre-Challenger disaster program was exactly

that; It allowed scholarly and notable individuals to embark on a new frontier of experiences.

Rides were shared as shuttle events were promoted as the ultimate American armchair

experience demonstrating for all, through the media and television, our world dominance. The

intended irony of the image is again that of complacency. The hyperrealsim offered by mass

media has proved to be more seductive than the "real" experience.

Also introduced in Ride Sharing Program, is the concept of "the frontier" in which the

expansion of the American west is long since exhausted, and now we must look to the pristine or

uninhabitable, and examine ways to exploit it or make it habitable; be it space, the tropical rain

forests of South America, or the swamps of sunny Florida.

Capitalist exploitation in this new frontier is prevalent as ever.7 The New Frontier

(plate 4) represents the media cliche of our apocalypse, where clear cutting of the rainforests by

giant international corporations is done to accommodate the expanding human population.

Whether it is the billions of dollars in space program government contracts, or your run of the mill

environmental exploitation, the results are never subtle.

As a Floridian, I am particularly aware of the frontier effect underway in Florida. My

theory of it stems from the implementation of Eisenhower's Interstate Roadway Program which

made its way through Florida in the late sixties. The program made the United States a smaller

country, and 1-75 and 1-95 in Florida started a steroidal wave of expansion into it. Two images,










The Road to Sunny Florida (plate 5), and Forty Acres and a Subdivision (plate 6), depict the

effects of the Florida expansion.

The Road to Sunny Florida brings one of the ribbons across America, 1-95, to the state

line, where the jammed southbound influx of tourists, new residents, and nuclear and toxic laden

trucks and their drivers enter the hyperreal Disney state with big fat smiles on their faces. In the

northbound lane, however, the indigenous resources are being trucked out, and notably, the

smiles are all inverted. To further drive home the disastrous condition of the state, hobo symbols

are used as graffiti on the northbound cars to denote the message of "crime committed, don't go

this way."

The title of Forty Acres and a Subdivision is an appropriation from the Western

expansionist provision of "forty acres and a mule." In the average Floridian subdivision of today

the grid of the landscape is no longer defined as drawn theoretical lines on a surveyor's map.

Instead they have been transformed into asphalt roads allowing access to the homeowner's little

plot of land. The houses are of uniform cookie cutter construction, and the only variation, or

unique identity of the house, is its color, or the kind of car parked out front.

The effects on meaning created by the hyperreality I've been talking about has adversely

affected our view of nature and its importance in sustaining a viable earth. The "nature as theme

park" model is one type of cultural perversion I imagine. This model is largely based on the

"Disney aesthetic" in which "Disney appropriates local stories, reinscribes them in the discourse

of American imperialism, be it political, economic, or cultural, and sells the stories to all as a

portrayal of American cultural and political Others, revising old stereotypes in the current terms of

American imperial expansion."8 Scott Shaffer goes further by suggesting that this reinscription

process deprives the stories of their particular local geographies, and allows them to be co-opted

and placed in ahistorical, geographical ways in the creation of Disney theme parks.

In my experimenting with this thesis I have tried to embrace Disney's cutsie manner of

depiction while simultaneously acknowledging their scam. Within this context, and that of

hyperreality I have tried to visualize certain cultural events and how their meaning has been










altered to remove nature from itself, commodify it, and belittle the clear signs of cultural and

environmental destruction.

Two examples of this are Crystal River, Florida (plate 7) and Climbin' Season (plate 8).

The latter is set on Mount Fuji and symbolizes human desire to dominate nature. When I

climbed Mount Fuji it was off season and practically deserted, but through talking with the lodge

owner at the eight station I learned that during the season people are literally lined up climbing

from top to bottom. The climb is designed with a series of breaks, or stations, where drinks and

various souvenirs stamping the particular level of the accent, are sold at astronomical prices.

Each level of ascension allows the climber to pay for memories of the experience, finally

culminating after the peak is reached at the grand souvenir shop at the bottom.

Crystal River, Florida also deals with man's domination of nature. Based on local media

reports on manatees, and childhood memories of Crystal River, it relates the ultimate harnessing

of nature by depicting nuclear power harmoniously existing side by side with water-skiers and

motor boats slicing up the already scarred manatees.

Finally, Night Fishing 2051 (plate 9) is an attempt to project what the future of the

apocalypse holds for us. I see oil slick covered oceans which have been over-fished and over-

dumped. Due to the toxicity of the water and the things that have been dumped, little life exists,

but we are still trying to extract any little bit out of it that we can. The merging of toxic substances

like nuclear and biomedical waste will eventually produce grand mutations which not only threat

human existence, but also threaten our very speciation. The end will go on however, as the two

headed infinity fish has evolved to adapt very quickly.

So what can be done about the four horsemen? McMurry thinks that by taking on each

of these catastrophic developments alone might yield positive results. Even assuming they were

seen as tokens of impending doom instead of the price of progress, their total magnitude poses a

challenge only a concerted effort by all responsible nations could even begin to deal with.9

Envisioning the future of the apocalypse is difficult. One difficulty is our supposed inability to

envision the real state were in, let alone deal with it effectively, or project it into the future. But,






10



clearly my vision is not that of a modernist utopian future. I guess we could play an end game of

optimism and pessimism. The optimist could hope that the apocalypse will indeed continue

indefinitely, allowing us to go on as we are. The pessimist could angst over the cataclysmic

moment when the world abruptly changes as we know it. Or, would it be the other way around?









Notes

1Andrew McMurry, The Slow Apocalypse: A Gradualistic Theory of the World's Demise,
Postmodern Culture V.6 N.3 (May. 1996).

2David Faust, Re: Alternative Four Horsemen (Forwarded Message),
http://csf.colorado.edu/hypermail/ecol-econ/dec95/0058.html. faust@stripe.colorado.edu

3David Faust

4Dexter Hinkley, Re: Alternative Four Horsemen (Forwarded Message),
http://csf.colorado.edul../hypermaillecol-econ/dec95/0059.html. dhinkley@igc.apc.org

5Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings. ed. Mark Poster (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1988) 144-145.

6Jean Baudrillard, "The Anorexic Ruins." Looking Back at the End of the World. Dietmar
Kamper and Christina Wulf, eds. New York: Semiotexte, 1989. 29-45.

7James Berger, Ends and Means: Theorizing Apocalypse in the 1990's, Postmodem Culture V.6
N.3 (May, 1996).

8Scott Schaffer, Disney and the Imagineering of Histories. Postmodern Culture V.6 N.3 (May,
1996).

9Andrew McMurry.






























Figure 1.
Little Richard Visits Splendid China,
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.


Figure 2.
Miami Vice, Episode 13.
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.




































Figure 3.
Ride Sharing Program
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.


Figure 4.
The Frontier,
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.






























Figure 5.
The Road to Sunny Florida.
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.


Figure 6.
Forty Acres and a Subdivision.
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.





































Figure 7. Crystal River Florida.
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996


Figure 8. Climbin' Season
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.




































Figure 9.
Night Fishing 2051
Variable Dimensions, Digital Dye Sublimation, 1996.









I certify that I have read this study and in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards
of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a summary of the project
option in lieu of thesis for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.



S Cra, C rree n, Committee Chair
Asistat Prof sor of Art



I certify that I have read this study and in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards
of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a summary of the project
option in lieu of thesis for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.



Gord n Blea h
Assisant Pr fessor of Art



I certify that I have read this study and in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards
of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a summary of the project
option in lieu of thesis for the degree of Master of Fine Arts.



Alexander Alberro
Assistant Professor of Art



This summary of a project option in lieu of thesis was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the College of Fine Arts and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of Master of Fine Arts.


May, 1997 p

Barbara Jo Revet, Chair
Department of Art





Donald McGlothlin, Dean
College of Fine Arts









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