In the parable ‘The Madman’ Frederich Nietzsche suggested that, “god is dead” , “we have killed him” and then asks, “must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of [the murder]”. Phil Aitken says we didn’t have it in us. Harari said the same. Instead we “built a reliance on the machine – from the war machine to the self defining object” – and “it is the machine that has become God”.
In 2018 Aitkin built a number of material objects / kinetic constructions (exhibited at the Queensland College of Art’s ‘Project Gallery’ in Brisbane) to respond to the notion that one created reason for existence is being redefined and replaced by another. Further, both are imagined. Whilst the machines Aitken built move and toil ceaselessly they achieve nothing – there is no productive output. Aitken believes the machine/s to be as useful as religious Gods.
His exhibition was ironically titled, ‘Useful Tasks’.
They are useful / not useful.
They are machines / not machines.
They are God / not God.
They are just another human construct / ion.
We held an impromptu discussion / debate in here for a postgraduate business course in September 2018 – focussed not on religion but on Aitkin’s stance that we have built a reliance on technology and the machine. I often run courses in unexpected spaces – courtyards, art galleries, cafes and parks. I directly quote / and cite Aitken here – in, ‘The Barcode as an Icon of Subservience’.
Aitken used to be a choir boy who “only sung because he got paid”. A mere cog in the machine supporting another imagined cultural order. I loved Aitken’s exhibition – the art – the philosophy that it was built upon – the statements it made – and the questions it posed.
Aesthetic object as metaphor.
As representation of cultural constructs.
1. Aitken, Phil. Useful Tasks, 5 September – 15 September 2018, Project Gallery, Brisbane.
2. Harari, Y. N. 2011. Sapiens. A Brief History Of Humankind. Penguin Random House.