“Learned helplessness”, is a psychological disease broadly described as a variant of depressive mood disorder triggered by one’s sense of inability in controlling their lives. It is seen in people that are unable to prevent and/or influence negative life events of physical and psychological nature. Since having control over these events is a major factor in establishing one’s feeling of self-worth and competence in life, its lack causes a sense of vulnerability and hopelessness, and deem their actions and will inconsequential.
A very literal example of these conditions can be found in the trenches of the western front during WW1, where it affected a vast number of soldiers (perhaps the largest in recorded history) during the war’s 4 years of stalemate in the trenches knowing that their lives depended on the indeterminable chance of impact of a shell or bullet, and without any notion of control over their actions. These circumstances fueled a sense of ineptitude in their victims to a point of total castration of will, rendered them devoid of any say in the integrity of their lives, bodies and their futures. The trench created helpless bodies and minds; bereft of will and slave to chance.
Fast forward a hundred years, we are faced with a different kind of artillery bombardment; one of vast information and boundless options from which there seems to be no escape. Contrasting this informational avalanche, man’s ability to alter and steer its future appears to be diminishing; singular voices drown in the chorus of crowds, simulated choices fail to impact the machinations of industrial life, and digital interactions fall short of curing the isolation that the city life imposes on us. In this postmodern trench which Baudrillard expertly described, man became equally impotent, matter is ephemeral; thus action is an illusion and satisfaction false and future is unalterable.
The artwork aims to draw a parallel between these vulnerable bodies that are waiting for a chance encounter with death and a different sort of chance that is called good fortune. Originating from the belief of receiving a bird’s dropping on one’s body generating good luck; the passive encounter with a positive notion of chance can be juxtaposed against its negative; becoming an unlucky target of a shell in battle. In both circumstances, the body’s vulnerability and the person’s passive stance remains the same; thus, generating the same sense of helplessness. The hapless body, assured of its impotence takes no action and sets no goals. It remains ever passive, and waits.
In addition to presenting this emotional turmoil, the work also draws attention to comparative worth of this human suffering against the cycle of life beyond the scope of individual dramas. This can be seen in the long-term result of the process on the soil placed under the body where poppy seeds are planted. Taking a step away from the human perspective of the process, a natural life cycle is being achieved by the fertilizing of the soil and growing of seeds.
March the 4th 2017