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Sam Keogh, Rethinking Nature

Sam Keogh's 'The Island' (2021) included in Rethinking Nature, curated by Kathryn Weir with associate curator Ilaria Conti at Museo Madre, Naples.

The acceleration of global warming, the rising of the seas, the mass extinction of species, the recent weather anomalies, flows and seepages of toxicity impossible to contain – this unfolding predicament cannot be separated from the modern European paradigm that conceives of nature as a reservoir of resources to be freely exploited for profit. Rethinking Nature reveals how contemporary artistic practice is contributing to cultural and political processes that collectively rethink the ethical underpinnings of existence in the world, and underline the forms of interconnectedness that bind the entire planet. The project articulates experimental creative vocabularies that aim to produce alternative bodies of knowledge and social forms centered on political ecology. They demonstrate the urgency of building relationships on the basis of other values and call for radical change to address a cumulative crisis that has long existed in many geographies and that theorist Elizabeth Povinelli of Karrabing Film Collective today defines as “ancestral.” Indian writer Amitav Ghosh reminds us in his book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016), that ‘indigenous peoples have already experienced the end of the world and found ways to survive’, noting that farmers, fishermen, Inuit, indigenous peoples, forest peoples in India, have all experienced the climate crisis first hand and have already had to adapt, mainly through displacement and by finding new means of subsistence.

In Sam Keogh's 'The Island', the artist's avatar, called a "bushranger", a bizarre hybrid between an anthropic being and a tree, guides the viewer through the technicolor dream landscapes of Fortnite, an online video game that has acquired huge popularity in recent years. In the game, 100 players are parachuted onto a desert island where they must fight to accumulate resources and fight to the death, a goal made more and more pressing by the arrival of the so-called "Storm". The last survivor wins the game. The whole island is in the eye of this storm which is gradually contracting, forcing players to collide with each other. Keogh's narrative draws connections between the game's mechanics and the environmental impacts of its growing popularity. While islands and archipelagos around the world, which still today evoke a colonial imaginary of untouched and uninhabited nature, are threatened by rising sea levels and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, Fortnite's popularity continues to grow. As a result, the infrastructure of the game grows, requiring an ever-increasing number of data processing centers that are nowadays often built on artificial floating islands off the coast of northern Europe. As millions of online players on The Island press "play again" to test their individualistic survival skills in the face of climate collapse, outside of the game real life seems to increasingly replicate the dynamics of the game, dynamics that are reinforced by the growing takeover of eco-fascist and "survivalist" positions.

"I built a kind of island inspired by the world of Fortnite, which is partly based on a dream I had about the game. So, in that section, I talk about that dream and draw connections between what happens in Fortnite and the fantasies and desires of today's growing wave of ecofascism. An important text for conceiving this work was Alfie Bown's book, The Playstation Dreamworlds, which proposes the idea that Freudian psychoanalysis of dreams could be a very useful tool for understanding the desires and dreams expressed by video games. In this sense, the film tries to take that idea and open Fortnite to study the game from a more transversal angle, crossing the parallels between the things we do in Fortnite as players and the fantasies of a sort of competitive, violent and individualistic, which in turn is a fairly prevalent imaginary nowadays in ecofascist imaginaries." Sam Keogh


Maria Thereza Alves / Giorgio Andreotta Calò / Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan / Adrián Balseca / Gianfranco Baruchello / Adriana Bustos / Sebastián Calfuqueo Aliste  / Cao Minghao & Chen Jianjun / Jimmie Durham / Denise Ferreira da Silva & Arjuna Neuman / Fernando García-Dory & INLAND / Ximena Garrido-Lecca / Gidree Bawlee – Kamruzzaman Shadhin – Salma Jamal Moushum / Edgar Heap of Birds / Karrabing Film Collective & Elizabeth Povinelli / Sam Keogh / Francois Knoetze / Elena Mazzi / Ana Mendieta / Marzia Migliora / Jota Mombaça & Iki Yos Piña Narváez / Sandra Monterroso / Niccolò Moronato / Tabita Rezaire & Amakaba / Zina Saro-Wiwa / Karan Shrestha / Buhlebezwe Siwani / Yasmin Smith / Ivano Troisi / Tricky Walsh / Zheng Bo

Further details at link below.


The Island, (still), 2021, HD video, duration: 28'43 ''
Commissioned for Rethinking Nature

The Island, (still), 2021, HD video, duration: 28'43 ''
Commissioned for Rethinking Nature