‘Exponential’ Site-specific installation at Desert Dairy in Twentynine Palms, California.
Created between January 18 – January 25, 2020.
Materials: found objects on-site, twine
As an eco-artist, I am profoundly concerned about the predicament humanity faces. The prolonged period of exponential growth and the resulting environmental degradation have brought us to the brink of a potential systemic collapse within a few decades. Although certain stages of this collapse are already unfolding, there is still an opportunity to alter our course. However, if we fail to confront the reality we have created and overlook the interconnectedness of all systems on our planet, we will forfeit our chance at a viable future.
Confronted with this imminent disaster, I feel an overwhelming urge to create art that highlights our reckless misuse of the very systems that sustain us. The manifestations of climate change serve as indicators that our behaviors are unsustainable, gradually eroding our own habitats. The World 3 Model, as presented in Dennis Meadows’ 1972 report, accurately predicted the adverse consequences of exponential growth in human activities on the Earth’s ecosystems and interconnected resources. These consequences, if left unchecked, will have cataclysmic implications for humanity. To combat this, we must adopt a holistic perspective like Meadows and other scientists, breaking free from our individual silos and recognizing that the harm we inflict locally reverberates globally.
My installation, “Exponential,” emerged from my firm belief that in a finite world, boundless growth has no place. It was constructed on an abandoned dairy farm in the Mojave Desert, coinciding with the week when Wuhan went into lockdown—a moment that would later evolve into a global pandemic. Just as COVID-19 exposed the fragility of our world’s systems, the pandemic tests our resilience and urges us to contemplate how our own survival is contingent upon the planet’s well-being.
During the creation of Exponential, I toiled in solitude and silence, rising with the sun, assembling my pieces outdoors under the shifting light of an extraordinary landscape—mere miles away from Joshua Tree National Park. While that region has been carefully conserved and nurtured, areas beyond its protective boundaries have not flourished. The abandoned dairy farm had served as a dumping ground for a period of time, and though it has been cleaned up since, remnants of objects and waste can still be found buried close to the surface.
At the heart of Exponential lies a decaying structure on the old dairy farm. Initially, I felt akin to an archaeologist of the Anthropocene, unearthing plastic and metal objects as I cleared the area around and inside the structure. Eventually, many of these excavated items found their place within the installation. For instance, I adorned the outer wall with discarded everyday objects—a visual representation of our irresponsible exploitation of the Earth’s resources. This external facade serves as a tangible surface, posing the question: How does our material consumption harm our habitats? Through excessive resource extraction, waste generation, and pollution, we have created the very conditions that threaten our own existence. In essence, we have severed the branch upon which we perch.
Meanwhile, the interior of the structure symbolizes a complex system, underscoring the growing fragility of our globalized economy and culture. A single thread of collapse can trigger a chain reaction that dismantles the entire system. Inside, shelves display a collection of concrete “rocks,” symbolizing the scarcity of marine sand, illicitly taken from beaches for construction materials. Completing the installation is an assemblage of delicate cyanotypes crafted with native plants.
As a whole, Exponential serves as a commentary on the peril civilization faces due to our insatiable habits of acquisition and ceaseless exploitation of resources. Through weathered walls repurposed with discarded waste, fragments of the sky, the desert, and the trees are revealed—a glimpse of the beauty and fragmented scenes of the world we must safeguard if we desire humanity’s survival.
Before and during the creation of Exponential, I listened to several podcasts and read many books and articles related to a possible collapse of the thermo-industrial civilization within the next 50 years. This research helped me connect dots and understand the link between economies, resources, energy, industrialization, agriculture, and health. Below is a list of just some of the research that inspired my art-making. These materials have helped me understand that the best way to approach the possibility of the end of the world as we know it is to do everything we can to prevent it:
In French/YouTube channels:
Partager C’est Sympa
Jouzel et Larrouturou
Jancovici et Bihouix
Pablo Servigne and Raphael Stevens “Comment Tout Peut S’effondrer”
Pablo Servigne, Raphael Stevens, and Gauthier Chapelle “Une Autre Fin du Monde est Possible”
Fred Vargas “L’Humanite en Peril”
Aurelien Barrau “Le Plus Grend Defi de l’Histoire de l’Humanite”
Cyril Dion “Petit Manuel de Resistance Contemporaine”
Jared Diamond “Collapse”
Edward O.Wilson “Half-Earth”
Dennis and Donella Meadows “Limits to Growth the 30-Year Update”
Please visit desertdairy.com, a blog by @amstump.
SHORT VIDEO of the installation, by Ted Meyer.