The Age of Loneliness


This is the launch of the ‘In Case We Don’t Die’ journal, hereby dedicated to documenting, discussing and illuminating the depths of loneliness in today’s late capitalist societies, in all its catastrophic manifestations. Until now ICWDD has mainly been concerned with visualizing our collective fear of the future, global anxiety and stress, potential natural, or unnatural catastrophes that may strike and our need to connect, collaborate and form communities based on solidarity through artwork and exhibitions. We now turn our gaze inwards and get more specific about our subjective experiences of being citizens in and part of today’s super-individualist societies.

In case we don’t die, these are some of the concerns that are actually worth having and trying to come to terms with.

In case we don’t die, this blog is among the things worth following.

“This is the Age of Loneliness. … We were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. … We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.”

– Quote from George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian titled ’The Age of Loneliness is killing us’, 14th Oct. 2014.


Inner catastrophes

These days potential catastrophes are everywhere you look. The world is so full of danger, stress, competition, overload and insecurity, and most of the time it feels very likely that we are all going to be dead soon, the only question is when and how, exactly? Assuming that we, against all odds, survive the pitfalls of the future that lies ahead, is creativity going to be the thing that saves us? What influence would surviving a catastrophe have on our values, ethics, and our perception of truth and how might this influence visualize itself in the art and societies of the future? 

These questions formed the initial outline for the ICWDD project when it was first launched as a new form of art collaboration and a nomadic group exhibition in 2010. It’s been about 4 years now, since the first ICWDD exhibition saw the light of day in Berlin, and it’s been even longer since the idea was first conceived in my studio space at the RCA in London. The exhibition in Berlin marked my first attempt to form a community of collaborators whose ideas about art, social politics, radical philosophy and the future role of the artist coincided with my own way of thinking, and with whom I could create exhibitions, performances, films and other visual manifestations of work that would eventually form a larger narrative. A story told not only by one isolated voice in the mass of society, but by a group, a community of voices, supporting one another, growing stronger with each new thought and idea.

In the interim I’ve noticed how there’s been an important ‘shift in scale’ as far as catastrophes go, and how the anxiety we picked up on back in 2010 which signified the collective ‘externalized’ fear of the unknown future, while still very much present today seems to have been somehow ‘internalized’ or overruled by less obvious forms of fear, pain, stress and anxiety – a new post-social condition or disorder I’ve chosen to call ‘inner catastrophes’ (read ‘subjective’).


Status update > disconnected

We tend to focus on all the external, larger-than-life or abstract catastrophes in the world around us, because these are the things we’re mostly confronted with in the media and they assume grotesque, but intriguing proportions when they’re distorted and magnified for entertainment value. The media uses these (potential) threats to our safety, (random) violence, (natural) catastrophes and images of the miserable lives of the others (people we don’t know) to create irrational fear and fake needs in its ‘audience’. Another important reason why external things like natural catastrophes, virus attacks, terrorism, traffic deaths and diseases get almost all of our attention as far as our fear of the future goes, is that these potential ‘killers’ are easier to identify, describe to others and handle than the more hidden or internalized fears. The pain of loneliness is not something people like to talk about, because no one seems to know what to do about it. The problem is simply too overwhelming! It’s like we’ve accepted this ‘invisible’ problem as an unavoidable consequence of the way we’ve structured our society around individuality, career, success, freedom and no solidarity. And because no one knows how to deal with this very serious ‘inner catastrophe’ that is quickly evolving and spreading like a virus in our societies, most people choose to disregard it, look away and pretend like it’s not happening… at least not to anyone we know.

During the past 6 months there have been stories on the news about how loneliness has now become an epidemic among young adults, and recent studies have shown that the affliction is just as widespread among older people. Even the number of children who are diagnosed with anxiety, stress, OCD, depression and other potential symptoms of loneliness is growing at an astonishing speed… Yes, there’s a new killer on the loose, disguised as a self-inflicted condition, that only anti-social people with poor networking skills can suffer from, because how can well-funtioning individuals who know how to make the most of what technology has to offer possibly be lonely when they have hundreds and thousands of ’friends’ online, when virtual communication is always available, and when the constant sharing of comments and images via social media makes our lives seem so well-documented and ’meaningful’? How can we appear to be more socially ’connected’ than ever before in human history when in fact many people feel so isolated and starving for actual human contact that experts are saying that loneliness has become a serious collective illness in our societies?


Our lonely struggle

”Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity. Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut. We cannot cope alone.”

– Quote from George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian titled ’The Age of Loneliness is killing us’, 14th Oct. 2014.

These days, in the age of loneliness, where the individual is isolated like never before and cut off from real life, sensing and experiencing almost everything through the filter and ’safe’ distance of the screen… These days we’re all subjected to such vast amounts of information, entertainment and virtual stimuli that we hardly have time to feel our bodies, concentrate on doing our work (concentration = no interuptions before a thought pattern is complete), or come up with new ideas before we have to make our presence known by posting a ’status’ online. Documenting or blogging about what we’re doing has become an obsession for most of us. Every little thing that we do, or wish we could do, or want to do in the future, or know someone who’s done – it all has to be documented instantly and ’shared’ online. And most of us never really stop to consider this behavior, because we’re all too busy, stressed out, or scared to think about the consequences of mindlessly following suit. So, we try to make it look like this is not what we’re doing. We try to create these perfect and politically correct exteriors that look like pages in magazines. We follow the current and try to keep up with the latest fashion ’ideals’ – like the responsible, ethical and socially conscious consumers we have become (?) – comparing ourselves to what the ’cool people’ and celebrities are posting on social media. We attempt to create a perfect online image of our lives that we can use as a shield… against what? .. and then we hope…  we keep our fingers crossed and hope that everyone else out there is just as busy and stressed out as we are, because if they are it’s unlikely that anyone will notice how much we’re actually struggling to make it all come together, and how lonely our struggle is.

And with this, we’ve found our point of departure >