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Canaries in the Coal Mine

Isolation | Terry Trickett

Wednesday 22 April 2020

I’ll tell my story of isolation in pictures or, to be more specific, Plague Cartoons as I call them. But my time has been spent, also, in delving into Shoshana Zuboff’s massive volume on ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’. The connection between these two activities, of course, is digital:

This new assembly (of surveillance capitalism) relies on a vast digital apparatus, concentrations of advanced computational knowledge and skill, and immense wealth.”

Like Orwell, before her, Zuboff demands that we refuse to cede the future to illegitimate power. So, from reading couch to computer bench, I inhabit my own contrived digital world in a growing awareness of the dystopian world it heralds. But, of course, at The Architecture Club, we can change all that.

Although she doesn’t mention architects, per se, Zuboff regards artists as canaries in the coal mine, a race apart who are both willing and able to become a rallying point for outrage.

I’m not saying that my own Plague Cartoons are a direct response to that call to arms; they came to mind as an act of digital self-defense before I’d heard Zuboff’s impassioned plea but there just might be a subconscious link.

Canaries in the Coal Mine
Plague Cartoon No. 1

A vicious carona caterpillar swept through the land. Fish and fowl fled in terror but some didn’t escape. Infected or not, they were sold for human consumption in Wuhan’s wet markets………with disastrous results.

(The wild animals are derived from collections in Centro Sebrae de Referência do Artesanto Brasileiro, a crafts museum known as CRAB in Rio de Janeiro.)

Canaries in the Coal Mine
Plague Cartoon No. 2

Four intrepid time travellers plotted to save the world. Without delay, they jumped into Luna’s spaceship and set course for the ancient Puye Cliff Dwellings – a place between Earth and Sky. They arrived, nearly 1000 years ago, to find that the Puebloans had won their fight against a vicious carona caterpillar. How!

The Ancient Puebloans explained to Diego that a Sun Dagger was the secret of their success.

It was formed when a shaft of light came into contact with a spiral carved into rock – something that happened for just 18 minutes during the Summer Solstice.

(Representations of Ancient Puebloans are drawn from the Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe.)

Canaries in the Coal Mine
Plague Cartoon No. 3

Diego asked the Puebloans nicely if he and the other time travellers, Luna, Hesper and Jacobino, could transport the Sun Dagger to other times and other places. Then, armed with their magic weapon, the time travellers flew to Metropolis in the year 2094. Here, they were able to see off a corona carrier that was just about to land.

(The time travellers are my grandchildren who might well be alive to see off the contagion.)

Terry Trickett words and illustrations
The Architecture Club member