Robert Rauschenberg, “Gift for Apollo”, 1959

It is very difficult for us today even to imagine how much delight our ancestors were getting by imagining the very existence and life of gods. Mythology opened for them not just alternatives to their world, but the possibilities of completely different worlds. People identified with what their imagination discovered and it meant that while thinking about gods and godly presences they thought about themselves. And rather often they felt themselves as Olympian settlers, and this was as pleasurable as the absence of the necessity to prove that they can be really as gods. For most of our ancestors it was pleasurable enough. Of course, among ancient people already were “mad” creatures – those with godly ambitions – who tried to realize mythological motifs in life and play gods in life because they were desperate enough to attempt to prove to others and themselves that they are carriers of something like “godly genes”. They were obsessed with the possession of superhuman social and military power and the wells of wealth filled to the sky. These people impregnated with self-aggrandizement became the prototype of 21st century’s bill-mills (the supreme cast of billionaires/millionaires). And today these mini-people with maximal power are in a process of surpassing the very human imagination about what it is to have power and wealth. And because they’re lucky to be in charge of technical sciences and technology they can even afford to be condescending towards the previous deities. These people with a ludicrous posture of thinking that they’re in position to send gifts to gods are those whom Rauschenberg parodied in his installation “Gift to Apollo”.

But what kind of a gift can today’s bill-mills offer to Apollo whose power was exactly overwhelming in the context of life, while our bill-mills work hard to be over-strong in the context of technology (sucking up money from the poor taxpayers and by seducing them with technological toys). Can gods of technological power and techno-immortality exist at all? Our bill-mills certainly desperately need immortality which in their psychology occupies a place of a savior from a deeply rooted fear of life. But the path to such salvation, it seems, leads them into becoming semi-human robots. Rauschenberg imagines and shares with us – how their gift to Apollo can look – like a miserable pseudo-chariot of technological artificiality, and this is for god who moves by the magic horses. This dirty, anti-hygienic and revoltingly looking stroller is the very essence of technology (when it’s under the socio-economic power of robotic misers destroying the natural world in order to build a robotically crippled kingdom of superhuman robots).

On a metallic surfaces of this corpus/corpse representing technological miracle (gift for Apollo) we see Rauschenberg’s reference to modern interest in interior design, traditional landscape and modern neckties (which Apollo, of course, will not be able to refuse – he will, no doubt be subdued by the height of civilized men’s elegance). The metal bucket for quenching the thirst of Apollo’s famous horses is unusable – the present condition of water can be dangerous for their health – they can be poisoned even while being imaginary. We need also to take into consideration the scratching/ screeching/rattling noise that might be produced by the wheels of this our present to Apollo, and let’s add to this the smell of gasoline, lubrication oil, etc., from which even Apollo can start to sneeze and cough and, may be, will even get asthmatic symptoms – all the things which he, before receiving our gift, didn’t know exist in nature.

In other words, mythology was created by our yearning for magic mirror, while the very idea that modern civilization is culturally ahead of the world of our ancestors is a dreadfully delirious attempt of technological self-aggrandizement. “Water, air, earth and even fire (the four classical “elements” that are common to the philosophical and mythic traditions around the globe) no longer correspond to our mental representations of what they are. The image of water that automatically forms in the mind… rarely includes plastic debris, mercury and lead, coliform bacteria and petroleum hydrocarbons. Thinking of air, we do not usually associate it with Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter from forest fires or fossil fuel powered factories. Whereas some of the elemental changes are visible (for example, those manifest in photochemical smog), a vast majority elude our senses and the cognitive apparatus… It should impel us to rethink the meaning of “natural environment” and of life, whether human or not, at an age when these are not only polluted but have been transformed into the by-products of the centuries-long blaze of energy derived from fossil fuels… the rapidly deteriorating state of the environment hit us with growing and disconcerting force. Drinking water is replete with micro-plastics, and, by 2050, the total mass of synthetic, human-made materials in the oceans will surpass that of the fish. Megalopolises on different continents languish under a stew of airborne toxins during the intensifying and protracted periods of extreme smog. Annually, forest fires consume large swathes of wooded land, due to a combination of rising global temperatures, droughts, monoculture plantations, and dearth of investments into (and unwillingness to rely on local knowledges for) fire prevention. Topsoil degradation, threatening the health and fertility of the earth, entails acidification, sharp increases in salinity, and toxicity, coupled with diminishing nutrient capacity and oxygen availability to plant roots.” (Michael Marder “Burning Ourselves to Death”, April, 2018)

Homo technologist‘s magic mirror is technology, not life, as it was for our ancestors, when the magic mirror was instant and pleasure it gave to us was instantly available and unlimited. But to make technology work we have to feed it on top of feeding our decision-makers. When people started to develop tools they, with advantages it provided, began to work for technology (on sustaining and developing it), but imagination was free. In the hands of people obsessed with wealth much more than ancient kings, technology is a parasite. The difference is that today’s financial kings (bill-mills) want to possess much more money than their ancestors (they are in habit to multiply what they have, not just accumulate), and this means that for us today it is much more difficult to provide unlimited luxury they want, than it was for our ancestors. The more we work for technology – the more technology develops – the more profit our possessed decision-makers glue to their souls and bodies. Profit through technology is directly proportional to destruction of life and technology-free imagination.

Here we are present amidst destroyed natural environment, with arrogance of our decision-makers. Technology which exist for providing more wealth for the wealthy will always be, as Rauschenberg shows it – dirty and miserable in their spiritual poverty. And those in charge of technology are in a process of transforming our planet into the same misery and dirt their souls live by.