THE COMFORT ILLUSION
~ Work In Progress ~
Created and performed by Nic Adams
Excerpts from The Comfort Illusion have been presented as work-in-progress showings at HERETOFORE UNSEEN, a salon for new works (February 2018, NYC), FEAST: A Performance Series (May 2018, NYC), and Irregular Salon (May 2018, NYC).
The Comfort Illusion works well as an aural experience. To simulate this, I've created an audio "demo" of Part 2, which recreates the sound design and performance of the text.
The elements which comprise the sound design are stand-in tracks which will be replaced with original compositions before we begin production. Accompanying the aural experience will likely be a complimentary video design.
The Comfort Illusion - Part 2
So…uh...the best field markers for marble are it’s - how do you say - it has a low hardness and it has this vitreous luster...and I guess luster has to do with shine and vitreous probably has to do with like a certain veiny looking thing? No. I just Googled it. I'm totally wrong. It looks like glass. And then, of course, the thing that is distinct about marble is its bands and streaks and swirls. And the color of marble is typically white, but other minerals surrounding the marble can color it...like if it's a black marble it's black because of carbon. If it's yellow or green that comes from lemonite or limonite, and if it's red it's probably hematite that's making it that color and hematite sounds bloody to me. The core sample I saw of inside the earth - as if the earth had been intruded into - the core sample looked like marble, like a big cylinder, and it came from an iron formation in Australia, and it also looked like a big hunk of fatty meat, and it also looked like Jupiter with its fat white bruises coming across like clouds or eyes. And in parts the core sample is broken which makes me think that maybe it was mishandled, or the sediment was loose or granular. But another thing I think about is maybe there was nothing going on in that millennium. Just a white relief. Or maybe it was a time of fire and nothing, or it was a period of ice and waterbears. Which is to say only the mightiest little creatures. Do you know waterbears? They're so small you can barely see them but they look like translucent gummy bears with drains for faces. My friend says their mouths make them look surprised. Little translucent gummy bears, just like, strolling around on a speck of dust eating little grasses, little grasses subsumed by the tectonic drift, traveling down the geological escalator to earth’s basement, swallowed by another epoch. Staring into some flat diorama where little starving creatures suck steam and smaller creatures from the lip of a volcano. Or, an unfathomably gigantic beast with icy matted hair and curving tusks, before the Holocene, growing weary, trying to hopscotch an adaptation, lying down in a snowdrifted bank, glassy, heavy eyes staring back at the waterbear, wanting for something like cryptobiosis or estivation - some sort of adaptation so they can beat out the rapid change in the environment. Cryptobiosis is like some other plane of existence, where the metabolism stops, reproductive functions stop, all feeling stops in response to a big environmental change and so, basically, like, your heartbeat slows and then stops, and you expend fractions of calories, and kind of live in this other like plane of existence. And then once the temperature stabilizes, or oxygen is restored to the atmosphere, or the poison is captured and removed, you, the gummy bear, come back to life. But not the woolly mammoth. Nor this bacteria. Nor the unenlightened among us, and I count myself in that category. So the mouth turns off the faucet - no more salivation, tongue drying out, gums receding, teeth pulverized, eyes withering like old party balloons, the stomach bloats and then collapses, the skin sags, the scavengers scavenge. Washed by waves, incinerated by lava, plowed by the first farmers - bones fields apart. A flood, a fire, the crisp skins of a thousand grounded locusts, plowed, paved, compacted, the foundation of a building is erected and demolished, reduced to rubble and red earth, eons but nothing of ice or fire where the core sample breaks.
Scientists can tell something about the different geological eras based on the coloration of the core sample, and you know usually there's like a tan section, or red-clay-looking-stuff, but then if the core sample is long enough, you get a black line, and then a white line. And the black line is probably a bunch of, like, carbon, right? And carbon can be found out in nature in what the miners call seams, which can be as little as one inch or as big is twelve feet thick. The black line on the core sample can be some sort of scorched earth or charring - it’s probably an indication that everything was incinerated.
And geologists, you know, can kind of look at the black line and see that there was a catastrophic geological event, like the earth had been intruded into by an asteroid or something. And this results in, or can result, in a mass extinction which is defined as a decimation of 75% of the earth's species.
(The speaker asks the audience about Centralia, PA.)
I watch disaster videos on YouTube: floods, fires, hurricanes, stuff like that...and I watched this one - it was a video of a tsunami in Japan. You were watching it from a building, high up, and you had elevation on your side, but you also had a clear view of I guess it was like the ocean or water probably like running into a delta or tributary or something. But really it looked like a river, like a pretty broad river, with like, you know, lots of ships on the side and they're anchored there to docks. And where the river meets the land is this curve and in front of that is a sea wall, and then a highway, and on the other side of the highway is a shopping center: a supermarket, a parking lot. And at first it seems like the water will take forever to reach you. You think “the sea wall will protect me", "my altitude will protect me", and you disassociate: "it's like I'm looking at a colony of ants". But what’s that ripple on the water? One of the boats comes untethered. Some of the other tugs and squat ferries break their anchors. The first small, strange wisp of black gas jets out in a little stream from the top of the supermarket, and still it seems that it could be years before the water reaches you. You think, "I'm so high I'm untouchable". Then the river crests over the seawall, and the cars begin to move and float like little toys in a bathtub. The din of the water gets louder and louder and intrudes into cars, deeply, breaks their glass windows, triggers the alarms, and two and five and twenty then fifty cars start sounding long and dissonant: different tones, rhythms, pitches, the slightest of intervals. The first buildings collapse, the walls fall down, they get swept off as if they were amphibian all along. A ship is on the highway now, floating like a little styrofoam bit, and you see these buildings pop off and float and you start to think, like, wait, "aren’t there supposed to be foundations for these buildings? Aren’t they made of steel, you know? If they're designed to withstand earthquakes, why not tsunamis…" and you...I mean I…that’s not fair. I amaze myself with everything that I don't know. Then the car alarms stop because water has put an end to all man-made things below.
So multiply that by a million, then light it on fire...that’s the black line. Then what's the white line? I don't know with the white line is, but can you imagine what a relief it must've been?
Out of our flooded cities, at the bottom of the ocean, we ascend out of the continental ridge, up to the abyssal plain. Up the continental rise, slope, shelf - white where the sea foam meets the shoreline. On the sand, now, into the dark green forest, up the light mountainside to the ridge dusted in white. Let's call these the Sierra Nevadas, made mostly from granodiorite which scientists can discern in the field because it looks like…uh, granite. The granodiorite structures itself as a batholith, which is a huge body of plutonic rock...I'm not sure what plutonic rock is...let me look it up...plutonic plutonic...maybe you say platonic I say plutonic…let’s see...look up the definition: platonic. Thank you, Google. Plutonic is like an igneous based rock…and because I'm a fucking idiot, what is igneous again...it’s lava rock! Right. Okay, but plutonic, interestingly, relates to Pluto, Roman god of the underworld...and igneous relates - another definition of igneous is fire or fiery. Fire or fiery under- underworld rock …well, there is a visual. So. Sitting on top of the Sierra Nevadas is this granodiorite-fiery-underworld-rock structured as a batholith, which is a huge body of plutonic rock - that has been intruded deep into the earth’s crust and later exposed by erosion. "Has been intruded…deep...into." On the other side of the hill, civilization in sepia tones pockmarked by these little, white lights: little homes, little cars, little driveways. Small people hugging the smaller people they've made. They pull nitrogen out of the air and turn it into bread. They all sit together on the porch at night and eye the white fiery-underworld-rocks and beyond them imagine the black sea.
There are five types of cryptobiosis, which is like turning yourself into the undead. There are five types: there's the one where you live without water. One where you live without oxygen. One where you live in poison. One where you live in ice. And finally, one where you live in fire. And the only organism that can do all five is called the waterbear. It is not called the human. But there are stories of Buddhist masters climbing into caves, sitting themselves in the lotus position, and going all winter without eating. Some of these Buddhist masters have come out of the state to share what they saw on the other side and...others don't. This meditative state is called tukdam. They bridge the gap between the living, physical, material world and the spiritual world. They enter into this meditative practice and continue past death. They sit there and slow their breathing down. They are able to move blood from one extremity to another by sheer force of will - they're able to control their breathing and slow their heartbeat down to almost nothing...8 bpm, which I am going to demonstrate now.
(The speaker demonstrates.)
Is the comfort illusion the waterbear...being able to adapt in these different scenarios? Is it cryptobiosis? The idea that like if we continue on unchecked and without change we can somehow find a way to exist in fire, in ice, in poison, in water, without oxygen?
Whenever I imagine myself in the black and white on the core sample...well I can't, actually.
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