I recently finished editing an interview I did with Unknown Field’s Liam Young while we were on a container ship heading to China back in July. The interview is going to be published by Sonic Acts (lovely smart Dutch people) in a book about the anthropocene next year, and I had to get 7000 words of transcribed text down to about 2500. Here’s a little snippet from the stuff that didn’t make the cut.
Liam: Because like I was saying, it is quite extraordinary, like I was talking about the technological sublime. We see it in all these places we go to, we stand at the world’s largest gold mine, it’s a hole in the ground the size of the Grand Canyon, so big it generates its own weather system and planes have to divert around it otherwise they’re sucked into the wind vortex that it creates. We’ve done this…we’ve built the machines that have dug this fucking hole.
People travel from all over the world to go and see the Grand Canyon, to go to this fucking hole in the ground. It’s the same kind of thing, it’s actually more impressive because that took millions of years of wind and rain and erosion to create it and we did this in 15 years ‑ that’s pretty amazing.
So we used to paint the sublime which was about the fear and order of nature, and now we have the technological sublime where we approach the same kind of landscapes, we have the same kind of feelings about technological and industrial landscapes that we once did looking across the savanna, or looking across the grand canyon, or standing on a peak and seeing the amazon jungle unfolding in front of us. We stand underneath of a crane in a mega-port and we have that same sense of awe and wonder.
Tim: I was standing on the bridge, and the lights on one of them suddenly fired up and it slowly passed over me…a dozen little suns beaming on me, bringing daylight to the night.
Liam: And you get fucking goose bumps, you know what I mean? Like the artificial night when you see a factory on the horizon…it creates this strange kind of synthetic aurora and it’s desolate ‑ it’s utterly seductive. That’s our era’s great art…people used to do the Nazca Lines and we go to the oil pipelines.
Tim: That’s funny you say that because I went to Machu Picchu back in April, and it was fantastic. And then a few weeks later I went to Detroit. And that was fantastic too. And they both seemed strangely similar to me. And I couldn’t quite decide which impressed me more.
Tim: And they’re two of the same things, right?
Liam: Yeah. Two ruins of a civilisation.