A couple of almost rhetorical questions in our times are: what would that moment be like when all the things we know, facing the abyss of the end of the world, cease to exist? And what comes after this? These questions not only refer to the particularity of our historical moment, given the uncertainty of our era, with issues such as climate change, hunger, wars, viruses, control over collective and individual wills, and environmental pollution, to name a few from a long list. They also allow us to understand the most deeply felt human concerns. These are not questions exclusive to our time; for example, the origin of the word "apokálypsis" dates back to ancient Greek civilization, and its meaning denotes revelation; in other words, having a future vision of the end.
Further along in history, Christians have used this term to discuss when God will descend from
the heavens and bring justice between the good and the bad. However, beyond the ethical or
moral implications this might have for some, the idea of the end of our species is almost an
individual responsibility. Therefore, envisioning the elements that could catalyze a potential
human extinction presupposes, at the very least, the construction of our own opinion on the
matter, and it might urge us to participate more actively in social development.
As mentioned earlier, these elements stem from the common denominator of being human.
And within the human realm, there is room to establish the many visions that can emerge when contemplating the apocalyptic. So, here comes the secular but instructive question: you, an ordinary citizen, mortal among mortals, how do you think the end of all times looks? I have heard substantial responses about political, religious, geographical, social, economic, literary, fictional, astronomical, physical, biological... All these, with engaging, distinctive perception markers, depending on the era, sociocultural conditions, and individual or collective politics. In essence, it's the form and not the content that changes. However, let's say that these factors can be grouped into aesthetic, ideological, or conceptual patterns that emerge thanks to all perceptual relationships. What's intriguing is that, in every pattern, there's room for exceptions, as Montoya (2013) asserts. This conceptual escape, in this case, can drive artistic practice to provide a vision beyond the literality with which the non-existence of humanity in the future has been cloaked.
So, through some encounters with artists at the art exhibition titled "Art-Apocaliptica," which
opened on September 16th and is taking place at Spanicart (604 1st St SW – Calgary) from
September 16th to October 7th, 2023, I was able to understand a bit more about the material
and conceptual dimension of the sense of the end times, the apocalypse, in terms of what goes beyond the common understanding.
For example, alongside the artist Lobsang Tseten, in front of his work titled "Untitled" (where
you can see the face of Barack Obama, separated from the edges of the canvas by a kind of
black halo, with edges insinuating waves inscribed with demonic images, dragons, and all sorts of figures worth detailing), he indicated that the connection between his work and the concept of the apocalypse is a way of placing hope beyond the inherent unease of this era.
Nevertheless, it is hope. In the meantime, he listed a myriad of political and social problems
that point to the need to recognize our capacity to shape and determine our future fate and
demand our responsibility in the matter.
So, the inextricability of existence persists precisely in the capacity for self-determination in a
collective space, in corporeality, for instance. Thus, the Canadian artist Sinéad Ludwig manages to capture, in my opinion, the prevalence of individual encounters despite the chaos
surrounding life. She positions the female body as a political and intimate territory through her two sculptures in this exhibition. This brought back to me the sense of understanding the
feminine in the words of Judith Butler through her article "Bodies that Matter" (2011).
The female body, women's consciousness, and the political relationship of women with the world encoded in masculine terms represent nothing less than the end of Western society as we know it. What I find interesting is the substrate of this, as I glimpse the idea that the apocalyptic, conceptually in this case and the previous one, emerges as an insurgent substance of an awakening of consciousness, a conceptual and material rebirth, and not in the reserved idea of devastation and extermination as the only way to resolve our conflicts, which I suspect have their roots in male-centric thinking. In any case, Ludwig skillfully highlights this principle through the aesthetic conceptualization of the feminine. One of her works, titled "Descend Into Her Shadows," shows the lower base (an upright chain) supporting the vital experience of flight of being (butterfly wings).
With this image in mind, I ventured into the gallery to find other artists who could draw more
apocalyptic threads to this question. As my gaze briefly scanned the artworks, I found Stacey
Walyuchow, seemingly contemplating her work, and I joined this exercise without knowing
what I should question or contemplate. She felt my presence, and eventually, we met in a gaze. So, without any formal invocation, I asked her about the relationship she found between her work and the apocalypse. She smiled, affirming that it was an interesting question, and turned her eyes back to the artwork. "Monday," she said, "is a terrible day: suicides, women, men staring, people, noise. All of this is the mortal experience; the vital part is these wings that this woman has, a winged being searching for meaning. In the end," she continued, "she recognized the presence of beauty in birds." With this last statement, she guided me to a corner of the gallery where her other work is titled ''Red, Bird, Boots, and Women'' She stated that books and birds are the most sublime and powerful things a woman can love. They are synonymous with transforming those worlds that constantly die within us. – She indicated. A silence, a pause between us, left us with a complicit farewell as if we had discovered something that transcends us. With a certain lightness in my spirit, I found myself face to face with Dave Railandes, a Canadian artist whose sculpture "Killbot Engaged" aims to draw attention to the destruction of humanity at the hands of robots and, let's say, the fear and speculation surrounding the use of artificial intelligence. However, Dave asserted that the only threat is humans; the problem is the use, not the medium. For example, the movie Terminator is an image of the reach of the human, not the machine. – He pointed out. I see in this sculpture a way to acknowledge the fears generated by the idea of human control being lost over human affairs. And, of course, morally, we will be free of all blame because it will be easy to say that it was the machine that annihilated the species; we will have someone to blame. - He asserted" In religion, everything is fear..." - The artist suggested.
Finally, I met Jennifer Peters, a Canadian sculptor and painter whose work intrigued me and
filled me with wonder. Her sculpture, "In religion, everything is fear..." situated at the gallery entrance, awakened my historical notion of the image of the Trojan Horse (The Iliad), both mimetic and hidden in its purpose. It also reminded me of the practical nature of the horse in human affairs, such as its presence in wars, labor, sports, and even in the imagination of the end of the world, as Christian scriptures speak of angels descending from heaven as riders to bring justice. In summary, I had no choice but to ask the artist about her work. Initially, she seemed unconcerned with my inquiries and stated, ''There are many ways to interpret this sculpture. It, in itself, could answer your questions and provide each individual with the opportunity to answer their own. The simple is the most complex'' she indicated.
For example, she explained that the materials used to construct the horse, originating from dry branches, tree trunks, metals, chains, and leathers that were once considered trash, now assume a symbolic, artistic, and apocalyptic meaning. As the depth of her words resonated in my consciousness, I imagined the horse covered in flames traversing the streets of Downtown, heralding the beginning of the end, the apocalypse, with trumpets in the skies.
In summary, beyond stereotypical thoughts, the images of the end of our times and the anxiety of not knowing our future, art, situated in the realm of the disruptive, offers a reflective
perspective on our existence. And what better way to allow ourselves this experience than at
Spanicart, where more than 50 artists share the materiality of their views on these almost
- Montoya, Sandra M., María N. Romero, and Lady C. Jeréz. "Mujer y desplazamiento de sí: sustratos socioculturales que soportan las redes de la violencia de género'' Revista Facultad Nacional de Salud Pública 31.3 (2013): 349-358.
- Butler, Judith. Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of sex. Taylor & Francis, 2011.