“I’m here for a very short time,” bargains media artist Kim Alpert in recent discourse on NFTs and the Metaversal turn. Do we ask younger people, inheritors of ecocide, what they feel about the metaverse?—perhaps, do they want to live in a planetary landfill? Do we consider species or perspectives outside our temporospatial limitations?
To produce an art that conceals its own artifice, landscape is the medium and the gaze by which ecocide "the evil of imperialist exploit" is veiled and naturalized. 'The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts' comes to mind. Accordingly, it must be the focus of historical, political and aesthetic alertness, warns WJT Mitchell, to expansionist efforts to claim nature and not assimilation or "ideal, not real estate"—the relations of property and labor belied by "transcendence." An act of contemporary landscape in line with the naturalizing of convention, of ‘progressive’ ecocide, is the Metaverse.
The mobilization of metaversal technologies is a divestment from lived relations with ecological constraints. We are expected to enrich ourselves with simulacra, to content-produce and pleasure condition towards an ever-invasive surveilling gaze of platform capitalism, from whose mineral-metal hardware & emissions costs to livability nevermind profiteer shares we are enclosed to hermetic degrees. The metaversal Manifest Destiny of techno-expansionism implies an inevitability written by those in charge of capital, tech leaders and corporate owners. A coercive design that reductively stratifies and re-batches our relations to targetable data points and ensures ownership structures / property unchallenged, profit imperialism has forged us a new frontier for the medium of landscape.
Mitchell reflects that outward assimilation & exploitation by the colonial project is always accompanied by inward myth-making, of representation and re-imaging. The construction—landscaping of virtual platforms for escapist aesthetics and spectacle as "progressive" veils the real effects to privatization of accessible commons that mirrors the violently pacifying role painting played for systematic dispossession under the Enclosure movement. Social atomization, neoliberal austerity and permanent precarity, the extractive displanting of all living and non-living are now algorithmically elided.
Landscape belies a site of contestation and struggle, of owning without owning up to responsibility and complicity in livability. With Landscape now more precious than ever, gatekept & protected, NFT-ized into virtual real estate in the Metaverse, I couldn't devise a more illustrative exemplar of Mitchell's admonition against reified nostalgia for an imagined destiny of unbounded conquest and appropriation.