Unreal Estate and China’s Collective Unconscious

Apocalypse, or, the Logic of Late Anthropocene Ruins

Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota
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In his stunning, sobering book of photography Abandoned Futures: A Journey to the Posthuman World, Tong Lam asserts that, “in a way, we are already post-apocalyptic” (Lam 2013, section 011). To understand such a statement in the context of his photographs—including the photo essay titled “Unreal Estate and China’s Collective Unconscious” that this piece accompanies—we must first detach the notion of apocalypse from its usual biblical connotation. If the Christian version confirms the centrality of humanity to God’s plans, for better or for worse, then what we are dealing with here is something like the opposite; the revelation provided by these photos is at least in part that of the rather pathetic hubris of the human species in its fleeting age of planetary dominance, even in the case of China in the midst of head-spinning transformation...