The Lost Worlds: about the need to repopulate enormous structures

by Stefan Tiron

We still live in a novel from the lost worlds’ category. We still have crowds of cultural tourists who push one another to see these grandiose monstrosities of a secret and tyrannical past. A guided walk through House of the People in Bucharest mimics the round trip through the lost in jungle territories of Maya. It is that perfect combination of faded splendours, decadence
and cruel ceremonies.
It is the story of never finished pyramidal structures, always in the middle of a building site, quickly abandoned because of imminent menaces or unforeseen rebellions. It is the storytold by those who compete with the best science and popularized archaeology narrators – those who explore the rebuilt palaces of some ancient civilisations. This is, first and foremost, the
history of some mass mobilization experiments, as violent and prolific as possible; it is the large scale change of the scenery and the one-sided
planning on big areas. Apparently everything is part of that school of thought influenced by North Korea which tries to pass beyond any other
preceding effort of building impossible urban structures. (...)
All these projects release a need to expand and multiply the spatial segmentation, by increasing the number of rooms – millions and millions -, ready to receive the human content. Behind these great multiplication projects remains a question: how to entirely use the new spaces, all available, how to fill the new-created emptiness. But till then, it is only the potential of the infinite void which becomes the main force
justifying all these structures. (...)
To fill colossal halls, you need the perfect audience. An obedient mass of future merry children, people having preschoolers’ desires,
ready to accept every new thing. All the museums hope to find a new kind of loving Eloi, some infantile visitors, pushed by the big names
and the latest cultural style into the depths of exhibiting spaces, cool and reassuring in to the conditioned air. In the torrid world of greenhouse
effect, contemporary art museums offer protection against the present climate. They talk about spaces and aesthetics in abundance,
about unexpected turns and curatorial idiosyncrasies. In a Eloi’s world, books become dust and only the power of images and sounds
remains behind. Prolonged dialogues seem useless when nobody asks any other question.
This is a museum visitor, as fragile as an Eloi, who must be protected through some guided round trips and age restrictions. House of the People/ Palace of Parliament is already on the touristic attractions’ map of Lonely Planet.
Attractions like that join another type of lost gigantic fauna, specific to insular ecosystems. The extreme differences of size satisfy our special sense for physical enormities. We get near this question: why does the insular environment (geographical and ideological) create giants (and, sometimes, dwarfs)? In the last 50 years, many young biologists brought answers to the question of insular giantism/ dwarfism. Since the publication of J.Bristol
Foster’s work (1964), the ”island’s law” – Foster’s generalization about the rodents tending to giantism and the big carnivores and herbivores,
like the diminishing mammoths – has been added. Another study (1978, Ted J.Case) concentrated more on exceptions, so the body’s dimension grows only till it comes across other elements, for example the animal’s ability to fly or to dig pits. Maybe even more interesting is the fact that pygmy mammoths, a part of the islands’endemic fauna, seem to resist death
better than their continental relatives. In both cases – the humanoids Eloi of the dystopian future created by H.G. Wells or the fossil remains of pygmy mammoths from the past -, the atrophy seems to disturb the improvements’ line and the evolutive promise of some bigger and greedier
Stories about lost civilisations say that, in fact, the buildings which become bigger and bigger have an effect of annihilation, destroying and
deforming the leading masses; the monumental hypertrophy creates physical atrophy. The isolation and the huge effort made in the end
represent the last drop from a history of selfdestructive initiatives.
The enormous bodies are final products in a direction going nowhere.
The only direction for the huge skeletons of lost and sank worlds points to the extinction. The cracks and the interstices of those mammoth
bones offer a temporary shelter from the pressure caused by the evolutive channel of growth and physical development. Repopulating
must always be partial and alarming for the onlooker. Lost worlds are full of questions in search for an answer, and the help signals are often warning.

Stefan Tiron, freelance curator, art critic, writer, expert in subcultures.