Two Cabins

Reviewed by Travis Diehl

119. The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. . . . Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. . . . For example, the system provides people with food because the system couldn’t function if everyone starved. . . . Too much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a mass of propaganda about recycling. . . .
Theodore J. Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future


Once in a while an artist friend of mine who has fallen on hard times fills up two trash bags with beer cans and hefts them down the block for a few dollars. Beer money, mostly. “Well, I was raised post-Earth Day, so I chuck my empties out the back door at the recycling pile.” There’s a lot of garbage out there: soggy six-pack cartons, wine bottles, yogurt containers, plastic fruit containers, cereal boxes, newsprint circulars, a fruit juice jug, toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, bean cans, soup cans, beer cans. And so we sort our own trash, extracting the reusable from the used-up. The California Redemption Value (or CRV) represents a special duty, a sorting function, performed for a small net loss by the average MGD-drinking citizen, or for pitiful subsistence by a shuffling scavenger class (visions of Chinese villages acrid with cooking motherboards), for the benefit of manufacturers who will reprocess and sell our waste back to us at great profit. At least we keep it out of landfills. But I want to stop. But I won’t stop. Yet of some comfort is this idea—read in a sci-fic novel someplace—that as civilization comes to a close, as catastrophe comes true, we can be assured of a certain finality: civilization as we know it can never be rebuilt—as we know it—since Earth has been changed, plundered, hollowed out. All our useful metals are above ground, extracted and refined, contorted into new compounds, or obliterated, or shot into space—in short, beyond the reach of bronze-age science. Future societies on Earth, if they will exist, must—if only for this reason—take a different course.
Travis Diehl, October 13, 2012


May 18, 1996.
Had heated argument with JB at (CalArts) graduation party in Val Verde re. the “Unabomber Manifesto” while enveloped in smoke from student-dug bar-b-q pit. I called Unabomb actions morally indefensible and labeled Manifesto politically naïve Luddism. James said it said stuff no one else is saying about technology that really needs saying. He also specially likes the bit about the Left being “over-socialized” i.e. too pc, self-censoring, timid, sanctimonious, bourgeois, elitist, deferential re. corporate power, identity politics, law, social etiquette etc to go toe to toe with the powers that be / the Right. I conceded that that sounded interesting and admitted I hadn’t actually read the Manifesto but would maybe do so now. . . .
Dick Hebdige, “After Benning, after Math: 12, 13 and counting….” in Two Cabins by James Benning



Going to buy this book? Support the Art Book Review by purchasing here

James Benning, Ed. Julie Alt, Two Cabins, (A.R.T. Press, 2011)
Images: interior of  Two Cabins