X: A Value Not Yet Known - diptych video and sculpture 2019

X: A Value Not Yet Known

Essay by Stefano di Paola

Rogers’ X: A Value Not Yet Known begins with a rhythmic waltz, as a camera pans over the Arctic Sea. The ice floes with jagged edges disconnect from one another revealing the sensuous and inky black water between. The music is punctuated by the orgiastic sounds of a couple as the lens focuses unto the pure and clear blue of an iceberg— a naturally formed X shape filling the entirety of the frame. This shape is echoed in title and meaning through the film, a representation of the mathematical symbol of a something that remains unknown, something to be found. An equation is postulated. The parts are composed of a polar bear, now in unknown territory, a parade of wooly mammoths, re created for a possible future, and a golem like figure, the human, burdened by an endless river of technology and materialism represented by the silver material within which it is bound.

Throughout the video piece, Rogers connects the body with that of nature. As one hears the sound of a couple in ecstasy we are made aware, through the exquisite shots of the blue ice and dark waters, of the danger that lies within. Rogers compels us to stand firmly footed in the Anthropocene. She mixes time signatures: the human and the earth’s, engaged in a simultaneous but divergent dance.

This is not to say that Roger’s work is fundamentally an ecological proclamation, but rather the documentation of a process that is occurring at the sum of the Anthropocene. The film captures the silent cracking of the ice floe while metallic insect sounds fill the void of their breaking.

A voice echoes, “An ocean of, and an ocean of”, each falling somewhere between the What has been and what will be, the heart-wrenchingly human and the universal. “An ocean of lost hopes. An ocean without time” There is a sense that the dark waters below the ice has become the primordial ooze from which life spawns— it is the seminal fluid, the psychosexual oceanic consciousness exposed.

The voiceover continues, now female, as an omnipresent force within the video. “I love your bones, and your blood, and your bile, I love the shape of your organs, and the dark brown color of your liver...” The narration’s barely audible whispers describes the evisceration of a body, an amorous moment with the organs, the systemic qualities, its color, shapes, and power. As the body dissolves to its hidden parts through violent description, the space before the camera is connected. It is through the human interaction that the pitch-black liquid pours forth. A violence against the earth that is enacted through human interaction alone. The greed and the blatant disregard for the future is captured through the ancillary video piece Run, Run. Featuring an endless turning gilded rat wheel, it is pushed forever forward by an invisible force, an irregular rhythm. Its quick movement with the inevitable slowing, magically, effortlessly, and just shy of randomly, is soundlessly perpetuated.

Three CGIed woolly mammoths in a single military formation crossing the landscape become heroic figures. Despite being CGI representations, these mammoths are the harbingers of an inevitable conclusion. Juxtaposed with their purposeful gait is the now emaciated polar bear eating from a trashcan. The ghostly digital representations of the behemoths recall scientific efforts to combat the approaching climate disaster through the reviving of the long dead beast. Scientists posit their grazing on the Arctic tundra will expose the earth underneath to the cold air. The refreezing of the dirt beneath the vegetation is one of the planet’s last resorts to maintain the balance of the frozen poles. Earth’s future will continue through the ancient black blood of mammoths preserved below the ice.

In the last scene, an anonymous figure, golem like, unfurls and rises from the newly exposed soil. The petrichor inhaled by Rogers’ abstracted body maintains a hopeful vision. Its metallic blanketing reflects the sky above onto the ground below. The earth and cosmos collapse upon themselves, falling into symmetry. The visceral nature of our experience, the conflation of hominid and earth, and the folding of time are all wrapped within the faceless body of our future.