Jared Diamond: Collapse. How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive

Friday, 8 March 2019, 7pm – 9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Closest stations: Whitechapel / Aldgate East
Facilitated by Alter Us
Suggested donation £2, booking via Eventbrite

DOWNLOAD Jared Diamond (2011 ). Collapse / Chapter 2: Twilight at Easter Island. Penguin Books.

Ahu Tongariki. Tere Chad, 2016.
Ahu Tongariki. Tere Chad, 2016.

In this compelling book, Jared Diamond, professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, takes us on a journey to show us how past and contemporary civilisations have collapsed. This session will focus on Chapter 2, ‘Twilight at Easter’ which narrates the archaeological discoveries of Easter Island, the most isolated inhabited place in the world.

Easter Island is renowned for its ‘Moai’ (headstone statues), however both, the reason for their erection and the building methods are still somewhat a mystery to us. The legend tells that the Moai were created to conserve the ‘mana’, the energy from a wise chief, to bring fertility over the tribe.

Research has shown that slaves built the beautiful statues that now are a tourist attraction; amputated hands that were found under some of them speak of the human cost. There is evidence that the Moai altars were a source of competition between different tribes and that many sculptures were destroyed in moments of conflict and war. Not only human lives were sacrificed, but also all natural resources of the island fell victim to the ambitious constructions. One could argue that parallels can be found to the contemporary transnational competition for the biggest skyscraper.

Climate Change is one of the most pressing challenges of humankind today. According to the latest UNESCO report the international community has only 12 more years to act upon the ongoing changes, yet an unwarranted, paralysing optimism persists. How can we learn from Easter Island’s civilisation which caused their own tragic end? How must the person have felt who cut down the last tree of the Island?

In this session, we will discuss the history of Easter Island and its similarities to our contemporary society. It will be led by Tere Chad who has visited the Island twice and has collaborated with Cristián Arévalo Pakarati for her Jewellery Project ‘Fusión-Haka Piri’. Cristián is an Easter Islander archaeologist and designer, Co-Director of Easter Island Statue Project, who contributed with her research to Diamond’s chapter.

  • How can a society choose complete deforestation in order to construct sculptures?
  • Why did representation become more rational and minimal during times of crisis?
  • Which role played fertility and the representation of the vulva.
  • Why is iconography repeatedly binary?
  • What are our contemporary Moais (stone sculptures)?
  • How is the arts scene in Easter Island nowadays?
  • How can society be so fragmented on only 163,6km2?

Alter Us is an emergent London based multidisciplinary collective that attempts to question and offer solutions regarding our contemporary context. Their concerns relate to the challenges presented by the Anthropocene, sustainability, disconnection, individualism, Artificial Intelligence, inequalities, among others.

Suggested further reading

  • Easter Island Statue Project
  • Wondering God: A study in Nomadic Spirituality / Morris Berman
  • Deshumanización del Arte / José Ortega y Gasset
  • The Naked Ape / Desmond Morris
  • Easter Island / Jo Anne Van Tilburg
  • Touch / David Linden
  • Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power / Byung – Chul Han