Are We Playing A Huge Game of Chance – Max Mulhern’s Aquadice

Life is one huge game of chance.

At least that is Max Mulhern’s contention and his inspiration behind Aquadice. Combining his artistic interests with his love of open water, Max Mulhern constructed two huge, floating dice and cast them out to sea. The idea is that they will drift unpredictably wherever chance takes them. On board GPS systems allow the dice to be tracked.

I was intrigued by this artwork from an environmental perspective for many reasons.

My first thought was whether this work could be a good metaphor for the question: “Are we taking a huge gamble with our environment?” Rolling the dice in open water and seeing what happens seems to me to have similarities with how our modern lifestyles deal with the environment in which we live and on which we depend.

Conversely, what can we do that’s different? Although our fetish for planning seems endless, our ability to plan is poor.  Mulhern is right when he says that a lot of what happens owes much to chance or to unintended consequences of our actions. I am sure nobody “planned” to do quite so much damage to our environment so as to threaten our very livelihoods. It was just the unintended consequence of “progress” and of our modern way of life. Is the answer more planning – just of a different sort?  In a recent editorial, highly respected environmentalist Satish Kumar put it this way “we need to think of an economic system that is durable and sustainable. We need a system that will provide livelihood and wellbeing for all people, not just for the next five years, 56 years or even 500 years, but for the next five million years. In other words, for ever.” Great sentiments but are we really up to thinking up something like that, planning it and executing it? Or is this simply the same type of hubristic faith in the ability of the human to think everything through that landed us where we are today. Maybe the best we can do is come up with ideas that seem reasonable and, Like Max Mulhern, launch them into the world and see what happens. In all likelihood what will happen will never quite be what we thought might happen.

For further commentary on Max Mulhern’s Aquadice, view this video or read full commentary in the New York Times.


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