The Island

Museo Madre, Naples

17 Dec02 May 2022

In Sam Keogh’s The Island, his avatar – a whimsical ‘bushranger’ styled as a tree-being – leads the viewer through the technicolour cartoon dreamscapes of the massive online video game Fortnite. In the game, 100 players are parachuted onto a deserted island where they must scramble for resources and fight to the death, a task made more urgent by ‘The Storm’. The last one alive is the winner. The whole island sits in the eye of this storm which incrementally contracts, forcing players into confrontations with each other. Keogh’s narration draws connections between the game’s mechanics and the environmental impacts of its increasing membership. As islands and archipelagos around the globe, which still today evoke a colonial imaginary of pristine and uninhabited nature, are threatened by rising sea levels and ever more frequent extreme weather events, Fortnite’s popularity continues to rise. As a result, the game’s infrastructure grows, and ever greater numbers of dedicated banks of servers are stacked into the data centres which are now often built into artificial floating islands off the coastlines of northern Europe. While millions of online gamers on ‘The Island’ hit ‘play again’ to test their individualist survival skills in the face of climate collapse, ‘real life’ outside increasingly replicates its dynamics as eco-fascist, survivalist positions gain currency.

This work was commissioned by the Museo Madre, Naples, as part of the group exhibition Rethinking Nature curated by Kathryn Weir with associate curator Ilaria Conti.

During the run of the exhibition, Sam Keogh presented the talk Ecofascism and Survivalism in conversation with Tiziana Terranova (professor in sociology of cultural and communicative processes in the Department of Human Sciences, University of Naples L’Orientale, member and co-founder of the Research Unit on Technocultures, and member of the Centre for Postcolonial and Gender Studies). Keogh drew on his research, conducted for the making of the film “The Island,” to expand a critical vocabulary to indicate the possibility of innovative responses to current social and environmental crises, based on solidarity rather than competition. A recording of the talk is available here: Ecofascism and Survivalism