by Sofie B. Ringstad (2022, Kunsthochschule Weißensee)

I am writing this on an airplane crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and in stringent shockwaves behind us on this clear day are condensation trails. These white, first firm then increasingly blurred lines of crystallised water, manifests the changing air pressure launched by our vessel racing through the air. They are after-the-fact: The are the seamen in the bedsheets, the broken milk glass on the kitchen floor.

In recent years, these aerial patterns have become the source of a conspiracy theory, evolving around a premise that deep state is poisoning the population through plane-spread toxins. Coined as «chemtrails» (short for «chemical trails»), they spark great anxiety in those who believe the theory, fuelling Facebook groups with photos of perfectly ordinary skies, captioned: «It’s bad out there today».

The irony of the chemtrails conspiracy theory is that it is - relatively speaking - true. These cloud like lines are representations of atmospheric poison, just in a less cunning form. The lines are not created by shadowy individuals, but by me, and you, and most likely also the conspirators themselves, who accept to board flights such as the one I’m on now, which alone will wipe out the effect of my meticulous recycling efforts for decades. Condensation trails are the debris in the wake of this depraved act: They are its ruins.

So why is it, when I in other moments, grounded, glance up and see a long, vaporous line across the sky, can’t help but be enchanted by it? Is it the teasing, perverse sublimity of the looming catastrophe; are the trails to me what 9/11 was to Karlheinz Stockhausen, «the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos»(1)? Does a deeply human drive for Icarus-like so-called progress transform the trails in me to become aesthetically pleasing? Or is it the blissful promise of the destination, something, somewhere else - the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality(2)?

Perhaps lies its appeal in ruination as a state of becoming, of imagining - and in this, it offers a form of appeal. Of course, the process of ruination is not inherently good; but perhaps, as we observe the dandelion pushing its way through the rubble, we might see that it’s also not inherently bad: It can be transformative, a tool to dissect, suture, rebuild.

An end as a beginning, a ruin as the spark for resistance and re-orienting, a pivotal moment that tips the scale. Let’s follow the condensation trails: There might be a golden pot where they meet the ground.

(1) Terry Castle, ”Stockhausen, Karlheinz”, New York Magazine, 27 August 2011, retrieved 21 June 2022: https://nymag.com/news/9-11/10th-anniversary/karlheinz-stockhausen/

(2) José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 11.