How to survive 2012
Saturday October 30th 2010
Man has an uncontrollable urge to understand things. For centuries, people have been busy mapping out the cosmos, our social environment and our psyche.
But the human mind has one major flaw in its 'ability to understand', namely the incapacity to think in terms of the infinite. We are born, we live and we die. Our empirical capacities are limited to what we can see and experience; we are able to conceive the greater whole in the process, but there's no way we can paint a picture in our mind's eye of 'infinity'. It therefore comes as no surprise that throughout the ages, human beings have given thought to both the beginning and the end of times.

The young documentary photographer Daan Paans (1985, Sliedrecht) also has a strong interest in the phenomenon of time. For his graduation project at AKV/St. Joost in Breda, Paans went in search of different interpretations of the end of the world. His work came together in the book Perhaps it might be said rightly there are three times, which takes its title from a line written by the 3rd-century philosopher Augustine. In this book, Paans has arranged three narratives side-by-side that each address a different aspect of this quotation by Augustine.

The first narrative addresses the beginning of time and takes the reader to the CERN laboratory on the Swiss-French border. Here, researchers are using an enormous particle accelerator to study the origin of all mass - and consequently the beginning of our time: how did we come about - The images of the work areas are quiet, sterile, almost artificial. The CERN station lies open in the landscape; cars are parked and in the background, the Swiss Alps loom up against an ominous sky. Nothing in the image points to the fact that here, in an underground tunnel of several kilometres, thousands of scientists have for years been searching for the smallest particle in the world: the Higgs Boson. This search is inextricably linked to humankind's finite world view: the world has started at one point and is therefore finite. This subjects our world to the rules of our 'limited' thought.

The second narrative focuses on the end of time. Paans portrays individuals who are looking for answers regarding the Apocalypse. Patrick Geryl wrote the book How to survive 2012, in which he brings together a variety of theories - often originally from the Egyptian and Mayan cultures - and concludes on the basis of their specifics that the world will end in 2012. Because, according to Geryl, 'they left us buildings; myths, astral codes, solar cycles and calendars'. For some time now, Geryl has been busy organising a group of people who - at a presently undisclosed location - will together try to survive the end of the world. According to Brian, who is a proponent of Patrick Geryl's theory, we can already see the signs of our imminent demise. 'Everything will accelerate as we near this date; the changes are already occurring - you can see them everywhere.' He views 2012 as a transition to a new age that will afford more room to a higher consciousness.
The book finally takes the reader back to 1994, to the village of Cheiry, where 23 members of the sect Ordre du Temple Solaire committed collective suicide because they believed that the end of the world was upon them. They had been living on a farm since the 1980s under the spiritual leadership of Luc Jouret. Their bodies were found near the chapel, with a pentagram inscribed in their midst on the floor. The images of the rural environment where the tragedy took place form a stark contrast with the archive footage and situational drawings from the investigation.

The 44-page book, which is published by the artist, uses carefully composed images and design to sketch an intriguing picture of our times, in which the artist goes in search of the meaning and foundation of the phenomenon of time from a variety of perspectives. The series has since been presented at, among other locations, the New York Photo Festival. Daan Paans was awarded the St. Joost Penning and was nominated for the Bouw in Beeld Award and the GUP/Pup Award. The book Perhaps it might be said rightly there are three times was published in an edition of 75 and can be ordered via

By: Anneroos Goosen