Climates of Fiction: Cinemas from the Capitalocene

The Institute of Light
Arch 376, 10 Helmsley Place, London Fields, E8 3SB

Monday 2 March to Friday 10 March 2017

Tickets available from The Institute of Light


The Anthropocene. The Capitalocene. The Chthulucene. The Plantationocene are four of the recent names adopted by scientists, activists and researchers for the present era characterised by irreversible alterations to the chemical composition of the atmosphere, the oceans and the soil that have triggered rising temperatures, wide ranging droughts, oceanic acidification and increasing species extinction.

In the geological age of corporate extractivism that many activists now call the Capitalocene rather than the depoliticized name of the Anthropocene, environmental destruction diffuses across localities in differential impacts that confuse human-centered senses of scale and causality. The seasons that organized the life practices of animals, plants and humans for generations now behave according to unpredictable rhythms whose patterns attest to the slow violence of global warming.

What is clear is that climate change puts pressure on the inherited aesthetics, poetics and politics of representation. Environmental violence demands images and sounds that attend to the altered scales of strange weathers. How do artistic practices narrate the collisions between the strange weather of the present, the deep time of the earth and the abstract future of extinction? What kind of fables can be experienced as field reports from ancient climates that interrupt the present?

Climates of Fiction: Cinemas from the Capitalocene assembles works by filmmakers and artists that explore the encounters and entanglements between the Earth, the planet and the world. From the perspective of Climates of Fiction: F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans now appears as a prophetic capitalogenic fable of idyllic industrialization. Murnau’s ode to the pastoral urban is counterpointed with the deep time scales of Ursula Biemann’s Subatlantic and the eco-financial apprehension of Jeff Nichols’s Take Shelter. The materialist imagination of Arjuna Neuman’s Serpent Rain, the political desert of Patrice Guzman’s Nostalgia for Light , the petropolitical fabulation of Miranda Pennell’s The Host and The Otolith Group’s The Radiant attend, in their various ways, to the nonhuman agency of landscape while Climates of Fiction concludes with the profound intervention of the Karrabing Film Collective’s Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams and the earnest depiction of the decentering of white jurisdiction in Peter Weir’s The Last Wave.


Monday 6 March
19.00 - 21.00

F. W. Murnau, Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans, 1928, 1 hr 46 mins.
Murnau’s audacious aesthetic of dissolves conjures the idylls of the steam age metropolis from the reveries of rural life. What emerges is a silent era cinema that casts the city and the country, not as worlds apart or locations at odds with each other. Instead Murnau envisions the urban and the pastoral as coexisting fantasias that converge through narration and through an array of special effects that conjure the conjugal promise of anthropogenic satisfaction.


Tuesday 7 March
19.00 - 21.00

Ursula Biemann, Subatlantic, 2015, 11 mins
Voiced by a transgenerational figure born 2,500 years ago in the climatic phase of the Subatlantic that speaks her eloquent speech from the submerged regions of the Atlantic, the impact of Subatlantic stems from its experimental impulse to extend the powers of voice and image far beyond the anthropic timescale of human-centred history into the deep temporality of bacteria frozen within the ancient ice of Arctic glaciers.

Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter, 2011, 121 mins
In its portrait of imminent environmental violence, mental distress, domestic vulnerability and white financial precarity, Take Shelter draws a compelling diagram of the ecology of contemporary mid-Western America. As Franco Berardi writes, Take Shelter succeeds in giving a ‘voice to the present global unconscious, the inner landscape of mankind ravaged by financial predation and coming environmental catastrophe.’


Wednesday 8 March
19.00 - 21.00

Arjuna Neuman, Serpent Rain, 2016, 26 mins
Drawing upon an intensive collaboration between philosopher Denise Ferreira Da Silva and moving image artist Arjuna Neuman, Serpent Rain poses the question of the post-human condition in relation to the afterlives of slavery and the matter of mineral extraction. What emerges is a video that speculates upon the break between black lives that matter and the matter of life in order to open a further speculation upon the state of the elemental and the production of the condition of timelessness.

Patricio Guzman, Nostalgia for Light, 2010, 107 mins
Astronomers from all over the world travel to the Atacama Desert in the Pacific Coast of Chile. 10,000 feet above sea level, it is the driest place on earth. The sky is so translucent, astronomers can, apparently, observe the boundaries of the universe. Nostalgia for Light counterpoints the implications of this atmospheric condition with that of the desert’s ground that petrifies and preserves the corpses of Communists and socialists murdered by General Augusto Pinochet’s armed forces after the coup d’etat in Chile on 11 September, 1973.


Thursday 9 March
19.00 - 21.00

Miranda Pennell, The Host, 2015, 60 mins
The Host excavates and renarrates family and corporate photographs produced by British Petroleum staff stationed in Iran during the 1950s and 1960s. By embedding her family archives within a series of geopoetic and geopolitical fictions, Pennell draws attention to the Iranian landscape, which gradually moves from the background to the foreground of multiple narratives. The strata marked out in British Petroleum’s company maps begin to take on a latent agency that exceeds and eludes the manifest project of colonial petroextractivism.

The Otolith Group, The Radiant, 2012, 64 mins
On 11 March 2011, the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck the North Eastern Coast of Japan at 2.46pm triggering a tsunami that killed tens of thousands and caused the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the speculative fissures opened by this triple catastrophe, The Radiant travels through the temporal and spatial faultlines to invoke the historical promise of nuclear energy and summon the threat of radiation that haunts the future in the present. The illuminated cities and evacuated villages of Japan emerge as a laboratory for the global nuclear regime, which exposes its citizens to the necropolitics of radiation.


Friday 10 March
17.30- 20.00

Karrabing Film Collective, Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams, 2016, 28 min 53 secs
The parapsychedelic politics of Australia’s ‘grassroots Indigenous based media group’ reaches its zenith with their latest video Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams. The far reaching epistemic and ontological stakes of the Collective’s project is revealed through a compelling renarration of the settler colonial matrix that formats the political geography of Australia. Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams reveals the ways in which the moral codes of Christian missionaries operated within a colonial system designed to destroy the past and the future of Indigenous transgenerational modes of territorial arrangement.

Peter Weir, The Last Wave, 1977, 106 mins
The Last Wave prefigures the contemporary artistic turn towards contemporary indigenous knowledge systems as reparation for the historical crimes of epistemicide and source of resilience in the ecocidal present. As white male solicitor David Burton, played by Richard Chamberlain, finds himself drawn towards the inscrutable presence of Chris Lee, played by legendary Indigenous actor David Gulpilil, The Last Wave becomes a compelling object lesson in the hyperbolic portrayal of the decentering of white Australian masculinity and the ungrounding of its jurisdiction through its confrontation with the subterannean limits of the Earth and the Ocean.


The Radiant, 2012, Courtesy The Otolith Group


Project Category
curated programme