Oceanic Horror or How to Survive the Night in the Haunted Mansion of Absolute Capitalism is an artistic research project that brings together ideas on horror fiction, the politics of financialisation and theories of the event, explored through a temporal art practice revolving around the video installation, the cinematic and transrealist narration. Through a meandering and experimental approach to the complexities of its subject matter, this artistic research project is an attempt to walk free of the stagnate imagination, repetitive approaches and mere cultivation of already existing tropes that threatens both academic and artistic undertakings involving these thematic fields, and instead find truly new ways of considering both the political potential of involvement with such themes through an art practice and the potentiality in general of research through art.


Necessary Horror
I believe that in order to describe large parts of our reality, we need the language of horror. Not only because the socio-political environment and the experiences of everyday life in our current time can be readily described through horror tropes, but also because the language that forms around such tropes shape a certain terminology that acts upon the world, a speech act of sorts, for dealing with our contemporary reality. First and foremost because horror avoids the abnegation of ethical responsibility. There are indeed unfathomable punishments awaiting those who act immorally or those that feed off the less fortunate. Even those who try to brush off true ethical accountability, through symbolic ethical gestures, that does no more than scratch the veneer of unconscionable power relations, get their just deserts. The consequential nature of the genre vocalises the emancipating act of retribution. There is a certain emotional release from bonds of oppression connected to the engagement with horror fiction. Secondly, horror is not just catharsis, it is imaginative political fuel - a guide for battling the monsters here and now. Stuffed with insurgent invocations, slashing DIY weaponry, fight-or-die stamina, rules for survival, strategies of collectivisation and hours of experience in identifying and overcoming oppressive forces, horror becomes a manual for setting out strategies for political survival.

Research Question
What are the potentials of utilising the genre of horror fiction in the creation of new narratives in a political art practice? Can artistic work that adapts and utilises contemporary horror fiction, create counter-effects to the alienating effects of absolute capitalism? And what are the possibilities of implementing the language of horror in an artistic practice without turning towards mere exoticism of a genre that already displays explicit counter-narratives to our current reality? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself throughout this research project and as I have continuously formulated and reformulated possible answers to these, it has become clear to me that what I have really been engaged with, is a reformulation of my own personal relationship to the genre.

The Horror Genre
For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with the genre of horror fiction. It has always provided a welcome refuge from the terrifying tyranny of normalcy and the dread of the conform. But it also functioned as a critical reflection space, a mirror, to my lived reality, and to impressions of a political reality unfolding around me and the structures that supported it. Horror provided exactly that set of tools to help me navigate through a world that in varying ways, from childhood to adolescence, again and again played out like a horror scenario. In my artistic work I have been using horror fiction recurrently to describe certain socio-political situations and occurrences from new perspectives. The horror genre here used as a distorter of things, of ideas, of written histories. The horror genre holds the potential to challenge consensus reality (even with its often quite conservative predetermination of what constitutes a ‘normal state of things’). It speaks to the potential of a counter-position or a counter-culture. One obvious answer to why this genre has such appeal in the countering of our contemporary political situation and its authoritative structures, is its prone to manifested monsters – visual culprits that one can battle head-on; that one can pin all the unnerving happenstance and uncanny experiences to; that can explain away at that unexplained feeling of dread that tightens your gut. Slay the monster – feel the relief. Or simply know, that there is indeed a monster behind it all and find union with others who know of this monster as well – even if it is indestructible. In a socio-political reality where the true monsters are often more or less indiscernible, the fantasy of a concrete identifiable manifestation of fear and dread is, in all its horror, a welcome alleviation. I think that this ‘need to identify’ is what is currently at play in the quite notable upsurge in horror popularity in both fringe and mainstream culture - and in contemporary art practices as well. In order to face up to a political unease, these narratives of culprits getting their comeuppance, or the revelation of our existential crises revealed to have root in horrible, alien, yet tangible forces, are necessary. This is also why, that in contrast to certain ideas about horror forming an alienating and repulsive space, I believe it to actually allow for much more inclusive and sensible spaces; a certain feeling of recognition rather than alienation. A palpable framing of the experiences of societal and existential alienation, offering propositions to cut through them and into somewhere far more hospitable.

Horror Temporality
What incites my constant return to this genre is naturally its multifarious monsters and levels of complete otherness - animate objects, weird body parts, disturbing apparitions - all allowing for a certain surreal (as in beyond-real) to come into being. A surreality that speaks into the way my artistic practice takes form as deliberate distortions of agreed upon realities. But what is key to this return, and why the genre somehow injects itself into all parts of my artistic thinking, is the certain time-qualities imbedded within it. My artistic work unfolds within the field of video art and video installation, but I have always primarily considered my artistic practice to be a time based one. A temporal artistic practise that comprises all kinds of mediums, but always revolve around a certain temporal exploration, be it narratively, conceptual, durational or experiential; and which is always mirrored or entangled with what I call tempor(e)ality - the timeliness of reality, or how reality unfolds in accordance to time; not only on a phenomenological or conceptual level but on a socio-political one as well. The art works really come into effect in the meeting between its temporality and the tempor(e)ality of the surroundings it engages with. This is also why the specific time-quality of the horror genre is what truly keeps me artistically engaged. The horror genre is about the now. It has an unrelenting nowness to it. It is about this very moment, in this very moment. The fear, the disgust, the pleasure, the relief – all loaded with a certain nowness, that has to do with how the body is directly affected and involved in the experience. On the surface this nowness serves the purpose of driving the plot forward and one could say that the classic build-up of a horror film is mainly a succession of anticipated nows, pushing a three-act structure forward. But within this rather conservative format, certain nows come to pass that do not have to do with progression, but rather form what I call a ‘prolonged now’. An enclosed time experience wherein everything is upside down, wrong, strange. For a moment the territory is new and unknown. The rules of consensual tempor(e)ality no longer apply and with no new direction or conduct yet agreed upon, a condition of prolonged nowness is taking form – for the protagonist as well as the viewer. An impossible condition; temporally stuck while progressing, incurvating as it expands. An impossible condition that we somehow inhabit regardless. It might come at us, as a mere moment, but the prolonged nowness of that moment offers a world to inhabit.

This prolonged now exists only briefly, before an explanation (a monster, a curse, a skeleton in the closet) emerges, restoring order (new or former), reconstituting a structured tempor(e)ality, and thus takes the air out of the potentiality of staying within the condition of the prolonged now. But the temporal quality of that moment persists throughout the material not only as a reverb of the experienced temporal otherness but also really in the way horror wants to do things to the body. Not only in a simple reaction mode (shock, revolt, disgust) but really in the very temporality experienced in and by the body.

This research project is not simply a reading of horror fiction material or an endeavour to create something that could be labelled horror fiction. It is rather about experiencing in horror a realm of atmospheres and undecided temporalities that might confront the systemic ordering and chrononormativity of our tempor(e)ality.

Absolute Capitalism
With Oceanic Horror or How to Survive the Night in the Haunted Mansion of Absolute Capitalism I wanted to explore the temporal qualities of horror fiction, but I also wanted to relate these to our current tempor(e)ality. A temporally accelerated socio-political reality framed by neoliberal economy and financialisation. Financialisation is here understood as being 'the growing penetration of financial logics into our daily life-worlds and finance’s increasing dominance of processes and outcomes of capital accumulation and perhaps really the link between the two'. (Christophers, 2015) This understanding of an economic system’s building dominance over the outer processes, of capital accumulation, concurrent with a growing penetration into the inner processes, of our life-worlds, mirrors Italian thinker and activist Franco "Bifo" Berardi’s ideas about how 'if we intend to grasp the political dimension of the transformation that neoliberal deregulation [and financialisation] has brought about, [..] it would be more correct to speak of […] [an] absolute capitalism, in which the only effective principles are those of value-accumulation, profit-growth and economic competition. […] All other concerns, including the survival of the planet or the future of the next generation, are subsumed to these greater goals.' (2015) With the term Absolute Capitalism "Bifo" attempts to transcend the mere political categorisation of neoliberal economy and rather embrace an idea of economy truly forming the convicted premise of ALL imagined movement and not only those offered under a neoliberal ideology. In this way it aims to look beyond the ideological justification of a transformation into omnivorous financial speculation, and, more precisely, refer to the condition that this ideology has left our contemporary reality in – a condition of capitalist absolutism.

Finance as Stage
The artistic contribution of Oceanic Horror thematically revolves around the realm of finance. It does this partly to set a fitting stage for the exploration of the condition that absolute capitalism give rise to, but also to embrace the many ways in which temporal, linguistic and analogical qualities are shared between the realm of finance and the horror genre. Temporally in the way the economy oscillates between stable time passages and certain shocking, hectic and erratic temporal shifts in intensity; or how time perspectives overlap in disturbing ways when the market reacts presently to things that have not yet surpassed (premonitory visions) or is suddenly disrupted by ghosts of the past (hauntings); or how time continuum disappears in unfathomably fast registered nows (time slips). Linguistically in the way stockbroker lingo habitually refers to the act of killing, hunting, dying, slicing and maiming; or how the structure of language used to define the realm of finance is entangled and evades direct reading, ensuring the veil of a mystical dimension. And finally the analogies evoked, by considering finance as immaterial and perhaps even imaginary movements and disturbances, having actual effect out in the real world (poltergeist activity); or as an invisible force controlling the destiny of many (demon); or the liquid darkness that it operates in (black goo). It is however again important to note how this research project is also not about modern finance per se, but really about experimentations within a time-based art practice in relation to the genre of horror fiction in the thematic and politically engaging setting of financialisation and neoliberal economy. This project is about the emotional reality that modern finance weaves around it. It is interested in approaching the realm of finance economy, as absolute capitalism. In this all-embracive understanding of finance economy, what is generated is a full environment acting as an emotional space. The dread that one might feel here, in the everyday life controlled by something immaterial, indiscernible, temporally unfathomable and intangible is what interests me in this project.

In what manner can these explorations of horror temporalities create potential third places for new understandings of a political landscape shaped by neoliberal economy? And can engaging with them in a time-based artistic practice, revolving around the temporal and bodily rearrangements of the video installation, enable such third places? I have tried to use the temporal qualities, body-presence, gaps and darkness of the video installation to conduct a research into the opaqueness experienced in our engagement with modern finance and how these mirror temporal bodies inside horror fiction. Combining the idea, of a connection between the temporal qualities of horror fiction, the temporality experienced in the video installation and the temporal experience of engaging in a society driven by dark economic structures, with an artistic practice based in the video format and its temporal materiality, my objective has been to arrive at ways of understanding how this combination may be used to imagine new places to counter-act, counter-think, counter-be. A search for frameworks wherein counter-existence can be dreamt.

In this research project horror fiction is used twofold – as a lens through which critical reflections on our political (economic) reality and the temporality that this entails are (re)read, but also a repository of ways to (re)engage with the temporal, in technical aspects of the time-based medium, as well as the critically reflective. In this way I have tried to use the temporal dimensions of horror fiction to investigate my subject matter, in a way that does not merely reaffirm existing readings but rather bring to light unexplored dimensions. By reading horror fiction through the lens of film analysis focussing on temporality, and subsequently projecting this reading onto the financial systems structuring our experienced reality, I have sought to reveal a certain kinship between the temporal displacements of horror and those of existing in a world shaped by absolute capitalism.

These temporal displacements, perhaps experienced as the before mentioned ‘prolonged now’, have had me thinking a lot about the relationship between the event and the quasi-event. I was introduced to the idea of the quasi-event in the writings of Elizabeth A. Povinelli. In ‘Geontologies – A Requiem to Late Liberalism’ she writes: 'I have been interested in how specific discourses of and affects accumulating around a specific event-form – the big bang, the new, the extraordinary, that which clearly breaks time and space, creating a new Here and Now, There and Then – deflect liberal ethics and politics away from forms of harm more grudging and corrosive. In other words, I have been interested in the quasi-event, a form of occurring that never punctures the horizon of the here and now and there and then and yet forms the basis of forms of existence to stay in place or alter their place. The quasi-event is only ever hereish or nowish and thus asks us to focus our attention on forces of condensation, manifestation, and endurance rather than on the borders of objects. This form of eventfulness often twines itself around and into the tense of the other, impeding, redirecting, and exhausting the emergence of an otherwise.' (2016)

Povinelli’s idea of the quasi-event, really resonates with my own thinking of time perspectives, that flow beyond past, present and future and into moments that stretch. I have tried to situate this idea of the quasi-event into a broader discussion about the political event, eventality in general, and eventality in relation to time-based art practices. And as I ventured into this subject matter - into a suffocatingly dense thicket of philosophical ideas - it occurred to me that I was bound to formulate my own understanding of the quasi-event and its direct relation to the prolonged now. It brought me to an understanding of the quasi-event as a dragging out of the occurrence into an almost oceanic interconnected web of small occurrences all constituted by so many other occurrences. A timeliness that cuts across one specific time particular and rather slices into time. In its pure form I would perhaps not talk of occurrences at all, no matter how small. It’s soup, really, no one part easily divided from the others. A word to use here could be ‘slow’. In the slowness of the quasi-event, one starts to feel the jitter of not being able to react on any occurrence, because the occurrence has yet to happen, it is happening, it has happened already, all this at the same time. It has no moment. There is no event. I have for a long time structured my political life, and in many ways my artistic practice, around the notion of the political event, be it events of the past, events currently unfolding, or events on the horizon. And how this political event brings with it the physicality of collective reaction and action. The quasi-event somehow refuses this physical form and stays in an obfuscated ghostlike ocean preventing any possibility of gathering around a moment, a movement, a meaningful action. I am now considering the political event as something that exists in a different time quality, than what I had initially perceived or fetishised it to do.

Oceanic Horror
For this research project I have developed the term ‘oceanic horror’, that not only works as a sort of framework for my exploration into this territory, but also importantly is perceived as a term from where new explorations can occur - after all this is said and done. I have worked (and will continue working) with this idea of oceanic horror, as an attempt to invoke the potentials of staying (and potentially taking action) within the horror condition, the quasi-event and its suggestions of the oceanic. Oceanic horror is essentially a reformulation of the idea of oceanic feeling described by Sigmund Freud in his ‘Civilization and Its Discontents’, following a longer exchange with the French novelist and mystic Romain Rolland. In her text ‘Oceanic Feeling and Communist Affect’, Jackie Wang describes the different notions of this oceanic feeling held by Freud and by Rolland: 'Freud describes 'oceanic feeling' as a feeling of limitlessness that marks a return to the infantile, pre-Oedipal mode of being, whereby the infant cannot distinguish itself from its mother. Rolland, however, describes ‘oceanic feeling’ as a mystical feeling that enables one to commune with the universe. For Rolland, the ‘oceanic’ was the affective state underlying all religious experience.' (2004) In opposition to Freud’s notions on oceanic feeling (as well as Julia Kristeva’s who in her book ‘Black Sun’ similarly describes the oceanic as a depressive denial, a form of symbolic suicide), Wang is much more in tune with Rolland and his notion of the oceanic as joyful, connective, and integrative. Wang argues further, for a proposed social potentiality of the oceanic feeling and its potential for experiencing something socially unifying opposed to a more ego-driven mystical feeling. She also argues for possible ways of consciously inflicting this oceanic feeling (that is also related to the experience of trauma) through different techniques including: meditation, psychedelic drugs, participating in a riot, sleep-deprivation, tantric sex, BDSM play, grief, experiences of collective euphoria and any number of other activities that push one to a threshold state of consciousness. (2004)

Oceanic horror and how it relates to the temporality of the quasi-event, the body-presence of the video installation and the collective trauma of living in this contemporary socio-political reality, enables a new way, for me, to think of the potentiality of being with and within the condition of horror. It still has to do with the sublimity that horror fiction can conjure up and the oceanic feeling does resemble the sort of elevation and expanded consciousness that the sublime experience enables. But instead of merely being about a personal ecstatic, terrifyingly pleasurable, overwhelming and aesthetic sensation, oceanic horror speaks more precisely to a collectivising idea of a connectedness in the overpowering ocean of prolonged nowness. The navigational vertigo forming in this horror condition and how it brings about an oceanic feeling (of horror), that could be translated into a state of melancholia – where one is inert to action – could also present a realm of potential social counter-being. A being together, that refuses the eventfulness of action and productive encounters, as well as the individual search for something higher, and rather stays with the oceanic horror, in order to find ways to exist here, together, and from this learned existence, begin to counteract. The nowness of oceanic horror is therefore also much less an idea about some certain ideal now, a grandeur that the sublime is often referred to, but much more a now of the commons. It suggests a political realm opposed to a personal plane.

The temporal qualities of oceanic horror have to do with the temporal qualities of our contemporary society and how a fast and repeating deluded connectedness bars us from actually ever feeling connected. The oceanic horror is that of not being able to place oneself and hence you float, drift, meander. Everything and everyone overwhelmingly interconnected, to a degree where there really is nothing to latch onto, save from disconnected floating objects that spin in the water as you try to hold on to them. This might resemble melancholia but really has nothing to do with black bile. It is not some liquid one individually contains but rather a relation to a liquid environment to navigate in.

The Meanderer and Transrealism
I do not consider it the responsibility of art to offer answers. I am also hesitant to demand of art to ask the right questions. Rather, I am of the conviction that art should create spaces in which questions can be formed. In this same way Oceanic Horror sets out to create a space where questions can form; a landscape for unimagined future travels and the potential countering of our surrounding socio-political reality. In the search for such a potential topology, I have already traversed a vast landscape in itself. One that has persistently taken the form of an aquatic one. The search sets off on an island, in the form of an evental departure point; it moves from here into the quasi-evental realm of the archipelago; to perhaps end up in the ocean.

I have used a transrealist approach as a methodology to conduct this travel. The method of writing described as ‘transrealism’, entails that one sets off (pen on paper) in a known reality and from here moves into a fictional and unplanned narrative where the storytelling unfolds rather unrestricted, yet always considering openings for strands of narrative to loop back into the main stem, creating coherence. Adopting this strategy to envelop an artistic (research) practice I have similarly embarked on this voyage without a specific end goal, without always knowing exactly where certain strands would lead. I have set off from certain interest points in reality to let these unfold fictionally, intuitively and rather unrestricted.

Much like the artworks in this project takes form out of a myriad of elements, phrases and moments that together form a thematic  (and formal) landscape, so too does this reflection not only navigate but also in itself shape a topology. The writing of this reflection takes the shape of a river of language winding its way through, and in the process carving out, such a landscape. A landscape that may take unsuspected forms at times, adding regions that may not seem obvious to include. But it is in all honesty these kinds of detours and unlikely linkings, produced in a chain-of-thought-connect-the-dots kind of way, that constitutes how the artistic work forms around Oceanic Horror.

In this river-flowing topological navigation, avoiding the deep academic strongholds of academic hierarchies and specialised knowledge-producers, I have preserved my fluid position as a meanderer of political, cultural, aesthetic and theoretical landscapes. I use ‘meandering’ as a methodology for this project, as well. This meandering is involved with a ‘trans-disciplinary’ practice, as in distinct from an inter- or multidisciplinary one; a discipline that does not fit within any of the multiple disciplines by which it is informed, but which creates new understandings beyond and outside of them. The meanderer has become a key figure to this project. The fluidity of this figure has allowed for a specific form of moving around in the topology of the research project; a fluid form that shares certain qualities with the notion of oceanic horror. It is crucial to note that I do not consider the position of the meanderer as one ridden of responsibility or certain ideological leanings, in fact I consider the meandering as a quite specific mode of inquiry and one that does speak out loudly in regards not only to how societies are structured politically but really also towards the structuring systems surrounding the realms of art and knowledge production. This fluid position is in relation to and against the categorisations of knowledge fields and is considered a step towards the creation of a new strong position that spurn any nihilistic or apathetic relation to the socio-political situation of our current times.

Bodies of Work
This reflection is the account of a meandering travel (much like the meandering of a river) through the different topoi of my research, how these have been grappled with through art work and how these topoi may have informed my methods in return. The artistic part of Oceanic Horror consists of two bodies of work, that exists in separate self-contained zones, but also coexists and feed into each other as one shared teeming and morbid body of work.

A first body of work, revolves around the advent of high frequency trading. A form of trading that also marks the advent of a certain blind trust in the algorithm as a logic administrator of finance economy, expressed through rushes of trades moving an imaginary economy of highly speculative value with a velocity indiscernible to the human eye. This body of work was presented in the staircase and foyer of Kunsthall 3,14 in Bergen in 2020 under the exhibition title 'Cable ITCH (I don’t wanna work at Island no more)'. These works will also be re-installed in the final exhibition at Kunsthall 3,14 in Bergen, this time imbedded in a larger video installation serving as forms of echoes of this venture that came before, both in relation to its narrative reality and to its production reality. (This re-installation was planned as a separate new installation comprising these works, that were to be exhibited at SixtyEight Art Institute in Copenhagen in parallel with the final show in Bergen, but due to an internal conflict among the members of SixtyEight Art Institute, resulting in the dissolving of the exhibition venue entirely, this show was cancelled last minute. Instead these works have now been incorporated into the final exhibition. There is in this reflection material also included documentation and video files that serves these substantial works a bit more emphasis.) The works from 'Cable ITCH' and the reflections stemming from their development centers around relations between the nonhuman space of high frequency trading in the splatter realm of modern finance and the cgi environment with its reversible notions of the abject, immaterially and de-temporality.  

The second body of work is presented in the main gallery of Kunsthall 3,14 in Bergen. Where 'Cable ITCH', focuses on a specific space and an eventality around that specific space, this second body of work tries to walk free of the evental, moving towards the oceanic connectedness and fluidity of the quasi-evental or the prolonged now. Here the reflective work has centered much more on the notion of 'an atmosphere' and its relation, not only to horror fiction temporality or a socio-political tempor(e)ality, but really also to the painting of oceanic horror as a landscape from where one can motion towards rethinking, reworking and reacting – motions that may indeed amount to counter-thought and counter-action.

The Following are Field Notes
I consider all the different segments of this reflection as a pool of field notes. They are notes taken in the field. As field notes they question the role of a field note as well as the role of field work. The work that I have done in the field comprises both the empirical, the a priori and the completely imaginary; all in a shared compound; all informing, and seeping into, one another. Here the lab and the natural environment coalesce and exchange in the forming of an artistic practice that produce and dream in one and the same motion and often forgets what is what.