Just a mere Spring to take:

Embedding in Capitalocenic Atmospheres


Christoph Solstreif-Pirker



It is the inconspicuous term of periphery that we cannot avoid being confronted with as we further advance into the strata of the present ecological trauma. Setting a counterpoint to prevailing discursive hegemonies of hierarchy, dominance, and centrality, it is necessary to liberate the notion of periphery from its marginal connotation and point out that planetary engagement has to follow alternative, untrodden paths of responsibility, compassion, and mutual trust. Counteracting exclusionary mechanisms of thought and production, we propose a conception of periphery that questions established separations of subject and economy, human and non-human, trauma and desire, fiction and reality, and ecology and exploitation. Our definition is based upon an etymological explanation. It refers to the ancient Greek word of phérō, meaning “to carry”, and its composite periphérō formed by perí (around, near) and phérō (to carry around). It is this extended concept of periphery as being rooted within an inclusive, horizontal space of carrying and compassionate ethics – that we are aiming to concretize in the following research exposition. In it, we are going to try nothing less than to find an answer to the following question: where could this carrying peripheral awareness lead us to, or, in other words, how can life re-emerge from the abyss of the ecological trauma?

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 980 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

With the outbreak of the crisis and Geir Haarde’s call “Guð blessi Ísland” on October 6, 2008, people became aware that the crisis touched everybody, no matter of class or job whatsoeverit affected the whole society.

Part 1

In his lecture “Die Menschheit schafft sich ab: Die Erde im Griff des Anthropozän,” the German scientist and astrophysicist Harald Lesch draws our attention to a fact that is all too often disregarded: contemporary reality and immediate living conditions on this planet are not only man-made, but also closely linked to a dimension generally referred to as the economic imperative (See Lesch, 2017). Before we discuss this assumption in more detail, we would like to focus, however, on the statement that Henk Oosterling condenses in the formula “Dasein ist Design” (Oosterling, 2010). There is sufficient proof that man’s mode of being, as well as that of all organic and inorganic matter, is to be seen in the context of anthropocentric design (See Zalasiewicz & Waters, 2016). Here, the term design no longer refers to the design of a merely secluded object—such as the design of a vase, a wallpaper or a chair. Instead, design attains a much wider meaning. It comprises the man-made construction of the various layers of our environment, whose architecture transcends a multitude of established scales—ranging from geological sediments up to atmospheric particles. Moreover, if we understand design “both in extension, by extending its influence over the whole social, economic and cultural life of the planet, and in ‘intension’, by infiltrating the most unconscious subjective strata,” (Guattari, 2016, 50) then it becomes apparent that the materiality of the visible and perceptible is a result of this design, along with man himself, in the immateriality of all of his thinking, acting, feeling, and being.

Thrown into this designed reality, we can observe a twofold dynamic that is constituted by the agency of the human being and the agency of the prevailing capitalist system. In this exposition, we want to show that these two agencies cannot be separated from each other, but are, in fact, immediately intertwined. For a comprehensive understanding of these entanglements, it is important to take a closer look at the construction mechanisms of our designed planet. To James Lovelock, a prototypical mechanism is actualized in Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 steam engine, which fundamentally changed human life on the planet (See Lovelock, 2014). The steam engine not only serves to symbolize a prototypical and highly destructive manmade design, but is also an expression of the dominating posture of a non-human, monetary-driven reality. Additionally, keeping in mind that this synergetic machine was used to exploit coal in the British Midlands, we are led towards recognizing its immediate ecological impact, as Félix Guattari would later speak of “Integrated World Capitalism” (Guattari, 2016, 47). Here, eventually, we notice an asymmetry within our present reality, wherein it is money and all of its economic implications that “traverses, bypasses, disperses, miniaturizes, and co-opts all human activities” (Guattari, 2009, 250). From this point on, it seems more appropriate to regard the epoch of the Anthropocene as


If the Anthropocene means that human subjectivity has become the dominating factor on this planet, the Capitalocene formulates an even more critical statement. Although anthropocenic man had to be held responsible for a great amount of planetary design and colonization, his role was still that of a willfully acting author, who could be discerned as the tangible origin of profound global change. As human subjectivity changed from being anthropocenic to capitalocenic, mankind is no longer determined by itself, or any will whatsoever, but only by the vitality of money. This monetary drive is closely related to the realm of virtuality, as an invisibly acting system that is neither tangible nor localizable, but, nevertheless, exerts immediate influence on every subject. To Jacques Lacan, such a system expresses itself in the concept of the big Other, who, according to Slavoj Žižek, “is the substance of the individuals who recognize themselves in it, the ground of their whole existence” (Žižek, 2007, 10). The incomprehensibility of the big Other points simultaneously to its all-encompassing dimension, which carries an obvious quasi-theological implication in itself, because “God is outside my sphere, and yet contained in me, quite there and also here” (Silesius, 1986, 96). Every utterance or action of the capitalocenic subject can, thus, never convey any objectively comprehensible content, but always responds to the incomprehensible presence of the big Other and its symbolic order. As Žižek points out, for the reflection of capitalocenic subjectivity it seems necessary not to consider a regime of mediated signifiers, but “the act itself” (Žižek, 2007, 21). As we will explain later, the Capitalocene is determined by its contingent performative expressions and can only be investigated performatively, by taking part in the dynamics of a machinic, vibrant, and highly active game.

The Icelander was a kingan Icelander could do anything. And when an Icelander now said: Now Im going to open a business, then he did it. Many have really done that and got themselves one who understands something about it.

But they wouldn’t have said themselves they couldnt?

No, no.

But I think Ive had the strongest impressions of the sea, you know? No fish, no anything (…) I think that was the most impressive thing for me, I think. Knowing you were far, far away. But I was so... We’ve been caught in storms, especially at the beginning of my time. I didn’t take it too seriously because I was just too stupid. I didn’t even know that was dangerous. I remember a storm that was so wild for two days. And somebody went crazy. Totally freaked out. He was gone. We have... when he was ashore, I saw him later a few times in Reykjavík, he just staggered around, he was just gone, you know?

In Victor Turner’s ethnological work, the performative and playful dimension of human practice takes on a special significance. Referring to Lacan, who in subjective action recognizes the “pact” (Lacan, 2004, 61) with the life-determining big Other, we can state that acts, expressions, gestures, or dramas that occur in human interaction can become the “explanation and explication of life itself” (Turner, 1992, 13). Any dramatic act capable of unfolding indefinite strata, depths, and traumas recalls the element of the canvas in the work of the painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992). What is actualized in Bacon’s two-dimensional surfaces are the expressions of unconscious multidimensional forces. The canvas, however, does not express these forces as immediate representation, but as blurry and invisible surfaces that can trigger manifold reflections in the observing subject. To Gilles Deleuze, Bacon—from an artistic point of view—is of great relevance “because he establishes a relationship between the visibility of the scream (…) and invisible forces, which are nothing other than the forces of the future” (Deleuze, 2003, 61). Such deadly forces paradoxically bear decisive dimensions of life, in that the visible interaction with them can, thus, turn to an active potential, the “possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its [the body’s] reach as long as these powers remained invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our strength and diverted us” (Deleuze, 2003, 62). What Deleuze is addressing here is both the visualization and actualization of unconscious and vibrant agencies, as well as the affirmative entry into them. With this, we find ourselves in the immediate discursive vicinity of Turner. However, to him, it is no longer the medium of a two-dimensional painting that becomes a reflective medium, but the assemblage of a multidimensionally acting ensemble.

To Turner, the “social drama” (Turner, 1992, 9) is the defining process underlying all human actions. Here, the same forces are present as in Bacon’s paintings, yet, in this collective field, we encounter an even more complex reality. Turner sees human subjectivity embedded in an artistic game that resembles “the characteristic ‘processual form’ of Western drama, from Aristotle onwards, or that of Western epic and saga” (Turner, 1992, 9). Turner reminds us that the assumed naturalness of human actions is influenced by a fundamentally artificial and symbolic component that—depending on the situation, context, or conditions—can take on different formulations. In this performative and playful dimension, we can find the manifestation of a large variety of emotions or fears that allow us to agree with Guattari—that the distortions and redefinitions associated with the social drama do not only concern “visible relations of force on a grand scale, but (…) also take into account molecular domains of sensibility, intelligence and desire” (Guattari, 2016, 28). According to Turner, the protagonists of the social drama are charismatic leaders or epic heroes, who possess the ability to actively steer the process of the social drama and lead it into a new direction. Turner’s protagonists, however, are not the ones that would initiate a social drama, in the first place, by means of their specific authority. Instead, they rather enter into an already existing dramatic constellation that determines the actions of the protagonists themselves—the immediacy of the social drama and its immanent structures of desire serve the protagonists as guidance and impulse for their own decisions. Moreover, the almost revolutionary character of this artistic game can unleash unknown possibilities ranging far enough to “cure illness, to avert plague, to obtain success in raiding” (Turner, 1992, 32). Taking a closer look at the protagonists’ actions reveals that, in this field of power, dominance, or desire, we encounter a specifically male-oriented power (See Brassett & Rethel, 2015). Such a phallocratic reading of the social drama can be found historically at a very early stage in medieval European literature, especially in Old Norse sagas. Here, social dramas are largely built up from narratives of masculine power, violence, and oppression exerted by the Viking protagonists. The Deutsches Wörterbuch defines the term Viking by tracing it back to the Old Norse word “vīkingr,” giving it the meaning of “pirate, [or one] who escapes from home, staying in a foreign country” (Wiking, 2018). The specific maritime connotation of the Viking pirates allows us to define the social and spatial dimensions of the social drama. We encounter a space of the sea that is “filled by events or haecceities, far more than by formed and perceived things. It is a space of affects, more than one of properties (…) It is an intensive rather than extensive space, one of distances, not of measures and properties” (Deleuze & Guattari, 2005, 479). However, all of these protagonist features, performative expressions and dramatic spaces are only the first strata, of what, to Lacan, is the linguistically expressible. The violent reality of the all-encompassing capitalocenic agencies, as well as the “forces of the future,” lie deeper and are more hidden and more unconscious. It is finally a performative approach of investigation that can make this reality visible for the glimpse of a moment.

Being aware of our contemporary reality as going beyond any creative human will, we can, thus, conclude that the actions of mankind can no longer be traced back to Descartes’ principles, but are fundamentally motivated by the non-human virtuality of money. With Newcomen’s invention of the steam engine, human will and the supremacy of human thought lost their willful role more and more in influencing planetary life, while witnessing the foundation for new global spaces and constructions. In their spatiotemporal continuum, we encounter the agency of money—the ever-more proliferating epoch of the Capitalocene. Like the planet itself, the human subject is shaped by the vitality and rhythm of a monetary system, wherein Lacan recognizes the power and agency of the big Other. As this capitalocenic field no longer shows any traces of human authorship, it is necessary to take a closer look at the performative expressions and the entire dramatic context of this new spatiality. Turner proposes a similar approach that unfolds unconscious strata, symptoms, and traumas in the social drama of contemporary space. This is an affective, event-based space of intensities that is built on structures of phallocratic power. It is precisely in this spatiality where applying performative methods of embedded investigation—methods toggling between social, ecological and economic layers—can prove an important means to momentarily unveil the capitalocenic mechanisms constituting the present ecological trauma.

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 980 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 980 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1270 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

The first thing I noticed in Iceland: they have no relation to money at all (. . .) They spent it like nothing. This has been madness! For me, that was... I wasn’t just amazed, sometimes I was really shocked how they handle the money or what they do.

But at that time it was kind of crazy, too. It was like this: everyone could get money from the bank, loans… it was all so easy and everyone had new cars. I can remember so well: there was a woman, she drove a big Jeep and then she said: “It is so miserable with us, we have no money. Our children! We have no money for food!” People were simply proud of the Icelandic bankers, while having humongous Euro loans for cars or houses. It was those loans that finally killed them.

Part 2

It is no coincidence that the state of Iceland became the scene of one of the biggest financial crises of the new millennium. In its geographical, social, historical, and cultural character, Iceland can serve as a case study for the dimensions, spheres, and specificities of the capitalocenic planetary epoch. In the context of Iceland, we encounter the interplay both of actual and virtual elements of crisis, which enables us to discursively investigate the capitalocenic reality that we are currently confronted with, as well as examine the subjectivities embedded in this reality. Interestingly, we notice that the actual context of Iceland is directly related to the virtual economic context of the Icelandic financial market crisis between 2008 and 2011. We can observe that actual and virtual entities continuously merge into each other, which forms the subjectivity of the island again and again. This crisis-like interplay refers to Richard Schechner’s loop diagram, in which the transition between the actual and the virtual is represented as a lemniscate, i.e. as phases of continuously merging dramatic sequences (See Turner, 1992, 73). The Capitalocene, with its determining mechanism that Paul Windolf defined as “financial-market capitalism,” (Windolf, 2009, 189–190) thus bears the encounter with a comprehensive continuum of actual states, real events, virtual forces, and immaterial atmospheres.

To Windolf, financial-market capitalism is essentially characterized by its continuous flow and increasing accumulation of liquid assets, which cannot be justified by any economic effort. The existence of this material surplus forms the basis for subsequent, far-reaching consequences. We encounter the development of a new responsible class, whose activities are linked to the management and transformation of these material assets. The task of this new class, which Windolf refers to as the “new financial service class,” (Windolf, 2009, 190–191) is to transfer material assets into securities in order to achieve increasing control and a protagonist role in the capitalocenic field. This is involved with an increase in power and tightening competition between the individual protagonists. Additionally, we recognize a gradual rise in complexity within the practices, relationships, and entanglements of this new financial service class. The competition between each other is the reason for ever higher risks in the individual strategies, whereby the protagonists are in no way affected by their own risky decisions. This phenomenon, called “Kervielisation,” makes it possible to act without consideration for others and to expand one’s own agency to ever expanding scales. Financial-market capitalism can no longer be traced back to predictable models or conceived as a one-off historical event. It can be much better characterised by machine-like contingencies which “must be understood (. . .) as a conglomerate of differences, deep, radical, and resistant to summary(Geertz, 2000, 223–224).

Today, what can be observed well in the context of Iceland are the specific entanglements that characterize this financial-market capitalism and the consequences that are triggered by it. In regard to capitalocenic spatiality, we have seen that the phases and dimensions of both the actual and the virtual, the artistic and the social drama, incessantly merge into one another. Such a transition also dissolves the hegemonic dichotomy of interior and exterior space, in a way that one can speak of a field of multidimensional and ambivalent simultaneity that Peter Sloterdijk defines as “a comfort installation with the character of a hothouse, or a rhizome of pretentious enclaves and cushioned capsules that form a single artificial continent” (Sloterdijk, 2013, 193). It seems significant to us that Iceland cannot be understood only as an autonomous state with specific geographical, historical, or cultural qualities, but that it actually has the comprehensive role of a continent, in the sense of an artificially shaped inside-ness of global significance, where the manifold social dramas of capitalocenic subjectivity take place. Sloterdijk’s description of the capitalocenic continent is also important, in so far as it conveys a specific ecological component—a monetarily animated reality creates a hothouse, i.e. an artificially shaped environment.

By focusing on the Icelandic financial crisis, Anthropologists Gísli Pálsson and Paul Durrenberger have aptly observed its artificial, ecological, and continental relevance. This crisis was initially determined by the increasing economization of Icelandic fish stocks and their maritime habitats, as well as the privatization of individual catch quotas (ITQ) from 1984 onwards. The catch quotas made it possible to establish a virtual fish stock, which led to ever-increasing speculation with these quotas. The individual quotas were traded as capital, either as property or as financial collateral, which, until the beginning of the Icelandic financial crisis in October 2008, accounted for more than 40 per cent of Iceland’s annual gross domestic product (See Durrenberger & Pálsson, 2015, xvi). For example, the fishing right for one kilogram of cod rose from 800 crowns, in 2003, to 3500 crowns, in 2007, which was equivalent to a price increase of more than 400 percent. The price for fish, itself, however, had not changed significantly on the European market during the same period (See Balzter, 2009). The privatization of catch quotas and the economization of ecological interrelations can, thus, be seen as the trigger for the establishment of a complex and bloated system, which used money that was materially unavailable to create wealth, services, or personal advantages. It seemed, when the crisis hit Iceland, as if the virtuality of money had been actualized, or “become alive” (Durrenberger & Pálsson, 2015, 121). This sudden event resembles a coming-alive, wherein we can no longer discern a balance of cause and effect, but are faced with a contingent, performative and dramatic expression.  In defining the big Other, Lacan deliberately speaks about “fish they [the sea swallows] pass between each other from beak to beak. And if the ethologists are right in seeing in this the instrument of an activation of the group that might be called the equivalent of a festival, they would be completely justified in recognizing it as a symbol” (Lacan, 2004, 61). Without intention, Lacan illustrates, with the concept of fish, not only a symbol for the big Other, but also a symbolic key to opening up the capitalocenic field of Iceland.

Lacan’s ethological reference came at almost the same time as the vision of Icelandic Literature Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, “We have to prove to the rest of the world that ‘the fish can sing just like a bird’” (Laxness, 2001, 201). In Laxness’s novel “The Fish Can Sing,” the prophecy of spatioeconomic hybridity, initiated by Newcomen’s steam engine, is raised to a new level, in that we no longer find a constructed machine determining a new monetary epoch, but the fictionality of an artistic-literary landscape. Such fictionality was continuously transferred into reality, from the mid-1980s onwards, and woven into the decisions of Icelandic politics. Davíð Oddsson, Prime Minister of Iceland from 1991 to 2004, took a leading role, in this context, by positioning himself as a supporter of Milton Friedman’s economic ideals and as a charismatic actor within Laxness’ fiction-becoming-real. Departing from the privatization of individual catch quotas, Oddson and others increasingly unveiled apparently hidden forces and impulses, which eventually led to the warlike collapse of the Icelandic state and its global monetary entanglements. Shortly after the outbreak of the Icelandic financial crisis, in December 2008, Tina Brown had formulated a symptomatic analysis: “Something went wrong on or about the dawn of the millennium, that’s for sure—and it keeps on going wrong. Did the 2000 election and 9/11 and Iraq and now maybe Great Depression II—in short, the Bush years—unhinge us into some strange collective suicide spree of self-indulgence, self-delusion, and blind pursuit of money money money till we drowned in it?” (Brown, 2008). What Brown suggests goes hand-in-hand with the definition of social drama as a machinic ensemble of contingency, delusion, desire, power, and dominance. This also joins Lacan’s observation that, in the role of capitalism, the Hysteric’s discourse can be rediscovered (See Olivier, 2009, 30). For Mark Bracher, the Hysteric’s discourse means a structure that “characterizes other instances of resistance, protest, and complaint—from the plaintive anthems of slaves to the yearning lyrics of lovesick poets to the iconoclastic rhetoric of revolutionaries” (Bracher, 1994, 122). Referring to Guattari’s abovementioned definition of revolution, Turner’s revolutionary characterization of the social drama, and the hysterical-machinic descriptions of the Icelandic financial crisis, Laxness’ artistic prophecy of the money-giving fish ignites the mechanism of a social drama that, in its fundamentalism, is “probably the most far-reaching ever devised and put into practice as far as its effect on human lives, as well as on the rest of the planet, is concerned, and which, absurdly, seems to go unnoticed by the vast majority of people” (Olivier, 2009, 26). The fictionality of this capitalocenic downfall shows that the collapse of the Icelandic banks, Landsbanki and Kaupthing Bank, was, first and foremost, determined by the artistic-literary level of the fish, which Lacan sees as a exemplification of the big Other. The big Other, however, does not act in accordance with a graspable structure, but rather shows itself translated in the hysterical incidents of social relationships, contingent expressions, and performative acts. The actual reasons for the construction of the capitalocenic, Icelandic continent, thus, lie deeper in a hidden, virtual, yet highly active, world of desire. The fish exemplarily show that it is no longer about economic knowledge or the privatization of Icelandic fish stocks and state institutions, but about the fictitious act becoming reality itself. As Laxness puts it, it is “as if a fish were suddenly to discover the water it swam in” (Laxness, 2001, 5).

In this complex network of capitalocenic highlights, we have now seen that contextuality is by no means something that exists as mere naturalness or originality. Rather, the contextual focus on the case study of Iceland shows the assemblage of a geological continent that would not have emerged from a scientifically objectifiable volcanic source. Instead, we are dealing with the insular construction of an artificial landscape—a knot-like formation in which visible and invisible, and actual and virtual, threads connect with each other. It is this interplay that makes the notion of contextuality increasingly complex or—in the words of the French sociologist Michel de Certeau—a “polyvalent unity” (de Certeau, 1988, 117). As we have tried to demonstrate, the hybrid characteristic of this polyvalence departs from the abstract system of financial-market capitalism. This system goes hand-in-hand with the appearance of narratives of power, risk, and desire. The stratification of these various, largely immaterial forces and impulses creates an ever-denser fabric, wherein the capitalocenic leaders control and direct the processes of the social drama. This allows the formation of an artificial continent, in whose artificially shaped interior the monetary-geological formations are continuously formed again and again. As we have seen on Bacon’s flat canvas, the surface of such a thoroughly artificial construction is not a passive, inexpressive structure, but rather a dynamic, supple tissue—a designed ecosystem that includes not only geological sediments and atmospheric particles, but also all those spheres that have hitherto been regarded as a natural paradigm. In the specific contextual construction of Iceland, this can be seen in the symbol of the fish: the ecological unit resembling a molecular economization of the island-state. If we pursue this thesis further, however, we will not only come across Lacan’s symbol of the fish, but also fictitious literary narratives, which, then transposed to a different level, are actualized in political, social, and cultural spheres. As seen on the global level, fictionality-become-real is finally the immediate environment encompassing the capitalocenic field. It no longer contains hierarchically structured orders, but intertwined hysterical actors or agencies who, filled with a machinically controlled desire, constantly further the social drama in its contingency and complexity. The effects of this multidimensional capitalocenic game are evident in the collapse of the Kaupthing Bank—or in the traumatic de-facto collapse of the Icelandic state as a whole—but, at the same time, on a much larger global, planetary, and atmospheric scale.

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 570 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

And then people bought like crazy. I once bought a carpenter’s workshop. Not the workshop, but the machines. Because you have to do something with the money, otherwise its gone. Gone! Otherwise its gone! So I bought two giant machines.

But with this private ownership
(. . .) there has been a total shift, in that there have suddenly been very rich people, you know? They, yeah, really rich... who fly to Paris for dinner, you know?  Absurdin this little country! But the fish, of course, makes so much money.

They also had to find or invent their own form, you know? For it didn’t exist before as such. Yeah, an awful lot of changed since then.

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1100 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1270 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1100 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 570 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 980 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1570 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Part 3

If we want to formulate how the capitalocenic field, despite its paradoxical and hysterical elements, can offer a comprehensive understanding of our contemporary reality, then the question inevitably arises as to the methodologies that can open up such a field. As we have shown above with Žižek, within the artificial continent of the Capitalocene, it seems necessary to perceive the act, i.e. performative action, as the only object of investigation. Žižek shows this in the story of a factory worker who was suspected of theft. Every evening, the contents of his wheelbarrow were searched until it turned out that it was not certain contents, but the wheelbarrows themselves that the worker stole every day (See Žižek, 2007, 21). With this parable, Žižek wants to show that it is no longer established and epistemologically classifiable knowledge (the content of the wheelbarrow) with which we are confronted in the capitalocenic field, but contingent actions in the form of micro- and macroscopic expressions, symptoms, and processes. Therefore, it is obvious to derive the research methods for the dynamic capitalocenic context from these very performative acts and practices. As Norman Denzin formulated it, in his introductory work on performative ethnography, such “fieldwork [is] a collaborative process or a coperformance. The observer and the observed are coperformers in a performance event” (Denzin, 2003, 12). The French philosopher Gilbert Simondon even goes so far as to recognize, in a procedural act or a performative action, the emergence of knowledge or the becoming of being itself. Simondon’s theory of individuation is of great importance to us, because it understands subjectivation as a consistently relational activity, “what unifies being in itself, unifying each being, is the activity of relation” (Combes, 2013, 24). Its essential characteristic includes the fact that there is always an Other, who makes it possible to step into relation to, and develop individual actions together in a co-performative act. These forms of relation become particularly articulated within social dramas, which present themselves as something “fluid and indeterminate” and carry “not negation, emptiness, privation [but] potentiality, the possibility of becoming” (Turner, 1992, 77). It is in this “World Interior of Capital,” aptly named by Sloterdijk, wherein performative methodologies become necessary in order to absorb, transcribe, and question the ambivalences and multiplicities of this continuously changing system. Performative ethnography therefore injects micro- and macroscopic dramatic impulses into the researcher’s body and, precisely through this immediate encounter with forms of contingency, power, and desire, allows an epistemological resistance that enables the researching actors to “release themselves from the repressive constraints embedded in the racist structures of global technocapitalism” (Denzin, 2003, 17). These playful methodologies were recently summarized under the term “performative research.” In contrast to quantitative and qualitative research methods, performative research includes “symbolic data; material forms of practice; forms of still and moving images; forms of music and sound; forms of live action and digital code” (Haseman, 2006, 103). In order to embrace the symbolic capitalocenic order and to unfold yet-unknown dimensions of the Real, it is performative research that plays an essential role in the discursive investigation of the capitalocenic field.

In this context, the concept of experience must be given special meaning. Starting from the definition of the term influenced by Martin Heidegger, it can be said that “the art work becomes the object of mere subjective experience, and that consequently art is considered to be an expression of human life” (Heidegger, 1977, 116). Every artistic expression does not mean the representation of aesthetic sensation, but conveys the vivid, and hitherto unknown, immediacy of life itself. This thesis is particularly close to Wilhelm Dilthey, to whom Turner refers when he states, “experience (…) is richer than can be accounted for by general formal categories” (Turner, 1992, 13). Thus, the formulation of a performative methodology is based on the specific proximity to subjective experience and individual participation in the multidimensional processes of social drama. The encounter with the artificial ecology and the fictitious terrain of the capitalocenic field simultaneously formulates a critique of the separating institutions of historiography and knowledge production. Performative methodologies bring the artist-researcher into the role of a contemporary archaeologist, who no longer collects, classifies, and publishes facts, but acts empathetically and processual, closely associated with “inspiration, imaginative reconstruction, affective affinity” (Shanks & Tilley, 1992, 12). With performative research practices, we open up the possibility of elevating one’s own experiencing subjectivity to the very research methodology and documenting it within the framework of auto-ethnographic processes. The polyvalence of the capitalocenic field and the Icelandic banking crisis, in particular, shows that the present, as well as the past, always carry a certain otherness within them—the otherness of the big Other, which we have already found in Lacan. This contingent and constantly changing dimension can only be recognized in fractions, if it is aimed at “endeavour[ing] to completely delimit its objects [and being] concerned only with the movement and intensity of evolutive processes” (Guattari, 2016, 44). During such an intensity, we encounter the overlap of the observer and the observed. We enter into an evolutionary process and are connected into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts (See Shanks & Tilley, 1992, 21). Thus, the performative researcher applies a methodology that places her at the intensive center of her research object, allowing a relational understanding to be achieved in the individual, processual encounter with this object. This empathic praxis also means leaving Cartesian-marked terrain and the formulation of a topological thinking that elevates the performative act of compassion for the inside-ness of the capitalocenic field to an essential principle. This is particularly evident in the emergence of “a continuum that not only enacts the scalar entities of the ‘local’, the ‘national’ and the ‘global’ but also puts them in multiple relations to each other” (Lury, Parisi & Terranova, 2012, 13). This form of relativity, and the associated temporality, is of great importance for a comprehensive understanding of capitalocenic entanglements. The subjective experience becomes part of a durational event and a rhythmic interplay in the living space of the social drama. Such a methodology can only be characterized as affirmative, as “a form of fragile communication in which complete strangers can understand one another (…) One then realizes that humans are part of fragile and shared systems” (Ettinger & Evans, 2016). While this empathic methodology proceeds directly from the multidimensional acts of the Capitalocene, it also contrasts the practices of global financial-market capitalism and can even propose a discursive alternative, in which global entanglements and dominant narratives are transformed and reconstructed with the compassion of subjective experience. A performative research methodology for the Capitalocene, thus, forms the starting point for a counteracting and different form of knowledge “which unites and yet holds apart past, present and future” (Shanks & Tilley, 1992, 21).

Yeah. Yeah, that was a wild time.

Yes, but already a very formative time at the same time?

Yes, also, yes.

While a critique of the effects of the capitalocenic actions and protagonists seems obvious, it is, nevertheless, more important to observe and experience the manifold peculiarities of socio-cultural space and to open up a perspective that Turner has called “internal view” (Turner, 1992, 65). Additionally, in the performative act, we experience the unconscious reality and artificial nature of the capitalocenic field and its fictitious atmospheric dimensions as an ethical interior, in which dimensions of power and oppression become transformed. In fact, the words of a Morgan Stanley’s board chairman—the bank that was essentially linked to the Icelandic banking crisis—are crucial to our performative research considerations: “Don’t let yourself be carried away by humanistic philosophy. Whether you like it or not, our only goal is to defend the interests of the shareholders” (See Lesch, 2017 [Emphasis mine]). In fact, it is the conceptual meaning of mutual carrying or mutual responsibility—we only recall the mutual transfer of the fish between the sea swallows in Lacan—that etymologically shows an immediate relation to becoming a subject. For the psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger, it is essential to actively integrate forms of trauma, violence, oppression, and dominance into an investigative process and to embed the intolerable into one’s own subjectivation. If we want to show possibilities of encountering our contemporary reality of life, we must “create connections of ‘co-emergence’: ‘I feel in you,’ ‘you think in me,’ ‘I know in you,’ and so on, in which subjective existence is articulated through one another” (Ettinger & Evans, 2016). These other practices are based precisely on mutual carrying and on the individual consciousness that the human and non-human actors of the capitalocenic field are sentient and compassionate subjects, independent of their peculiarities, gestures and dramatic acts. It is as if Morgan Stanley’s CEO, with his unmistakable appeal, had anticipated such a form of praxis and situated it as immanent in the capitalocenic interior of our world. As Ettinger has stated, it is necessary to no longer perceive artistic forms of expression, such as the artistic sequences of the social drama, as two-dimensional representation, but rather as multidimensional processes that “tolerate anxiety, welcome the contingent and the unknown and (…) open (…) up as an individual to a possibility of collective love” (Ettinger & Evans, 2016). The violence of global economic challenges, hold—in the same way as Francis Bacon’s paintings—compassionate potentials to-be unveiled. All that remains, for us, is to not consider the contingent entanglements as objectively defending opposition, but to perceive them as a filigree network of socio-cultural life. Being in the contemporary capitalocenic world interior means carrying each other, not with humanistic philosophy, but, with yet unknown possibilities of capitalocenic compassion.

The Capitalocene means a global and planetary challenge and a great present and future potentiality. For this exposition, we have followed the capitalocenic traces on local and global, national and atmospheric, economic and ecological, natural and artificial terrains. We have shown that the Capitalocene and its inherent traumas, symptoms, actions, dramas, and gestures cannot be taken for granted, but are based on a fundamental, cultural construction. On the micro- and macroscopic levels of social dramas, we find condensations of different, interwoven layers, states, and spheres and we have tried to make these dynamic, socio-spatial states methodologically tangible. What is now necessary is a single step, an approach and entry into the constructed insideness―an attunement to the interior view of our planet. This is where performative ethnography and a performative research come into play, with which the entanglements of capitalocenic social dramas are no longer recognized and transcribed from the outside, but from the place of their origin and subjective experience.

Here, ecology receives a consistently proto-ethical component that arises from the ambivalences of the capitalocenic field itself. We encounter a process of subjectivation that “completely exceeds the limits of individualization, stagnation, identificatory closure, and will instead open itself up on all sides to the socius, but also to the machinic Phylum, to techno-scientific Universes of reference, to aesthetic worlds, as well as to a new ‘pre-personal’ understanding of time, of the body, of sexuality” (Guattari, 2016, 68). Capitalocenic subjectivity means a mutual becoming, a turn to the big Other, to the socius of a multidimensional, machinic field. A transgressive movement can be observed, the consequences of which are simultaneously effective on global and local, collective, and subjective levels. This particularly includes the global and all-encompassing design of the capitalocenic environment that eliminates established dichotomies and becomes evident, down to the smallest particle. Future challenges will have to approach this condition in order to physically experience its universes and worlds. In this dramatic assemblage, we will face the capitalocenic, traumatized, and planetary Real in a responsible and carrying way and unfold novel practices, grounds, and epistemologies of encountering our manmade planet.

But people got together and protested. They were standing in front of the parliament and shouted “We’re ripping this building to the ground!” (. . .) To protest was very easy for the Icelandic people. There was no riot police. Actually, the crisis affected everyone, also the policemen. All the politicians were surprised and didn’t know how to react. I’ve never seen a civil disobedience like that ever.

It was such a great time. Suddenly we thought: “Things are possible!” People came along all the line to the fore, but in the end, I think, they were too careful for the last steps.

This uncanny freedom in many ways and also in behaviour, that was really great, you know? Thats of course all more or less gone now: “Are you acting the way you’re supposed to?”


In the end, it is just a mere spring that, embedded in the current capitalocenic traumatization, can lead us to where we can unfold a living and democratic border space. In fact, it is not a distant exterior that dawns on us in the face of the present ecological trauma―in other words, an abstraction that could only be encountered by abstract formalisms and reductionisms. Rather, we become aware that we see ourselves compelled “to allow the seemingly unnatural idea that the terrestrial sphere as a whole has been transformed by human practice into a single great interior” (Sloterdijk, 2010). If we speak of performative practices and synergies of resistance―that, on the one hand, are an immediate part of the monetary driven desires and their specific consequences and, on the other hand, are able to unfold alternative and inclusive planetary praxis and knowledge forms—then such practices can no longer be based on the dichotomies of interior and exterior, but must instead seek out and investigate proto-ethical border spaces and critical points in precisely this global interior. In other words, the spring—this playful and acting procedure—means more than to manifest “the truth of being in the work” (Heidegger, 1993, 202). Going beyond Heidegger, the spring, as contemporary praxis in the Capitalocene, means experiencing the periphery—the border spaces of the social drama—not as periphery situated between inside and outside, but as inclusive periphery that does not exclude but includes. The importance of a peripheral discourse in the Capitalocene means precisely this: to focus on these still unknown border spaces, to examine them in their multidimensional dimensions, and to enter their violating and oppressive expression. Only in these border spaces—in these peripheral encounters with the unknown Other—do we encounter what is capable of forming a contemporary cultural resistance. “When you approach the vulnerable [O]ther, you can only do it by fragilizing yourself, by self-fragilization. In self-fragilization resistance is born, with some kind of mental awareness that contributes to resilience” (Ettinger & Evans, 2017 [Emphasis original]). Heidegger explains, to us, the importance of the spring and asks the question, “where does the spring go that springs away from the ground? (…) To where we already have access: the belonging to Being (…) Thus a spring is needed in order to experience authentically the belonging together of man and Being” (Heidegger, 1969, 32–33 [Emphasis original]). It is precisely this jumping in the present world interior that carries us to being, and, here, we must hurry to state, referring to Emmanuel Levinas, that this being does not mean a being that revolves around itself, but consists of the fact that our being is always the being of the Other and originates from this Other.

A resistant and similarly empathic form of praxis in the Capitalocene unfolds from such a spring, and we conclude that such a spring is immediately entangled with the artificial context of Iceland and the contingent virtuality of money. In “The Fish Can Sing,” Laxness describes a future-headed parable. In the marshy landscape of Iceland, several boys were on their way to bring their grazing horses home. This incident occurred after the Second Boer War, which brought about the first use of barbed wire. Laxness describes how a veritable age of barbed wire occurred in Iceland, where barbed wire was not used for military purposes, but for fencing in property and agricultural fields, with such success that “barbed wire became the most desirable luxury commodity in the land for a while” (Laxness, 2001, 32). In Laxness’s narrative, this resulted in the enactment of a law that punished the violation of the barbed wire fences with a heavy fine. On their way, the boys encountered these barbed wire fences, which seemed to be a mere superfluous entity in the landscape. Driven by the legal ban and the desire to break it, they spurred each other on to jump across the fence. However, it is in this playful act where we suddenly encounter the virtuality of money. “And because this crime had all the fascination that any kind of gambling has when there is money involved, we all set to and began jumping over the barbed wire (…) Now, these lawful fines which were not exacted from us were in effect treasure-trove; so each and every one of us had profited by the equivalent of a yearling ram at the very first attempt. So it was little wonder that we tried again” (Laxness, 2001, 32–33). In the end, Laxness describes the boys by their many jumps and the non-payable penalties “had become prosperous from the unclaimed ten-krónur fines (…) ‘We were making money,’ I said. ‘I have jumped two hundred times over the barbed wire at Hvammskot. That’s two thousand krónur’”(Laxness, 2001, 33 [Emphasis original]).

What we see in Laxness’ parable is the playful dimension of the social drama, which is directly linked to capitalocenic dimensions and consequences. For, in the end it was precisely the springs—jumps— across the barbed wire, the exercise of forbidden desire, the egoistic and destructive accumulation and spending of non-existent money, and the fiction that became real—that finally lead to being-for-the-Other, to the answering of the gaze of the Other, and to a caring, compassionate, and ethical consequence. “‘It was only a game, grandmother,’ I said. ‘No one has to pay anything.’ ‘You can be quite sure that Jón of Hvammskot saw you at it,’ said my grandmother (…) ‘What am I to do, grandmother?’ I asked. ‘I am going to give you some food and a new pair of shoes and send you up to Hvammskot today,’ she said. ‘I want you to ask to see the woman of the house there. Tell her where you come from and give her greetings from me (…) and give her from me this loaf of bread’” (Laxness, 2001, 34). Money and food, being-for-itself and being-for-the-Other, meet each other at the peripheral boundary of the capitalocenic barbed wire, and it is there, here, where we understand the paradox of this ambivalent border space. “To give, to-be-for-another, despite oneself, but in interrupting the for-oneself, is to take the bread out of one’s own mouth, to nourish the hunger of another with one’s own fasting” (Levinas, 1997, 56).


In the end, it’s just mere spring we have to take.

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1570 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland




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The anonymized interviews for this article were compiled as part of an

artistic field research in Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland. Special thanks go to the

team of the Fish Factory - Creative Centre of Stöðvarfjörður, Paul Simon

Heyduck, Milica Tomić (Institute for Contemporary Art, Graz University

of Technology) and Dr. Heiner Goldinger (Institute for Cultural

Anthropology and European Ethnology, University of Graz).

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 980 Kr, 1100 Kr, 1270 Kr, 1100 Kr, 570 Kr, 1570 Kr (top left to bottom right)
Performances, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland

Christoph Solstreif-Pirker, 1100 Kr
Performance, ca. 20 minutes, April 2019, Iceland