TROJAN HORSE: You write a lot about local communities and how inhabiting places can be a way of becoming aware of complex social, cultural, economic and ecological processes and relationships which make and shape who we are and what we can do. You yourself are rooted in the Vallagarina district in the Italian Alps, how did you end becoming Vallagarinians?


BIANCA ELZENBAUMER: We are still in the process of becoming Vallagarinians. We decided to root our practice in this alpine valley because it is the place where Fabio has grown up from the age of 7 onwards and it is quite close to the valley I’ve grown up in. When working through issues of precarity for my PhD research, we decided that we wanted to find a way to tackle our own precarious living condition: we had spent years travelling around Europe and Palestine, always following either funding money for art/design residencies or moving for our studies. As our practice has a lot to do with building up social relations and inquiring into specific local contexts, we wanted to decide on a place where these relations could be build up over a long period of time and where the knowledge generated through various projects could sediment and build up to some more consistent but also more transformative body of work. And given that in all our travels the Alps where a steady place to come back to, but also a place we would always long for (those mountains!), it made a lot of sense to us to try to experiment with our practice and attempt to create more stable conditions for us in the valley one of us has grown up in. We hope that this allows us to ask more difficult questions, to more stubbornly work on issues we care about – no matter if there is funding for it or not.

(image of the valley – http://www.brave-new-alps.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/panorama_web.jpg)

TH: How would you describe the place, your life and the community there? What is your role in there? What does your being there enable?


BE: The valley we live in is a high-performance valley as it is one of the major routes connecting Central Europe to Italy. It is characterized by the mountains but also by heavy infrastructure running through it, monoculture vineyards and apple plantations, sprawling urbanization in the valley bottom. To us the valley is a strange mixture between alpine beauty and post-rural urban and infrastructural mess. In terms of community, we find that people live very individualized lives: many use the villages as dormitories, while their work and social life takes place in the urban centre (Rovereto, 40,000 inhabitants). As we came back to the valley after having been away for at least 10 years, we tried to figure out who our allies could be and to our surprise (which now seems a bit absurd to us) found very interesting small scale initiatives going on below the radar of mainstream culture and business that engage with pressing social and environmental issues in inventive ways. As we are still free agents in this context, we for now see our role as network builders (e.g. bringing together small initiatives that would normally not find a context to speak to each other), catalysts for projects of experimental sociality and production (e.g. an intergenerational community garden, a community economies research and resource centre), critical thinkers bringing contemporary feminist, Marxist and critical posthumanist ideas to the valley (e.g. by translating texts from English to Italian, activating concepts in practice, organizing workshops and learning cycles). But then we also like to think that we are simply inhabitants of this valley and that – as  lots of other people – we just contribute to what is going on here by working and living in the area. And what uplifts us at the moment, that we plan to continue to do so for the next 20-40 years.


image of Circolo del Suolo: https://www.facebook.com/comunfare/posts/1883416905217087 (one of these images)


QuerciaLaB: https://twitter.com/bravenewalps (first image in our timeline)


comun’Orto: (one image of this or that post) https://www.facebook.com/comunorto/posts/827242224097554



TH: Commons and commoning seem to be key terms for your practise. How would describe what these mean? I’m also interested in this concretely in the context of Vallagarina for example.


BE: To us commoning is about doing things together while negotiating differences and creating social relations that exceed the kind of profit-driven and individualizing logics that a capitalist society fosters. So it is about solidarity that works across differences, that creates and maintains resources that allow a kind of sociality and live together that is not dictated by competition. The practice of commoning has for us also meant questioning what we mean by community – in terms of not creating an exclusive group while still creating a protective boundary around a commons in order for it not to be eroded, but also in terms of asking who is part of this community if we take global social and ecological interdependence into consideration. Concretely, in the Vallagarina this has meant getting involved in all sorts of collective endeavours – such as organizing convivial roundtable discussions for potential commoners to meet each other, getting involved in setting up a community garden and a bottom-up community economies research and resource centre – while always trying to make sure to create a space in which we can challenge conventional (and at times conservative and inward looking) ideas of what it means to do things together.

TH: In some of your texts you describe yourselves as Marxist-feminist-autonomists, what does that mean to you? How does one become a marxist-feminist-autonomist?


BE: Funny to read this question. We are not really going around our everyday thinking of ourselves as marxist-feminist-autonomists, but we do indeed find lots of inspiration in feminist marxist and feminist autonomist texts as they question stupid institutions such as patriarchy and capitalism, while always stressing the fact that we can change things bottom-up, starting from ourselves and organizing collectively.

TH: You started a project called Precarity Pilot (with an illustrator Caterina Giuliani), the word precarity comes up a lot in your writing, how would you define it? How did you-we become precarious? Was there a moment in time when it happened?


BE: Tricky question. Let’s say I wrote a book-length thesis on it. But here a short and hopefully somewhat clear answer. First of all, for the definition of precarity I like to draw on one given by Rosalind Gill and Andy Pratt, two sociologist researching the creative industries in the UK: “Precarity signifies both the multiplication of precarious, unstable, insecure forms of living and, simultaneously, new forms of political struggle and solidarity that reach beyond the traditional models of the political party or trade union.” One could say that precarious (and even dangerous) working conditions are the norm within a capitalist mode of production, however, in the global North West workers have gained significant rights after World War II (e.g. shorter working hours, pension and health care provision). From the 1970s onwards these hard-fought for rights have again been gradually eroded through neoliberal politics at the work place and in education. With Precarity Pilot we in fact look also into how – in the case of designers – education contributes to make us precarious: with its focus on the individual genius and narratives about creative genius providing ‘success’, in design education there is very little space for looking at precarious working conditions as something that is systemic in our society and at how we can organize collectively to counter it, whether at the micro-scale of design collectives or at the macro scale of our profession. And given the neoliberal imprint we get within education, very often we engage in acts of self-precarisation in order to be flexible and hard-working enough to remain part of the creative industries.

TH: What is that you find useful/ interesting / special in the practise of designer at the moment?


BE: That we got some great practical skills when it comes to creating imaginaries and allowing people to experience spaces that allow for qualitatively different social interactions. I’m particularly interested in what happens when these skills are activated to experiment with a post-capitalist world could look, feel and function like.

TH: What would you do with your life if you would graduate from design or architecture school right now?


BE: I would define a place where to root my practice and try to stick with it while using all my skills and contacts to create a diversity of economies that can sustain myself and others.

TH: The summer school takes place in Bengtsår, a small-ish island in southern finland which mostly functions as a place for different kinds of summer camps organized by the city of Helsinki. What is your relationship with islands?


BE: I’ve grown up in the mountains, where as a kid islands felt like a strange concept. So I’m excited about spending time together with other inquiring minds on a small-ish Finnish island.

TH: What is your workshop going to be about?


BE: For now, there is only a rough overall idea of the workshop: I know that I would like to share my interest in work from a feminist perspective, while also continuing my exploration of how self-organised learning can play out. To do so, I will also bring along my friend Paolo Plotegher, who is an artist, critical pedagogue and shaman as well as my 16-months old child Pino. I think the workshop will involve questioning what we consider work and what role care plays in our work and everyday life. I also would like us to explore how collective moments of care can be activated while we live, study and work together on the island – and I think that this will involve paying attention to how we can create a spaces where to take care of our body and our mind at the same time.

TH: Do you have texts, videos or other things in mind we should read before the summer school, to prepare for your workshop? Why those?


BE: Ever since I knew about the topic of this year’s summer school, my thoughts were going to a short by Siliva Federici called ‘Wages Against Houswork’ https://caringlabor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/silvia-federici-wages-against-housework/

. It’s a short piece from 1974 and it gives an insight to one of many struggles against exploitative work that have been fought so far. But I think my mind also keeps coming back to this text, because the way Federici speaks about work and wages resonates with ways in which today we might speak about precarious ‘creative’ work and about an unconditional income for everyone. Visually the text also connects to a lot of great graphic design that was produced on the topic of work by feminist artists: https://seeredwomensworkshop.wordpress.com/



Bianca Elzenbaumer is a design researcher and co-founder of Brave New Alps (together with Fabio Franz). In her collaborative work, she produces design projects that engage people in discussing and rethinking the politics of social and environmental issues through the co-creation of pedagogical spaces, publications, urban interventions and public events. In her work she combines design research methods with radical pedagogy, conflict mediation techniques and DIY making. Bianca currently works as an associate professor at Leeds College of Art (UK).


Aapo Korkeaoja and Trojan Horse In conversation

Trojan Horse: What do you do?


Aapo Korkeaoja: I am quite a multi worker. My work is situated in the field of culture. My work consists of producing art events, teaching art, performing arts, lecturing and then I have this farm and the construction works around it. I run the Live art studies at the Satakunta University of Applied Sciences at Kankaanpää Art School. During the summer, I work mostly a a farmer, but I also produce art events such as Käsitekesä-exhibition and Immaterial-live art festival and organize workshops.



AK: I have also worked as a columnist and I write all kinds of things. In my theoretical freetime I build and renovate houses. I’m interested in using ecomaterials such as wood, hemp and clay. This summer we have a tinyhouse workshop at the farm.



My farmhouse is a work- and residence space for artists and cultural activists, run by culture assosiation kukoko.



TH: What is the percentage of art and agriculture in your life?


AK: My work is seasonally dependent. I use about 20 per cent of my time with agriculture and 80 per cent with arts and (other) culture.


TH: What does a word ‘self-sufficiency’ mean?


AK: For me ‘Self-sufficiency’ seems to be a relatively topical concept, something that has long been forgotten socially, politically and culturally. With the development of processes and specialization, people are alienated from the understanding of where everything comes from. What is a building, what is a home? How to manage it and how could it be economically feasible? Traditionally self-sufficiency is perceived as an activity in which everything is done by oneself, even though contemporary goal might be generally organic thinking. It is more interesting when you associate self-sufficiency with communality. The relationship between mutual dependencies and independence is important and interesting. Encounters and helping create a mutually relevant dependence, like in a rural community. Even if all members of these communities are not on one another’s hearts, they are in contact with each other, helping and exchanging information, skills, money and replacing one’s other. A good balance is created in a functioning organism. This is how we can get quite close to a good agrarian culture, working capitalism and happy working culture.


TH: Are you part of a bigger structure like an institution?


AK: Some of the surrounding structures I have chosen, are wider and more abstract. First there is my family, my partner and our children. Being part of a family has pushed me to see it as a strong social structure in a society. Then when I step out of my home I am part of the rural community in Satakunta. I am also part of the artist network, in local, national and global levels. Its structure is loose and changing. I am part of polytechnics, it’s staff, student and faculty structure.


TH: How can schools be more aware of the needs of art world and the world in general around them?


AK: The fine art related teaching culture in Finland has strong relation to modernist formalism. Traditional concentration in  the university is towards material, how it has a special character and the artist’s or architect’s role to recognise that nature. After the identification, the artist has to create a form that is suitable for a specific place or time. So, the base of ​​an art- and architecture school is often formalistic. Then what is often said to the students is that the content cannot be taught. Materials and techniques can be taught, but the content often remains on the pupil’s talents. Because of this students are often left alone. In teaching, I think, one should prefer to recall how to study an environment, how to study different cultures and arts, and combine different interests. It would be important to remember that art should not be removed from society and from everyday life.


An interview with Johanna Jõekalda

Trojan Horse: Could you tell a little bit about your background? What are you working on right now, and what have you been doing before that?

Johanna Jõekalda: I’m a young Estonian architect. I have studied architecture and urban planning at the Estonian Academy of Arts and Studio Lynn at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. For the last years I have been working on virtual reality and brain tracking experiments. Human spatial perception was also the research topic of my master thesis with a specific focus on the interdependence of digital and physical environments. Currently I’m looking for opportunities to try the responsive design techniques developed in the course of the thesis project out in the real world.


TH: You graduated recently with a really interesting speculative thesis, could you tell a little bit about what that?

JJ: Sure, my master’s thesis was titled “Shaping Space by Experience Data”. It stemmed from the realization that while data-based solutions are increasingly improving our everyday lives, in architecture they are related more often to optimized production, environmental sustainability, programmatic functionality, economic applicability and other technical aspects, in the case of which no particular attention is devoted to user experience. In its most common present forms data-based approaches devalue spatial quality in architecture.

Considering the experiential impact to be the main criterion for spatial quality, I focused in my thesis on tracking beholder’s spatial experience in data format and applying this data in the design process. In the theoretical part I examined how the main actors in spatial perception as a cognitive process – space, senses and the brain – have become definable in terms of data, and how to make use of it in the design process that relies on beholders’ experiences. In the practical part I proposed a technique that allows to extract test subjects’ experience data from brain-computer interfaces as they visit virtual reality environments, and apply this data in the design process.

In the accompanying architectural project I demonstrated the potential use of this technique by the example of an innovation centre situated in the empty riverbed of the River Wien, the spaces in the building being programmed to adjust according to the visitors’ experience data. The principles for the adaptation of the spaces were based on various illusion techniques that allowed the ostensible properties of the environment to be distorted in a data-based manner. The boundary situations and adaptation logic of such spaces are designed by the architect, while the user shapes the situation at a given moment in time. This results in an experience-charged space that adapts itself according to its beholders’ spatial experiences.

TH: You are from Tallinn. How do you see the architecture and design scene there? How is it to be a student? Do you feel there is space and possibilities to try and do things differently?


JJ: I find the environment very fruitful, but only as long as you think of it in the global context.

I consider it important to keep in mind not to get too adapted to the local context, because it can easily make you lose track over the bigger picture. In a sense, things come easy in Tallinn because there isn’t much competition, but you can only take advantage of this situation if you keep doing things as if the competition was still there. The label of being “the first in Estonia“ to do this or that might be accommodating but it doesn’t mean that much on a broader scale. I try to make use of the local context just in the matters that are also globally relevant.

In terms of education, I feel that Estonian architecture schools try to hide their certain lack of vision behind the slogan that they don’t want to restrain its students. The Estonian Academy of Arts hasn’t gotten free from its sense of duty to focus on all the aspects of architectural education as if it was the only school in Estonia to educate architects, but it isn’t. Trying to be good at everything often leads to focusing on nothing… That’s why most of the students who have more specific interests rather develop their skillsets in some foreign school, in my case it was the University of Applied Arts Vienna.

TH: What is your workshop going to be about?


JJ: It’s gonna be about spatial adaptability – the ways of shaping space according to its performance. We’ll discuss which characteristics of a usual daily office experience are definable in terms of data, how to track these in real time, and how to make space react to these data flows, to provide improved work environment that recognizes the needs of the people within it and adapts itself accordingly.

TH: Do you have texts, videos or other things in mind we should read before the summer school, to prepare for your workshop? Why those?

JJ: I’d suggest you to choose any passage from James Gleick’s “Chaos” (1987) and any part of Adam Curtis’ trilogy “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” (2011). They are both very enjoyable pieces, very easy to read and watch, and give a good introduction to the enthusiasm of describing everything from the shape of clouds to wildlife populations in terms of data.

Keep the publication and release dates in mind while reading and watching, especially in case of “Chaos”, and think how the described phenomena have evolved from that point on. Some of them have become common in our everyday lives, others have been proven impossible, back then they were all just what-if scenarios… efforts to define the indefinable.

Johanna Jõekalda (1990) is a young Estonian architect. She has studied architecture and urban planning at the Estonian Academy of Arts and Studio Lynn at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. For the last years she has been working on virtual reality and brain tracking experiments. Human spatial perception was also the research topic of her master thesis with a specific focus on the interdependence of digital and physical environments. Johanna has previously worked in Angewandte Innovation Laboratory, Allianss Architects design office and Skanska construction company, supervised the students of the Estonian Academy of Arts, spoken at different architecture symposiums, published writings in various cultural publications, curated several architecture exhibitions and participated in many more – multiple Venice Architecture Biennales among others. For instance in 2014 she co-curated the Estonian national pavilion „Interspace“ that speculated on the spatial consequences of a data society.

Interview of Nick Axel

Trojan Horse interviewing Nick Axel on Skype on the 31th of July 2017


TROJAN HORSE: Can you tell a little about your background. What are you working on right now, and what have you been doing before that?


Nick Axel: I’m trained as an architect. I studied for five years in an architecture school in the US called Rensselaer Polytechnic. But at the same time I studied philosophy. So kind of throughout the five years I was taking classes on the relationship between architecture and philosophy, particularly within postmodernism, such as in the work of Peter Eisenman. But I was also taking more dedicated philosophy classes on things like moral development and existentialism. I wrote a thesis in philosophy alongside my architectural thesis on the relationship between the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and Alain Badiou. After I graduated I was working as an architect. And at the same time I started moving around and did an internship in Chile and I started feeling the need to do more than just practise, do more than just build buildings. So I started reading, and because I was in a new context I was already learning enormous amounts of where I was, its history its people. So this led to the feeling that I needed to not just read to pursue my intellectual interests, but also to start expressing those in writing.


TH: Did you stay in Chile for a long time?


NA: No, I was there for five or six months. And from Chile I came to Europe. I was working for an architecture firm in Madrid for about a year and a half but it got to a point where I really just felt like that this type of designing massive projects like airports or hospitals was not what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. So I took a bit of a leap of faith and I quit my job and I moved to Barcelona where I subjected myself to a quite rigorous, self-directed course of study. I had been reading throughout this time but i felt there were some things, some writers, some ideas that i would have needed more time and more space to really investigate. So when i was in barcelona i set myself a very extensive reading list and i basically said that everything i read i will write about as well. Because I also felt that I had started writing here and there, but I felt that this could be something that really fits for me, but I recognized that I really didn’t know how to do it. My blog http://awakinglucid.blogspot.fi/ is just a kind of record of that time.


Then i decided to go back to school to the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths where i felt i could try and understand architecture as a way of thinking or a way of seeing rather than a mode of practise. So that allowed me to investigate the deregulation of hydraulic fracturing in the United States on which i did my MA thesis on. After that I did a short residency in Palestine In DAAR where i actually worked on the regulation of mineral resources which worked very well with my MA work. Then afterwards i was offered a job as managing editor at Volume Magazine in Amsterdam, which really allowed me to unify my interests in spatial disciplines and practice with more theoretical or philosophical interests; to see architecture, urbanism, and spatial practice as a vehicle, as a medium for the production of knowledge and new thought.


Today I am working for e-flux architecture where we are working on a number of editorial projects with specific institutional partners from all around the world on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to questions to how the internet relates to the city and the questions of representation to questions of urban development to the commune etc.


TH: Was it common and easy to take classes from other departments in your under grad school the States?


NA: No it wasn’t. I mean I also took a professional degree which means it’s five years from start to finish, no stops no brakes. I mean you get summers off of course, but within that there is space for a total of just four electives in the whole five years. So there is really very little space for pursuing other interests, and especially directed ones like philosophy in my case. So it was quite a challenge to be able to do that. But there was something inside of me; i wasn’t satisfied with just architecture, and i was also never satisfied with just philosophy. I would always feel like whenever I was too much into one I would need the other. I needed that balance.


TH: Was this interest in Philosophy something you had already before going to school or was there something on the department which made you become interested in it?


NA: I had interest before. I know a lot of European students have philosophy classes in high school or middle school even. We never had that. I had one teacher in middle school who taught us a little bit about existentialism which spoke to me. And then when i was sixteen or whatever i read this book 48 Laws of Power and for some reason Rousseau’s Social Contract, just because i was interested. I don’t know what it was. I was never raised with religion so i always kind of looked to philosophy as a way to get answers to questions that i had. So think from a very early age i was constantly looking for new things, ways of understanding and seeing the world.


TH: How did you become interested in architecture?


NA: It was just what came to my mind you know. When I was asked what I wanted to do i thought architecture. It always had an attunement to the performance of space, let’s say the relationship between urban morphology like the grid to shape the way the people move, understand relations to each other and the ways communities form. So it seemed to be natural choice. It wasn’t anything like with some people who say they would like to do art and science and choose architecture because it’s right in between. I was like the only thing i could see myself doing.


TH: How did you end up going from working in one place to another?


NA: I actually started working in an architectural office when I was very young thanks to a family friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend sort of thing. I was fifteen when i started, but it was basically doing nothing, sorting fabrics and playing online poker in an interior architecture firm. Later I was able to work in places either through people i’ve met or through personal connections, like family and school. I was given a diversity of experiences form quite a young age within architectural offices, which is also, I have to say, what allowed me to make the decision when i was 24 to quit working in architecture offices and not return. I feel like it’s incredibly important for people who call themselves architects to actually know what it’s like to work in an architectural office. I think that’s essential, if for not another reason as in my case, to just to know that it’s not what i wanted.


TH: And that was what made you take the leap of faith you were talking about before?


NA: It was just personal angst really. I mean I had the ability to do it also, i think that’s important. I had some money saved up from when i was working. And i figured that i was too young to be unhappy. I felt i was at a point in my life where i can take risks. It was really a leap of faith and i scared the shit out of everyone around me. All my family were like “what are you doing?” and i have to say i did try and find some architecture jobs when i was in Barcelona and afterwards, but that was really just a way to make money. I was more a symbolic gesture of leaving practice and realizing that that’s not where my heart is, not where my head is.


TH: I feel there is a big difference between schools and design cultures in terms of how supportive they are for these kinds of personal leaps of faith.


NA: Yeah I totally agree. I live in Rotterdam so i’m familiar with this academic context here where you have state bodies which do an incredible job in supporting independent young practises. But I have to say i’m kind of glad that i didn’t go that route because i knew, there was for a very long time this struggle in me (and there still is) to understand what my independent practise is, what i am as a practitioner. And i think just giving people money and saying figure it out on your own is not always the best way to do that. Some sort of a tension against what their larger system or a way of working is can be productive as well.


It also comes down to how dedicated are you to ask these questions within yourself. Like who am I? What do I want? What do I want to be doing? I focused on existentialism because I’m one who has grown up constantly going through these anxieties. You could argue that i was only able to do this because the position of privilege; i come from a middle class background, i’m white, i’m male, all these things. But I thought that that question was more important to me than the question of where i’m gonna get my next paycheck from.


I also found ways to compromise. I could write reviews for a bit of money here and there. This was a way to use this unfavorable situation for my own good because i said to myself I needed to learn how to write, and so this is a way to learn how to write. I was never actually taught how to write. It was also a way to pick what i want to write about, to pick what i want to think about. And even though i was not really into writing reviews, I thought it was an exercise, it was a training which allowed me to train my body and my mind to understand what the economy was like and what the practise was like.


TH: How is it now, do you still work mostly independently?


NA: I’m in a curious position. I’m a deputy editor of e-flux architecture. That’s who i am. And e-flux is a bit of a startup, so there is a lot of autonomy, a lot of freedom, a lot of experimentation.


After my studies in Goldsmiths i was working for Forensic Architecture for about two years and I was working for Volume. I was actually working for both at the same for about a year and a half. I also started teaching and I felt that because I was doing all of these other things I didn’t have time to pursue my own interests or even think about what those were. To write about the things i want to, read what i want to, to think what i want to. So what has happened to me over the past year, leaving Forensic Architecture and Volume, starting at e-flux, has given me space to think much more for myself. I also have to say what i do as an editor is a very personal, intimate and independent practise because i’m constantly reading. I have the luxury to be paid to read. Of course I have to read in a very particular way, but still it allows me to do research as a professional activity in a strange way. Even though i don’t necessarily get to say what i want to research or read, that in and of itself can also be quite productive as well.


TH: There are certain pleasures in working within a bigger machinery. Is there anything you miss from that?


NA: I think there is two ways to approach that. One is that there is a pleasure in working in any well structured and organised organisation, which i should say e-flux is, because it’s nice to work against something. Or not to work against something, but to work within something that gives you resistance, which you can push up against. Something that has it’s own logic, that almost becomes an organism that runs itself, which you can try pushing in one direction or another, but in the end, like in the architectural office, larger questions and imperatives, like those of the client and business sustainability, cannot be ignored. Architecture is a service, after all.


If we want to think of it in these terms, no matter what we want to do it has to be validated by the market; maybe not the market but a market. At e-flux we have clients and we work with people, which is a kind of resistance, which is nice. Places like Forensic Architecture and Volume were very open; you could do whatever you wanted as long as it falls within the scope of the investigation and the position of the organisation. I feel like a lot of people would say that within an architecture office there might be less space for creativity, less space to actually move against, to actually take a position and make an advance against the constraints of the system. Architecture is very constrained practise if you really get into, if we think of it like an industry (which we don’t do nearly enough). There’s of course a question: does one gives in to the economy as is, or rather does one chart out alternative practises, inventing their own economies, inventing their own roles within society? I would argue that these two choices are not entirely opposed to another, and it’s perhaps somewhere in between where the most interesting and future-oriented forms of practice today lie.


I think Archigram is a really nice example. They were working for some giant London corporate firm, while at the same time they were able to create a revolution in the field of architecture. So, I refuse to be that cynical when it comes to this. I think there is incredible amount of really quite privileged and singular knowledge that passes through architecture firms. There is an understanding of how the world works that is only available to architects. It does not necessarily mean that they get to design the ways the world works, but there is an understanding; there is knowledge. I think that in itself is fascinating, but i don’t know if what it takes to actually get to that point where one can have this understanding is personally worth it. It just depends on what people want, how much they care about hearing their own voice and recognising their own voice in what they do.


TH: Do you miss working with concrete things?


NA: I do consider myself a designer. I have an urge to design things, to create things. And as an editor I don’t necessarily get the option to do that so there are absolutely things that i miss. But I also think that because I’m not part of it I idealize it a little bit.


TH: Do you have a secret hobby? Like making clay pots or anything like that…


NA: No, not yet. I make websites. Often if I make a sketch it will be a design sketch of something like a website. But I don’t think there’s any weird hobbies, or practise on the side that i keep secret. An if there was I don’t know if i would tell you because otherwise that would ruin the all the mystique to it. 🙂


TH: Do you have a plan or dream to build something at some point?


NA: Yeah, well it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. But it’s a way of life. I made an installation two years ago at the Chicago Architecture Biennial with some former collaborators which i consider my first build work. It even had architectural properties. It had a self supporting arch to it. But to me that is not the end, talking about means versus ends. The built object is never my end. My ends are much more about how people think, the way people see the world, where things like the city itself becomes the end in its forever indefiniteness.


So yeah, I would love to be able to build things in the future. I see it as a very interesting and very productive mode of thinking. As way of working through problems, questions, and ideas that cannot really be done in any other way. Over the past few years, though not so much in the last year and a half, i was doing a number of competitions, but more theoretical competitions that allowed me to focus on the idea of design in a speculative sense to develop and propose philosophical or political concepts. And I still think through the question of form and the practise of design. But i also try and think of design and the ways of intervene within the city and space in a more abstract way. Instead of designing a building I’ll propose to change a law and see how that creates a ripple effect throughout the city. I did this project a while ago where i proposed a pipeline as a way to create a political union in the Gulf. So i think i’m looking at different ways of intervening within the city which i still feel is very much a question of design. It’s not necessarily a material practise, it’s not phenomenological, it’s more of a metaphysical practise.


TH: How do you see coming to Bengtsår and working in an island environment like this?


NA: It’s a very weird microcosm. It’s like a petri dish that was cast away from the main bacterial organism, the cells. A lot of what my practise is about is a practise of cartography, a practise of mapping. So trying to understand the relationships between things, trying to understand the relative positions. Asking questions like what does it mean to be where we are? I think that this island, not just because it’s an island (even though islands always have their unique ecologies), you know exactly what goes in and out. There is a very formal relationship not just to the outside world, but what does it mean to actually survive in such an isolated conditions. I think all islands create a very particular form of life. A way of existing, a way of sustaining themselves. They also lead to unique culture of time, of enjoyment, of activity, of leisure. I think coming there will be incredible opportunity to understand the infrastructure of what it really makes to produce these things, these ways and patterns of life that we take for granted. Of course we all go to an island for two weeks in the middle of the summer, right. But what does that actually take, what does that imply within the capitalist society we live in today?


I think this island will be quite an incredible place to understand that. Not just because it’s an island, but also because of the relationship it has with the city of Helsinki. So i think it will be quite nice.


TH: And this is also an example of the architectural thinking you have been talking about before?


NA: I live in the Netherlands you know and the way i have understood the country is that the entire country is one city. And so, i don’t necessarily draw the boundaries between one place and another just when a building stops. So i’m interested more in the architecture of territory. How is life constituted and how is it sustained. Answering this question entails the very basic diagrammatic forms of analysis we apply to a building. Like circulation, like program, like massing and energy analysis, everything. And we can scale that up to this island, so instead of a building we are creating it’s an island we are sustaining. So i see it very much like a question of architecture. I really value what i would call architectural intelligence, an architectural way of seeing, an architectural perspective. I think by studying buildings architects are really imbued with the very unique way of seeing the relationship between parts and the relationship between different scales. That way of seeing the world, that form of knowledge, that body of knowledge, that form of intelligence is essential for understanding the more nuanced and complicated complexities that are presenting themselves today within the context of climate change, within the context of population growth, within the context of global territorialization, where every single inch of the globe is covered, and mapped, protected, lived in through one form or another.


TH: Coming back to our theme, the climate change of work, it feels such an urgent skill to be able to relate local personal experiences (like of weather) with the practise of working with models and looking at how the world works in much bigger scale (like as climate).


NA: I’m curious about things like how do we walk. How do these very minute gestures of our bodies lead to certain climatological practises and also influence how, for example, the rain falls. I think this is a question of how the way we live influences this wider universal system that cannot be grasped as such. We might understand that it does, but we don’t actually know how. And i think this is really the question that we are hopefully able to address at the summer school. To not come up with universal solutions but to just begin to layout a methodology to at least understand the relationship between such two dramatically different scales. Because it will be different in every place as well. It will be different in this island than in Helsinki.


TH: Is there certain books, or writers who have been important for you in opening up this kind of architectural intelligence?


NA: I have a list of readings and films that i plan to discuss, and hopefully watch and read collectively during the workshop. This is certainly not an ideology that i would really advocate but Timothy Morton’s concept of the hyperobject is a very good way of understanding the ways that the body relates to climate. It’s unfortunately still stays at the level of a metaphor and just hopes that you get what he is already talking about. There’s a number of other things. One is a quite complex text by Brian Kuan Wood who is an editor at e-flux journal called “We Are the Weather.” It would be incredible to get Hito Steyerl’s Liquidity Inc. which is a really nice way of showing the relationship between meteorology and labour. At the same time there are some films like Adam Curtis’ Pandora’s Box and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color that will be interesting to think though. They’re both, but in very different way, dealing with questions of how we become attuned to our environment. How do we begin to think and speak in the language of trees for example. But Pandora’s Box is a really interesting series that in one episode looks at the origins of social engineering and then in another looks at the construction of a hydrological dam in Nigeria. I think this tie or link between the body and the climate is something still needs to be made. So what i’m hoping to do is to posit the two next to each other and then set it as a question of design, a question of art, a question of creativity.


TH: Is there anything else you want to say about your workshop? Last time we talked you said something about these places in the Soviet Union where one could re-learn how to do certain practical tasks.


NA: Yeah, that’s the social engineering thing. And there is also chronophotography, like the work of Étienne-Jules Marey, the tracking of the movement. Body tracking is a provocation i’m interested in here. Like the Gilbreths, who put a grid behind the worker and attached lights to their pens to find irregularities in their movements.


TH: What would you do with your life if you would graduate from design or architecture school right now?


NA: Try and work for a place you really believe in. Whose work you think is really contributing to society. This could mean not focusing so much on your own design aesthetics at the very beginning. To learn a form of practise more than style.


TH: Who were the people who were important for you?


NA: I worked for Elemental in Chile and I felt that was a really transformative experience for me because I had been interested in the social dimension of architecture for a long time, social housing etc. and then i got the chance to see what that was like. To really to use the opportunities available after graduating from school to not necessarily, say, follow your dreams, but to really learn. Like, if you want to design cities, go to work for a firm that is actually designing cities in China. They could be the ugliest most unsustainable cities in the world, but i think it’s like what Keller Easterling says that it’s not about what, it’s about how. It’s not important to know that cities are being designed; it’s important to know what it takes to do so. What sorts of things are being said at the table. What are the sort of things that are, and are not possible within that. I think I would also recommend people to not be so judgemental. To not let one part of yourself get in the way of another part. If you know what you care about, you can kind of sacrifice your own personal agenda, your ethos to learn how to get to the position you want to be at the first place. That is important.




Nick Axel is an architect, writer, critic and editor based in Rotterdam. He is currently Deputy Editor of e-flux architecture, where his work focuses on generating new audiences and experimenting with the temporal logics of the architectural project. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Volume Magazine (#44–49), where he explored the implications of neoliberal subjectivity, planetary computation and anthropocenic thought on the discipline of architecture; Researcher at Forensic Architecture, where he coordinated investigations and developed techniques for the inquiry into human rights violations in Palestine and Syria; and resident at DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency), where he designed the National Spatial Plan for stone extraction in Palestine. Nick studied at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, where he investigated the deregulation of hydraulic fracturing in the United States through the media of federal history, property rights and land law. Nick has taught architecture, design and theory at Strelka, Design Academy Eindhoven, KABK, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and The Bartlett.

So, what does the Climate Change of Work mean?

We recently went to see the Signals from the Periphery graphic design exhibition at the Tallinn Art Hall. In between objects, images, tools and music, the exhibition also displayed alternative design spaces, -events and -projects from around the world. What these initiatives had in common was that they were initiated out of frustration that there was no place or platform to do the kind of work these designers found meaningful and fulfilling. This is also one of the reasons why we started the Trojan Horse summer school.


How is it possible that so many people feel that there is so much design work that feels more and less unnecessary or unfulfilling, and so little that would take us towards the kinds of worlds we would like to live in?


How is it possible that work occupies more and more of our time, even when we live in increasingly automated societies, where many human necessities could be taken care of with very little actual human labour?


How is it possible that we value efficiency and modesty and rationality so much, when there has never been so much surplus energy (and time) available to us to waste?


Why do we risk our mental and physical health working on our laptops, staring into screens inside cubicles, when we would have all the technology to use the space and our bodies much more fluidly?


How does this affect the kind of knowledge and the kind of work we produce?


What are we actually doing?


And what does this have to do with climate change?


Climate is the history of weather. Where weather is something we can observe and feel here and now, climate is something we cannot sense directly. “Climate is the average state of the atmosphere over periods of years, decades, centuries, and more.” Climate becomes real as graphs and excel sheets. “Everything we know about the world’s climate—past, present, and future—we know through models.” In order to model climate we need global data, and to have global data we need different measurement devices, standardized procedures, satellites orbiting our planet and many other inhuman things, which sense our world very differently from how we humans do, based on our partial and limited local perspectives.


And climate, of course, changes all the time. The biosphere of our planet Earth has experienced many dramatic changes in its four billion years of history. What we call climate change today is something different. Something that will make our own existence threatened. Something which is already causing mass extinction of plants and animals, soil depletion, mass migration and wars over natural resources. That’s why what we now call climate change is something inherently political, it’s something related to the work we have done, and work we think we should be doing. If our collective work (utilising the energy released from burning fossil-fuels) has changed our planet’s climate once, it might make sense to rethink what we call work in order to transform both our world and ourselves.


What does it even mean to work? Is work anything that brings you money? Is it what you do during your days? Or, is work something that in some sense builds a common good? Something that someone forces you to do? Something you just have to do? Something that creates change? Something that creates new knowledge? A quest to find a world worth working towards?

In her book The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt writes about three different activities: labour, work and action, as equally necessary to a complete human life. “Labor is human activity directed at meeting biological (and perhaps other) necessities for self-preservation and the reproduction of the species. Because these needs cannot be satisfied once and for all, labor never really reaches an end. Its fruits do not last long; they are quickly consumed, and more must always be produced.” … “Work, unlike labor, has a clearly defined beginning and end. It leaves behind a durable object, such as a tool, rather than an object for consumption. These durable objects become part of the world we live in. Work involves an element of violation or violence in which the worker interrupts nature in order to obtain and shape raw materials. For example, a tree is cut down to obtain wood, or the earth is mined to obtain metals.” … “Action

Precarity Pilot

Precarity Pilot is an online platform and a series of nomadic workshops that aim at addressing in inventive ways issues faced by precarious designers.

Shaken by the concerns that emerged from our earlier investigations, namely Designers’ Inquiry (2012-2013) and Designing Economic Cultures (2011-2013), Precarity Pilot wants to support designers in re-shaping, re-orienting and taking ownership of the course of their working lives.

In the context of Europe, where cuts to welfare systems and unfair working conditions are making it difficult to confidently imagine the course of one’s working life, Precarity Pilot is an attempt to direct our efforts and everyday activities as designers towards constructing a different economic environment – both through what we produce and through the ways we practice and live.

Precarity Pilot is not primarily concerned with stabilising precarious design practices as they are, but rather with creating conditions in which it is possible for designers to imagine and actuate what they could become when not pressured by precariousness to conform to the needs of the market.

If any of the content of this website resonates with you, feel free to get in touch for further discussions: info@precaritypilot.net

Economy as Ecological Livelihood

Economy as Ecological Livelihood J.K. Gibson-Graham and Ethan Miller

(forthcoming in A Manifesto for the Anthropocene, Puncum Books: Brooklyn, NY)

Can we overcome our hyper-separation from the more-than-human world and take up membership in a thoroughly ecological community of life? While the demands of “the economy” are set in opposition to the needs of “the environment”; while the economy is seen as a vulnerable system that cannot accommodate allocations of social wealth to earth-repair and species protection without risking collapse; while the economic “we” continues to squander and ignore the gifts of the more-than- human world that gives us life, the answer seems to be a depressing “No”. To answer “Yes” we must begin to rethink and re- enact the relationship between economy and ecology.

We have inherited a vision of “the economy” as a distinct sphere of human activity, marked off from the social, the political, and the ecological as a domain of individualized, monetized, rational- maximizing calculation. This economic sphere rests upon and utilizes an earthly base of (often invisible) ecologies that are swept up into its domain to become “resources”, passive inputs for production and consumption measured primarily by their market value. Economy is “naturalized” in the sense that it is presented as a realm of objective, law-like processes and demands; yet this naturalization is at the same time a process by which the more-than-human world is affirmed as external to our economic lives, and the complexities of our interdependencies are rendered invisible and unaccountable. The economy thus assumes a presence and dynamism–manifest, for example, in the demand for endless growth–that appears to be independent from the living world upon which it depends.

This powerful and abstracted construction of the economy emerged from and enabled agricultural and industrial revolutions that gave rise to urbanization, increased standards of living for many, and vast and unprecedented mobilizations and transformations of energy and

matter on the part of certain humans. But it also produced and legitimated tremendous violence and inequity, and has generated unforeseen impacts or that are undermining the long-term viability of earthly survival not just for humans, but for myriad other species and more-than-human communities. Enabling as it has been for some, this view of economy-ecology relations now stands squarely in the way of imagining and enacting an ethics for living in the Anthropocene.

Recognizing “the economy” as a historical, discursive production rather than an objective ontological category (Mitchell 1998; 2008; Callon 2007) can enable us to begin exploring different ways of thinking and experiencing our processes of livelihood-making. What if we were to see economic activities not in terms of a separate sphere of human activity, but instead as thoroughly social and ecological? What if we were to see economic sociality as a necessary condition of life itself? What if we were to see the economy as ecology–as a web of human ecological behaviors no longer bounded but fully integrated into a complex flow of ethical and energetic interdependencies: births, contaminations, self-organizings, mergings, extinctions, and patterns of habitat maintenance and destruction?

Starting from this premise, we might begin to see the history of economic thought as a discursive enclosure of ecological space analogous to–and, in fact, historically parallel to–the material and legal enclosure of commons from the 16th century to the present (Perelman 2000). Just as the discourse of individual private property emerged with its legal rules of ownership, use and transfer, divorcing property (as a thing) from social relations, so the discourse of a separate economy evolved with and through terms, techniques and disciplinary practices that increasingly differentiated and distanced it from other spheres of human and non-human behavior and interaction. Economy, then, was produced when discursive boundaries, at once symbolic and material, were drawn around a particular configuration of ecological relationships–specifically those between certain humans and a world made into resources for their instrumental use. Diverse processes of human livelihood were reduced to narrow logics. Sociality was reserved only for those who count as “human.” And all more-than-human life was relegated to the domain

of passive objects.

By making a certain kind of sense of the world, this discourse of “the economy” literally made sense–transforming our sensual perceptions and experiences, altering the material and conceptual conditions of possibility for our identifications with others, and changing our abilities to see, think and feel certain inter-relationships and the responsibilities that come with such experiences.

Our challenge is to engage in forms of thought and practice that undermine the conditions of possibility for thinking “the economy” as a hyper-separated domain beyond the reach of politics, ethics and the dynamics of socio-ecological interdependence. How might we cultivate genuinely ethical ecological-economic sensibilities? How might we reconfigure our notions of economy and ecology inways that help us take responsibility for being alive together as life? We suggest three strategies that might bear some ethical fruit.

Strategy 1: Rethinking Being

For political theorist Jean Luc Nancy, the individual emerges from an essential sociality, rather than the other way around as is often conceived (2000, 44). He suggests that we replace the singular philosophical conception of “Being” with a “being-in-common” that does not reduce us to a unity or shared essence. For theorist of evolutionary biology Lynn Margulis, the process of symbiogenesis suggests that “individuals are all diversities of co-evolving associates” (quoted in Hird 2009, 65). Life does not exist without community as a process of connection-amidst-difference, without being-in- common. “Life,” write Margulis and Sagan, “is an orgy of attractions” (1995, 157).

If we cease to think of ourselves as singular, self-contained beings and begin to think alongside, for example, the multiple communities of bacteria and bacterial symbionts from which we continually take shape and of which we are but fleeting, temporary manifestations (Hird 2009; 2010); or if we place our activities in the context of the billions-of-years-old, emergent, planetary-scale process of biological self-construction known as “Gaia” (Lovelock 2000; Harding 2006; Volk 2003), it is no longer possible to identify a singular “humanity”

as a distinctive ontological category set apart from all else.

What difference might it make if we accept that from the scale of Gaia, to the scale of the microscopic bacteria that form the laboring basis for nearly all biological energy production and transformation, there is a “we” bound together in myriad interrelationships that are themselves the very conditions of existence for our sense of a human “we”? Being-in-common–that is, community–can no longer be thought of or felt as a community of humans alone; it must become multi-species community that includes all of those with whom our livelihoods are interdependent and interrelated.

From this standpoint, there is no more ground for the construction of a human “economy” separate from its ecological context than there would be for ecologists to consider the provisioning practices of bees as an independent “system”–with its own internal laws and imperatives–wholly separate from their constitutive interrelationships with flowering plants, other pollinators, soil mycorrhizae, nitrogen fixing bacteria, seed dispersing birds and mammals. Human sociality is simply a particular manifestation of the mutual interrelationships between and among species and between and among communities of living beings that implicate lives ranging from the mitochondria in our cells to pollinators that make agriculture possible. If, to paraphrase Foucault (1980, 141) there is no “outside” to ecology, the big difference between those who have economy and those who don’t is our symbolic capacity to represent ourselves as constituting a distinct sphere of existence in which sociality is reduced to individual desire. In other words, we are separate only by virtue of our ability to conceive of these separations.

We might say, from a Gaian perspective, that we humans are a manifestation of the self- organizing processes of planetary life experimenting with self-consciousness. Certainly this makes members of our species distinctive and allows us to generate previously- impossible ecologies. But by thinking and building ourselves into self-conscious separation from ecological interrelationships and the sociality of life, we have made many of our livelihood processes into enemies of ecological resilience. Our acknowledgement of this

history, and our commitment to rejoining a community of life through both our concepts and our actions is a crucial step toward a more robust ethical engagement with the world.

Bee swarm

Photo by Kate Boverman

Strategy 2: Redefining Economy

Let us try to think “economy” not as a unified system or a domain of being but as diverse processes and interrelations through which we (human and more-than-human) constitute livelihoods.
“Economy” (oikos-habitat; nomos-negotiation of order) might then become a conceptual frame or theoretical entry point through which to explore the diverse specificities of livelihood creation by a population (members of the same species) or a community (multi-species assemblage). Economic analysis might then trace and track practices of community survival/management, including processes of co- existence and interdependence with all other populations or communities. Now, if we imagine the co-existence of diverse human economies, diverse salmon economies, diverse bee economies, diverse bacterial economies, and so on, along with the spatio-temporal community economies that they create together, “ecology” (oikos- habitat, logos-account of) becomes a conceptual frame from which to view the articulated whole of interacting diverse economies. The ecological entry point forces us to step back from the temporary centering operations of economics and ask how relations of livelihood creation and collective provisioning interact, conflict, co-constitute each other, and generate emergent properties.

Clearly such an approach would challenge us to rethink our places in the world, and to re- imagine the identities and social categories through which we’ve grown accustomed to view our interrelationships. What other differences can this redefinition make? For one, it might enable us to develop stronger conceptualizations of livelihood processes that are shared across species and from which we might have a great deal to learn. Jacobs’ application of ecological concepts to regional economies (2001), experimental practices of bio- mimicry (Benyus 2009), and the application of ecological wisdom through permaculture design (Mollison 1988; Holmgren 2002) are all examples of sites where the livelihood work of bees, grasses and

bacteria become spaces of inter-species learning.

This redefinition might also offer pathways for developing more robust understandings of the complex interconnections between specific human livelihood practices and the more-than-human world from which they emerge (and which they transform). It might lead, for example, to a different analysis of the ethical and material implications of interdependence between diverse bee economies and diverse human agricultural economies–from the vast agri-business economy that promotes monoculture and dependence on the industrial reproduction of non-native pollinators (Mathews 2011) to the integrated community farm that cultivates resilient polycultures of human, plant and bee life. When we begin to recognize that we are not alone in our livelihoods and that our human economies are inextricably linked with the economies of more-than-human others, might our ways of understanding and experiencing economic crisis, development and well-being begin to fundamentally shift?

Feeding time Photo by Kate Boverman

Strategy 3: Ethical Coordinates for More-than-Human Community Economies

We have redefined economy as ecology from the standpoint of actors constituting a community and producing livelihoods together, and ecology as the interactions of different diverse community economies. We arrive, then, at the ethical questions that lie at the heart of our

economic and ecological relations: “How do we live together with human and non-human others?” Here we might turn to the work of identifying key sites of ethical negotiation–what we have elsewhere called the ethical coordinates of community economies (Gibson- Graham 2006, Ch. 4; Gibson-Graham and Roelvink 2010). Building on and adding to these, we suggest that an economic ethics for the Anthropocene calls us to become practiced in negotiating:

  • Participation: Who is the “we” that participates in the constitution of livelihoods and community economies? This involves cultivating forms of knowing and becoming that open us to the complexities of our interdependencies, to their animate interactions with us, and to the forms of responsibility this calls forth.
  • Necessity or sufficiency: What do “we” need for survival? What constitutes “enough”? This includes asking about what is necessary for the dignified survival of all living beings and communities with whom we are interdependent, and about how we might consume in ways such that one species’ or community’s consumption does not compromise the survival chances of others.
  • Surplus: How do “we” produce, appropriate, distribute and mobilize surplus? Our new accounting must include surplus that is generated not just by human labor, but by the work of plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and dynamic energetic systems.
  • Commons: How do “we” make and share a commons, the material commonwealth of our community economies, with this new, more-than-human “we” in mind? Can we, for example, begin to see the chickens, bees and fruit trees of a cooperative farm not as part of that farm’s commons (as shared resources), but rather as living beings participating in the co-constitution of the community that, together, makes and shares the farm?

Imagine an economics in which these kinds of questions were placed at the forefront of theory, public debate, and practical action–an economics in which the dynamics of livelihood were understood not in terms of a narrow range of monetized maximizing (human) activity unfolding according to the dictates of market forces, but as dynamics of appreciative inquiry into diverse forms of interdependence, complex relations of community-making, and ethical negotiations of multiple rationalities and ways-of-living. If community is what emerges as living beings make and share worlds together, then community economies are the sites where we imagine and struggle– as increasingly- attentive members of a community of life–to balance our needs with the needs of others, to account for and to offer recompense for the gifts of surplus we receive from the earth and earth others, and to begin to build together an ethical practice of economy for living in–and beyond–the Anthropocene.


Benyus, Janine M. 2009. Biomimicry. HarperCollins.
Callon, Michel. 2007. “What Does It Mean To Say That Economics Is Performative?” In Do

Economists Make Markets?: On the Performativity of Economics, edited by Donald MacKenzie, Fabian Muniesa, and Lucia Sui, 311– 57. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. Edited by Colin Gordon. Random House of Canada.

Harding, Stephan. 2006. Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Hird, Myra J. 2009. The Origins of Sociable Life: Evolution After Science Studies. Palgrave Macmillan.

———. 2010. “Meeting With the Microcosmos.” Environment and

Planning D: Society and Space 28: 154–57.

Holmgren, David. 2002. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

Jacobs, Jane. 2001. The Nature of Economies. New York: Vintage. Lovelock, James. 2000. Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine. Oxford: Oxford

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———. 2008. “Rethinking Economy.” Geoforum 39 (3): 1116–21. Mollison, Bill. 1988. Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Hobart: Tagari Publications.
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O’Byrne. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
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We Are the Weather

http://www.e-flux.com/journal/45/60131/we-are-the-we- ather/

Weather is the key paradox of our time. Weather that is nice is often weather that is wrong. The nice is occurring in the immediate and individual, and the wrong is occurring systemwide.

—Roni Horn in 20071

The sublime of the nineteenth century was described by Kant as the feeling of watching an avalanche from a distance. A glacier crumbles, a frozen world breaks down, creating awe and shock and awe again, pleasure and horror at the same time—but always at a remove. Today the sublime of the nineteenth century has gone haywire. It’s more like a monster wave. A tsunami as freeze frame. A twister exhaling in slow motion, collapsing a block of South Asian textile factories. A mo- ment of exhilarated foam suspended high up then crashing down to devastate your lives terminally. The razor-sharp spike of an algorithm when it crests, just barely high enough to brush up against the inside of the bubble.

The distance between the observer and the disaster has disappeared. In fact the observer and the disaster might even be the same thing. It’s as if when one bubble bursts, another one expands to become the atmosphere itself. We are standing above the remains and the rubble of the first, but still inside another enclosure that arrives as some sort of psychotic causality. Is there a way out of the market or are we only trapped inside with no escape? Yes and yes! The trouble has to do with being liberated and newly imprisoned in such quick succession. You are watching the storm and being blown and carried away by it at the same time. This is why you may often feel that you’re in com- petition with yourself, or that you are not yourself at all. You may be a wanderer above the mist, but you are also in the mist.2 The Cas- par David Friedrich painting went gray. You think you may be God himself, but you still need Google Maps to find your way through the mist. The wanderer lost his phone and is just trying to get to a restau- rant.

Walid Raad, Let’s Be Honest, The Weather Helped (Egypt), (1984-2007). Archival inkjet print. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Wall Street firms made some very interesting adjustments. It is well known that after slashing
jobs by the thousands, salaries and bonuses for individual executives reached record highs. But how is this possible? Did executives simply stuff their own pockets with bailout money? Well, yes, but only th- rough a much larger systemic adjustment by which Wall Street firms essentially diverted money away from infrastructure and support staff, clearing the way for a slimmer workforce of highly gifted, self-suffi- cient, and well-paid geniuses.

Thanks to Hito Steyerl.

Brian Kuan Wood is a writer and editor of e-flux journal.
© 2013 e-flux and the author