Col Self (RCA) - 2019-20 Students

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Mark Fisher’s seminal Capitalist Realism (2009) underscored the lethal connection between technological acceleration, neo-liberal social policies, ecological damage and the rise of mental illness (Fisher: 2009, Srnicek and Williams: 2015). Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life (2014) outlined a ‘hauntological’ temporal malaise stemming from an accelerated, networked virtual sphere which individuates and slows culture materially. From 2016, the Capitalocene has taken over from Anthropocene to describe the reality of contemporary global conditions, reflecting the dominance of late Capitalism’s platforms within acute environmental change (Harraway: 2016, Demos: 2017). Many contemporary art practices have interrogated these complex concerns through ritualistic practices (Shani: 2017, Plastique Fantastique: 2018). Of these emergent performance-based material practices, I ask not “can they provide an escape route from the Capitalocene?” but, “how might they, and the rich alchemic and alternative histories they bring together, be a means to navigate this networked environment?” towards a progressive rethinking of the relations between language, cultural practice and material form. My research-practice unites contemporary aesthetics with rigorous theory, working beyond a mere illustration of current conditions, taking up the idea of ritual from Bataille’s study of power and the sacred within society, The Sacred Conspiracy (1936). My use of ritual connects what Bataille terms ‘the mythological plane’ through sub and counter-cultural practices to contemporary forms of identity performance. I build upon current and historic forms of ritualistic and multi-media practice, from feminist art engaging with witchcraft to Happenings. Significantly, I position ritual as already entangled within the material centre of the Capitalocene. I explore the potential of ritual not as outside, but at the core of contemporary Capitalism, as a means to critique its structures and imagine ways through or beyond our present condition.

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