Reflecting on recent ecological shifts at both local and global scales, Well Projects 2020 programme Energy Systems examines the consequences of connectivism under late capitalism, probing correlations between the worldwide drive for connectivity and the emergence of severe environmental rifts. The drive for connectivism that has dominated economic organisation over the last two centuries has evolved into a chaotic mesh of planetary scale networks, forcing the practical horizon of a global humanity far into the sky and deep under the earth. ‘Ours is the age of Angels’ says philosopher Michael Serres, and if capitalism is the Devil then the Devil is long dead.
From the constellations of microwave transmitters that expedite exchanges on high frequency stock markets to the 2 million miles of oil pipelines running through the bedrock of the continents, ‘networks’ are constantly emerging via the expansion of new forms of production. The proliferation of information technology and data driven systems, the logistical smoothing being played out through globalisation and the proxying and obfuscation of power structures are all causalities of a connectivism that results in massive structural imbalances on both socio-political and environmental levels.
Energy Systems seeks to find ways of replacing ‘networks’ oriented toward colonisation, capital accumulation and continual expansion with ‘metabolisms’ oriented towards alternative models of coexistence, by introducing modes of connectivism that act as mechanisms for reciprocal exchange and symbiotic world building.
A metabolic perspective on connectivity has its roots in Karl Marx’s ideas on labour process and agriculture – a process of material exchange between (wx)man and nature. Marx identified the emergence of an ‘irreparable rift’ in this metabolic interaction between (wx)man and the earth through the ‘robing’ of the soil of its constituent elements which in turn requires its systematic restoration. Whilst undoubtedly anthropocentric, the beginnings of a conceptual framework begins to emerge. The metabolic rift that was visible to Marx, unearthed some of the inherent contradictions in capitalism’s relation to nature. The connectivisms of the 21st century have pushed this disaffecting organisation of nature into new territories, creating a multiplicity of rifts.
Energy systems proposes that within the regulatory interactions of metabolic relationships lies an architecture of values that could decenter the late capitalist worldview. Through collaborative exchanges Energy Systems has invited artists to explore this architecture and to begin building some stepping stones toward addressing the systemic alienation of the environment, in the hope of changing our relationship with other humans and other entities in this world, from exploitation to solidarity.
Energy Systems is 5 visual art exhibitions that include both online and offline content, a series of 8 live/online events and workshops and a publication with contributions from 22 artists and academics.