We are about to approach an experimental audiovisual exercise based on flattening and relating elements. Those elements are stabilized entanglements composed of many other kinds of things, different times, and spaces. Notwithstanding, despite the tremendous heterogeneity of objects, situations, and magnitudes, all of those elements are immersed —as well as trapped— in a common narrative: a capitalocenic world.
But that world, that world of many worlds, is not a positivist —although horrendous— pre-made scenario made of a solidified-one-vision looking from above. No. The capitalocene should be understood as a fluid topology (Mol & Law, 1994) that mobilizes, as we are about to see below, many unstable elements through a borderless non-Cartesian spatiality.
In an almost nine minutes video, Ursula Biemann displays some connections and consequences of climate change through the exploration of oil and water as two of the main elements transforming the current global situation. The video is divided into two parts. Each one of them takes care of one of those elements and the infrastructure of relationships —at least the closest ones— around it. The first part is represented in Canada, the second one in Bangladesh.
We have, thus, carbon ecologies and hydrogeographies not only as logical divisions of Biemann’s audiovisual essay but as analytical categories. The video starts showing us some aerial shots of the excavations around the Athabasca River in Northern Canada. Biemann’s voice-off whispers us a story of violence and destruction. The resource of murmuring used by the author along her video amplifies and increases the tension and emergency of her message.
The first part, carbon ecologies, is the narration of a process of extraction by drawing the relations of some of its components. We have, for instance, Canada, the boreal forest surrounding the excavation, the excavation, the Athabasca River, water, land, oil, sand, geography, seismic lines, sonar waves, Earth’s layers, sediments, lakes, explosions, birds, machines, logics, spirits, rap music, old and young people (only as references) evolution, mutation, the sea, money growth, progress, and native trappers and hunters, just referred too.
In hydrogeographies, a few boats are going near some random part of the coast of Bangladesh. Then, we can see on the land lines of people carrying on sandbags. Hundreds of people and tons of sandbags. There are sandbags everywhere. The camera is moving around, and occasionally we see those people looking at us. At the first look, it gives the impression they are just throwing the sandbags everywhere, without a plan. But then, we see how barricades are being created.
Biemann whispers about cyclones, about meteorological stations, science and scientists, the sea, storms, poverty, an every time more eroded coast of Bangladesh, the Tibetan mountains loosing their ice, muddy water, uncertainty, collective social actions, and mosques as “religious disaster communication amplifiers.” Guided by the author’s voice, one starts to enact both spatialities, the oil extraction area in northern Canada and the flooded coast of Bangladesh.