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Cryptocrystalline: Geological Animacies and Data Capitalism

Project leader:
Caitlin Berrigan (IKW)

4 years

Funded by:
FWF – Austrian Science Fund | Elise Richter PEEK (V01007)

FWF | Elise Richter PEEK Fellow
Caitlin Berrigan, Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Duration: 1.3.2023 – 28.2.2027

Cryptocrystalline will hold space for an ecology of relations to emerge across multiple forms of media by working from within technoscientific infrastructures. Through stories told in both verbal and somatic languages, this artistic research aims to find forms for these vestiges of our animal and mineral selves. The project seeks to develop novel methods to connect to the materiality of place, and to evoke both the metaphysical and political relationships between humans and the geological.

This project will give long-term, observational attention to the subterranean, to affective geologies, and to an overlooked geography at the core of shifting strategies of power and technogovernance. Cryptocrystalline will employ interdisciplinary and collaborative methods that support both scholarly research and perceptual fieldwork. Three primary methods will guide the research and production of a book of essays and videos with installations: queer phenomenologies in filmmaking; autotheoretical writing; and repurposing scientific instruments in geological sensing as a mode of infiltration and power reversal.

Rare earth minerals serve as the electric interface of our most intimate touch, communication, computation, and governance. The acceleration of climate crisis in the past half century is occurring at the same time as the rise of media and data-driven societies. How can we attune our attention to earthly substances and agencies as they shapeshift through capitalist supply chains of technological commodities? Informed by queer phenomenology, posthuman thought, media studies and feminist science, my project is to focus on the legacies of toxic colonialism in the Great Basin Desert in California and Nevada, and as a geopolitical staging ground for outer space travel and mining that aim to sustain data capitalism and post-petroleum economies.

The geological is animated by forces that fall outside the definitions of life. Geological animacies cross many scales: faulting across continental boundaries, grounding our living relations with the cosmos and its infinite myths, rising beyond earth through corporate and military quests for extraterrestrial mining, and scaling back into molecularized matter to course as toxic tailings into the bloodstreams of animals and rivers. Mineral movements make noise in the grinding planetary crust, sounding and resounding through layers of geologic strata. Who is listening to the signals of this subterranean matter as it deforms and transforms? What forms of aesthetics can be composed for and with the inhuman?