The Long Tail of Art

Towards a Boneless Ethic: Exhibiting Institutions in Ecologies of Decease

It is obvious that the space of the factory is traditionally more or less invisible in public. Its visibility is policed, and surveillance produces a one- way gaze. Paradoxically, a museum is not so different. […] Just as the work performed in the factory cannot be shown outside it, most of the works on display in a museum cannot be shown outside its walls. A paradoxical situation arises: a museum predicated on producing and marketing visibility can itself not be shown—the labor performed there is just as publicly invisible as that of any sausage factory.[1] 

— Hito Steyerl, Is a Museum a Factory?, 2009 

In the art world, this is what the critical apparatus is largely about: the production of scarcity; which is, in turn, why even the most sincerely radical anti-capitalist critics, curators, and gallerists will tend to draw the line at the possibility that everyone really could be an artist, even in the most diffuse possible sense. The art world remains overwhelmingly a world of heroic individuals, even when it claims to echo the logic of movements and collectives—even when the ostensible aim of those collectives is to annihilate the distinction between art and life.[2] 

— Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber, Another Art World, Part 1: Art Communism and Artificial Scarcity, 2019 

The space is closed, but the show must go on. Amidst geopolitical turmoil, among the outbreak of a corona pandemic, increasing ecological breakdown, protests coinciding with the Black Lives Matter movement, the uprisings in Belarus against its dictatorship, and the enduring migrant crises, we, the art workers brigade, in their different guises, find ourselves in stasis and suspense. The situation demands action and response, especially when we consider art’s primary function as a means of seeking and finding one’s inscription into contemporaneity.[3] Simultaneously the vehicles we commonly employ for “the production of subjectivity,” to shape and propel discourse, raise awareness, inform perception and reflection—the exhibition, the lecture event series, screenings, performances, textual contributions—seem limited in terms of their activistic adequacy and capacity to be responsive and do justice to the givenness of the current situation and its urge to enact sociopolitical change. The moral high ground had been taken before, but our services seem to remain left wanting. Instead we see different artistic communities joining in protests and engaging in forms of civil disobedience and organizing collectively elsewhere, outside the realm that is commonly marked as the art field, outside of art institutions that nonetheless occasionally serve as unifiers and support structures for voicing dissent. Meanwhile, inside the art institution, on the level of the program, we ponder the subtle balance act of needing to strive for the politicization of aesthetics whilst avoiding, at all costs, the aesthetization of politics. But what can be done if public access is either limited or mostly denied, invoked by the manifestation of a pandemic, with programs being suspended whilst facing the expectancy—and possible responsibility—to be an accountable institution and respond to the given situation accordingly? How can art institutions assure their public subsistence whilst being situated in ecologies of decease when subjectivity, individuality and distance—in terms of physical gathering, and in its longstanding aim to provide personalized epistemological and ontological horizons—had already established itself as the norm beforehand? 

During the months in which art institutions were prompted to closure due to the outbreak of the corona pandemic and consequential governmental emergency ordinances, art seemed most trivial in times at which the face of death had never seemed to be so statistical, and was simultaneously brought to the stand—often prompted by political soundness and a feigned sense of solidarity—as the last refuge and spark of hope to unite people in these troubling and uncertain times. With the uncertainty of a long-term horizon for institutional onsite—“in real life”—programming reestablishing itself, we witnessed the development of an institutional “new normal.” This normality predominantly consisted of the extradition of most art institutions to marketing and innovation conversion strategies. In the months from March 2020 onwards, a plethora of digital formats and programs was brought to the fore, ranging from singer- songwriters and DJ’s performing, guided tours of exhibitions, lecture series, self-care programs, and endless streams of lockdown binge-watching being made available to attend, through Facebook and Instagram Live, Zoom and Jitsi meetings. Where online marketing and innovation tools were before almost exclusively employed in the arts as tentacular extensions of institutions to reach for audiences as to encourage them to physically rejoin the marketed onsite exhibition, the digital now became the actual domain of programming, where the participatory triggers, models and meeting grounds for both the sensorial and cognitive encounter with art coalesced. This sudden adaptation and embrace of digital formats may come across as contradicting, especially since the art field has long maintained a somewhat condescending attitude towards marketing as the dirty overlay of a “real” physical experience of art. The art field may have started lagging behind in the field of marketing compared to more innovate fields by adhering to worn definitions. As artist Ian Cheng argues, true marketing is the invention of a cognitive perception—not promotion, advertising or rhetoric—shaped as the conceptual reconfiguration of reality’s familiar parts to open rivers of energy and organization previously unavailable. This marketing would, in the best case, strive to be operative on an equal footing with art as to reinvent fundamental metaphors and models for relating to reality.[4] What is perhaps most striking is that the majority of art institutions, instead of making an a priori consideration of the shifts and differences in logic of operation and perception-raising involved in circulating and distributing content by hosting events via these marketing platforms, is the perceptual arm’s raise in which the cultural field engaged itself all too hastily. Soon we found ourselves—at home—on the superhighway of business-as-usual turbo-capitalist neoliberalism, where art-as- entertainment and corporate dystopia had an online argument about common sense. There is no stopping this—or that—institution in its continuous dissemination of programs and the ongoing aim to invent and attract new users: the space is closed, but the show must go on. The only thing that was missing from the superhighway was the exit. An exit that would allow for a diversion from contemporary art institution’s adherence and over-indebtedness to a neoliberal market-driven logic, that no matter the circumstances, one must partake in the time-pressured culture of high-performance. An exit that would allow for a temporal halting, intermission, and reorientation towards a timely consideration of the different sociopolitical matters of care and concern that call for our attention. An exit that would allow for a consideration of the conversions in signification and meaning brought by the translation tables inherent to the different (digital) platforms we employ to assemble. Apart from the lack of consideration another danger is lurking: the idea that art institutions would temporarily inhabit online structures—as a form of survival tactics—to return to normality as soon as the pandemic situation is considered surmounted. To think one is bridging a period of pandemic crisis as temporal setback—solvable by human intervention, by statecraft and scientific technofixes—when actually we are witnessing a dress-rehearsal as part of the current and structurally permanent climate regime.[5] 

To give an example: in order to cope with the restrictions imposed by the corona pandemic in a supposedly innovative manner, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam organized an exhibition in the shape of a drive-through experience. Separate households were enabled to immerse themselves in a re-arranged presentation of the permanent collection, progressing in environmentally sustainable electric vehicles. Arguably we should also wonder about the exit here, or, in other words still, can we sustain a cultural infrastructure that continues to emphasize novelty value in the guise of green and sustainable living when we are witnessing increasing ecological breakdown? To stitch a new garment for business-as-usual is another form of common sense altogether. Common sense defined as the lack of capacity to look deeper than a certain level, as a stable pattern of perception that flattens the constructed artificiality of one’s surroundings. To what extent can art institutions continue to uphold the pretense —reaching out before themselves in the course of regular programming as if nothing all too drastic is bound to happen—as a willing failure to acknowledge the fact that art institutions are part of a larger ecosystem, increasingly lacking grounding in ecologies of decease where instability, precarity and scarcity are imposed as a new normative ethics? 

As we face the compounded crises of advanced capitalism, sociopolitical unrest, environmental catastrophe and technological transformation that is turning into an increasingly social crisis before our eyes, neither contemporary art nor its institutions can remain indifferent and must urgently develop their responses to it. How and by what means can we apply the creativity to imagine different ways in which the institutional structure itself could be organized to become more adaptive and responsive? 

A first indexation of the field would lead to the conclusion that we should, following philosopher Bruno Latour’s argument, relearn to cherish and reevaluate art institutions as they have mostly become weakened and unstable within the current political climate.[6] In The Netherlands, for instance, this instability has intensified in the last decade and has been wrought by a political mandate that obligated art institutions to adhere to a neoliberal logic of the “free” market and its mechanisms of competitive exploitation and self-reliance, paired with toxic ideological underpinnings of art as a leftwing and elitist lifestyle attribute. Almost a decade later—under the spell of the corona pandemic—this situation remains largely unchanged, with disproportionate governmental support for fossil fuel industries such as airline KLM and the salvage of corona-infested mink farms, compared to far-reaching measures for theaters and comparatively low support for the arts. Another overarching sentiment would be the notion that the mobilization of innovation and transformation can only occur whilst being located outside of art institutions—once so firmly embedded in the cultural field— at the margins of a society. Latour, on the contrary, makes a claim under slogan of “no transformation without institution,” arguing that we need to modify the institution from within by internalizing the definition of creativity.[7] As the institution of art is under attack, we must protect its potential to enable the production of subjectivity as well as its polity, whilst simultaneously reformulating the definition of that same institution as we now find ourselves in a very different situation of living in capitalist ruins. 

Latour presents a train of thought put forward by philosopher Alfred North Whitehead aiming to exemplify that transformation can take place from within the bounds of the institution by speaking about substance and subsistence. Substance is that which lasts, which is continuous, there, and stable—transformation being its antonym. Subsistence is that what you need to constantly maintain, which lasts precisely through what does not last—similar to the nourishment that plants and humans need in order to sustain their being in the world. Whitehead claims that subsistence is the place where the institution sits: it modifies itself through what does not last, it inherits and transforms by means of subsistence.[8] 

One recent example in which the substance and subsistence of an art institution both conflicted and conflated can be found with Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. The name of this art institution is derived from the street in which it is located, in turn named after the seventeenth-century Dutch naval officer of the VOC and WIC, Witte Corneliszoon de With. In an open letter addressed to Witte de With in 2017, a diverse group of artists, activists and educators asked the institution how it could engage in “critical work” whilst being operative under a moniker that conjures up a colonial history of terror and exploitation.[9] The authors underwrite that Witte de With has remained silent on the historical actions of its namesake as a purposeful choice, resting overly comfortable in its discursive category, articulated in the name of “diversity.” At the end of their letter Witte de With is asked: “How will this institution start to undo itself ”? Following the letter there is a period of relative silence and a change of directorship, with occasional statements being released vocalizing the institution’s commitment changing its name and instigating a reflective program as part of its “ongoing collective learning process.” Three years later, coinciding with the Black Lives Matter protests, the debate is firmly reestablished by different action groups, among Helden van Nooit. The institution gives the impression of being overtaken by the sudden acceleration and demand to overcome its colonial connotations—even though they may have already been prepared beforehand—and the urge to engage in radical action to change its name and to stop aestheticizing politics for the sake of the program. An acute response is given by implementing a timeline, scheduling the removal and replacement of the name of the institution by January 2021. 

An art institution does not solely subsist through the active inheritance of passing a continuous chain of exhibitions and event programs, it equally and in many cases has to increasingly set itself the task of revising the substance of the inherited institutional structure and framework proper. In other words, institutional facades are no longer considered thresholds shrouded in anonymity, where structural and foundational principles, among the naming, mission, and socio-historical fabric of an institution, have become porous whilst firmly interlinked with the manner in which both the institution’s operative team of staff members and invitees induce, carry and embody the ideological agendas it (fails to) mobilize(s). 

In paraphrasing Maziar Afrassiabi, curator and artistic director of the Rotterdam- based art space Rib: “the point is not to increase the level of diversity of an institution by adding people of color, decolonial incentives, and queer representatives on top of the surface of the institution’s structure—perhaps not dissimilar from the way in which the relation between decoration and structure is defined in baroque architecture. Rather, the facade and front of the institution have to become a constitutive part of the structure itself, instead of being a cosmetic gloss that distracts from what is hidden is beneath. In some cases this entails the need to admit that the foundation itself is rotten and that reform is synonymous with the baroque logic of ornamentation, and thus useless and superficial. Instead of letting the structure collapse under its own weight of added ornamentation, one may as well opt to abandon the old house rather than to rebuild it. To build an entirely new constitution constructed on an entirely different set of criteria and grounding principles.”[10] Or to put it another way, what is the difference between deconstructivism and constructivism? 

The exhibition, temporal and ephemeral by nature, might well be the small medium that allows the institution to subsist over time, to make a passage by maintaining a continuous chain of events. But what would that institution and its program look like when both the structure and its environment are being threatened, pressured, and subject to disintegration? 

Anthropocene adaptive cycle. Design by Caroline Castro as part of the publication Anthropocene Back Loop: Experimentation in Unsafe Operating Space (2020) by Stephanie Wakefield.

In the publication Anthropocene Back Loop – Experimentation in Unsafe Operating Space, educator and researcher Stephanie Wakefield presents a set of interesting alternative perspectives and practices that counter the current dominant order of “salvage politics,” as a life of survival amidst ongoing social and infrastructural breakdown on a “broken Earth.” Wakefield describes two common tendencies for coping with life on Earth under climate change. The first is “resilience,” as the current incarnation of liberal governance, that tries to maintain safe operating space via deploying new modes of management, seeking for a system’s ability to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure. The second tendency regards post-apocalyptic ruins imaginaries—among Anna Tsing’s “living in the ruins,” Haraway’s “staying with the trouble,” and Latour’s “Earthbound”—as templates that aim to stabilize (to govern) life, albeit by declaring the latter to be unstable and outside human control. 

In summation: 

Both resilience and post-apocalyptic ruins imaginaries recognize that we have entered the back loop though they interpret our being there in their own ways. For the former, the back loop is a disruptive event that “tests” systems and constitutes an opportunity to try out new management responses. The goal of such techniques, however experimental they may be, is generally to maintain systems’ identity or pre-existing state within its safe operating space. In other words, resilience experiments seek to find those thresholds, while testing out new ways to maintain systems. Post-apocalyptic film and theory, on the other hand, sees the catastrophic nature of maintaining such systems, and proclaims that the end has already come. In these imaginaries, the back loop is the world we inhabit—there is no other, they repeat. The underlying reference remains the front loop, with what is left reduced to  surviving its remains/ruins—thus always defining life in relation to the front loop past—until “we” humans disappear, and jellyfish or some other entangled meshwork rightfully (in these theorists’ view) come to replace us.[11]

Wakefield concludes that resilience and ruins politics—still legitimate ways of responding as they may be—tell us that we face a future without agency or imagination except perhaps that sufficient only to endure or envision disaster. Her aim—beyond these two common tendencies—is to envision the ability to see the Anthropocene not as a tragic End or world of ruins, but a scrambling where possibility is present, old codes are becoming unhelpful, and the future more open than typically imagined: to take back the conditions for asking what life can be. She makes a plea for a third template under the marker of “experimenting in unsafe operating space”:

Through the “use” of environment, music, aesthetics, historical legacies and one’s own body, amidst a world in freefall back loop experiments create their own forms for life, articulating a powerful alternative to the contemporary discourse of limits, survival and ruins. These diverse practices freely and confidently take hold of the pieces of a fragmenting civilization and put them to new use, not to survive, not out of fear, but in self-assured and creative efforts to remake and redefine life’s texture in powerful ways.[12]

[These practices are] experimental in the sense that they do not follow from exterior political or moral blueprints; instead emerge from within the needs, lives, and dreams of practitioners themselves; are enacted and made use of by practitioners themselves; are modulated over time as practitioners discover new needs, desires, or limits to overcome; do not seek as their end a specific society or scenario, but are better described as tools for living, for taking one’s life into one’s own hands and in so doing making it into a work of art; and which finally open onto possibilities unpredictable in advance, and see this as a fine thing.[13] 

If we would transpose Wakefield’s idea of experimentation in unsafe operating space to the time and space of the exhibition, how would its conceptual and material formalization look like, in the shape of an actual response, an opening to transforming life that breaks with these crisis-ridden contemporary imaginaries and contemporary art’s moralizing tendency to educate the masses through the propagation of “outdated” nature/culture binaries?[14] Could the format of the exhibition exemplify this shifting ground that is simultaneously our common ground, without the need for taking recourse to external sites, beginning from one’s here and now? 

An exhibition could be defined as a cultural field of inter-human energy- exchange, modelled on the premiss of an exchange in intentionalities (artistic, receptive), often solidified and mediated in the shape of objects, processes and performances.

Art historian Vincent Normand writes: The specific “genus” that is the format of the exhibition is not that simple to identify, probably because of the tenuousness and impurity of its ontological ground: decidedly not autonomous, often deemed mere a “frame,” both media and medium, neither a stable and collectible object, nor entirely the product of a studio practice, it is always a more or less transparent combination of these elements.[15]

The decided lack of autonomy of an exhibition would at best manifest itself through the exhibition as an assembling ground that unifies different and differing social relations, voices and material-discursive formations as a fragmentary prism on reality. In an optimal case, the exhibition-as-prism would register more reality thanks to the use of a larger number of templates, for which pluralism is understood not as a plurality of points of view on the same reality but as a multiplicity of types of agencies to register more reality. In that sense the temporal coalescing of agendas, intentionalities and positions would deliberately subdue autonomy in the key of shared responsibility, interdependence and a robustness in perspectivism beyond the limitations of the individualistic. 

However, following Wakefield’s reasoning, the exhibition as form and apparatus as well as its connected art institution, is oftentimes subjected to the salvage politics of neoliberal resilience and post-apocalyptic imagination—on both the level of programmatic content and institutional self-legitimation—rather than an actualization of the current moment that seeks to enable us in strengthening the current situation, and imagine new daily living and working practices. The undermining that needs to be overcome seems twofold. 

A first step towards forms of exhibitionary experimentation in unsafe operating space would consists of loosening the exhibition (and its institution) from the constraints of neoliberal governing principles and the art world’s consequential over-indebtedness to the market-driven logic of competition. Contrary to reductive political desire, we will have to abandon the exhibition as a format that is organized around the creative vision of named individuals that are constantly becoming but never quite arriving; the exhibition as a site for the production of self-imposed scarcity in favor of the production of visibility for exclusive emergents and platform prestige—asking ourselves, where did they emerge from in the first place? As the art world is largely indexed on the vectors of advanced capitalism and neoliberal ideology, we must, in short, pursue experimentation with an emphasis on affirmation and desire as plenitude rather than as an insatiable lack as part of a capitalism’s burnout culture. A counter-approach could take shape by restructuring the institutional timeline, where subsistence through exhibition inheritance is formalized according to a logic of different curatorial tempo’s, rhythms, and temporalities. Rather than opting for a singular chain of self- congratulatory events and effects celebrating novelty value and visibility—“We are proud to host the first solo exhibition of [artist name] in The Netherlands”—and strive towards more sustainable approaches to ground artistic practice in a more structural and embodied sense. At A Tale of a Tub in Rotterdam—an art space I co-direct—we aim to counteract this logic by seemingly simple gestures such as omitting artists’ date of birth and country of origin, and, perhaps more importantly, try to stretch the limit of given formats such as the solo exhibition into more collective moments of exchange. Another strategy we embrace is that of “incrementalism,” inviting artists to have more longstanding agency as part of the different levels of institutional operation, as a way of sustaining both artistic and institutional practice more durably, beyond micro- management and multi-year program horizons. In other words, brought by researcher Dani Blanga-Gubbay:

Perhaps the role of the institution is to remember the importance of invisible life; to claim that its primary role is to not to present an event, through which a practice can be then supported, but rather to support an artistic practice that has visible moments of presentation. In front of the neoliberal paradigm of the event, the image of reincarnation suggests a shift between the event and the practice; and the institution taking care of souls beyond their moments of visibility.[16]

This act is unsafe in the sense of deliberately breaking away from the hurtling pace of the attention economy, potentially jeopardizing the institutional operation in terms of continuity relative to its placement within a field of subsidiaries and funding bodies that largely operate on the contrary logic of quantity joined with exceptionality and the merit of distinction. On the other hand it does justice to the accommodation of artistic practice as part of a long term institutional horizon, beyond an economy modeled on brief and momentary association. 

Secondly and finally, art institutions will have to refactor the perception-raising to which it exposes its publics—through, for instance, exhibition programs—beyond solely informing and illustrating bleek post-apocalyptic horizons, towards a more grounded institutional vision encompassing and actively enacting its own position within a localized scheme of things, as part of overarching globalized sociopolitical instability within the current climate regime.[17] In other words, perhaps art institutions cannot any longer incite revolutions, but they can resist easy images of the future and not let critical thinking and discourse slip through its hands; especially concerning its own self- imposed structures. In moving toward other versions of what institutions can be, we must first start with acknowledging our complicity in these systems and no longer operate under the false pretenses of a neutral framework. The levels of address will have to perpetuate on all the levels of operation and organization, not only on the surface of the program. This involves institutions having to move beyond the material-discursive fabric of artistic propositions as the prime material of advocacy to a more holistic sense of self-awareness and positioning. The internal institutional ecosystem formalizing through chains of conversation and production will have to be made explicitly durable, as well as the outward accountability and response-ability towards given matters of concern poignant to the different people and modes of existence in its “extended field of operation.” Moreover, other lifeforms actively use worlds we produce to construct worlds of their own. Inhabiting the back loop, in the words of Wakefield, thus entails not only that we allow ourselves to see our environments as open to rearranging, but also as rich in their own right and capable of rearranging us, too.[18] 

For art institutions to remain within safe operating space would lead us to an adaptation of what investigative journalist Christian Parenti calls “the politics of the armed lifeboat”: here the “armed lifeboat” would be an art institution that, instead of working in community with the rest of stakeholders within its environment to counteract the negative effects of the climate regime—as an example among different urgencies—and support those harmed by its impacts, simply uses its intellectual high ground to take care of internal affairs by offering discursive reflections while willfully ignoring matters of shared but externalized concern. The months long closure of art spaces and current public limitations of access to art institutions yielded by the transmission of the coronavirus may inform a recognition that, beyond the strictly biological, its impact stands for a much wider and deep-seated social and ethical dimension, and that the social realm of humanity will have to facilitate a war on the structures of society itself in order to reestablish an equal footing with all that matters within and beyond humanity. To start experimenting within unsafe operating space would require art institutions to equally facilitate a war on their own internal operative logic and situatedness; to deviate from and abandon prevalent “default settings” adduced by a neoliberal and capitalist normative ethics, (forcefully) adopted by art spaces and injected into the genus of the exhibition as a host body for artistic experimentation. Here the experiment would be aimed at finding passages beyond the closed feedback loop of salvage politics, all the while securing a timely exit will increasingly beg for militant forms of organization, propositional in nature, by radicalizing both the politics of display and location at once. 

To move towards a boneless ethic involves pooling human energy as to no longer keep art institutions fixed as seemingly stable entities by enforcing resilience politics as to keep its emblematic structure intact, but rather to invest in growing an adaptive and adaptable exoskeleton, not consisting of additional layers of programmatic protection and calcified brick and mortar as defense mechanism to political and ecological instability, but as the constituency of a malleable and interscalar provision to exhibitionary experimentation in unsafe operating space. This movement “towards” is affirmative insofar as art institutions will increasingly need to reach out with their exhibitionary support structures as to do justice to the life complex—contrary to the common internalization of aspects of life into the vacuum of the exhibition, isolated and presented in a different light. In that affirmative movement of reaching out, the exhibition is not only a passive material reservoir and support structure for human activity, but an assembler, one that links the living and the inert (while being both), that forms a basis to reveal the social and material, beyond the realm of the formal and the logic of the market, which would lead us into showing the potential for multitudinous exit pathways heading in unpredictable trajectories. 

Adaptive cycle, modified to show potential for multitudinous exit pathways heading in unpredictable trajectories. Design by Caroline Castro as part of the publication Anthropocene Back Loop: Experi- mentation in Unsafe Operating Space (2020) by Stephanie Wakefield.

Moments of this essay were clarified through conversation with Sami Hammana, Hedwig Houben, Sonia de Jager, Rob Leijdekkers, Isabelle Sully, Brenda Tempelaar, Remco Torenbosch. 

1 Hito Steyerl, “Is a Museum a Factory?” e-flux journal 7 (2009). 2 Nika Dubrovsky and David Graeber, “Another Art World, Part 1: Art Communism and Artificial Scarcity,” e-flux journal 102 (2019). 3 Here I am relying on a definition of the “contemporary” set by philosopher Giorgio Agamben in the text “What is the Contemporary?” in What is an Apparatus?, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009). 4 Ian Cheng, “Art Inside Us,” cura 16 (2014), p. 127. 5 Bruno Latour, “Is This a Dress-Rehearsal?” Critical Enquiry (2020). 6 Bruno Latour, “No Transformation without Institution,” Serpentine Transformation Marathon 2015, Serpentine Galleries, London, October 17–18, 2015. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Egbert Alejandro Martina, Ramona Sno, Hodan Warsame, Patricia Schor, Amal Alhaag, Maria Guggenbichler, “Open Letter to Witte de With,” 14 June 2017. 10 Facebook message by Maziar Afrassiabi, in reference to: Lars Spuybroek, “Gothic Ontology and Sympathy: Moving Away from the Fold,” in Speculative Art Histories: Analysis at the Limits, eds. Sjoerd van Tuinen (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017). 11 Stephanie Wakefield, Anthropocene Back Loop: Experimentation in Unsafe Operating Space (London: Open Humanities Press, 2020), p. 80. 12 Ibid, p. 128. 13 Ibid, p. 15. 14 “Compartmentalization has failed: scholars of the Anthropocene sometimes write as though this were a new revelation, but in fact anthropologists and science and technology studies scholars have understood this failure for decades, having long challenged the nature/culture binary. Yet challenging binaries is not enough. To understand their violent consequences, we need to refract history through new prisms. We need, as Rob Nixon argues, to “counter the centripetal force of the dominant Anthropocene species story with centrifugal stories that acknowledge immense inequalities in planet-altering powers.”” Gabrielle Hecht, “Interscalar Vehicles for an African Anthropocene: On Waste, Temporality, and Violence,” Cultural Anthropology 33 (February 2018). 15 Tristan Garcia and Vincent Normand, “Introduction,” in Theater, Garden Bestiary: A Materialist History of Exhibitions, eds. Tristan Garcia and Vincent Normand (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2019), p. 13. 16 Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, “Voices (Towards Other Institutions) #15,” Open?. 17 Here I would propose a reading of Gabrielle Hecht’s text “Interscalar Vehicles for an African Anthropocene: On Waste, Temporality, and Violence” developing the notion of interscalar vehicles: “Objects and modes of analysis that permit scholars and their subjects to move simultaneously through deep time and human time, through geological space and political space.” 18 Wakefield, Anthropocene Back Loop, p. 135.