Matadero Madrid center for contemporary creation

Lecture by Elisa Iturbe

May 7
Nave 17. Aulario

Life and death are united by the same thing: a chain of conversions. Conversions and transformations of matter and energy that circulate in cycles and flows through time and space. They leave in their wake deep traces that shape the terrestrial body, the bodies that inhabit it and their relationships. In the last two centuries, these traces have been influenced by fossil fuels: those geological substances made up of dense quantities of prehistoric carbon that harbour such intense energies. This carbon has shaped paradigms of time, space, movement, aesthetics, economics, architecture, ... The world of prehistoric carbon strongly maintains its presence and validity among us, despite its invalidity and profound obsolescence.

Urbanisation is a complex product of these chains of death and life. It has an intimate relationship with carbon. When fossil fuels colonised forms of energy consumption, society organised itself around their availability. Our contemporary life is, at its core, a fossil utopia that has colonised the earth, bodies and imagination. This utopia has dystopian characteristics for some and utopian characteristics for others. We are sons and daughters of this geohistorical exception that is the fossil utopia, but we all carry within us a new world to be born. Decarbonising the carbon world, de-fossilising the fossil utopia, is the most challenging and important political, cultural and imaginative project that preys on our present and of which we are all a part.

What is the remaining life of the fossil utopia, is it dead yet, and what are the gaps that will allow us to overcome it and build something different from what exists? What will this new world look like? After the workshop "Haunting the ghosts of the fossil utopia" by the resident artist Gemma Bahhr, where the relationship between affections, everyday life and the energy regime of the fossil utopia was explored, on this occasion we will meet to continue the conversation with the academic Elisa Iturbe in an urban and speculative key.

Elisa Iturbe is an architect, researcher and lecturer at Cooper Union University (NY). She teaches courses on fossil capitalism and carbon modernity at the Yale School of Architecture and Cornell AAP. Her current research and writing focuses on the relationship between energy, power and form. Her writings have been published in international journals such as Log, Perspecta, New York Review of Architecture and Antagonismos. She is co-founder of Outside Development.