Matadero Madrid center for contemporary creation

Lecture: Haunting the ghosts of the fossil utopia

April, 24th
Nave 17. Aulario

We live the fossil utopia. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, 1.5 trillion tonnes of CO2eq have been emitted, the 86% of them come from fossil fuels combustion. Our contemporary existence, the product of all these processes, is hypersaturated with oil and carbon. Eventually it will have to be decarbonised and our world will be a different one. The energy transition is one of the most contentious issues of our time. But energy is not just a physical or technical reality, it is also a cultural construct. Our lives are sustained by the fossil energy regime.

Who are we within the hegemonic existence of fossil fuels? What does this mean? Who are we and who could we be without them? What do the energy graphs and numbers tell us about our most intimate and psychosomatic experience of the world? The climate crisis and the energy crisis are revulsive forces that will change (and are already changing) our sensitive and subjective experience of the world. Thinking on subjectivity, culture and politics in this context will provide us with an unexplored insight into the experience of being a subject in the 21st century.

Inside the Workshop “Haunting the ghosts of the fossil utopia” organised by Medialab Matadero and the resident artist Gemma Bahhr, the talk by Jaime Vindel and Cara New Dagget is held. The lecturers, based on their deep research, will introduce us to this intricate world by invoking the present ghosts of the fossil utopia we inhabit together.

Cara New Daggett is a researcher and professor in the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech in the field of energy and politics. Her genealogical approach to "The Birth of Energy" reveals the profound political implications of this concept by arguing why "an energy transition is not as simple as a mere change in fuel type". She developed the notion of "petromasculinity" in an article of the same name describing the historical role of fossil fuels in reinforcing the patriarchal order and channelling climate anxiety through authoritarian desires within the far right.

Jaime Vindel holds a European PhD in Art History and is a researcher at the Institute of History of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).  For some time now, he has focused on the study of an ecopolitical revision of the history of art and visual cultures. He is the author of books such as Estética Fósil. Imaginarios de la energía y crisis ecosocial (2020) and Cultura Fósil: Arte, cultura y política entre la Revolución industrial y el calentamiento global (2023).