Matadero Madrid center for contemporary creation

Workshop: Haunting the ghosts of the fossil utopia

24th and 25th April
Nave 17. Aulario

Especially addressed to artists, filmmakers, designers, architects, urban researchers, people involved in energy cooperatives or similar and interested in the climate and energy crisis.



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? 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? What narrative tropes or genres and what kinds of images can emerge from this? What role can this speculative reflection and research play in the ongoing contemporary energy transition? 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 about subjectivity in this context will give us an unexplored insight into the experience of being a subject in the 21st century.

This workshop it is a part of the Situated Research project “Fossil Urbanism: metabolic hauntologies and new energy ecologies” by Gemma Bahhr, the pseudonym of Gemma Barricarte. She is an architect, artist and researcher who explores the relationship between architecture, politics, affection and ecology in processes of cultural and urban transformation. The basic concepts of this new discipline, the energy humanities, will be introduced. Notions such as cruel optimism, petromasculinity, xenofeminism, solar cultures or fossil culture; as well as the experiences of heat waves, the anxious-depressive states we go through, uneases, or our experience of wellbeing and freedom will help us to think about the relationships between energy, subjectivity and creation. And to seek artistic responses to the collective need to decarbonise desire and subjectivity.  The aim is to initiate, through ethnographic and speculative methodologies, a prospection of these vast unexplored fields that will appear more and more in our everyday reality and, thus, to invoke the arts of the future.


The workshop will continue with the open lecture: “Haunting the ghosts of the Fossil Utopia”, with Cara New Dagget—researcher and theorist on petromasculinities, energy and labour and author of The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work (Duke, 2019); and the researcher Jaime Vindel—a senior researcher at the CSIC and author of Cultura Fósil (Akal, 2023).