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Towards Experiential Critique of the Capitalocene. Rethinking Immersion in Moving Image Installations by Rachel Rose, Sondra Perry and Hito Steyerl



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Kincinaityte, Geiste Marija 


The thesis examines moving image installations by contemporary artists Rachel Rose, Sondra Perry, and Hito Steyerl. It explores their capacity to generate space for an experiential critique of the logic of extractivist practices. The selected installations employ various screen-based and projection technologies to create an immersive experience, that can appear to be for the sake of sensory experience. However, throughout the thesis, I argue that these artworks possess the potential to reconfigure the concept of immersion itself, exploring it as a mode of experiential critique of the Capitalocene (a term defined in Chapter 1). I draw on Jean-Luc Nancy’s corporeal ontology to consider experiential critique in relation to his elaborations on sense and sensation that rethink sensory experience and the boundaries of self through the concepts of listening and touch. Nancy’s approach rejects the understanding of the body as a sensory experience modelled around the defined thresholds of sensation serving the neoliberal capitalist practices that turn existence into units of value for the purpose of abstraction, appropriation, and extraction. Throughout the thesis, I explore this approach and its applicability in relation to the artists’ configurations of immersive moving image installations. In Chapter 2, I draw on the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Nancy’s ideas on resonance and threshold to discuss Rose’s early practice and her moving image installation, Everything and More (2015), which focuses on the limits of sensory experience in outer space. While addressing its material and philosophical layers, I argue for the artwork’s capacity to invoke ontological resistance by restitching relations and reweaving the edges of the self towards an embedded and embodied perception of the world as a critique of the techno-capitalist imaginaries of the future. In the following chapter on Perry’s practice, which resists the representational categorisation of blackness, Nancy’s notions of ecotechnics and expeausition work to demonstrate emerging tensions between the Typhoon coming on (2018) and the Flesh Wall (2016–2020) installations as a critique of the racialising logic of fungibility. The final chapter explores Steyerl’s installation This is the Future/Power Plants (2019), which opens a broader discussion on the artificial intelligence (AI) industry and its impact on shaping a worldview that has political, ethical, and societal implications. Drawing on Nancy’s ideas on struction and general equivalence, I approach this installation as an experiential critique of entrenched power structures driven by the ideology of the future, which entangle beings, environments, and machines on the planetary scale. For each artist, therefore, the relevant chapter investigates how they treat video production and post-production tools, the installation space, screens, and projection technology to create immersive installations that configure space for experiential critique of total vision, mastery, and deterministic projections of the future. Written at the time of the pandemic, the thesis brings Nancy’s philosophy and the selected artworks together to explore modes of resistance to the logic of profitability that renders existence into units of value. In this context, I develop a critical framework for addressing immersion as an experiential critique, which requires attending to the question of technology and how the artists employ it to activate and reconfigure a critical engagement with the present. Thus, the thesis contributes to an exploration of the role of art and theory in times of crises, while considering immersion as an experiential critique of the Capitalocene, which takes into account relations and positions to imagine other modes of being-with.





McNeill, Isabelle


contemporaneity, experiential critique, immersion, moving image installation


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Arts and Humanities Research Council (2274242)