April 23, 2020

"so fierce that the phrase buggy-whip maker became a business simile for loser"


I've been thinking about this quote regularly since I first read it in 2015:

"In 1915, as the American economy boomed, the huge supply chain that supported horse-drawn transport—harnesses and horseshoes, wagons and buggies makers (13,000 of them), farriers and blacksmiths, hay balers and feedmills—looked like a robust and vital segment for deploying capital. 1920 was the year of “Peak Horse” in the U.S.. By 1940 it was gone. This was not “low-cost”, incremental progress. It was an economic disruption so fierce that the phrase “buggy-whip maker” became a business simile for loser."

And I thought of it again the other day when I read the headline:

The day oil was worth less than $0 — and nobody wanted it

And then, a few days later, this headline:

Big Banks Pull Financing, Prepare To Seize Assets From Collapsing Oil and Gas Industry

If environmentalists, meaning (I believe or at least hope) the majority of us, find as many ways as possible to seize the moment, I don't see why this couldn't be the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel industry.

[The first quote is from Carl Pope's 2015 article Get Ready for Ugly as "Free Markets" Begin to Deal With Climate Crisis.]


April 21, 2020

An excerpt from the work-in-progress Dry Your Tears To Perfect Your Aim


A few days later something else happens that is not entirely unexpected but, at the same time, is entirely unexpected (at least at that specific juncture.) The world market for oil collapses. When I was living on the thin strip of land, I was always worried that, sooner or later, they would be invaded for their oil. But now, quite suddenly, that possibility seems considerably less likely. I’m certainly not an economist and have only a rudimentary knowledge of speculation and the stock market, so my explanation of what occurred might be somewhat less than complete. But I will do my best.

When the world market for oil collapsed, to put it a bit simply, some countries were in the process of becoming prepared for such an eventuality and others were clearly not. The country I lived in was extremely unprepared. Predictably enough, travel of any kind, especially long-distance travel, became difficult. (I could still ride my bicycle to get where I had to go.) The stock market crashed. Companies declared bankruptcy. Stocks for renewables such as wind and solar quickly skyrocketed. I don’t believe in green capitalism, and certainly don’t think anything so innocent happened as the market correcting itself, since the market was in a complete nervous breakdown, but something was happening that involved capital at its very core. Much like during some other great depressions, many who lost their life savings committed suicide. Many of the frontpage newspaper stories concerned such spectacular details. I read everything I could, wondering if this was the moment we’d been waiting for, a paradigm shift in the way markets organize themselves around resources.

A continuous stream of newspaper stories focused on different sites of resource extraction that were shutting down or on hiatus. Sucking oil from the ground was suddenly no longer profitable, or at least startlingly less so, and no one wanted to continue losing money at that rapidly accelerating rate, or at least no one wanted to lose money in ways that so deeply went against the current economic zeitgeist. However, no matter how much I read, perhaps only because my grasp of the underlying economics was not thorough enough, I never completely understood what had happened to first trigger this economic tailspin. Over the past few years massive protests against, and sabotage of, pipelines had been on the rise, making business as usual ever-more-difficult to maintain. To what degree had protest and sabotage made this collapse and emancipatory opportunity occur. Public opinion had already turned ages ago, almost no one could now say, with a straight face, that oil has a secure place as part of humanity’s future. So – at least this much I think I correctly understand – when everyone started pulling their money out, everyone else started to panic and follow suit. I thought back to my time walking through the war. So many of the wars fought during my lifetime and before were fought over oil or similar resources, or more specifically the price of oil and similar resources, though those giving the orders would often not admit to this. (I knew wars in the future would most likely be fought over water, but all that was yet to come.)

- from the work-in-progress Dry Your Tears To Perfect Your Aim

[What made me think of it was this: The day oil was worth less than $0 — and nobody wanted it]


April 19, 2020

"Those are really my people."


"I often say I don’t necessarily relate to people who make art, performance, or literature, but I do relate to people who make art, performance, and literature who think of quitting every fifteen seconds. Those are really my people. I call us the boy-who-cried wolf set, since we always announce we’re quitting but never do, and therefore no one believes us anymore. It seems to me that anyone who works in the arts today and doesn’t have serious, ongoing doubts as to the validity or efficacy of the situation is not facing all of the current, inherent problems and questions with open eyes."

- an excerpt from Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART


April 13, 2020

And it's the exact same virus.


There's something I've been thinking about a lot. In Germany the fatality rate is estimated to be around 1%. And in Italy the fatality rate is somewhere over 10%. And it's the exact same virus.

The virus is one thing, but political factors surrounding it - the ways governments and societies handle the situation - really seem to have a rather large role.

I might have known this before but I never quite understood it in such a visceral way.


April 9, 2020

Last night I couldn't sleep...


Last night I couldn't sleep. And I started thinking about how, in the early months of 2020, before the lockdown, I went to a series of cultural events that, each in their own way, completely blew me away. It felt like I was on a roll. There were four amazing Drawn & Quarterly book launches: Lisa RobertsonKai Cheng ThomDesmond Cole and Kaie Kellough. Each of these events was completely packed, almost too packed, and each of these writers said so many things, almost too many things, I found so thought-provoking and moving. And then there was Le Short & Sweet recyclé XXL, which also was an almost never-ending stream of artists and moments where it continuously felt like something was really happening. Then the last event I went to, the bilingual reading Épiques Voices, that also just had so much striking and performative work in both languages. And since then I have not been in a single over-crowded room. Already it all seems so long ago.