Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros18.22. Understanding, Acknowledging, ...II/ Naming, voicingExperiencing Rupture: affective a...

2. Understanding, Acknowledging, Representing Environmental Emergency
II/ Naming, voicing

Experiencing Rupture: affective art and becoming-with slow emergencies

Virginia BARRATT, Jessie BOYLAN et Linda DEMENT


Dans cette contribution, trois artistes australiennes, accompagnées d’une psychothérapeute, explorent les manières dont elles s’engagent comme parties prenantes face aux dégâts produits par le Capitalocène et à ses manifestations palpables dans le corps. Par la multiplicité des voix et des points de vue, et au travers de la représentation elle-même, l’article retrace la genèse et la représentation de leur œuvre interdisciplinaire et collaborative intitulée Rupture, qui a réuni Jessie Boylan,(artiste photo, vidéo et son), Victoria Barratt (chercheuse, auteure et performeuse), Linda Dement (artiste médias numériques) et Jenna Tuke (psychothérapeute spécialiste des traumatismes). Leur collaboration et conversation, incluses dans cette contribution, donnent à voir comment l’anxiété comme système d’alerte, non seulement dans le corps mais aussi au niveau social et écologique global, est constamment déclenchée par des messages quotidiens sur le danger et la catastrophe. Cependant, en considérant la capacité productive de l’anxiété, les auteures posent la question suivante : pouvons-nous travailler ensemble, avec les morts et les mourants, pouvons-nous contenir la douleur de la terre/du corps et reconfigurer les traumatismes sous la surface pour aller au-delà de l’inertie ? En situant leur travail au début de la pire saison des incendies que l’Australie ait connue, fin 2019, l’article contient les réflexions des artistes sur le processus d’accoutumance à notre époque catastrophique.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1Through multiple authorial voices and different positions in both language, time and space, as well as being taken through the performance itself, this paper traces the development and presentation of the artwork, Rupture- an interdisciplinary and collaborative work which brought together photo, video and sound artist Jessie Boylan, researcher, writer and performer Virginia Barratt, digital media artist Linda Dement and trauma-informed psychotherapist Jenna Tuke. Their collaboration and conversation proposes that anxiety, as a warning system, is seen to become faulty through constant triggering and the hypersensitization of a population—not just at a bodily level, but also at a social and global ecological level—to messages of danger and catastrophe. Or, as Dylan Trigg states: “the experience of discontinuity is not only lived from the standpoint of the present; it is also embedded in a projection towards the future” (Trigg 68). Yet, by seeing anxiety’s capacity as a productive force, the authors ask: can we work together with the dead and dying, can we hold the pain of the earth/body and reconfigure the traumas beneath the surface to move us on from stasis?

2Rupture was first developed as six screen video and sound installation for the Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia in 20181, and later developed as a performance, video and sound installation for the Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney, Australia, in 2019. This text locates the reader at the beginning of Australia’s worst-ever fire season, in late 2019, when we were installing Rupture at the Creative Practice Lab at the University of New South Wales for the Big Anxiety Festival. While witnessing large swaths of Australia catch fire, we were simultaneously performing the proximity of these events, engaging in a process of making-with our catastrophic times. The immanence of this present-future emergency highlighted for us the concept of ‘slow emergencies’, where “emergency and ordinary life become intertwined” (Anderson et al 632), which is explored further in this text.

  • 2 “The Capitalocene, as articulated by Donna Haraway, points directly to a voracious political econom (...)

3This paper provides the artists’ reflections on the process of performing this work within the bushfire context and explores the ways in which the artists are engaging with the irreversible harm of the Capitalocene2 -a term used for our current epoch, in which profit comes before all else- and its palpable manifestations within the body, as part of the world.

4The use of italicized sections throughout the text indicates the script as spoken and performed by Virginia Barratt, as well as the text that is within the screen work. Indented sections indicate a different voice and different position; at times a description of being guided through the set, stage or screen, or an inflection point, a reference to what precedes or follows, or simply sits outside any linearity within the text.

  • 3 See “Carbon dioxide levels over Australia rose even after COVID-19 forced global emissions down. He (...)

5We write this in the midst of pandemic – slowly daily Covid infection numbers fall and so called ‘normal life’ begins to resume. We have learnt that while there has been much optimism about the positive benefits on the climate as a result of halting life’s over-activity, that here, in the Southern Hemisphere, we have not seen a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, in fact, the numbers are still on the rise.3 How can we think about this moment in time, not just as a point of departure from the past, but as a place of ‘eventful temporality’ (Wilkie et al 7), which “assumes that ‘contingent, unexpected, and inherently unpredictable events can undo or alter the most apparently durable trends of history’ (Sewell, 20015: 102), enabling a swerve of possible futures and creative alternatives to be explored and harnessed” (Wilkie et al 7). Rupture participates in these creative alternatives, these alternative imaginings, where past, present and future have collided in the body/earth, and spilled out into a force calling us to move on from stasis.

6[Link to video of Rupture at the Big Anxiety Festival, 2019:​watch ?v =FG5I2qAmBr8&t =328s ]

7[Link to video work of Rupture:​watch ?v =0NA5WV2HvZM&t =423s]


  • 4 The bushfires are said to have burnt more than 18.6 million hectares, killed an estimated three bil (...)

930th October, 2019, Sydney, Australia: A thick yellow-orange hue covers the city of Sydney, the colour of foreboding, an affective hue. Light strained through smoke. The colour begins to fill our lungs. We cough and check our fire apps. Fires that have been burning to the North and West of Sydney for over a month rage on. We alter course, drive away, or into the smoke, it’s hard to predict, the fires are flighty, they leap highways, they spiral up into the air, raining down sparks. This is just the beginning, and already the beaches are littered with koala, goanna, deer and kangaroo corpses (not to mention the insects), having perished in their efforts to escape. This is the most unprecedented fire season that Australia has ever faced, and we fear it’s a harbinger of what’s to come. This is what will come to be known as Australia’s Black Summer:4

The world articulates now through our lungs. We are the outmost reach of its reach out into form and we form its vowels through bronchiole shapes and we cough.

  • 5 We use ‘becoming-with’ as a process of learning “how to live well in multispecies sympoiesis […] ev (...)

10We are in Sydney to perform and present our transmedia work Rupture as part of the Big Anxiety Festival. Rupture sits at the junction of performance, video and installation and proposes ways of becoming-with5 our times through the acknowledgement and embodiment of urgency < > emergency, panic < > crisis, present < > future, through modes of physical and psychological mimicry and disjuncture. We suggest—through the work—that symptoms of environmental and human ‘disorder’ can be seen as an appropriate response to personal traumas and global catastrophe.

Figure 1: Rupture, landscape, video still, image courtesy the artists

  • 6 Virginia Barratt applies the term “ictic” to the body performing panic, taken from “ictus”, pertain (...)

11In Slow emergencies : Temporality and the racialized biopolitics of emergency governance (2019), Ben Anderson posits that “The concept of slow emergencies points to those situations of harm and suffering that question what forms of life can and should be secured by Emergency governance.” (Anderson et al 622). Through Rupture, we were able to materially engage with the seriality of everyday extant crisis through the earth/body and its capacities for endurance, recovery and transformation. Rupture creates the conditions of presence and anticipation inherent in slow emergencies and raises the question: how can we exist within these temporal states in order to “translate un-or barely-bearable conditions inseparable from ordinariness into something demanding urgent action”? (Anderson et al 622-). In Rupture, this urgency is translated through performance into the ictic6 body, the body-beside-itself, the shimmer-body—that which the “body-in-the-world, constructed as it is by language, can’t mouth. The excess which no body in its right mind can speak, it is only possible to speak in this register when one is beside oneself” (Barratt 2018). This ictic body becomes one that does not just extend from a video screen or a single human body, but from all surfaces, all objects and all environments that we can perceive.

12It is uncanny timing to be performing this work within the context of the smoke hanging in the air, just outside the stage door, as if waiting in the wings… “Cue… reality!”. We continue to install, we feel the air shift, the tingle of anxiety creeping its way through the blood into the skin, lifting the hairs on the surface of our bodies. We watch each day as the fire maps spread further out and closer toward towns and cities. Closer to us…


14A low drone sound rumbles in the dark space, its vibrations shake the walls, at times it makes one feel queasy. The audience members enter through a side door and walk down a narrow dark hallway, guided forward by red strip lighting on the floor, like aircraft emergency lighting, such that you might see if the plane was going down…will this plane crash?

15At the end of the hallway is a body, pinned with its back against the wall by an unseen energy, knees bent, in a constant tension between flight, fright and freeze. Hands flicker, grasp, fly. The breath is audible, gasps, sighs, noisy exhalations, pauses - breath held. The gaze is elsewhere.

16The members of the audience have to come face to face with the body before entering the performance space proper. This uncomfortable proximity to the body against the wall might make laughter bubble up, or eyes drop, might make steps quicken to pass… “why do I have to pass this?” Inside, stools are messily arranged, quite close together. The house lights are dim with a reddish tone, there is a softness to the lighting, but it is also sinister. People take their seats.

17The audience members chat with each other in quiet voices. There is a long landscape-oriented screen along the wall they face. To the left side of this is a tall portrait-oriented screen and a hanging shelf with a device on it. This arrangement of screens is roofed by what seems to be a black sky, a lowering cloud or the roof of an underground mine. It is black and textured and has some shimmering edges. It flickers irregularly, with lightning or the flash of a headlamp, perhaps. Above the heads of the audience a body moves slowly in mid-air - falling upwards/flying downwards through undifferentiated space, limbs slow-flailing, never landing, never disappearing. There is some grace in this flight, and also some horror- always falling, never landing.

18The dim house lights fall, leaving some shards of red light, as if shining through bars, the flickering lightning, and some twinkles.

19The body from the hallway weaves its way through the audience, slowly, haltingly, stopping and starting erratically, or moving as if through something thick, perhaps the smoke outside has come in with them. The audience is bathed in the eerie sound of choughs calling, high-pitched whistles, winds and atmospheric noise. They can hear the breath of the body if it pauses beside them.

20The body takes its place on the stage, in the dark.

21[A voice enters.]

22Now I remember

23Standing outside at Blair Athol Station, west of nowhere, in the noumenal night with my head flung back to fix my eye on a star, keeping both the horizon and the star in my field of vision, watching the earth turn. Standing there on the earth—that seemed to me flat, and like a plate about to break so precarious was its spin—I disappeared into the eye of the infinity storm, “a mid-point between nothing and everything … suspended between the two gulfs of the infinite and the void. . . . “

24I am maybe 12 years old, shivering, feeling vertiginous, sensing the shadows just beyond the curtain of dark.

25Why was I out in the dark alone?

26Maybe I was walking back with my dad from the genny and I dawdled, or maybe dark fell when I wasn’t watching, dreaming in the gidyea.

27[Upward cadence, an intensity in the voice]

28I felt alone in all the world, family beyond reach, flying up, out, into the void without a name. I was pure sensation, a flood of icy terror, a head coming off, a planet falling through space on fire. Every which way, there were lines passing through me. Inside out I turned. As above, so below. As the cosmos, so the interior universe.

29I am becoming the everything, vibrating in neverending expansion and collapse. I am the star and the star is me. I am a million million points of light above and below. I hold the cosmos in my terrified heart and it explodes all over my body. How many nerve endings do I have? How many stars are in the cosmos? There is nothing between me and the milky way, no–beyond that! Oh but what is beyond the stars? I am fallingflying up into the neverwhere, the elsewhen, and it is blowing my mind.


Figure 2: Virginia Barratt performing ‘Rupture’ at the Creative Practice Lab, UNSW, as part of the Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney, 2019. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Scibberas

31Imagine that your body and the world are bound together. Imagine that your body is the world and the world is your body. Inside out. Outside in. Molten, oceanic, fractured, prone to flooding, burning up, trembling, sickened, tempestuous, verdant, dry, a desert, a forest.

32Imagine that your skin is being peeled off, layer by layer, exposing nerve ends. Imagine the sensitivity, imagine the life’s blood draining. Maybe you don’t have to imagine this, maybe you know this. Now imagine a strip mine. A wound is “not merely a wound, incised in organic texture by means of a foreign object, or even an individual experience ; instead, it is a physical and material reality onto which all of life on Earth is inscribed, with its traces accumulated and entangled within us" (Beroš and Kralj).

33They say anxiety is the product of an existential threat, an imagined one- vulnerability to the world itself…but… it’s not imagined, is it? It’s real, if what you imagine in the future is based on events of the past or the present? Is it merely prediction, based on probability? Is this a short-sighted or limited imagining of the future?...chemical imbalance…? How then does this panic and anxiety etch into the body and mind? What will we do with it and how can we move through the world with it? And why then, “does it seize some bodies and not others?” (Bille and Simonsen 3).

34They say trauma keeps on happening because it can’t be integrated into the body, into the mind, into the everyday of life. They say that’s why it feels like it’s still happening…

35you should have seen this coming

Breathe in. I can’t breathe. I heard that shouted until throats were hoarse last week. I can’t breathe, so much weight on these three words. Breathing is a luxury, a privilege, to breathe freely is not the gift of the many but the few, those with free throats, without knees on necks, or a noose guided by the invisible hand of the law.


37Suddenly, as if a door is opened a crack, the performing body is illuminated in a sharp slice of bright light. Arms lift and hover. Chest inflates, back arches, head drops back. The gaze is elsewhere.

38A body of light arrives on the tall landscape-oriented screen alongside the performing body; the ictic body. The hands flick, as if flicking off water, or an excess of energy. The body in mid-air continues its neverending fall/flight, undulating through emptiness. Bodies everywhere respond to their conditions.

39On the long landscape-oriented screen three images flow together and apart, in and out of sync with each other and with the ictic body. Lines of light criss cross, fat rain falls slowly, booming as it hits the earth. Repetitive cyclic heartbeat raindrops. Storms double, multiply. Rain gives way to burned forest, smoke winding around the tree trunks like shrouds. The Australian landscape in its gothic death beauty. Next to this, a doubled ghost of the same forest, a shimmer forest. Every now and again they glitch out of time, and the ictic body registers this glitch, disappearing for a nanosecond, flickering. The crackle of burning leaves clicks percussively, we are all deep listening to the forest floor, the infrasonic vibration of smoke moving through air, the earth minutely heaving. The body/earth moves together.


41October 28th, 2019, Sydney, Australia: Standing at Central station to catch the bus home, the sky is brown and I stare directly into the sun. It is a glorious hot pink. It’s beautiful. It doesn't hurt my eyes to do this. Breathing is dirty.

  • 7 ‘Tidal volume’ 2020, Wikipedia. Tidal Volume (TV) is the lung volume of air displaced between a nor (...)

42Breathing is luxury? Breathing is not luxury. It’s a bare minimum. And we’ll even breathe in brown smoke, even sick vapor, pathogens and grit. We’ll breathe in drags of TV 100ml which is 0.2 of an average healthy breath7. We’ll breathe in staccato gasps of TV 0.0000001ml if needs be, because of a knee or a foot. Or gagging on the smoke.

43We knew this was coming

44They told us this was coming. They told us many times on all the different channels and in the paper too.

45It is no surprise at all.

46Yes we made this.

47Yes I did this.

48All of this.

49We knew what we were doing and we are not stupid and no one forced us.

50Here it is.


52[The performing body speaks, arm raised, palm open, head turned to face the hand. This is the Drishti, the compelling single-pointed focus. As if a gaze could light a fire. The fire is raging.]

53Panic captures the attention, peripherally, a spark, and spreads from this bright point, feeding on certainty, stripping away all the edges, until there is no body. Organs shut down, becoming a body without. Lungs are dense like wet cement and it’s heavy to breathe, throat tightens, breath is like gravel, shoulders solidify, all edges harden, jaw closes over speech, locked. Head falls back. Eyes flicker, persistence of vision fails. There are jump cuts. You struggle to maintain bodily integrity, you flip and flip again. You can taste the electricity in the tips of your fingers. The world hums and shudders. Retina processes light differently-hue takes on sinister meaning. Sound is intolerable. Meaning drains out of all things, like dye running from cloth. You are beside yourself. You operate this vibrating puppet of a body from a distance, this shadow, this shimmer body.


55This shimmer body, this constant companion, reminds us of what’s always there but barely seen. Something to take notice of.

56Perhaps, as Magdalena Gorska states in ‘Breathing Matters’ (2016), panic attacks are not merely reactions or responses to things happening or potentially happening, but “powerful temporal moments—and anxieties are powerful temporal durations—that break normative worlds apart in their captivating, exploding and immobilizing, failing, exhausting and reconfiguring dynamics” (Gorska 286).

57This is what the ictic body does in Rupture—breaks normative worlds apart—and the body’s breath becomes what Magdalena Gorska describes as matterwork, a process of “political matter, a matter of corpomaterial and corpo-affective agentiality” (Gorska 286).

Figure 3: Ictic body, video still, image courtesy the artists


59[Tightness in the fist and the throat, pacing accelerates, stutters, shudders]

60You wished this upon yourself. All this contemplation of the world as it is or the world as it seems, the structures we co-create – “I am a building, I am a system, I am labour, I am value, I am space and time becoming, I am already exhaling for the last time, no more space taken up, I am an empty bed. I am no longer I” - suddenly you don’t know the world at all. You call your friend, they struggle to help, there is no way to help. You leap as if to run, but there is nowhere to run, because the world is all one thing, and it is ultimately unknowable, and you are sitting in the undifferentiated expanse curled up, crying, crying for a body to return. You no longer know whether you are dead or alive, or you are simultaneously dead and alive, living every moment at once. You knew this time would come, was already here, was with you always.


62Whether it’s the gradual effects of pesticides seeping into a riverbank, or- another species falling from life, or- an old-growth forest progressively being felled, or- the ocean warming a little more each year, bleaching precious coral reefs—slow emergencies “are often rendered imperceptible as events, even as they emerge, surface and are endured as a series of palpable bodily and psychic effects” (Anderson et al 631). The slowness of the emergency emerges in rupture and then returns to business as usual- normal, everyday activity. There is a ‘lag’ between the stimulus and the response (Murphy and Anderson et al 632). This incommunicability of the ever-present yet never-quite-here-enough-to-be-considered-emergency disaster is situated adjacent to the ictic body in flight, a body in the midst of a panic attack. “To communicate an affect [panic]—after the fact is to represent voltage, suffocation, time distortion, rising, falling, heat, body dysmorphia, iciness, ordinariness, adrenal exhaustion, despair” (Barratt 71). This communication paired with incommunicability extends beyond the body into the world and back into the body as a constant feedback loop. This is not a performance, “but a reperformance of the affect of panic, an opening to the intensities, flows and flights of panic, as remembered by [the] body, as site of deterritorialisation, as site of emptiness, as site of cosmic alienation, as site of doubled infinity—travelling inwards and outwards” (Barratt 71).


64[The performing body shifts, takes up a position by the floating shelf. Opens the mouth, lets out sound.]

65Many voices rise up, fill and lift-anxious and amplifying-from the one mouth. It’s hard to listen to, and perhaps one might want to leave at this point or close the eyes and cover the ears, as the aural and visual feedback intensifies. There is pain in the chorus, the kind of pain that travels. The kind of pain that wraps itself around you, and nestles, burrows, an earworm, a little thorn in the heart, a hand squeezing the lungs. But there is also a rhythm pumping, a beat below, suddenly music is felt beneath the pain of the piercing circling feedback loop, feet tap and heads bob in recognition of the rhythm, as if accepting this moment and knowing it will pass.

66A catalogue of traumas fills all the screens, line by line by line-geotrauma, affective, embodied and psychic traumasa whiteout of traumas ablating everything until there is no thing, just infinity, all bodies subsumed into all other bodies, mouths inside mouths inside mouths. Recursive swallowings. There is a whooshing as the lines gouge the screen images into whiteness. Then time moves backwards and the whiteness is erased, line by line by line into darkness. A doubled infinity. Where are we inside this infinity?

67We are entangled within it.

68The response, intra-action : The ictic body still flies its arms, multiplies, births the shimmer body, taps the atrophied thymus to awaken the ghastly meat, shakes the skull to dislodge a deafening buzzing, flings limbs, becomes wave, fire, chanting crowd - is a flood of affect.

69Climate data fills the screen, words, predictions about fires, floods, quakes, systems reaching their capacity and overflowing: [onscreen] Floods happen when the capacity of rivers is not enough to carry the water that has entered the river network and the banks overflow...

70The body’s data meets the collected pasts and predicted futures, the unspeakable data :
[embodied affects]
shortness of breath feeling faint an elevated heart rate awareness of a pounding heart trembling choking sensations sweating nausea gastric discomfort numbness tingling sensations derealisation hot flushes the chills chest tightness or pain an intense fear of going insane or imminent death blinding/flickering shaking sweating red/white vision short of breath choking nauseous chest pain.

  • 8 Mean temperatures and rainfall, Temperature deviation, Rainfall Period °C mm 10-year Periods, 1900 (...)

71Numbers fly out :
1900–09 429 1910–19 –0.33 442 1920–29 –0.40 425 1930–39 –0.28 416 1940–49 –0.41 430 1950–59 –0.27 458 1960–69 –0.22 422 1970–79 –0.12 517 1980–89 0.23 459 1990–99 0.39 476 000–09 0.49 486 1990 0.50 414 1991 0.68 463 1992 0.15 453 1993 0.30 484 1994 0.25 336 1995 0.18 517 1996 0.60 459 1997 0.23 508 1998 0.84 548 1999 0.21 576 2000 –0.21 696 2001 –0.10 547 2002 0.63 329 2003 0.62 470 2004 0.45 495 2005 1.06 395 2006 0.47 486 2007 0.71 507 2008 0.41 478 2009 0.90 453 2010 0.19 703 2011 –0.14.8

72The language of emergency is dulled, the urgency erased and reduced to tick boxes: What is an acceptable level of risk? Where can you build your house? What is valued and of value? What can you take and how do you justify it?

  • 9 Rio Tinto's PR and community relations boss, Simone Niven, in response to the company blowing up th (...)

“How you think about values is clearly an individual choice, it is a personal choice and you need to weigh up yourself around how you see the values dimension. I guess from my perspective, you think about it from a company perspective. I've been with this company for 12 years. I wouldn't work for Rio if I didn’t believe in it.”9

73Assets assets assets

74The body is turned inside out.

75a normal response

76an appropriate response

77a normal response

78an appropriate response

79a normal response

80an appropriate response

81a normal response

82an appropriate response

83a normal response

84an appropriate response

85a normal response

  • 10 The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was criticized for being absent during the Black Sum (...)

“Going to be a great summer of cricket, and for our firefighters and fire-impacted communities, I’m sure our boys will give them something to cheer for.”10

86[The performing body opens its mouth wide, drops the head back and lets these wordnoises out, rising upwards and proliferating together as echoes upon echoes in the roof of the panic cathedral. What kind of body can make such sounds ? Not one that falls easily into language - rather, one that falls easily out of language.]






















108[The body jerks with each noisy expulsion]













121With the ringing of the chorus still in the air, and in the ears - a wind blows in, bringing with it ash and snow, glinting in the absolute darkness. It’s deeply quiet. It’s easy to fall into the tunnel. Always the tunnels, the wormholes, the passage from nowhere to nowhere. The alarm rings, there’s a catch in the throat, a swallowed cry. It feels like the end.

122The performing body returns to its shard of bright light. The gaze is elsewhere.

123A crowd arrives on screen, agitated, in solidarity with the thrashing trees, the scorched earth, the cut of the real, the ongoing colonisation of people and planet. All are drowning and waving, tremendous crashes, flashes, smashes accelerate. The waters rise and rush. The air is sucked from the lungs of the audience. Breathing is not a luxury.


Figure 4: Virginia Barratt performing ‘Rupture’ at the Creative Practice Lab, UNSW, as part of the Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney, 2019. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Scibberas

125Breathwork plays out in multiple spaces of agentiality and protest, forming part of a process of resistance and transformation which can make life breathable (Gorska 278). While living with panic and anxiety is exhausting and overwhelming, the potentiality of its productive force holds tremendous agency for socio-political action collectively and individually. In referring to the political potential, Gorska states that:

The ambivalent attachment to the political potentialities of the matterwork of anxieties and panic attacks is therefore a constant process of negotiation of vulnerability, strength and desire for change—change that is about reconfiguring social power relations and normalizing discourses of human subjectivity, and change that is about wishing the constant struggle, exhaustion and debilitating pain would go away. Understanding of politics, hence, has to be reconfigured. Political practices, protest and conceptual alternative cultures take place not only in the streets but also in everyday life. (Gorska, 174)

126The urgency of a panic attack creates a kind of seeing beyond the structures of normal life, it forces a capacity for individual and collective transformation and social change (Gorska 278). It forces a dissolution of the self into many selves.


128[The body returns to its shard of light. We have been multiplied.]

129Suddenly the proposition of “I” seems implausible, or just, unthinkable. Unsayable. We have reached the point where “it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. ... We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.”— And yet, for those of us plagued by unrelenting panic, it feels necessary to drive this machine towards unity, if there is to be any semblance of control, any capacity to function in the empirical world, the quotidian, knowable world.

130This drive to unify is ambivalent, and feels also like a betrayal, since there is a gift in the dissolution, that is clear. The gift that keeps on giving, but is hard to take because the reach is far and frightening. The gift is one of expansion and extension, of seeing farther than you could see before. It is a painful seeing, beyond the visual. It feels like the end of all things, and indeed is the - end - of - all - things - as - we - know - them.

131The gift is one of seeing as a river sees, or as the sky sees, or as a star, or the forest floor. Of seeing as ‘all eye’ like the brittlestar—, or with no eyes like mud. This seeing expands and collapses, is breathtakingly vast or close, claustrophobic, inescapable. You see yourself ragged, fallingflying, fucked and fallible, rotting and machinic. You see, suddenly, all the machines at once, and the infinite regression/proliferation of connection that is the realm of machines and assemblages. You see all these things simultaneously. Synthesis is not possible. Seeing becomes structural in its capacity to read the generative formations that underlie appearance. You see things “as they are” rather than “as they seem”. This seeing beyond the ocular is a direct knowing, in the Kantian sense.—


133While a seeing of this kind can be destabilizing, traumatizing and re-traumatizing, in a sense, creating a PTSD from the panic attacks themselves, they have the capacity to transform the “urgency of change, actualize limits and reconfigure potentialities” (Gorska 272). They call into question systemic and systematic power relations that are constantly reinforced. Amidst the fear of them occurring, they break down “Western normative standards of ‘proper human subjectivity’ “(Gorska 272).



136Everything comes from nothing and disappears into nothing. Perspective is Baroque and the vanishing point is everywhere and nowhere. A camera plunges into the earth, 400 metres below, gold extracted, heart flies into mouth. Cloud Monster. Rising Rising. Thunderhead. A great billow with a mushroom bloom. Scorched earth.

137To its knees, then.

138[Body holds itself in rictus ictus, performs a slow descent into quiet, there is only breath, even, pushing out the last syllables]

139So this is how I am in the long night of the night waiting to die already with the lungs of paper, folding folding with the breath becoming spores and spores becoming stars and all the blood that I spilled the waste of decades and the tears are salt lakes in the middle of the desert and they crunch underfoot and long stemmed birds eat shrimp and shimmer in the toxic sun and out here out here where the brightest light shone and mirrored multiply in the eyes of those who didn’t know to not watch and whose bones ended up in a laboratory and were burned for ash and the bodies buried without the small pieces of bone that could never rest - never rest - and some had spines missing and some hearts and couldn’t rest couldn’t rest and babies made strange and there can be no reparation and my whiteness burns me like that atomic shiny shiny how I am how am I I am coming to terms I am on my own terms I am terminal I am a body thinking with itself and learning its trouble I listen to a particular articulation and let my cells know it I am a body dying for sleep and sleeping to die if I could I would and I can I am a part of every thought everyone has ever had and that makes me nothing. Word without end.

140Word. End.


Haut de page


Anderson, Ben & Grove, Kevin & Rickards, Lauren & Kearnes, Matthew “Slow emergencies: Temporality and the racialized biopolitics of emergency governance.” Progress in Human Geography, vol. 44(4), 2020, pp. 621-639.

Aston, Joe. “Secret recording: Rio Tinto 'not sorry' for cave blast”, Australian Financial Review, 15 June, 2020. Accessed 27 October, 2020.

Barratt, Virginia. email conversation with Jessie Boylan and Linda Dement, July, 2018.

Barratt, Virginia. ‘Performing Panic: How does your data glow?’, Artlink, Vol 37, No 3, pp. 68-72, 2017.

Beroš, Ana Dana & Kraltj, Matija. “Geotrauma”, Technosphere Magazine, January 15, 2018. Accessed 6 August, 2020.

Cunningham, Sophie. “If You Choose to Stay, We May Not Be Able to Save You”, Meanjin Quarterly, vol 79, issue 2, 2020. Accessed 20 June, 2020.

Davis, Heather and Turpin, Etienne (eds). Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. Open Humanities Press, London, 2015.

Flanagan, Richard. “Scott Morrison and the big lie about climate change: does he think we're that stupid?” The Guardian, 25 November, 2019. Accessed 27 October, 2020.

Glabau, Danya. “Feminists write the Anthropocene: three tales of possibility in Late Capitalism” Journal of Cultural Economy, 10:6, 2017, pp. 541-548. DOI:10.1080/17530350.2017.1350597.

Gorska, Magdalena. Breathing Matters: Feminist Intersectional Politics of Vulnerability, Linköping, Linköping University Press, 2016.

Mikkel Bille and Simonsen, Kirsten. “Atmospheric Practices: On Affecting and Being Affected”. Space and Culture, pp. 1-5, 2019.

Millner, Jacqueline. ‘Rupture’ catalogue essay, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia, 2018.

Trigg, Dylan, Topophobia: A Phenomenology of Anxiety, Bloomsbury, 2017.

Wilkie, Alex and Savransky, Martin and Rosengarten, Marsga (eds). Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures, Routledge, 2019.

Haut de page



2 “The Capitalocene, as articulated by Donna Haraway, points directly to a voracious political economic system that knows no bounds, one where human lives, the lives of other creatures, and the beauty and wealth of the earth itself are figured as mere resources and externalities.” Heather Davis & Etienne Turpin in “Art and Death” “Art in the Anthropocene, Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies” Open Humanities Press, London, 2015, p 7.

3 See “Carbon dioxide levels over Australia rose even after COVID-19 forced global emissions down. Here’s why”,

4 The bushfires are said to have burnt more than 18.6 million hectares, killed an estimated three billion animals, destroyed over 5900 buildings (of which, 2779 were homes) and killed at least thirty-four people, “(with more than 400 additional people believed to have died due to smoke exposure)." The economic costs are likely to “exceed the record $4.4 billion set by 2009’s Black Saturday blazes.” - Referenced from Sophie Cunningham, If You Choose to Stay, We May Not Be Able to Save You, Meanjin, Winter, 2020, and Cam Walker, A continent that burns. And a world that's getting hotter. Welcome to the Pyrocene, Arena Journal, online, 15th October, 2020.

5 We use ‘becoming-with’ as a process of learning “how to live well in multispecies sympoiesis […] even in times of duress.” Danya Glabau, “Feminists write the Anthropocene: three tales of possibility in Late Capitalism” Journal of Cultural Economy, 10:6, 2017, pp. 541-548, DOI:10.1080/17530350.2017.1350597.

6 Virginia Barratt applies the term “ictic” to the body performing panic, taken from “ictus”, pertaining to sudden seizure or abruptness. It is applied here to both prosody and movement.

7 ‘Tidal volume’ 2020, Wikipedia. Tidal Volume (TV) is the lung volume of air displaced between a normal inhalation and exhalation. In a young healthy adult this is normally about 500ml.

8 Mean temperatures and rainfall, Temperature deviation, Rainfall Period °C mm 10-year Periods, 1900 – 2011, Australia. Data sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology.

9 Rio Tinto's PR and community relations boss, Simone Niven, in response to the company blowing up the Juukan Gorge, a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelter in Western Australia, in order to expand a mine. ‘Secret recording: Rio Tinto 'not sorry' for cave blast’, Australian Financial Review: - 15th June, 2020. Accessed 27 October 2020.

10 The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was criticized for being absent during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020, as well as being callous in his responses to climate change. Here he is quoted in January 2020 as he attended the cricket at Brisbane’s Gabba Stadium. - accessed 27th October, 2020.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1: Rupture, landscape, video still, image courtesy the artists
Fichier image/jpeg, 346k
Légende Figure 2: Virginia Barratt performing ‘Rupture’ at the Creative Practice Lab, UNSW, as part of the Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney, 2019. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Scibberas
Fichier image/jpeg, 406k
Légende Figure 3: Ictic body, video still, image courtesy the artists
Fichier image/jpeg, 187k
Légende Figure 4: Virginia Barratt performing ‘Rupture’ at the Creative Practice Lab, UNSW, as part of the Big Anxiety Festival, Sydney, 2019. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Scibberas
Fichier image/jpeg, 337k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Virginia BARRATT, Jessie BOYLAN et Linda DEMENT, « Experiencing Rupture: affective art and becoming-with slow emergencies »E-rea [En ligne], 18.2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2021, consulté le 06 août 2021. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Virginia BARRATT
Virginia Barratt is an Australian researcher, artist, writer and performer. She is writing a PhD at Western Sydney University in the Writing and Society Centre. Her doctoral research focuses on panic, affect and deterritorialization, explored through performance, experimental poetics and vocalities. Virginia is a founding member of the cyberfeminist collective VNS Matrix, still active through occasional collaborations. Her most recent works have been performed in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Byron Bay, Sydney, Helsingør, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Performing Arts Forum (PAF) and the Sorbonne in France, Humbolt University and Kunsthaus KuLe in Berlin. Virginia Barratt has been widely published, including in : e-rea Journal, Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics, AXON Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, Writing from Below. Virginia collaborates ongoingly with Francesca da Rimini/Doll Yoko as In Her Interior and with Jessie Boylan and Linda Dement as BoneDirt.

Jessie Boylan is an artist based on Dja Dja Wurrung country in Central Victoria, Australia, who uses photography, video and sound to explore environmental, social and psychological upheaval. They are interested in collaborative praxes and working with others to make sense of our times. Jessie is a member of Lumina, an Australian photography collective and the Atomic Photographers Guild, an international group who aim to render visible all aspects of the nuclear age. They are a current PhD candidate within the School of Art at RMIT University- exploring the ways in which art can address the implications of slow climate emergencies and loss of biodiversity. Jessie has exhibited nationally and internationally, including The Art Gallery of Ballarat, The Bendigo Art Gallery, UNSW Galleries, Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Hiroshima Bank, Japan, Rocky Flats Cold War Museum, Arvada, Colorado, the Museum of Modern Art, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and was part of 'Testing the Bomb, Maralinga and Australian Art’, a National Touring exhibition between 2016-2019.

Linda Dement has worked in arts computing since the late 1980s. Originally a photographer, her digital practice spans the programmed, performative, textual and virtual. Her work deals with issues of disturbance, commingling psycho-sexual corporeality and the digital and electronic, giving form to the difficult territory of the unbearable and conflicted. Dement's programmed and still image work has been widely exhibited internationally and locally, including at the Institute of Contemporary Art London, Ars Electronica Austria, multiple International Symposia of Electronic Art and Impakt Media Arts Festivals in Europe. She is twice winner of the Australian National Digital Art Award and has been awarded a New Media Arts Fellowship by the Australia Council for the Arts. Her work is held in collections such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Australian Video Art Archive, New York Filmmakers Co-op and the Daniel Langlois Foundation.

Haut de page
  • Logo Laboratoire d’Études et de Recherche sur le Monde Anglophone
  • DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search