Artist: Steven Cottingham, 2019
Title (i): Tectonic attainder
Medium: Sculpture (Pyrolyzed bread, aluminum foil. 5″ × 16″ × 12″)
Does capitalism—a system in pursuit of self-valorizing value and infinite growth—obey the laws of physics? The principle of affect and affectability tells us no, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only refigured through entropy, but the system continues anyway. How do we reconcile this apparent disobedience while maintaining fidelity to a materialist ontology? I argue that capitalism (and, in turn, anti-capitalism formalism) can only be properly understood through this paradox of friction and profit. By analyzing capital through a thermodynamic lens, we are forced to consider its aporias, its heat sinks, and the various contradictions inherent to liberal society and the oppressions on which it always depends.