Leo Zausen works interdisciplinarily with text and video between earth science and speculative fiction. His recently installed video essays “Afterimages of Solastalgia” and “Riptides of the Mind” (collaboratively with Riptides International, 2020) assembles future present visual culture in the wake of planetary dysphoria and melancholy. Here and elsewhere, his work attends to the earthbound visual culture of atmospheric waywardness. He is a director and curator of exmilitary - a New York based media collective (@exmilitary_) - and currently teaches at The New School.
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Recombinative visual culture often delays and lags underneath pressurized substrates. This project attends to a near future fictional scenario of non-petrochemical resource extraction about a century in the future. It is an audio/visual/textual amalgam, index and scale of exhumed sedimentation. I take the contrivance of “accretion mining” as a potential geo-engineering technique to come (not unlike future-present carbon neutral, thermal and fusion technology). Anticipating its terrestrial arrival, this project is reliant on the decayed imagery of Bethlehem Steel (Pennsylvania, Northeast USA) - a monarch in the combustive steel industry of the late 20th century, now dormant in rusted out ruins. I recycle found footage by and of steel riggers in the early 90s, intersplice scenes of post-planetary design, re-assemble future barren wastelands and dwell in its horror. Rust gravitates upwards, mimicking organic growth mechanisms, internally corroding stainless industrial operations. Rust tends to break down life coterminous with/of decay, but often breathes new forms of life: I delve toward the geologic premise that underneath the lithosphere - and within the asthenosphere - lies an inherent reservoir of energy. “Asthenospherica” conjures the noontide demons of such an industry, retrospectively graphs it onto steel industries, and entertains what new narrative dimensions emerge. By breathing anewed life in the asthenosphere, earthly speculation is unbound. Although often unthinkable at a human scale, this project conjures a relation to these subterranean thermal depths of the earth through conduits of mining, terraforming and geo-engineering. It intends to revitalize a heretical seismology to identify vacuous fissures riddled in a necropastoral ecology. The project is as motivated by recent speculative realism as it is the old materialism of Earth’s primal terraforming project. “Asthenospherica” presents itself as a thought problem - due to its nonhuman location nested infra-lithospheric - but also a problem for thought: Energy conceptions reliant on petro/carbon neutrality are predicated on a restoration of the earth (tikkun olam) that is beyond fantasy. In an era of environmental degradation and climate crisis, this project renders the resuscitation acts of industrial energy while grounded to an earthbound reality - and the subsequent visual culture may dredge near future economies. In the rust of the earth you can start to smell the sulfur dioxide.