Photographing the End of the World: Capitalist Temporality, Crisis, and the Performativity of Visual Objects

Andreea S. Micu


The Depression Era collective started as several photographers and video artists joined forces in March of 2011 to create an archive of photographic images about the Greek economic crisis, amidst the social and political upheaval provoked by ongoing austerity impositions of the EU on the Greek economy. In this essay, I examine selected images from Depression Era, including images from Marinos Tsagkarakis’s series Non-Places of Transition, Yannis Hadjiaslanis’s series After Dark, Pavlos Fisakis’s series Nea Elvetia, and Georges Salameh’s series Spleen. Bringing together Marxist philosophical approaches to aesthetics, via Walter Benjamin and Jean Luc-Nancy, I argue that these photographers’ work is a performative undoing of capitalist understandings of linear time that capture and foster desires for alternative radical temporalities, for non-capitalist senses of time. I discuss how these works disrupt linear notions of time as progress, and as measure of productivity and economic growth, which are intrinsic to modernity, and the creation of financial debt. Against capitalist linear temporality, these Depression Era photographs enable a performative encounter, a realm of visual experimentation in which the spectator is invited to feel time differently, to imagine different alternative temporalities that emerge from the collapse of capitalism.


performativity; continental philosophy; political economy; Marxism; crisis; austerity

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