[-empyre-] Introducing Elia Vargas and Atmosphere

Elia Vargas elia.christian.vargas at gmail.com
Wed Dec 16 04:03:51 AEDT 2020

Hi empyre,

Thank you to Dan for organizing this group of artists around what has
become such a crucial and taxing theme in these times. As is so often the
case, I find myself sharing the company of artists with whom I have been in
dialogue in the past in varied capacities. And isn't that the tender,
fragile, point of this temporary accumulation? As a media artist, curator,
and scholar, who is deeply invested in place and community, but has been
globally nomadic for the past couple of years, I've spent much of the
pandemic months reflecting on how thinking concepts that perform change can
happen together, apart. How can they? This project, Atmosphere, was
completed earlier this year and already that feels reflected in a certain
datedness of shared catastrophe. Since that time, my parents, friends,
colleagues, and students were evacuated due to fires in California, while
my spouse and I were simultaneously awaiting orders to evacuate entirely
different fires from our pandemic-influenced abode. It is December, and
apparently, it is fire season again. Certain ideas about collective
imagining that I had back in 2018—when I emerged from a San Francisco BART
station, wearing a gas mask to avoid a toxic smoke atmosphere, to get into
a self-driving tesla to speak with the fine folks of Radioee about
petroleum mysticism during a 24-hour mobile radio broadcast—have been
actualized more rapidly, and more urgently than expected. So, I leave you
with the introduction to Atmosphere: a speculative fiction exquisite corpse
made under shelter in place:

On March 16, 2020, at the beginning stages of global social distancing, I
initiated an experiment in thinking together from afar with friends,
artists, writers, and educators across five continents: a speculative
fiction exquisite corpse. Beginning with my own entry—the middle—two
participants extended the writing chronologically before and after.
Continuing in this way, 42 people from across the planet participated, with
one person simultaneously adding to before as another added to after. I
spend my time thinking about the way the world is conceptualized, whether
that be speculative fabulations, science-fiction, speculative feminism,
afrofuturism, energy, science, film, art, music, or Star Trek... I’m
interested in concepts that perform change. I’ve been living nomadically,
throughout West and East Africa, in varied and at times isolated
circumstances. Currently, I’m in remote northern California, and suddenly,
there is a shared experience of social distancing. In 2018, the toxic smoke
of California fires changed collective habits and now the coronavirus
pandemic is transforming how we do our most basic things. Collective
narratives of ecological crises and post-apocalyptic fictions are no longer
far off on the horizon; they are not relegated to books or screen time.
They are part of daily life and impose on some of us an awareness of the
way that many cultures have already been in crisis. If shared investments
and stewardship of this earth is made in part by our capacity to imagine a
future, a community, a home, that provides mutual support and the
possibility to prosper for all species-beings, then we must imagine new
concepts, for the future, but really, for the present.


— elia vargas

On Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 8:15 AM Daniel Lichtman <danielp73 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Empyre Community,
> I'm excited to introduce our last project, Atmosphere, organized by Elia
> Vargas. Atmosphere is a speculative fiction exquisite corpse, written
> collaboratively by many artist collaborators under shelter in place.
> Elia Vargas is an Oakland, California-based artist and scholar. He works
> across multiple mediums, ranging from video and sound to writing and
> performance, focused on naturecultural media practices. He is a Ph.D.
> candidate in Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa
> Cruz and is the co-founder and co-curator of the Living Room Light
> Exchange, a monthly salon on critical, intersectional perspectives of art
> and technology. He collaborates widely with artists, musicians, and
> institutions, and has worked at internationally acclaimed interactive
> design studios. As an educator and organizer, he is a steward for
> self-determination through critical and creative practice. His current work
> considers the cultural, philosophical, and techno-scientific conditions of
> the early American oil industry and argues for refiguring crude oil as
> media to decenter anthropocentric representations of nature.
> Looking forward to hearing more about Atmosphere!
> Dan

Elia Vargas

*-Leonardo/MIT Press:* *Crude Illumination: A Crude Oil Art Inspection*
*-LRLX Publication 5: Rare Earth: The Ground Is Not Digital available* HERE
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