Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart
An ongoing film project by Oliver Ressler
Not too long ago, global warming was science fiction. Now it has become hard science, and a reality we already live in. The latest reports from the sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that the planet may be approaching multiple thresholds of irreversible damage faster than was ever anticipated.
The title “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart” refers to a situation in which all the technology needed to end the age of fossil fuel already exists. Whether the present ecological, social and economic crisis will be overcome is primarily a question of political power. The climate movement is now stronger than ever. It obstructed pipeline projects such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. It stopped Arctic drilling and blocked fracking all over the globe. Coal-fired power plants were shut down by resistance, and the divestment movement that pressures institutions to unload their stocks from fossil fuel corporations has had successes.
The story of this ongoing film project may turn out to be a story of the beginning of the climate revolution, the moment when popular resistance began to reconfigure the world. The project follows the climate movement in its struggles to dismantle an economic system heavily dependent on fossil fuels. It records key events for the climate movement, bringing together many situations, contexts, voices and experiences. The first two events – there is one film for each – are the action during the COP21 summit in Paris in December 2015 and a blockade of a fossil fuel extraction site in Germany in May 2016.
In the first film (17 min., 2016), activists contest the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, a city then under a state of emergency. Like twenty failed annual climate conferences before it, COP21 in Paris proved the incapacity of governments to commit themselves to any binding agreement that would curtail global warming through a definite strategy for the end of fossil fuel use. The resulting Climate Agreement avoids anything that would harm the economic interests of corporations. The governments now pretending that non-binding agreements can hold back climate change are the same ones whose binding free trade pacts make dead letter of local environmental and climate legislation.
The film on the Ende Gelände (end of the road) action (12 min., 2016) shifts the focus to a massive civil disobedience action at the Lusatia lignite coal fields (near Berlin). 4,000 activists entered an open-cast mine, blocking the loading station and the rail connection to a coal-fired power plant. The blockades disrupted the coal supply and forced the Swedish proprietor Vattenfall to shut the power station down.
The action was part of an international “global escalation” against the fossil fuel industry, calling on the world to “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” and putting that imperative directly into practice.
Despite the efforts of government and corporate PR to convince us otherwise, whether and when fossil fuels are abandoned will be determined above all by social movements and the degree of pressure they exert on institutions. Powerful structures force us into lives that destroy our livelihood. It is these structures that must be changed, and nothing but our action in common can change them.
This new work as a 2-channel video installation is presented first as part of Oliver Ressler’s solo exhibition “Property is Theft” at MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest. The project will continue with further episodes to be added as the struggle against a fossil fuel-dependent economy continues.
Director and producer: Oliver Ressler
Cinematography, audio recording: Thomas Parb, Oliver Ressler
Narration text: Oliver Ressler & Matthew Hyland
Editing: Oliver Ressler
Narrator: Renée Gadsden
Color correction and finishing: Rudolf Gottsberger
Sound design and music: Vinzenz Schwab
The project was commissioned by MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest for Oliver Ressler’s solo exhibition “Property is Theft” and received support from the ERSTE Foundation, BKA – Kunst and Otto Mauer Fonds.
Special thanks to: Calin Dan, Ende Gelände, Christiane Erharter, Matthew Hyland, John Jordan, Max Liljefors, Adriana Oprea, Johanna Schwanberg, Walter Seidl, and Janet Stewart.
For inspiring conversations on the topic I would like to thank the participants of the conferences “Dialogues on Degrowth: Good Life, Consumption and Transformation” at Pufendorf Institute at Lund University, Sweden (May 2016) and “Decarbonized Futures: Narrating Low Carbon Societies” at Lorentz Center, Leiden, The Netherlands (June 2016).
5-min excerpt from “COP21”
5-min excerpt from “Ende Gelände”