Caitlin Berrigan

Imaginary Explosions

The geological is animated by forces that fall outside the definitions of life. Geological animacies traverse scales: faulting across continental boundaries, grounding our living relations with the cosmos and its infinite myths, rising beyond earth through corporate and military quests for extraterrestrial mining, and scaling back into molecularized matter to course as toxic tailings into the bloodstreams of animals and rivers. Mineral movements make noise in the lithosphere of a grinding planetary crust, sounding and resounding through geologic strata. Immutable and permanent the rocky substance of the earth is not. Who is listening to the signals of this subterranean matter as it deforms and metabolizes? Geological deformations animate the elemental chemical substance of our living planet. What sensory modes and ontological frameworks can attune to geological animacies? When does the lithosphere touch the atmosphere, and what might be sensed at their meeting point? 

Inspired by methodologies of queer and disability theories, my work aims to translate aesthetic forms of communication across sensory modalities while being in relation to inhuman alterities and non-normative bodies. Disabled, gendered, and racialized bodies have historically been positioned among the subhuman tiers of Western hierarchies, along with animals and the non-living. How can we understand and interpret the inhuman world? How can we practice other ways of being in a body? I work across video, sculpture, and poetic texts to engage with the embodied ecologies of power, nature, and technology. The forms cross media: translating signals from geological sources, videos as books, images as audio descriptions, and developing rich sound notations for audiobook versions of my texts that can be navigated by blind and audio-oriented researchers. I aim to propose other presents and futures that become possible once we begin to think beyond the framework of the human.

My work “embraces its intimacies with the inhuman,” (Kathryn Yusoff, 2018) and the non-living. Early works address viruses, spatial choreographies of contagion, and capitalism. My speculative cosmology, Imaginary Explosions proposes being in relation to geological animacies while exploring the poetics of queer science fiction as a world-making practice. The episodic videos, instruments, and texts center transfeminist scientists who cooperate with the desires of the mineral earth to simultaneously erupt all volcanoes. The work has been the subject of an artist’s book (Broken Dimanche Press, 2018), a world premiere in the Berlinale Forum Expanded Exhibition (2020), and solo shows at Art in General reviewed in Artforum (2019) and at JOAN Los Angeles (2023). I write in an autotheoretical voice that weaves research and analysis with storytelling. Recent essays include “Kinship is Anarchy” for e-flux (2022), “Omissions” for Georgia (2022), and “Atmospheres of the Undead” for March (2020).


Imaginary Explosions 2018-2022


Caitlin Berrigan works across performance, video, sculpture, text, and public choreographies to engage with the intimate and embodied dimensions of power, politics, and capitalism. Her artist’s book Imaginary Explosions (Broken Dimanche Press, 2018) was the subject of solo exhibitions in Berlin and the Akademie Schloss Solitude, and her book Unfinished State is forthcoming from Archive Books with support from the Graham Foundation. She has created commissions for the Whitney Museum of American Art, Harvard Carpenter Center, and the deCordova Museum. Her work has shown at Henry Art Gallery Seattle, Storefront for Art & Architecture, Hammer Museum, Anthology Film Archives, LACMA, Goldsmith’s London, Homeworks Beirut, among others. She holds a Master’s from the MIT Art, Culture & Technology Program, and a B.A. from Hampshire College. She taught emerging media studio practice full-time from 2015-18 at NYU Tisch Photography & Imaging, and is now a research affiliate of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Technology, Culture and Society.

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