Hopium Economy

August 20th, 2019

From opioid to the Anthropocene: a video project on addiction as the substantial mode of our existence

By placing the contemporary US opioid crisis in the context of overlapping systems—political, material, industrial—Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann’s video practice reveals the complex web of interrelations that underpin individual addiction. In doing so, they draw parallels between conditions of substance dependencies and our wider planetary condition.

Hopium Economy is a video project that combines interviews and situated research to narrate a larger context for the ongoing opioid crisis now bearing down on the Midwestern US. The work traces the origins of the situation beyond simply addiction and dereliction, instead revealing how this cycle of dependency, depression, and despair arises from a nexus of factors playing out over public health systems, rural/ urban divides, and pharmaceutical industries, encompassing racial tensions, colonialized monopoly and processes of deindustrialization. The project also intends to challenge the way we conceive substance dependencies and their history, by regarding addiction as a substantial mode of our existence, and as the possible core of our relationship to the planet. Taking this notion further, substance dependency can be regarded as not only a metaphor, but the very essence of our incapacity to respond to the demand for changes in the Anthropocene.