Melanie Gilligan

Popular Unrest

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Medium/DimensionsFive-screen installation
CreditsCourtesy of the artist

ECONOMY explores the ways in which our lives, relationships and sense of self are shaped by economic relations. Yet, in the era of ‘informational economy’ and ‘immaterial’ or ‘affective’ labour, crucial dimensions of this process are all but impossible to represent through conventional documentary means. By entering the realms of science fiction, Melanie Gilligan’s drama is able to capture the intensity of what are fundamentally emotional and sensory experiences.

In her familiar yet altered world, all economic transactions and social interactions are overseen by a system called ‘the Spirit’. Variously described as a medium, a totality and a web of social values, every aspect of life falls under its regime. It possesses the ability to measure, compare and thereby control all dimensions of human existence. Productivity is logged and analysed but, as one of the characters observes, ‘feelings are one of the things the Spirit understands best’.
Split across five episodes, the plot revolves around two mysterious occurrences. Firstly, a spate of violent murders has broken out across the globe. Striking apparently at random on trains, lifts and public spaces, the killer is never seen. Atthe same time, previously unrelated individuals have started to coalesce in groups. Unaccountably, they share a deep sense of affinity. What is the potential of collectivity in a system that perpetually divides – and even kills?

As in the best Sci Fi, Popular Unrest’s amplifications and speculations reveal new facets to our own circumstances. It succeeds in picturing capital as a totalizing system capable of driving the bodies, minds and desires of its human subjects.