Weibel Lectures – Joshua Neves – Metabolic Mediations: Documenting the Long Opioid Crisis

25. Januar 2024, 18h
Multimediaraum, Raum 102, 1. Stock GCP/PSK, Peter Weibel-Forschungsinstitut für digitale Kulturen & hybrid.


We keep the wrong things private and it’s destroying us, says photographer and activist Nan Goldin in the final moments of the 2022 documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras). Indeed Goldin’s own documentary preoccupations – what she describes as a kind of record keeping that counters the violence of collective memory – ground the film’s ethical and political address. This includes a narrative arc that combines the artist’s personal histories and trauma with the private and public horrors of the opioid epidemic, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic before it, as well as public actions against the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is just the most high-profile example among dozens of documentary and docudramatic mediations of the big pharma-led crisis, including artworks, feature docs, scripted series, and actuality footage streamed and shared across platforms. What these project’s share is an insistence on capturing the unheeded aspects of late industrialism and of fostering a kind of memory care based in personal and popular record-making. But these present concerns and mediations also have a history. Placing these issues in dialogue with debates about data, evidentiary aesthetics, and the ‘metabolic rift,’ this talk considers the present opioid crisis in the context of a longer history of chemical empire.

Joshua Neves is Associate Professor of Film Studies and Director of the Global Emergent Media (GEM) Lab at Concordia University. He is co-author (with Aleena Chia, Susanna Paasonen, and Ravi Sundaram) of Technopharmacology (Minnesota University Press / Meson Press, 2022), author of Underglobalization: Beijing’s Media Urbanism and the Chimera of Legitimacy (Duke University Press, March 2020), and co-editor (with Bhaskar Sarkar) of Asian Video Cultures: In the Penumbra of the Global (Duke University Press, 2017). His work is published in Media Theory, Cultural Critique, Social Text, Discourse, Culture Machine, Film Quarterly, Cinema Journal, Sarai, The Routledge Companion to Risk and Media, among others.