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An introduction to Growth

in Ark Review/Musings by

Welcome to Growth Month here at the Ark Review.

Taking inspiration from the theme devised by our friends at the KBH Læser festival, we have decided to devote some of the articles/reviews/musings this month to the festival’s theme of growth (Vækst). As KBH Læser state in their description of the theme, it is hard these days to separate growth from an economic imperative, but as they also note, there is much more to the concept than just this.

When the theme of growth was announced it took a moment for me to think what was it that really excited me about the notion. The clichés of three-act hollywood movies loom large in my unconscious, so when growth is not being spouted as an unambiguous virtue by a besuited politician, I think of growth as the moment of realisation when the consumer tested protagonist comes to experience a moment of clarity leading to personal growth and narrative resolution. However, the great thing about having a theme like this foisted upon you is that you have to go deeper.

[…] the necessary and often neglected condition of growth; a transfer and expenditure of energy, or a consumption of resources. Such expenditures are truly fascinating, particularly as they are so often neglected, or rather disavowed.

The thing that both the besuited politician and the neat third act resolution have in common is that they present an idea of growth with no associated costs. In the film, growth occurs a few minutes before the credits roll, so we don’t see how what has now changed in this character will now continue to impact the individual, or those around them. We might imagine that our protagonist, upon learning that the confidence to act was within herself the entire time, may experience a profound sense of alienation as this apparent growth casts her life, up to that point, in a new light. Developments such as these are rarely simply progress.

6a0120a5b452fd970c01b7c8b783e4970bLikewise, the politician claims his party can institute policies of infinite growth through the economic expenditure of the finite resources of our planet. Of course, when he promises to start work on the pipeline again, some economic growth can be expected – the only downside is the communities without clean drinking water. This is the necessary and often neglected condition of growth; a transfer and expenditure of energy, or a consumption of resources. Such expenditures are truly fascinating, particularly as they are so often neglected, or rather disavowed.

This is not to say growth is bad, though there is not much we could do about it even if it were. It means merely that it has become a constituent part of our stories because it has always been a constituent part of our lives. The difference is that the stories we tell, in everything from novels and films to discourse, often opt for the possibility of depicting growth idealistically, without reference to the necessary epiphenomena of consumption, difference, inefficiencies, externalities and waste.

This is what we at the Ark Review want to talk about in the run-up to this year’s KBH Læser festival: All the stuff that growth requires and implies that we often ignore. Franek Korbanski will meditate on the concept of stagnation, the absence of growth, reading Pornografia by Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. Alexander Buk-Swienty, moving sideway from Lacan, will look at what it is to grow sideways through an exploration of wildly influential French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming-other. Ebba Wester will examine how bursts of creativity, which can virtually create an entire universe, can go nowhere, with an essay on director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempts to adapt Frank Herbert’s science fiction epic Dune. Emilie Bang-Jensen will explore the relationship of religion and literature and the notion of spiritual growth through an interview with priest Thomas Høg Nørager of Stefanskirken. Neus Casanova Vico will argue the case for three children’s books you need to read before you grow up. And, later in the month, I’ll be picking up a theme I started on in a piece for the KBH Læser festival newspaper, reading Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist with Hang Kang’s novel The Vegetarian.

georges-bataille
This all culminates on March 1st with our KBH Læser event Accursed Growth! featuring SORT SNAK’s Jon Auring Grimm and gender and education researcher Rebecca Lund for an evening that delves into, amongst other things, Bataille’s economic theory of consumption, feminist critiques of the normative assumptions of growth in our culture, as well as engagement with the work of Kafka, Kang, Plath, Kraus and Acker. Admittedly, growth is a big topic and it was hard to figure out how to publicise it, but I think the image of beached whale surrounded by onlookers in modern outdoors-wear made in part from petrochemicals sums it up nicely.


Cover photo by Rob Cartwright
Photo edited by Sarah Ommanney

Macon has spent the last four years trying to shoehorn Infinite Jest into a PhD about popular music and capitalism. He managed to do this by making it about something called sonic fiction. He is one half of the podcasting team and the reason why the critical theory section is an odd mix of Adorno and Deleuze & Guattari. For many months he was mistaken for a ghost that had decided to haunt the store, but it was just him editing his thesis and/or the podcast. Here he writes about things which might be true or are entirely made up.

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