This article considers how Georges Bataille’s account of solarity informs a planetary perspective. Bataille is credited with formulating a critical analysis of “solar societies” whose economies are shaped by the exchange of solar energy. However, a sometimes understated facet of Bataille’s reading of solarity is the way he positions living beings at the axis of the sun and the earth, and in the midst of elemental forces such as cold, heat, light, and darkness. Bataille deploys these elemental forces in his writing in order to disfigure the restricted economy of capitalism and its bourgeois subjects. Rather than considering it as a social or subjective predilection, this article emphasizes solarity as a critical form and disorganizing force. This article addresses Bataille’s elemental aesthetics and his positioning of the subject as both a capitalist predator that accumulates solar energy, and a speculative subject, a being who is preyed upon by its own accumulation of energy and that is ultimately disfigured and expended by it. I argue that solarity arises in Bataille’s writing as an aesthetic operation per se. He invokes a mythological language to dismantle the scientific and philosophical tradition of the Enlightenment. Solarity is therefore the antithesis of Enlightenment thinking and values: it entails the invocation of mythic force in order to dramatize earthly elements and their anarchical energy exchange. I connect Bataille’s mythic language to recent theorizations of planetarity and political ecology, from Gayatri Spivak, to Isabel Stengers, Bruno Latour, and Donna Haraway. I emphasize how his aesthetic maneuvers disfigure the restricted economy of concepts that accompanies the resourcing of the earth.
Cold Sun • Hot Planet: Solarity’s Aesthetic, Planetary Perspective
Amanda Boetzkes is Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Guelph. She is the author of Plastic Capitalism: Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste (2019) and The Ethics of Earth Art (2010), and coeditor of Heidegger and the Work of Art History (2014).
Amanda Boetzkes; Cold Sun • Hot Planet: Solarity’s Aesthetic, Planetary Perspective. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 January 2021; 120 (1): 91–102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-8795742
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