This period of artistic research will provide the factual and conceptual basis for my second novel. A story grounded in climate crisis and racial capitalism, it interrogates and expresses the alienation and exhaustion of the contemporary worker.
Early conceptions of this work-in-progress are informed by Lauren Berlant’s notion of the ‘situation tragedy’, articulated in her 2011 book Cruel Optimism. I hope to tap into a widespread sense among the millennial generation of having arrived too late, in a time when gentrification makes once-affordable neighbourhoods inaccessible, when natural and manmade disasters rapidly turn inviting settings hostile, and when the compounding impact of neoliberalism makes past certainties increasingly unrealistic.
Berlant explains that, in the situation tragedy, ‘the subject’s world is fragile beyond repair, one gesture away from losing all access to sustaining its fantasies: the situation threatens utter, abject unravelling’ – unlike its light-hearted counterpart, the situation comedy, wherein a character responds to a situation through ‘a slapstick maladjustment […] without destroying too much.’
Through the research and writing process, I will be attentive to insights into creating an empowering but realistic storyworld in a time of crashes and crises, an ethically optimistic Anthropocene narrative, or perhaps even a work of Proletarocene fiction.
Season Butler is a writer, artist and dramaturg. She thinks a lot about youth and old age, solitude and community, negotiations with hope and what it means to look forward to an increasingly wily future. Her recent artwork has appeared in the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2017), Tate Exchange, London (2016, 2017), the Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga (2017), and Hotel Maria Kapel, Hoorn (2018). Her debut novel, Cygnet, was published in spring 2019 and won the Writers’ Guild 2020 Award for Best First Novel.