When the House Is Built, the Scaffolding Can Be Taken Down
Issue 25 of my Crossed Lines newsletter, announcing Homeward Bound, the first online series from a school called HOME.
The Price of Life
Written as the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Europe, this is an essay about the encounter with parental mortality.
The Dream-led Dance: Ten years of learning to publish Dark Mountain
Written for a special issue of OEI on Publishing Practices, Publishing Poetics.
The Vital Compass: A Conversation With Vanessa Andreotti
Talking about the work of the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures collective for the tenth anniversary issue of Dark Mountain.
The Curious Tale of Boris Johnson’s Heart
‘I want to tell you a story about Boris Johnson’s heart. There’s a woman involved, but this isn’t what you’re thinking.’
The role(s) of art under the shadow of climate change
An unfinished list of the roles that art can sometimes play. This comes from the work I did with Riksteatern in 2015-16.
What’s Happening in Sweden?
A long read about Sweden, its story of itself and the role this country plays in the political imagination of millions of people who have never been here.
Negotiating the Surrender
An essay written for This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook (Penguin, 2019).
After We Stop Pretending
An essay for Dark Mountain: Issue 15 on the strange hot summer of 2018 and the beginnings of the new climate movements.
Writing about Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society (1971) for Issue 25 of STIR magazine.
The View From the Kitchen Table
Issue 19 of my Crossed Lines newsletter was a report on the first year of this school called HOME.
Endangered Knowledge: A Report on the Dark Mountain Project
Written for a special issue of the journal KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination and Preservation Studies.
Ten Years on a Mountain: A Farewell
Written to accompany the announcement of my departure from Dark Mountain after ten years at the heart of the project.
From the Dead Centre of the Present
A reflection on my collaboration with the Dutch-Serbian architecture duo STEALTH.unlimited.
The Consequences of Unacknowledged Loss
An essay written for the programme for the Orange Tree Theatre production of Joe White’s Mayfly.
It’s Time to Start a School
Issue 16 of my Crossed Lines newsletter was where we first announced the launch of a school called HOME.
Seeing in the Dark: A Tribute to John Berger
A tribute to a writer by whose work so many of us found our bearings. Written for Contemporary Theatre Review.
Where the Words Run Out
For AHA! festival in Gothenburg, Alexander Dam, Sara Rousta and I created this performance for two dancers and a writer running out of words.
Believing in Holidays: A Conversation with Elizabeth Slade
To mark the publication of SANCTUM, a special issue of Dark Mountain on the theme of ‘the sacred’, I had this conversation with one of the book’s contributors.
Three Seasons With CEMUS
This essay was my contribution to the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University.
This essay on the role of art in modernity and its relationship to the sacred was written for Dark Mountain: Issue 12 – SANCTUM.
How Climate Change Arrives
An essay for The Precariat, a one-off newspaper published by the organisers of Planet B festival in Peterborough.
The Fall of the Murdoch Wall
An angry, hopeful reflection written in the days after the UK general election of 2017.
You Want It Darker
When the regular mechanisms of political narration break down, there is a need for something stranger: liminal writing for liminal times.
How to Deal With ‘The Nazi Philosopher Martin Heidegger’ When Writing for a General Audience
A short essay based on my experience as an editor at Dark Mountain.
When the Maps Run Out
A letter I sent to readers of Crossed Lines, three days after the election of Donald Trump
Spelling it Out
An essay about the three languages you need to take a project from dreams to reality. Written for Jessie Brennan’s book, Re:development.
Pockets: A Story for Alan Garner
My contribution to First Light, a collection of writing that celebrates the life and work of the novelist Alan Garner.
We Are the Only Species We Have the Option of Being: A Conversation With Anne Tagonist
Talking about collapse writing, online and in fiction.
Expectations of Life & Death
What is different today is that living to grow old has become a reasonable expectation, something we can almost take for granted, rather than a matter of luck.
End of an Epoch?
A review of two books about the Anthropocene by Christian Schwägerl and Gaia Vince.
What does art do when the world is on fire? This was the question that framed the Dark Mountain Workshop project.
A Journey Begins
This October, as the leaves gather in the gutters of Stockholm, a gang of artists, writers, performers and theatre makers will set off on a journey.
Labour Through the Looking Glass: 15 Early Morning Speculations on the Corbyn Surge
A piece of political science fiction, imagining what it would take for Jeremy Corbyn to make a success of his leadership.
The Friendly Society: On Cooperation, Utopia, Friendship & the Commons
In which I sketch out a set of ideas about the logic of the commons, prompted by conversations in a seminar at the Gothenburg School of Design & Crafts.
The Only Way Is Down: 18 Thoughts on the UK Election
Few things I’ve written have been more widely read than this blogpost from the morning after the UK general election of 2015.
The Limits to Measurement: A Conversation With Christopher Brewster
On the history of grand projects to categorise the world – and how we end up with the Internet of Toilets.
Let’s Get This Party Started!
A short story written for 28 Days, a one-off newspaper published during the UK general election campaign of 2015.
The Shield of Perseus
An essay about the role of literature under the shadow of climate change, commissioned by the Free Word Centre, London.
When Promises of Progress Fail Us
A review of two books that grew out of conversations among the friends and collaborators of Ivan Illich: Grassroots Postmodernism by Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash, and The Future of Development: A Radical Manifesto by Gustavo Esteva, Salvatore Babones and Philipp Babcicky.
The Moment When the White Rabbit Goes Past
In the fifth issue of Crossed Lines, I introduced my new role as leader of artistic and audience development at Riksteatern, Sweden’s touring national theatre.
Introduction to the Fifth Anniversary Edition of the Dark Mountain Manifesto
In 2014, we republished the Dark Mountain Manifesto as a paperback book. This new essay was written to introduce the text, telling the story of how it came about and where it led us.
A Five Hundred Year Moment?
Wherever you look, to the left or to the right, you will have a hard time finding a politician who doesn’t want to create more jobs. They may argue over the best means to do so, but they would hardly think of asking whether employment as we know it is a good thing.
An Outlandish Generosity
As shadows lengthen over our whole way of living, we may once more be in need of the kind of storytelling that stalks truths so monstrous they turn our minds to stone if looked at straight on.
Excavating Buried Assumptions
The radical thought of Ivan Illich speaks more clearly than ever to our times, I argue, in this review of a new selection of his essays.
A Farewell to Uncivilisation
For the fifth Dark Mountain book, I wrote this essay looking back on what we’d learned from four years of running the Uncivilisation festival.
How Can We Be Bored When We Have Google?
An essay for Aeon magazine on information, boredom and how the survivors of the sixties counterculture shaped the story of the internet.
The Capacity for Second Thoughts: Ivan Illich
From his rise to prominence in the late 1960s to the last conversations with David Cayley, published as The Rivers North of the Future, Ivan Illich sought to uncover the hidden assumptions on which modern industrial societies had been built.
The Fairly Big Society
The Tories did not simply invent a half-baked cover story, they took other people’s ideas for a joyride, then smashed them into the dead end of their own ideology. The challenge now is to salvage what is worth saving of those ideas from the wreckage.
The Crossing of Two Lines
The essay which introduces The Crossing of Two Lines, the book I made with the artist duo Performing Pictures.
Commoning in the City
Two days of conversations about ‘the commons’ on an island in the heart of Stockholm set me thinking about what it means to reclaim ‘subsistence’ in the 21st century.
Dealing With Our Own Shit: A Conversation With Gustavo Esteva
In the fourth issue of Dark Mountain, I published this conversation with the Mexican activist and intellectual Gustavo Esteva.
The Regeneration of Meaning
The consequences of an economic crisis can both lead to and be made worse by the crisis of meaning experienced by those whose lives it has derailed. Is it also possible for actions on the terrain of meaning to help stem and even reverse the consequences?
Organisations That Matter
On the experience of creating organisations that are embedded within a community.
The Space Hackers Are Coming
On the emergence of a new kind of spatial agent, responding pragmatically to the constrictions and precarities of post-crisis living.
Words Which Matter to People
It is the second day of my journey around Europe, a journey in search of resilience, and I am in a park near the centre of Helsinki, asking the locals whether they can help me understand the meaning of sisu, a word that is said to be central to Finnish culture and impossible to translate.
“I don’t think I was given the best careers advice in school,” he says. “There was no future in making things, they told us. If you were bright, you should go to college and study something like law.”
The breadline runs through the middle of the Kallio district of Helsinki. On Wednesdays and Fridays, when the Hursti Charitable Association’s regular food distributions take place, queues build up along the pavement of Helsinginkatu all morning. Once a month, there is a special distribution for students.
The Dark Shapes Ahead
The dark shapes ahead are islands. Beyond them the sea shines and the sky seems a soft reflection of its light, and beyond both of these, the faded darkness of the next line of islands. This goes on for hours.
In the Future, Everyone Will Be Powerful for 15 Minutes
Published in Despatches From the Invisible Revolution (PediaPress). 1. Rioters smash the windows of banks, the drum beats towards war with Iran, protests fuelled by social media take over the streets of another capital city. As 2011 reached its endgame, the cinematic surface of Mike Bartlett’s play, 13, could have been taken from the next day’s headlines.…
Coming to Our Animal Senses: A Conversation with David Abram
Talking with the author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal.
Remember the Future?
Published in Dark Mountain: Issue 2. I am retracing my steps, trying to work out where I last saw it. In the north of Moscow, there is a park called VDNKh. It was built in the1930s, under Stalin, and then rebuilt in the 1950s as an Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy. An enormous site, full of…
Black Elephants & Skull Jackets: A Conversation with Vinay Gupta
Talking with the Hexayurt inventor about the Institute for Collapsonomics and the origins of the Black Elephant.
Death & the Mountain: John Berger’s Enduring Sense of Hope
He is a novelist, an art critic, an essayist, a storyteller, but when I picture him with the tools of his trade, it is holding a scythe.
Defusing the Apocalypse: A Response to John Gray
When Paul and I wrote the Dark Mountain manifesto, our hope was start a conversation. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been encouraged by how far this has spread, and by the range and thoughtfulness (in most cases) of the responses we’ve received.
How I Became a Cyber-Womble
This is James Wallbank’s story of founding Access Space, based on an interview I did with him for the ‘Steel City’ special issue of PICK ME UP zine, 28 October 2005 James and his friends wanted to make art with computers. But they didn’t have any money. So they decided to see what they could do with…
How To Bring a Building Back to Life
Published in the ‘Steel City’ special issue of Pick Me Up zine, 28 October 2005 I’m not sure quite how it started. There was a huge empty building in the middle of the city, an old cutlery works. One guy with a recording studio on the second floor, and the rest of it just mouldering away. Then the G8 Justice…
How to Get 800 People to Come to a Protest Picnic
(and get it in the papers and on the radio and telly) Published in the Pick Me Up zine, 24 June 2005 1. START WITH A GOOD IDEA. Try it out on a few people. It’s got to catch their imagination or it won’t work, whatever you do. 2. CLEAR YOUR DIARY. A lot of work in…