ESC researches global infrastructure as a medium of polity. Some of the most radical changes to the globalising world are being written, not in the language of law and diplomacy, but rather in the language of infrastructure. Even building enclosures, typically considered to be geometrical formal objects, have become infrastructural—mobile, monetized technologies moving around the world as repeatable phenomena. Infrastructure is then not the urban substructure, but the urban structure itself—the very parameters of global urbanism.
Extrastatecraft—a portmanteau that means both outside of and in addition to statecraft—recognizes that infrastructure generates emergent new constellations of national, international, intergovernmental and transnational administration and generates undeclared forms of polity faster than any even quasi-official forms of governance can legislate it. Yet far from overwhelming state power, these lumpy and braided administrative layers, with their multiple trap doors and proxies, often serve to strengthen and camouflage the state. Massive global infrastructure systems, administered by mixtures of public and private cohorts and driven by profound irrationalities, form a wilder mongrel than any storied Leviathan for which there is studied political response.
At a remove from more familiar legislative processes, decision making about urban development comes largely from financial institutions and consultancies that rely on a cocktail of econometrics and political science for which space—despite its significant material consequences—is a by-product. Macro-political and macro-economic science chase relative volatile markets and games and yet their advice galvanizes confidence and investment about a much more durable and complex realm of exchange. The wisest practitioners of these sciences question whether or not they are sciences at all and look to a broader field of players and consequences to more accurately chart a successful course for development.
Extrastatecraft proposes the space of infrastructure as the crucible or testbed for these more complex evaluations. With no ambitions to science, the project suggests that these special matrix-spaces of infrastructure tutor an artistic and political imagination and offer special techniques of form-making and activism.
Extrastatecraft: the Power of Infrastructure Space was published by Verso in November 2014. The book also inspired a research unit at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in 2008-9 (Santiago del Hierro, Dubravka Sekulic, Nader Vossoughian, and Vesna Tomse). The unit established this website to collect a growing set of works in this field of endeavor. Each globe leads to a page of texts, images, pdfs and video for each project.
Extrastatecraft: the Power of Infrastructure Space (London: Verso, 2014).
Subtraction (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014).
The Action is the Form (Strekla Press, 2012).
"Zone: The Spatial Softwares of Extrastatecraft," Places Journal, 2012.
"An Internet of Things," E-flux, Spring, 2012.
The Extrastatecraft website has received support from the Jan Van Eyck Academie and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.