Beate Geissler Lecture: “Hopium Economy”

Date / Time

March 10, 2021

4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


2020-2021 Faculty Fellow Lecture

Beate Geissler, Department of Art

“Hopium Economy”

Hopium Economy examines substance dependency and/or addiction not only as a metaphor, but as the very engine constituting our societies’ failure to respond to the demands for changes in our time. Climate change is not simply an unintended byproduct of colonial history, but an ongoing act of imperial violence. A violence set off by the rabid desire of Western societies for goods, things, objects, and substances.

Therefore I consider the history of substance dependencies from iron, coal, tea, opium and sugar to gas, I-Phones, methadone, nitrates and opioids as the core motor of the western expansion trajectory. Addiction here seems to be the existential condition sine qua non of violence and pain – cataclysmic and eruptive as much as slow and covert. I believe that such a conception is offering a valuable opportunity to re-think addiction, both as a paradigm and as an object of knowledge. This project is called Hopium Economy because economic growth is an assumption central to our political and economic systems. It is the mechanism relied upon for improving life on Earth for humans based on the belief that there is an escape from the finitude of resources. Hopium economy is the endless and unstoppable dream of becoming.

Beate Geissler is an interdisciplinary artists researcher and educator interested in the question of how human actions transform the planet and how those transformations alter our existence. Her work concentrates on inner alliances of knowledge and power, their deep links in western culture and the escalation in and transformation of human beings through technology. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally in museums, galleries, and alternative spaces, including: the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Fotomuseum Antwerp; the NGBK (New Society for Visual Arts) in Berlin; the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts; the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland; the Museum Ludwig in Cologne; MAST Foundation in Bologna, Italy; and German Pavillion at the Photography Biennial Dubai, UAE. She has been the recipient of a number of grants and awards, including: the Videonale Award from the Museum of Art, Bonn, Germany; the Herman-Claasen-Award (Cologne, Germany); production grants from the Graham Foundation, Chicago; and she is an active participant of the project Mississippi. An Anthropocene River ( She published four monographs: Return to Veste Rosenberg (2006), Personal Kill (2010), Volatile Smile (2013) and the bio-adapter (Oswald Wiener) / you won’t fool the children of the revolution (2019). She is a founding member of Deep Time Chicago an art/research/activism initiative formed in the wake of the Anthropocene Curriculum program at HKW in Berlin, Germany.

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