An enchanted shimmer
As we inch ever closer to what might be the end of capitalism, we have watched the value of gold increase rapidly through gleeful reporting of the Australian mining industry: ‘Iran missile strikes push Aussie dollar gold price to record’; ‘Coronavirus scare pushes gold to record high’; ‘Golden rewards during an economic downturn’.1,2 ,3 ,4 The link between rising gold prices and human tragedy is directly connected to the precious metal’s fundamental role within technological and economic systems. Within the system of capitalism, which has driven us into a crisis of coexistence, gold exists as a ‘death metal’: the ‘bloodiest’ of all commodity chains in a long and violent history of mineral extraction5. From the exploitation of its production and extraction to investment safe havens, and as the key ingredient for dreams of scientific progress, gold has and continues to play a foundational role. Gold however, is a geologic material with more complex relations than those instrumentalised for anthropocentric expansion.
Deborah Bird Rose describes the concept of ‘shimmer’ as an aesthetic characteristic of a lively, pulsating world, rather than an instrumentalised human-centric world composed of gears and cogs for human use.6 Within this essay we work towards understanding gold as it functions within and across this binary.
Through identifying gold ‘at work’ in a mechanised world, we shift toward an alternative ‘shimmering’ world outlined by Rose: re-encountering the metal as a generative and lively part of the biosphere. We work to map ‘valueless’ gold relations from their unearthly origins in asteroids, revealing the ‘enchantment’—as Jane Bennett would have us do—of gold embedded within Earth systems.7 Bennett suggests the wondrous state prompted by such an effect resists commodity fetishism and propels a sensuous ethics in which unexpected encounters among nonhumans, objects, and ourselves hold ‘interactive fascination’—a condition where concentration and sensation are intensified and made joyful.8
- P Mason, ‘Will coronavirus signal the end of capitalism?’, Al Jazeera [website], 3 April 2020, <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/coronavirus-signal-capitalism-200330092216678.html>.↩
- B Creagh, ‘Iran missile strikes push Aussie dollar gold price to record’, Australian Mining [website], 9 January 2020, <https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/iran-missile-strikes-push-gold-to-aussie-dollar-record/>.↩
- S Haselgrove, ‘Coronavirus scare pushes gold to record high’, Australian Mining [website], 24 February 2020, <https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/coronavirus-scare-pushes-gold-to-record-high/>.↩
- V Zhou, ‘Golden rewards during an economic downturn’, Australian Mining [website] 5 May 2020, <https://www.australianmining.com.au/features/golden-rewards-during-an-economic-downturn/>.↩
- MJ Bloomfield, Dirty Gold: How Activism Transformed The Jewelry Industry, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2017, p. 12.↩
- D Rose, ‘Shimmer: When All You Love Is Being Trashed’, Iin A Tsing, H Swanson, E Gan, N Bubandt (eds.) Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, University of Minnesota Press, , Minneapolis; London, 2017, p. G51-G63.↩
- J Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: attachments, crossings, and ethics, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2001.↩
- J Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: attachments, crossings, and ethics, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2001, p. 5.↩