All Lines Flow In: excavating the geophilosophical relations of Singapore’s infrastructure through SEA STATE

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Infrastructure has proven a polyvalent concept in human geography and anthropology for exploring the intersection of the social and technical. However, the ?below? of infrastructure, the infra, has remained underexamined in its relationship to the state, territory and the earth. This article proposes that infrastructure is better understood as a geophilosophical relation that renders a set of relations a subsurface for the propagation of another: it designates a socio-natural ground for political-economic figuration. It outlines the geophilosophical relations of infrastructure through thinking with the project SEA STATE by Singaporean artist Charles Lim, a series of artworks which document Singapore?s infrastructural underside, which Lim terms the sea-state, and provides a conceptual elaboration of SEA STATE?s aesthetic figures. In positing the continuity of figures across the sea-state?s varied infrastructures, SEA STATE exposes the colonial trajectory of its infrastructural systems, the contingencies it churns up as it endeavours to maintain its place in the world market, and the fundamental inversion of figure and ground the sea-state has effectuated. This inversion is all the more evident when we consider the expansive land reclamation projects of modern Singapore, wherein its territory has become infrastructure for bespoke logistical and petrochemical concerns, and will continue until the end of the century under the auspices of mitigating sea level rise. As the geological imaginary of the Anthropocene begins to seep into infrastructural anxieties of maintenance, breakdown and inundation, with governments and policymakers demanding that nature itself become infrastructure, it is critical to trace the longue durée of these infrastructural formations, how their continuities are remade and reiterated by the demands of subsequent historical-geographical junctures, and how the designation of figure and ground can ultimately result in the figure becoming the condition of possibility for its ground, requiring its continual reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2022

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