Galactic Extractivism: Alexander Kluge's Low-Budget Space Operas
In 1969-70, Alexander Kluge produced a number of short and feature-length science-fiction films chronicling the future destruction of Earth and a history of galactic conquest and interplanetary colonial extractivism, performed by a space fleets whose leadership (partly composed of old Nazis) collaborates with the Suez Canal Company; having lost control over the canal in 1956 due to postcolonial nationalization, the company survived the destruction of Earth as the “idea” a corporation not tied to any particular place or product—and went on to mine minerals and labour-power from other planets. Unpacking this potential history through a multitude of compacted stories, Kluge’s science-fiction is not plot-driven but speculative and essayistic. Just as Kluge appropriated the workshops of the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm—which had been closed by the government and turned into a commune by (former) students—for producing the special effects, the films (mis)appropriate the tropes of space opera to ask whether another sci-fi cinema is possible.
Sven Lütticken teaches art history at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Among his books are History in Motion: Time in the Age of the Moving Image (2013) and Cultural Revolution: Aesthetic Practice after Autonomy (2017). With Eric de Bruyn, he edited the forthcoming volume Futurity Report (Sternberg Press, 2019).