Please, accept cookies in order to load the content.

It is within this process of branding that Yongning’s performances intervened. Hanging from the edge of corporate buildings and telecommunication towers, Wu Yongning produced his own body as a counter-brand; as a living-logo. The urban spectacularization of Wu Yongning’s tactical roof-toping worked as a subjective strategy to extract power out of the building’s brand and transfer it to his own personal body. What we see is the confrontation (in the form of an, alas, too fragile grip) of a corporate brand with a single body; a neoliberal, deadly combat between the financial goliath and a disenfranchised living being.

A similar technique of de-branding a building or transferring its power back to society was used by Turkish artist Banu Cennetoğlu at one of the most emblematic buildings in Tepebaşı, Istanbul: the Marmara Pera Hotel. [5] For thirty days in 2015, Cennetoğlu installed a screen on the roof of the building where a list of more than 22,342 known refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants who have died within, or at the borders of Europe since 1993, could be seen from sunset to sunrise. The content of each individual case on the list was visualized on a flickering screen, with one Turkish word appearing at a time. Thus, the names of migrants who died on the Mediterranean or within the soil of a supposedly democratic Europe could be seen on the emblem of economic growth and global capitalist success par excellence: corporate architecture.

This deadly opposition between the body and a certain political and economic regime has existed throughout time: between the body of the slave and the pyramids of Egypt; between the indigenous body and the mines of Potosi; between the African captive and the plantation economy; between the body of women and the task of normative heterosexual reproduction; between the soldier and the military mandate of fighting for the nation-state; between the animal and the industrialized farm and the slaughterhouse. Nevertheless, what seems specific to the global neoliberal face of the Capitalocene is that this antagonism opposes the totality of the living planet (Earth) with capitalism as a necropolitical regime. Only one of them will survive.

The term urban climbing is not a simple metaphor that compares natural rocky cliffs and mountains with ultramodern skyscrapers as vertical, scalable surfaces. Rather it invites us to think that, within the current necropolitical transformation of the Earth in the Capitalocene, architecture—both building and design, infrastructure and communication—has become our last natural environment. There are no more biophysical boundaries to be breached by mineral extraction, industrial food production, economic development, plastic overproduction, military surveillance, real state, and communication wiring.[6] Architecture is the nature-cultural environment of global corporate capital.[7] The hyper connected Petronas Twin Towers are the synthetic Annapurnas of financial capitalism. This is where Wu Yongning’s performances took place: between the glass wall and the blurry Cloud; within global marketplace of digital sociality, where outer space and intimate space is one, geological time is broken up into a myriad of selfies, and where the Earth as living organism is portrayed in the very act of disappearing.[8]

Of all roof-toppers and YouTube urban acrobats, Wu Yongning was the most fairy and dreamy looking; the most androgynous, the less professionalized. His body’s apparent lightness and vulnerability in contrast to the verticality of architecture and the immensity of the urban landscape are captivating elements within Wu Yongning’s images, producing at the same time nausea and fascination; vertigo and respect. In front of the magnitude of Capitalocenic destruction, the affect of the urban sublime turns into dizziness and nostalgia; the fascination for death as force of political action. Some of Yongning’s many social media fans gathered for his public funeral. Surrounded by flowers and followers, Wu Yongning uncannily resembles an Ofelia who sunk into the digital flux of the financial economy and social media’s global river.

Whereas representation and image making were idealized within post-war democracies as necessary processes of political emancipation, Wu Yongning’s tactical urbanism and image making teach us that representation within contemporary neoliberalism is always done at the price of risking one’s life. Within contemporary technobaroque neoliberalism, the process of gaining visibility for those marginalized in terms of class, gender, race, or disability can’t contribute to produce value, political subjectivity, or agency without compromising their bodily and individual chances of survival. The image itself, already an algorithm, an abstract avatar able to produce more capital, and the subject, a brand, a normative solidification of heterogeneous and epigenetic processes of subjectification, might survive, but the body (of mammals) and the Earth will not.


1. I realize following We Yongning's traces that he is not the only one. In 2015 Andrey Retrovesky, 17 year-old-Russian “roofer” died after attempting to capture a photo of himself that would make it look as though he was falling from the top of a building.

2. Capitalism does not only refer to an economic system, but to a political regime, a way of extracting energy and reproducing life. The Capitalocene, Jason W. Moore argues, is the “Age of Capital: the era of capitalism as a world-ecology of power, capital, and nature.” Jason W. Moore ed., Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism (PM Press, Oakland, 2016), 6. Chinese specific surveillance of the internet does not prevent the “cloud” for being a planetary-scale infrastructure, without which Chinese economy will be outside of the digital marketplace on a worldwide scale. See: Roland Deibert, John Palfrey, Rafal Rohozonski, Jonathan Zittrain Eds, Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2010.

3. See: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison, Penguin, London and New York, 1979; Saidiya Hartmann, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

4. Naomi Klein, No is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics (London and New York: Penguin, 2017), 23. See also, Naomi Klein, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (New York: Picador, 1999).

5. The relationship between branding and architecture was already present in the work of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, and Frank Lloyd Wright, just to name a few. On the constitutive relationship between modern architecture, advertising and media see: Beatriz Colomina, Privacy and Publicity. Modern Architecture as Mass Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994). About urbanism, marketing and branding see: Keith Dinnie, City Branding: Theory and Cases (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); E. Kirby, A.M. Kent, “Architecture as brand: store design and brand identity,” Journal of Product & Brand Management 19, no. 6 (2010): 432–439.  

6. Banu Cennetoğlu, List of 22.342 documented deaths of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants due to the restrictive policies of Fortress Europe, YAMA and The Marmara Pera, 2015. Curated by Övül Ö. Durmuşoğlu.

7. Alain Robert explains that documentary filmmaker Michele Radici wanted to establish a relationship between the ascent to the Utha sandstone tower and to the Calico Building in New York to show the harshness of contemporary cities. To climb a building in the city, Robert argued, is worse than to climb a mountain: “It is like being in a dessert, exhausted, without water…and then you faint and you don’t know any more if you are in the city.”

8. For the definition of “natureculture” as a concept emerging from the critique of Western dualism between nature and culture, see:  Donna J. Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness 1 (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003); and Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).

9. On the Cloud see: Metahaven, “Captives of the Cloud: Part 1,” e-flux journal 37 (September 2012).

10. Peter Murray, Window Cleaning Robots Making Their Way To Skyscraper Happy United Arab Emirates,” Singularity Hub (March, 13, 2013).


12. Cleandrone is part of the EU Research and Innovation program, supported with nearly eighty billion Euros of available funding. With the heavyweight political backing of Europe’s leaders and MEPs it is seen as a key driver of economic growth and job creation. 

13. On Voguing and gender politics see: Tara Susman, Tara (2000) "The Vogue of Life: Fashion Culture, Identity, and the Dance of Survival in the Gay BalIs," disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory 9 (2000); Jack Halberstam, In A Queer Time and Place. Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005), 157–8.

14. Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp, in Fabio Cleto ed., Camp: Queer Aestetics And the Performing Subject (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).

15. Saskia Sassen, “Deep Inside the Global City,” e-flux Architecture (January 2018). See also: Saskia Sassen, “The Global City: Enabling Economic Intermediation and Bearing Its Costs,” City & Community 15, 2 (June 2016), 97–108.

16. See: Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft. The Power of Infrastructure Space, Verso, London and New York, 2014.

17. Sassen, “Deep Inside the Global City.”

18. Proxima Centauri b is the closest inhabitable exoplanets to Earth, known today and the center of a current debates on the possibilities of extraterrestrial travel.

Marina Otero Verzier
Katía Truijen
Amal Alhaag, Beatriz Colomina, Marten Kuijpers, Victor Muñoz Sanz, Simone C. Niquille, Mark Wigley
Jane Chew and Matthew Stewart, Northscapes Collective (Hamed Khosravi, Taneha K. Bacchin and Filippo laFleur), Noam Toran, Giuditta Vendrame, Paolo Pattelli, Liam Young.
Raphael Coutin, Marina Otero Verzier
Hans Gremmen
Christiane Bosman, Eveline Mulckhuyse
Simone C. Niquille
Nick Axel
Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science Creative Industries Fund NL Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Rome, Italy

With the title WORK, BODY, LEISURE the 2018 Dutch Pavilion addresses the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body engendered by disruptive changes in labor ethos and conditions.