Where did the critical tradition of art go? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Because we know the answer. It went into spectacle. It went into finance. It got privatized, democratized, scrutinized, defunded, bureaucratized, then professionalized. The critical stick became a seductive carrot. But maybe we don’t have to see this only in terms of a fall from grace. Maybe this is the time for a long-overdue realism that an art field still in the thrall of modernist humanism struggles to avoid recognizing. Isn’t it strange how we are subjected to the most extreme aspects of this new order and yet still suppress its most emergent qualities? What if we suspend the guilt of lapsed certainties and good-person compulsions for just a moment and take a look in the mirror? What would we see? We might see velocity-driven psychotics ravaged and dragged through sky and sludge, crying from revolution teargas and boring discussions at the same time. We might see uneducated beasts using their own bodies to mash culture with physics with economics with mysticism. We might see a strange new form of human tumble out. For the Summer 2013 issue of e-flux journal, we are very pleased to present Gean Moreno’s guest-edited issue on accelerationist aesthetics. Read it at the beach!
—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
The entrenchment of neoliberal fundamentalism has been accompanied by a desire to save whatever critical edge art production can still muster. This has become increasingly pressing as art becomes decor for the offices of hedge fund managers, and as the art world—as David Graeber put it somewhere—mutates into “an appendage to finance capital.” The urgency to maintain a critical edge has manifested itself variously: in a turn toward post-autonomia theories that shed light on the position of the cultural producer within a post-Fordist regime of labor; in the production of artifacts that engage reflexively with the conditions of production, display, and circulation in the art world; in recovery operations that target particular legacies, such as those of politicized Conceptual art and structuralist or essayistic filmmaking; in interventionist efforts that leave behind the commercial circuits of art presentation altogether and attempt to work in the social field itself. The common aim of all these efforts amounts to approaching concrete conditions soberly, to being analytical and measured. A subtractive logic is the general animating force: take away—subjective imprint, gratuitous ornament, traces of skill, commercial viability, ambivalent postures, ideological residue, and so forth—until a potent and probing, if often flat-footed, proposal crystallizes.
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