October, 155: A Questionnaire on Materialisms (2016)

6 March 2016, dusan

“Recent philosophical tendencies of “Actor-Network Theory,” “Thing Theory,” “Object-Oriented Ontology,” “Speculative Realism,”and “Vibrant Materialism,” have profoundly challenged the centrality of subjectivity in the humanities and, arguably, the perspectives that theories of the subject from the psychoanalytic to the Foucauldian have afforded (on the operations of power, the production of difference, and the constitution of the social, for instance). At least four moves characterize these discourses:

• Attempting to think the reality of objects beyond human meanings and uses. This other reality is often rooted in “thingness” or an animate materiality.
• Asserting that humans and objects form networks or assemblages across which agency and even consciousness are distributed.
• Shifting from epistemology, in all of its relation to critique, to ontology, where the being of things is valued alongside that of persons.
• Situating modernity in geological time with the concept of the “Anthropocene,” an era defined by the destructive ecological effects of human industry.

Many artists and curators, particularly in the UK, Germany, and the United States, appear deeply influenced by this shift. Is it possible, or desirable, to decenter the human in discourse on art in particular? What is gained in the attempt, and what—or who—disappears from view? Is human difference—gender, race, power of all kinds—elided? What are the risks in assigning agency to objects; does it absolve us of responsibility, or offer a new platform for politics?” (from the introduction)

Responses by Emily Apter, Ed Atkins, Armen Avanessian, Bill Brown, Giuliana Bruno, Julia Bryan-Wilson, D. Graham Burnett, Mel Y. Chen, Andrew Cole, Christoph Cox, Suhail Malik, T. J. Demos, Jeff Dolven, David T. Doris, Helmut Draxler, Patricia Falguières, Peter Galison, Alexander R. Galloway, Rachel Haidu, Graham Harman, Camille Henrot, Brooke Holmes, Tim Ingold, Caroline A. Jones, Alex Kitnick, Sam Lewitt, Helen Molesworth, Alexander Nemerov, Michael Newman, Spyros Papapetros, Susanne Pfeffer, Gregor Quack, Charles Ray, Matthew Ritchie, André Rottmann, Amie Siegel, Kerstin Stakemeier, Artie Vierkant, McKenzie Wark, Eyal Weizman, Christopher S. Wood, and Zhang Ga.

Edited by David Joselit, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, and Hal Foster
Publisher MIT Press, Winter 2016
ISSN 0162-2870
108 pages

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