Art & its Reason(s): Retooling the Horizons of Practice


Online Class co-taught with Diann Bauer with The New Centre for Research and Practice, May 25-June23, 2015.

GUEST(S): Amanda Beech, Suhail Malik, Joshua Johnson/Keith Tilford, Glass Bead

“If art already embodies the potential of a non-standard existence, would this not mean that we would be stuck in a semantic game of interpretational formalism: reinterpreting the artwork in novel terms but without altering the principles of its production? On the other hand, what possibility remains for any investment in the category ‘Art’, and what is produced under its name?” – Amanda Beech

“Far from having merely been the Other of Reason, art played a decisive role in the Modern, rationalist and universalist distribution of possibilities, and this is why it can also participate in their transformation […] Glass Bead contends that it is only from the complex weavings that supported the constitution of these Modern borders that it is possible to navigate a thoroughly transmodern passage.” – Glass Bead

“The condition and horizon of an art [other than contemporary art] is not that it be felt, appreciated in vague ways, or made-sense-of as contemporary art is, affirming in each case the viewer in her or his sensitivities and capacity for judgment… It is [rather] an art of rational knowledge. ‘Knowledge’ here means that if there is an experience to be had, it can not only be formulated with a coherent logic and reasoned (even if its results are historically irrational) but also that it is subject to the predictive and generative exercise of reason qua new organizations of matter, thought, and experience.” – Suhail Malik

This seminar will introduce a diagnosis of contemporary art (CA) that challenges several dominant and ideal narratives endemic to the field, addressing the chasm between what many want CA to do, what many say CA does, and how CA actually operates. This overview grasps CA systemically, including the entire spectrum of production, dissemination, economy, discourses and reception, rather than focusing solely on individual practices. What do we want, or expect from art today in the face of global complexity? How can art be defined outside of a localized and subject-centred paradigm? How can CA move from planes of critical description towards horizons of how it ought to be; and why is this path worth forging for a distinctly 21st century mode of transit? How does art understand itself politically in relation to the scientific and social real, stereoscopically? Can one avow a definition of art within the folds of a leftist project more generally as an endeavor of ethical inhumanism? What sets of particular affordances can this new definition of art map out that other fields cannot? This seminar proposes a first step in a long-term, massively collaborative project for art’s redefinition and reorientation through readings, guest respondents and the experimental format of the digital studio seminar.

Week 1 – May 25: Diagnostics and the Logic of Contemporary Art
Guest: Suhail Malik

Required Reading:

  • Suhail Malik, “Ape Says No,” in Red Hook Journal, June 10 2013, Hudson: CCS Bard.   (Accessed 03.20.2015)
  • Additional:
  • Suhail Malik, “On the Necessity of Art’s Exit from Contemporary Art,” Lecture Series at Artists Space, New York (Friday, May 3 – Friday, June 14, 2013).
    Suhail Malik, “Reason to Destroy Contemporary Art”, in: Spike 37, 2013.
    Amanda Beech, Suhail Malik, Robin Mackay, Armen Avanessian, “Beyond the Contemporary,” in SPIKE Art Quarterly, Spring 2013, 90-104.


Week 2 – June 1: Synthesis – The Image and the Structure of the Real
Guest: Amanda Beech

Required reading:

  • Amanda Beech, “Art and its ‘Science’,” in Speculative Aesthetics, eds. R. Mackay, L. Pendrell, J. Trafford, Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014, 9-18.
  • Amanda Beech, “The Nature of Constraint, Art, Habit and Rule,” Lecture at Generative Constraints Conference, Center for Creative Collaboration Royal Holloway University of London, Nov. 16, 2013.


Week 3 – June 8: Stereoscopy, Entrapment and Escape
Guests: Keith Tilford and Joshua Johnson

Week 4 – June 15: Art, Reason and Transmodernity
Guest: Glass Bead (Fabien Giraud, Jeremy Lecomte, Vincent Normand, Ida Soulard, Inigo Wilkins)