What Can Art Do for Post-Capitalism?

Tuesday, March 24th, 7PM
Mercer Union
1286 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6H 1N9

In their talk Suhail Malik and Nick Srnicek will address whether and how art can contribute to making a post-capitalist future. In particular, what demands does Left Accelerationism make on art (or should it make on art), and why is the currently prevalent mode of contemporary art not even capable of contributing to the construction of post-capitalism?

The City

Organized by Diann Bauer

Sunday, November 23, 1:00PM-3:00PM
BNLMNTL 2014: Future Summit
@ Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920 Rue Baile
Montréal, QC H3H 2S6

Our Future Summit panel will focus on cities as vast inhuman systems, complex beyond our casual powers of perception. Panel participants are Marie-Pier Boucher, Keller Easterling and FtF organizers Joshua Johnson and Keith Tilford. The panel will be moderated by Diann Bauer.


Amanda Beech – “Last Rights: the Non-Tragic Image and the Law” (lecture, video)

Ray Brassier – “Wandering Abstraction”

Nathan Coombs – “Politics of the Event After Hegel”

Elaine Esposito – The Future of Futures

Isabelle Graw - High Price: “The Triumphant Progress of Market Success”

Suhail Malik – “On the Necessity of Art’s Exit from Contemporary Art” – Part I: “Exit not Escape”, Part II: “The Problem with Contemporary Art is not the Contemporary”, Part III: “A History of Negations” (lectures, videos)

Suhail Malik and Andrea Phillips - “Tainted Love”

Reza Negarestani – “The Labour of the Inhuman: Part I” & “Part II”

Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler - Capital as Power

Peter Osborne – Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art

Benedict Singleton – “Maximum Jailbreak”

Nick Srnicek – “Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics in an Age of Crisis”

Charles Stross – Accelerando

Keith Tilford – “The Hooks Beneath the Bait: Entrapment and Escape in Althusser and Art”

Olav Velthuis - “Symbolic meanings of prices”

Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek – #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an accelerationist politics

Peter Wolfendale – “The Noumenon’s New Clothes”




Capitalist accumulation today is premised on the management of the future through a variety of techniques. From the pricing and trading of future risks and uncertainty on derivatives markets to the mobilization of hype and fear across the capitalist spectrum of future earnings and capital gains, the manipulation of the future is crucial for constructing capitalism in the present. Yet, as the developing hype for possible futures feeds back into the system of prediction, these multiple commitments literally banking on the future in the present shape what that future will in fact be.

Such future-predicated constructions in the present implicitly inform art and cultural production but often fail to be explicitly registered by them. Moreover, the future as real condition for practice has either been denigrated by current theoretical alternatives to neoliberalism or, on the other hand, is fetishized as an irrational contingency. Typical in this regard are claims that “we have to resist the idea and ideology of the future, which is always the ultimate trump card of capitalist narratives of progress” (Simon Critchley). The fetishism of the absolute contingency of the future is most starkly espoused by Quentin Meillassoux’s argument that, because everything “could actually change for no reason, … the laws of nature could change … for no cause or reason whatsoever,” prohibiting then not only any sense of “narratives of progress” but also requiring that politics and justice are occasioned only by way of an utterly unpredictable “event” positioned beyond rational or collective fabrication.

While one might then turn to art to take full advantage of its capacity to imagine futures and forge relations to them in any way whatsoever, art in its contemporary incarnation no less clearly rejects a demonstration of this capacity through its lack of determination and orientation toward any future whatsoever. Valuing the manifestation of privatized experience, contemporary art proliferates differences without any common standard of judgement, leading only to the numbing enumeration of its own domain. Contemporary art now does not transform the concept of risk but exemplifies capitalism’s management of the future to the letter, outsourcing whatever risk it generates to monetary and reputational markets. The cultural commonality of an artwork, whose import to the future is unknown, is reduced to its quantifiable hype in the present market. As Reza Negarestani put it, contemporary art is “not a site of construction.”


It is now clear to us that rejecting the perspective of the future prohibits creating an alternative to capitalism. It abandons the future to capitalists willing to risk the present to extend or alter its logic. Not risking anything is still the risk of doing nothing. Equally, accepting the absolute contingency of the future requires abandoning planning.

Contrary to all this, building new forms of economic, political, and cultural alternatives to global neoliberalism requires a new, revised understanding of future that is not isomorphic to its capitalist conception. Taking up strategies in economics, theory, philosophy, and art, Fixing the Future looks to provide these useful alternatives for thinking the future again, and to do so as an imperative.

If the broad concern of Fixing the Future will be how political and economic transformations of society as a whole can now be credibly conceived and organized, its particular issue will be how this reimagining and practico-theoretic repurposing can be culturally instantiated. With regard to art: can its redetermination away from contemporary art enable art to become a productive way for making the future again rather than just another vehicle for capitalist speculation?


Organized by Diann BauerJoshua Johnson, Suhail Malik, Mohammad Salemy, and Keith Tilford.