War against the Sun
Mute magazine offices at Limehouse Town Hall
1st, 2nd, 3rd March 2013



Ray Brassier 

Nominalism, Naturalism, and Materialism

Nominalism denies the existence of abstract entities (universals, forms, species, propositions, etc.). Traditional nominalism proceeded from an empiricist epistemology that challenges the very possibility of metaphysics, whether idealist or materialist. The critique of empiricism is taken to entail the refutation of nominalism. But nominalism contains a valuable insight for materialists: reality does not have propositional form. This is an insight that should be taken up by post-Darwinian materialists, who ought to deny that reality has a conceptual structure. For a consequent materialist, realism about abstract entities is problematic because it re-iterates the theological presumption of a pre-established harmony between conceptual order and real order. The question is whether materialism can take up this nominalistic insight while jettisoning the empiricist prejudices that tie it to skeptical relativism. For the claim that reality is devoid of propositional form need not require denying that we can use language to capture aspects of reality or that concepts have ontological purchase. This is what I propose to investigate using the work of Wilfrid Sellars, who managed to combine nominalist semantics, epistemic naturalism, and what I will call ‘methodological materialism’.   

Ray Brassier is a member of the philosophy faculty at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, known for his work in philosophical realism. He was formerly Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London, England. He is the author of Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction and the translator of Alain Badiou’s Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism and Theoretical Writings and Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency

Robin Mackay

The Barker Topos (A Pitch)

Superposing philosophical treatise / action thriller / site-specific work, surface will be read as symptom, and the investigator as already implicated in the contingencies of the plot, as new perspectives are opened up on the perennial philosophical question of how local and contingent phenomena focalize and express the universal – with the latter understood not as universal ratio or Hegelian Geist, but as the ‘universal history of material contingency’ invoked in Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
What is called for is a combination of CSI: Earth (examining the terrestrial crime scene and making objects speak) and a Bourne Identity-style quest (a search for identities lost in an ever-deepening web of cosmic conspiracy): A new mode of investigation that combines Freud and Ferenczi’s model of trauma and an abstraction of the ‘time-travelling’ and narrative methods of psychoanalysis, with a reading of earth sciences and natural sciences as resources for a ‘cryptography of the earth’ inspired by but surpassing Nietzsche’s ‘genealogy’ and Deleuze/Guattari’s ‘geophilosophy’.
Finding the thread or plot that leads from symptom to trauma, from crime scene to conspiracy, calls for a method that combines a formalisation of the trauma model both on local and global levels and a depth-tracking of the complicities involved (using mathematical category theory, sheaf theory and topos theory) with a multidisciplinary synthesis of modern sciences and philosophy. This new method enables us to formally define rigorous modes of navigation between global and local, and to elaborate criteria for distinguishing trivial from non-trivial plotlines (the good ‘lead’ from the bad).
The superficially commonplace crime scene is continually reframed by the navigation through ramified spaces of trauma, changing its aspect kaleidoscopically as the narrative brings into focus the different material distributions to which it belongs. With this twisted return of the ordinary (the simplicity of everyday life revealed as an encapsulated ramified path structure), theory attains an immanence with fictional affect, in the purportedly ineffable depth of metaphysical horror: As the protagonist repeatedly asks himself ‘where am I? Where did I come from? On what path am I moving?’, he finds himself set upon yet other paths, faced with broader landscapes of navigation, in too deep, unable to extricate himself from plots that reach far beyond the terrestrial sphere.

Robin Mackay is a philosopher and director of UK arts organization Urbanomic, which promotes research activities addressing crucial issues in philosophy and science and their relation to contemporary art practice, and aims to engender interdisciplinary thinking and production. His research interests focus on the ‘gap’ between scientific knowledge and humans’ spontaneous self- understanding, and the aesthetic and political ramifications of philosophical positions that attempt to resolve this disparity – in particular, new variants of ‘geophilosophy’, which negotiate the relationship between philosophical thought and the contingency history of the earth, in dialogue with geology, chemistry, and physics. As well as directing Urbanomic’s publishing operation and curatorial activities, Mackay is editor of Urbanomic’s publication Collapse: Journal of Philosophical Research and Development, each volume of which brings together philosophers, thinkers from other disciplines, and contemporary artists. He writes and speaks regularly on art and philosophy and has worked with several artists, including Florian Hecker, John Gerrard and Conrad Shawcross, developing cross-disciplinary projects. He has also translated various works of French philosophy, including Alain Badiou’s Number and Numbers, François Laruelle’s The Concept of Non-Photography and Anti-Badiou, and Quentin Meillassoux’s The Number and the Siren.    


Sam Basu

In the Witches Drowning - Download Full Text Here

Sam Basu will read, In the Witches Drowning, a short text jointly written with Sabrina Tarasoff. It is a poetic meditation on immersion: communal, ecological, psychedelic and psychotic in relation to the difficulties encountered by Antonin Artaud in maintaining the subject-object distinction. Deep diving, the coven and drowning, figure on the way through this occult writing exchange between the authors, which is as much an  investigation of communal  writing as a considered reflection on Artaud’s subjectile.

Sam Basu is an artist (Goldsmiths, London) and co-founder of the experimental art space Treignac Projet, France where he has worked with, amongst others, Matt Packer, Shahin Afrassiabi, Luxury Logico, and New international School. This large scale space has been the basis for ongoing projects with interdisciplinary artists working on pedagogic strategies in arts’ practice. He is the founding editor of Madam Wang, a journal for Geo-distributed collaboration, and regular collaborator with numerous arts and architecture groups.  

Josephine Berry Slater

Process ProcessedDownload Full Text Here

After his death an abscess was found at the back of the patient Broussonet’s brain, thus explaining the reasons for his loss of memory of substantive words in life. Georges Canguilhem uses this anecdote from the annals of medicine to explain how the establishment of norms doesn’t precede the experience of pathology or disease, but instead arises through the threat to life’s possibility. Furthermore, the establishment of norms (which therapeutics/medicine aim to return the body to), he argued, is part of life’s struggle against what threatens it (and shouldn’t be seen as a purely anthropomorphic activity). Can we read the development of aesthetics in related terms? If that which threatens human life can be thought of in terms of its own production, by way of reason, of processes which it can no longer control (total nuclear destruction, climate chaos, resource exhaustion, thanatopolitics), in other words if pathology is endemic to the human condition, then how are the resulting norms, retroactively given, discovered and deployed by art? Life is both what threatens life and what gives rise to an immunological and therapeutic response, and art participates on both sides of the divide: it gives form to the order that produces pathologies (the naturalisation of power occurring through naturalised cultural forms) and attempts to release life from its sickness (the grasping of norms from the flux by way of cutting, ‘partage’, the creation of visibilities, finding abscesses). When the key modality of art becomes its annexation of process (as an effect of a wider annexation of life within biopolitics and capitalist real subsumption, as well as science’s discovery that all is (in) process), how does its operation start to mutate? Norms are often proposed through postmodern art’s deployment of participation, but regularly precede/inform rather than result from process (bad relational aesthetics/new media’s concepts of interactivity). But at its wildest, the art of modernity opens itself to the destabilisation of its system by way of as yet unnormativised process which, in turn, gives rise to the discovery of new norms which can, albeit briefly, be turned against that which threatens both art and life. Thus aesthetic immunity acts for and against life.

Josephine Berry Slater is the editor of Mute magazine and teaches a short course in biopolitics & aesthetics at Goldsmiths College, as well as teaching in the lab component of the Culture Industry MA there. She is currently trying to extend a lecture series on biopolitics and aesthetics into a book.

Kirsten Cooke & Dale Holmes

A Brief Introduction to Material Conjectures - Download Full Text Here 

For this ten minute presentation the co-authors of Material Conjectures (curator Kirsten Cooke and artist Dale Holmes) will begin by presenting a brief and accurate account of the groups’ research. This will be done by identifying the political, aesthetic and philosophical terrain upon which Material Conjectures’ research builds and intervenes.
This will be followed by a description of the groups’ previous events, which will be juxtaposed with images (if a projector is provided).
The presentation will close with a brief discussion centred on upcoming Material Conjectures events (e.g. Asymmetrical Cinema exhibition and publication) and speculation on future directions in symposiums, publications and exhibitions of artworks.

Kirsten Cooke is a curator and her most recent project, titled Turbulent Surfaces, took place as three distinct platforms at the Brook Theatre and kynastonmcshine (2011-2012). She is also part of the collective Material Conjectures, which is a cross disciplinary project co-authored by the artist Dale Holmes and herself. She teaches Fine Art, Curatorial Practice, and Object Orientated Theories at Chelsea College of Art, the University of Kent and the University of Reading where she is currently undertaking a practice led PhD.
Dale Holmes
is an artist interested in the visual, political and philosophical legacies of abstraction. Recent exhibitions include AB ST RA CT at Essays and Observations, Berlin, Germany (2011), Turbulent Surfaces at the Brook Theatre, Maidstone, Kent (2011), and Sunrise Shine in a Midnight Sky at SIA Gallery, Sheffield (2011). He teaches at Sheffield Hallam University, Huddersfield University and is currently an AHRC funded PhD candidate at Sheffield Hallam University in the Art and Design Research Centre working with Dr. Jaspar Joseph-Lester (DoS).

Fabien Giraud

The Suffocation of Birds - Download Full Text Here

It is common to trace back the genealogy of the modern era to the discovery of the void in 1665: the extraction of air from a sealed sphere of glass and the death of a bird as the sign of an irreversible separation. Of such an apparatus and the observation of its enclosed funest world we made the foundations of our shattered relation to the real. But if - from the interior of a space station - we watch the inert body of a bird drifting away in the vacuum of the outside, it is only because the sphere has now fully everted itself.
This talk will propose a model to think through and within this topological accident from which we inherit.

Fabien Giraud is an artist based in Paris. He is best known for his collaboration with Raphaël Siboni with whom he has exhibited in many museums and biennales internationally since 2006, including ‘Dynasty’, a group show at the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art, Paris – 2010, ‘Repetition Island’, at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2010, Moscow Bienniale – 2009, Santa Fe Biennial – 2008, ‘Superdome’, Solo show at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris – 2008, Lyon Bienniale – 2007. In 2011, he initiated a series of solo works under the heading Du Mort Qui Saisit Le Vif. All the works under this generic and programmatic title are part of a long-term project that is conceived as a kind of technological saga and which might be summed up as follows: technology is not the preserve of man. 

Sally O’Reilly


In a country called Academia, art and philosophy occupy the central position that sport and pop do in our world; critics and academics are celebrities, artists are demigods and the red tops are full of critical discourse. Everyone eats soup, since chewing is too corporeal, and although coupling occurs, sexiness is way down the list of desirable accomplishments.
Art critic Ida Doughty is at top of her game, but has accidentally disgraced herself live on national radio. An inquiry is held and she is ostracised by the mainstream; but an underground sect called the Terraists offer her succour. These keen outdoors types display blatant sensualist tendencies and vow to dismantle society’s cerebralism by whatever means possible. It is through them Ida that learns of the mysterious substance ‘oil’, which seems to be a cross between an occult force and a radical new energy solution.
The novel follows Ida’s attempt to discover truth about oil, so that she might write a blockbuster thesis that will re-ingratiate her with her agent, publisher and public. Her best efforts, however, are repeatedly thwarted by petty crime, bad research techniques, industrial sabotage and her over-egged libido. 

Sally O’Reilly is a writer, contributing regularly to many art and culture publications. Her book The Body in Contemporary Art was published by Thames & Hudson in 2009, and her monograph on Mark Wallinger will be available through Tate Publishing in 2013. She has also curated and produced numerous exhibitions and performative events and was writer in residence at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (2010–11). She is currently writing a novel, Crude, about public speaking, flirting and oil.

Simon O’Sullivan

On the Production of Subjectivity - Download Full Text Here

Slavoj Zizek has remarked in a recent collection of writings on the so-called ‘Speculative Turn’ in continental philosophy that what the latter lacks is a theory of the subject. Although I would not claim that what I have laid out in my recent book On the Production of Subjectivity: Five Diagrams of the Finite-Infinite Relation amounts to the missing subject of this speculative turn (indeed, to a certain extent, the category of the subject is a necessary exclusion that determines the latter), what I would say is that my own project – a work of commentary, but also a thinking through of a production of subjectivity that refuses the bar between the finite and the infinite – has some resonances with some of the thinkers associated with this particular strain of recent post-Kantian philosophy.  In my contribution to the conference I will briefly map out some of these ‘relations of adjacency’ and more generally introduce the themes of my work on subjectivity. I will also draw the five key diagrams of the book’s title.

Simon O’Sullivan is Senior Lecturer in Art History/Visual Culture in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has published two monographs with Palgrave, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation (2005) and On the Production of Subjectivity: Five Diagrams of the Finite-Infinite Relation (2012), and is the editor, with Stephen Zepke, of both Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New (Continuum, 2008) and Deleuze and Contemporary Art (Edinburgh University Press, 2010). He also makes art, with David Burrows and others, under the name Plastique Fantastique.

Andrew Osborne

Entropy-economy, Biospheric Crisis and Eco-ethical Valuation - Download Full Text Here

Ever since William Stanley Jevons raised the Coal Question in 1865, the development of entropy economics has been seen as an innovative reformulation of economic processes, taking into account the energetic limits to growth in relation to energy invested (ERoEI). However, the field of bioeconomics––first fully systematized by Georgescu-Roegen/Daly––suffers from similar inattentions to those that originally constrained Jevons; namely the lack of a properly Marxist class perspective appreciative of the social relations of production.
Consequently, the designation of entropy as order (or usefulness) must be understood as an anthropomorphic category and therefore requires a dialectical intervention in terms of those class relations that shape the productive use of nature. Such an intervention serves to highlight the uncritical views implicit in the market valuation of nature (as espoused by entropy economics) and the uselessness of the superimposition of ecological values onto idealised models of capitalism, ignorant of material and social relations.
In this regard, we are required to critically reconsider the insufficiency of contemporary modes of eco-ethical valuation, including prosaic forms of ‘art not oil’ protest which preach ‘autonomous changes in human values’ without due consideration of the real material-social process.

Andrew Osborne studied in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, completing his MA in Contemporary Art Theory and is a visiting lecturer in History of Art at Middlesex University. He is currently researching common pool resources, robust institutions of collective action and Worker Centers in the US.

Benedict Singleton

Maximum Jailbreak - Find Full Text Here

First formulated one hundred and fifty years ago by the heretical scholar Nikolai Federov, the doctrine of cosmism begins with an absolute refusal to treat the most basic factors conditioning life on earth – gravity and time – as necessary constraints on action. As manifest in its early advocates’ intoxicated cheers that humans should storm the heavens and conquer death, cosmism’s foundational gesture was to reformulate the earth as a trap, and understand the role of philosophy, economics and design to be the creation of means to escape it – a heist in which the human species steals itself from the vault.
The force of this radical declaration of intent was swiftly curtailed by the stagey shows of national prowess and political-economic short-circuits of the so-called space race it helped to kick-start. But cosmism, at once a speculative intellectual vector and the design project par excellence, resurges today with new resources at its disposal. From recent work in AI and evolutionary biology to anonymous 13th century Arabic texts that proclaim humans to be more like god than are other animals because they are more cunning, this talk will map out footholds for a contemporary ascent into the dark.

Benedict Singleton is a designer and writer who lives and works in London. He is director and co-founder, with Ilona Gaynor, of the experimental studio The Department of No. Their work draws on architecture, film and writing to articulate sophisticated plots that explore contemporary developments in design, technology, politics, economics and law, and has been presented in venues around the world. The studio’s current major project, Under Black Carpets - a plan for the largest bank heist ever to be committed - will be debuted in a disused bank vault at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Sept. 2013. 

Ida Soulard

Heal the knife that cuts the wound

On March 11th 2011 at 2.46 pm local time, a 8.9-magnitude earthquake shook the Japanese archipelago. Less than an hour after, the first waves of the tsunami started crashing on the east coast of Japan. Entire cities were devastated, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was almost entirely flooded, more than 15 000 persons died and around 4000 disappeared. The day after, at 3.36pm a first hydrogen explosion occurred in the reactor n°1 and was transmitted by the international broadcasting system. On the 16th, another explosion in reactor n°2 damaged the containment building and led to the fear of a reactor core meltdown accident.
From few days after artists went to the Tohoku region to confront those two new landscapes, different in nature as well as in their regime of representation: the Catastrophic - made of rubbles, debris and destruction, sculpted by the violence of the combined earthquake and tsunami -and the Disastrous - bathed in the invisible light of radioactivity. But in both cases, the question of the real, either overwhelming or insufficient, has been a core issue when all immunological spheres have been burst. The threat is not an outsider anymore, but comes from a reflexive modernity that looped upon itself and consequently led to this phenomenon: the gentpatsu-shinsai, a “natural” catastrophe leading to a nuclear accident,half-human, half-geological. What we today call the Anthropocene is a dynamic that erodes even more the above categories and makes the difference between geological and human, natural and artificial, even thinner.
How artists worked from, within and with the “Tohoku crisis”? How this crisis also worked and shaped new artistic practices? How did artists try to think from within this emergency of the present? This case study will focus on and discuss several artistic strategies developed by artists on the aftermath of the Tohoku crisis. By confronting the very specific and new situation of our time, these artists and productions can serve as models for defining an art of the Anthropocene. Fukushima is not a Japanese issue.

Ida Soulard is an art historian and writer based in Paris. She received a BA in Modern Literature from Sorbonne University in 2006 and a MA in Art History from l’Ecole du Louvre and The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in 2012. She currently works as an assistant curator for the cultural department of La Monnaie de Paris and as a teaching assistant at Science Po Paris and collaborates to various specialized magazines.  

Olivier Surel

Naturalism’s Nihilistic Tendencies and the Politics of Nature - Download Full Text Here

Is the creed of the naturalist practice of philosophy “everything must go”? Do we have to think of the proposal to eliminate from our conceptual scheme purpose, intentionality, or colors, as a case of hard-nosed nihilism in a culture that, in the words of Nietzsche, is “like a river that wants to reach the end”? Or could we think, with the dissonant voices of the enlightened readers of neo-darwinism, that there could be a way to embrace, as Alex Rosenberg coined it, a “nice nihilism”? We will postulate that in naturalism’s nihilistic tendencies, or more precisely, and to borrow Dennett’s phrasing, in its tendency to dissolve the truths of commonsense in the “universal acid” of scientific enquiry, a smooth form of nihilism is indeed identifiable. But to achieve this, naturalism has to take into account what its last justifications of the accuracy of the manifest image of the world point at: a politics of nature, one that faces the challenge of the epistemological crisis triggered by the current ecological crisis.

Olivier Surel is a Doctoral researcher in philosophy at Université Paris X - Nanterre La Défense. He is notably a member of the journal Multitudes (Paris) and of the Critical Social Ontology group (Berlin).

Tom Trevatt

A Universal Address 

In an unpublished fragment of Robert Smithson’s writings on Donald Judd from the late 1960s the former reveals his antagonism to the latter’s “literal” or “interesting” art. For Smithson, art was not to be interesting, which always presupposes a human addressee, thus preserving the personal, anthropocentric sense of authority, but to be “a cosmos”, addressed to the universe rather than the human. In this short paper I will expand the notion of a cosmic or universal address. Following a true to the universe logic as proposed by Reza Negarestani, this universal address indexes both the site and the recipient of the work, insisting that work is part of, or cut from, the universal continuum, not standing at a critical distance from it. Understanding the organic as undertaking a negentropic technology of self-organisation as Ray Brassier proposes, would reformulate interpretation, or the addressed subject, as not transcendentally, but immanently, located. Continuing the work of Copernican thought I will explicate a realism of the encounter that disavows art’s rehabilatory tendency towards positioning the subject-viewer as the centralised and dominant locus of meaning production, envisioning, with Smithson, “non-anthropocentric progressions into an abstract infinite sphere”.

Tom Trevatt is a curator and writer based in London. He has a research laboratory at David Roberts Art Foundation and is undertaking a PhD in Curating at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He teaches at Goldsmiths, The Royal College and Parsons, Paris. He is speaking at the 4th Former West Congress held in Berlin this March. 

Inigo Wilkins

Enemy of Music Download Full Text Here

In 1917 the cosmist-inspired pioneer of synthetic music Evgeny Sholpo proclaims that the automation of sound production according to mathematics would annihilate the anthropic regime of music through its extraordinary capacity for ultrachromatic noise. In 1952, Cage performs a Ptolemaic counter-revolution by incorporating all noise and silence within the terran horizon of music. However this gesture cannot stop the disindoxicating vector unleashed by the mechanical oscillator, for Xenakis unburdens this hook like a jettisoned propulsive stage, leaving earthly orbit with a burst of stochastic resonance. If the anticipation of rhythmic, melodic and harmonic predictabilities forms the basis of the standard conception of music, the non-standard use of noise no longer abandons all musical constraints or rhythmic affordances but accelerates their mutation. Orthodox noise’s compression of information is uncompromisingly extended to incorporate unpredictable and hyper-spectral complexity across many orders of magnitude. This is no longer the formulaic negation of genre, but takes up incompossible generic tropes and rhythmic regularities and uses them as material for a radically unbound form of analysis without phenomenal synthesis.

Inigo Wilkins is a PhD student at Goldsmith’s Centre for Culture Studies. His thesis title is ‘Irreversible Noise’. He is also a research fellow working with Mute magazine and the Post Media Lab at Lüneburg University on the subsumption of sociality. There are some links to his work here.

Alex Williams

At the Dawn of the Anthropocene

At the dawn of the new geological era known as the Anthropocene, humanity faces a curious and terrifying conjuncture. We are so powerful a species as to be registering on the geological scale, principally in the impact of anthropogenic global warming. Simultaneously we stand immobilized in the face of these transformations, seemingly rushing headless towards civilizational collapse. As the politics of climate change play out, it becomes increasingly clear that reduction of carbon outputs will occur too late, if at all, to avoid dangerous levels of climactic disruption. This paper will argue that in order to confront these challenges, we must reassess the place of the Enlightenment, not as well-discredited myth of Westernised progress, but as process of radical disenchantment. We will consider the work of Ray Brassier to be exemplary in terms of repositioning enlightenment as a technoscientific vector of nihilism, denuding our folk conceptions of the primacy of the human within a universe of profound hostility and indifference. Accompanying this transposition of the role of the human must come a renovation of the meaning of ‘mastery’, in light of the picture of the world painted by the contemporary complexity sciences. Between these two pincers we propose a ‘dark enlightenment’ of post-complexity mastery. To conclude, two images of the aesthetic will be considered: the horror of the anthropogenic sublime, as embodied in recent documentary footage of ice-sheet shearing in the arctic, and an alternative figuration in the form of Metis, cunning intelligence in the practice of craft. It will be contended that whilst the former paralyses human action, the latter might underpin a praxis adequate to our dark enlightenment, in particular in terms of how we might configure action in intervening in radically contingent complex systems.

Alex Williams is a PhD student at the University of East London, working on a thesis entitled ‘Hegemony and Complexity’. His research interests include rationalism, realism, nihilism, the history of neoliberalism, and post-capitalist economics. He is also the author, with Nick Srnicek, of the forthcoming ‘Folk Politics’.

Ungrounding the Object
Treignac Projet
Centre International d’Art et du Paysage de l’île de Vassivière
1st-9th September 2012

Levi Bryant

Towards a Machine-Oriented Aesthetics: On the Power of Art    

The text can be downloaded here

Levi Bryant is Professor of Philosophy at Collin College in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. He is part of the Object-Oriented philosophy movement and coined the term “object-oriented ontology” in 2009. His own version of object-oriented thought, called ‘Onticology’, disprivileges human experience from a central position in metaphysical inquiry, while holding that objects are always split between two domains, virtuality and actuality. Levi Bryant has also written extensively about post-structural and cultural theory, including the work of Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Rancière, and Slavoj Zizek.

Gabriel Catren

A Portrait of the Object as a Disclosing Eidos

In this talk, we shall propose a quantum mechanical conception of physical objects according to which seven things are needed to define the resulting formal ontology: claritas, quidittas, symmetria, integritas, activitas, consonantia, and realitas.

Gabriel Catren is Researcher of the Centre de Recherche en Epistémologie Appliquée at Ecole Polytechnique/ CNRS in Paris and Director of the research program Savoir et Système at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. His ground-breaking research as a physicist examines general relativity and Yang-Mills and interrogates the philosophical foundations of gauge theories and quantum mechanics.

Patricia Falguières

Patricia Falguières is an art historian and Professor of Renaissance cultural history at the school for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris and at l’École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux. For several years, she has been working on the notion of technè from Renaissance era on. Since 2006, she runs collaboratively with Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Elisabeth Leibovici and Hans Ulrich Obrist the seminar series “Something You Should Know: Artists and Producers Today” . She is the author of La Chambre des merveilles (Bayard, 2003).

Graham Harman 

Art and Paradox 

This lecture discusses two types of paradox pertaining to human knowledge, and the relation that art has to both. The first paradox is the one debated by Meno and Socrates, resulting in the Socratic claim that we both have and do not have the truth. Our inability to gain direct access to reality is what justifies philosophy as philosophia (or love of wisdom rather than wisdom itself) and rules out both mathematism and scientism as defensible models of philosophy. The second paradox is the familiar dispute over whether truth is discovered or invented. Given that no direct access to reality is possible, the observation of truth itself seems to be part of the truth, yet the observer also cannot create truth ex nihilo. These two paradoxes are not new, but if we look at them carefully, we can draw new conclusions from them. In this way, a different light is shed on the relation between philosophy and art, which is closer than the currently fashionable brotherhood of philosophy with mathematics and the hard sciences.

Graham Harman is Professor of Philosophy and Associate Provost for Research Administration at the American University in Cairo. He is the author of ten books, most recently Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy - scheduled for publication on September 28. Graham Harman is also the editor of the Speculative Realism book series at Edinburgh University Press, and - with Bruno Latour - co-editor of the New Metaphysics book series at Open Humanities Press.

Sarah Lauro

Timothy Morton 

Art Without You 

Timothy Morton is Professor of Literature and the Environment at the University of California, Davis. He is part of the Object-Oriented philosophy movement and explores the intersection of the object-oriented thought and ecological studies. He coined the term “hyperobject”, in 2010, to explain objects so massively distributed in time and space as to transcend localization, such as climate change. Tim Morton has also written extensively about the literature of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley, Romanticism, diet studies and ecotheory. His writings include Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (Open Humanity Press, forthcoming), Objects in Mirror Are Closer than They Appear (Singularum 1, 2012), and the seminal Ecology Without Nature (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Bertrand Prévost 

The image in itself – Towards a cosmological aesthetics 

Bertrand Prévost is an art historian and philosopher, Professor at the University Michel de Montaigne- Bordeaux 3, his research focuses on the Italian Renaissance art theory. He is the author of La peinture en actes. Gestes et manières dans l’Italie de la Renaissance (Actes Sud, 2007), Boticelli, le manège allégorique (1:1, 2011) and L’humaniste, le peintre et le philosophe. La théorie de l’art selon Leon Battista Alberti (Forthcoming). He now mainly works on the elaboration of a “cosmological aesthetic” through a renewed concept of “expression”.

Nick Srnicek 

Navigating Neoliberalism. Political Aesthetics after the Crisis 

The continuing economic crisis that began in 2007 has left a vacuum at the centre of economic ideology. While the dominant neoliberal ideology of the past four decades has become a zombie – long dead, but still wreaking havoc – there has been a palpable dearth of alternatives. The contention of this paper is that a major reason for this absence of alternatives lies in the specific nature of the economy as an object. As a complex, non-empirical system, the economy extends itself beyond the finite capacities of human comprehension. The complexity and abstraction of global finance requires a suitably complex and abstract form of aesthetic representation in order to modulate our access to it. What is necessary to represent the economy is, first, the effective use of mathematical and technological tools to extend cognition beyond the sensible parameters of the human. An aesthetics of the sublime emerges here, with big data, complexity, and multi-causal relations converging on representations of the economy that are themselves beyond human comprehension. To complete the representation of the economic object what is necessary is therefore, second, an aesthetics of the interface which modulates the relationship between the technological representation of the complex economic object and the human cognitive system. It is in these two mediation points that art can serve a significant political function – by contributing to the cognitive and sensible leverage over economic complexity. 

Nick Srnicek is a graduate student at the London School of Economics in International Relations. His research examines how technology is used and adapted to grapple with the emergent complexities of our modern world. His work aims to expand the conception of technology in IR, with its narrow focus on communication and military technology. It also aims to demonstrate the ways in which technology operates not merely as an empty vessel for human intentions - the social constructivist and instrumentalist thesis -, but instead invokes a relative materialist autonomy of its own. He is co-editor of The Speculative Turn (Re.press, 2011) with Levi Bryant and Graham Harman, and co-author of Folk Politics (Zero Books, 2013) with Alex Williams.

Ben Woodard

Fearful Knowledge

Ben Woodard recently completed a masters degree in philosophy at the European Graduate School. He has published several essays combining nature philosophy, Speculative Realism, and weird fiction. He blogs at naughtthought.wordpress.com and his first mono- graph Slime Dynamics: Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life is forthcoming from Zer0 Books.

Art without Aesthetics
December 2011

Sam Basu 

Sam Basu is an artist (Goldsmiths, London) and co- founder of the experimental art space Treignac Projet, France where he has worked with, amongst others, Matt Packer, Shahin Afrassiabi, Luxury Logico, and New international School. This large scale space has been the basis for ongoing projects with interdisciplinary artists working on pedagogic strategies in arts’ practice. He is the founding editor of Madam Wang, a journal for Geo- distributed collaboration, and regular collaborator with numerous arts and architecture groups.

Fabien Giraud

Fabien Giraud is an artist based in Paris. He is best known for his collaboration with Raphaël Siboni with whom he has exhibited in many museums and biennales internationally since 2006, including ‘Dynasty’, a group show at the Palais de Tokyo and the Museum of Modern Art, Paris – 2010, ‘Repetition Island’, at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2010, Moscow Bienniale – 2009, Santa Fe Biennial – 2008, ‘Superdome’, Solo show at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris – 2008, Lyon Bienniale – 2007. In 2011, he initiated a series of solo works under the heading Du Mort Qui Saisit Le Vif. All the works under this generic and programmatic title are part of a long-term project that is conceived as a kind of technological saga and which might be summed up as follows: technology is not the preserve of man.

His conversation with Quentin Meillassoux can be found here (French only)

Quentin Meillassoux

Quentin Meillassoux is a French philosopher. He teaches at the University Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne in Paris and is the author of After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (Continuum 2008) and The Number and the Siren: A Decipherment of Mallarme’s Coup De Des (Urbanomics 2012).He has been described as the most rapidly prominent French philosopher in the Anglophone world since Jacques Derrida in the 1960s.

His conversation with Fabien Giraud can be found here (French only)

Ida Soulard

Ida Soulard is an art historian and writer based in Paris. She received a BA in Modern Literature from Sorbonne University in 2006 and a MA in Art History from l’Ecole du Louvre and The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in 2012. She currently works as an assistant curator for the cultural department of La Monnaie de Paris and as a teaching assistant at Science Po Paris and collaborates to various specialized magazines.  

Tom Trevatt

Tom Trevatt is a curator and writer based in London. He has a research laboratory at David Roberts Art Foundation and is undertaking a PhD in Curating at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He teaches at Goldsmiths, The Royal College and Parsons, Paris. He is speaking at the 4th Former West Congress held in Berlin this March.