Suhail Malik: Contemporary Art → Ex-art: Retro-transfiguration Into the Commonplace

Time: 9th November, 5:30 pm
Place: 102 aud. (Malūnų str. 3, Vilnius)

Contemporary art overcame modernism in the mid-1970s, prevailing as the transformative logic of art in the North Atlantic and setting the format for contemporary art's subsequent global expansion from the late-1990s onwards. For Arthur C. Danto, contemporary art's endlessly expansive capacity is a result of its openness as to what counts as art. Such a radical plastic multiplicity is itself a consequence of contemporary art's basic operation being to do with how things are seen, interpreted and given status as art — the principal themes of conceptual art — rather than with what gets made as art. As Danto put it at the time of contemporary art's hegemonic establishment, contemporary art is primarily 'a transfiguration of the commonplace'. 

But while contemporary art is now fully ensconced as art's undisputed hegemon, things are now different. Contemporary art is now fully integrated into a global social-entertainment network; artists are part of the celebrity circuit; artspaces and creatives are key elements in gentrification strategies; museums of contemporary art are significant attractors for international tourism; and artists work in hybrid and hyphenated formations: artist-designer-researcher, artist-architect-DJ, artist-chef-writer-activist, and so on. As a leading protagonist of the wild creativity celebrated across the dynamic edge of capitalist reorganisation, contemporary art reverses into the everydayness from which Danto sought to distinguish it. Specifically, contemporary art is now seamlessly integrated into the commonplace of capitalist development. And more than that: contemporary art justifies new structures and channels of highly stratified accumulation.

This talk elaborates how and why this current common transformation of art and capital accumulation together is underway. And what is required of art if, on the one hand, is not to adopt reactive formations against this combined process while also, and on the other hand, art is to now invent effective counterproposals to the new predations of capital accumulation, predations abetted by contemporary art itself. 

Suhail Malik is Co-Director of the MFA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, London, where he holds a Readership in Critical Studies, and was 2012-15 Visiting Faculty at CCS Bard, New York. Recent and forthcoming publications include, as author, On the Necessity of Art's Exit From Contemporary Art (forthcoming) and 'The Ontology of Finance' in Collapse 8: Casino Real (2014), and, as co-editor, Realism Materialism Art (2015), Genealogies of Speculation (2016), The Time-Complex. Postcontemporary (2016), a Special Issue of the journal Finance and Society on 'Art and Finance' (2016), and The Flood of Rights (2017). 

The event is organised by Rupert in collaboration with Vilnius Art Academy. Rupert Alternative Education program is kindly supported by Lithuanian Council for Culture, and Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.