P.15: Realism and materialism: important watchwords in intellectual and cultural discourse today (reality can be known without its
being shaped by and for human comprehension).
This view opposes the one dominant for the past 50 years (notably phenomenology, hermeneutics, post- structuralism, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis) - which affirmed the indispensability of, among other things, ideology and power.
Speculative Realism (most stridently challenged critical orthodoxies).
Art is… not just a field transfigured by realism and materialism; it is also a method for convening and extending what they are taken to be and do when extended beyond philosophical argument.
P.16: there is to date a dearth of reflection and argument on … reciprocal salience [between realism, materialism, and art]
Absence of “transcendental signified” (J. Derrida) - a fundamental reality that could arrest or ground the proliferation of discourse, signification, and interpretation.
J. Lacan: “there is no such thing as a prediscursive reality, because every reality is founded by a discourse”. “It is the world of words that creates the world of things.”
M. Foucault: “there is nothing absolutely primary to interpret, for after all everything is already interpretation.”
Slavoj Žižek:“The pre-synthetic Real is, stricto sensu, impossible: a level that must be retroactively presupposed, but can never actually be encountered.”
Correlationism (Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude) - “we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other”.
(wiki: humans cannot exist without the world nor the world without humans)
According to Meillassoux, correlationism is “the central notion of modern philosophy since Kant.”
P. 17: Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” consisted in arguing that, contrary to the ordinary view that thought conforms to the objects it apprehends, objects conform to our thought.
- must exist in order to provide the content for thought;
- can only be posits of thought or faith, not items of knowledge.
(Successors saw here the contradiction - as in order to posit the thing-in-itself’s existence means to transcend the limit he had declared impassable.)
Hegel: no such division (subject/object, mind/world) - “absolutized correlation”. Absolute= correlation between thinking and being.
Postwar thought: departure from Kant, externalises his views (Kant’s structures of cognition - > <- discourse, discursive regimes, ideology). Nonetheless, it reproduced the structure of Kant’s position: real is accessible only as a mediated by discourse or (Hegel) constituted by it.
P.18 - Alain Badiou and François Laruelle: recent affirmation of realism.
Badiou: theory of universal truth.
Laruelle: does not attempt to represent the real but to think alongside or according to the Real.
Deleuze: pure metaphysician, disparaging from linguistics in favour of mathematics.
Speculative Realism conference, Goldsmiths, 2007: Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Ray Brassier, and Iain Hamilton Grant.
1) critique of correlationism/anthropocentrism;
2) disinterest in the “linguistic turn” of XX century philosophy/cultural theory;
P.20: Graham Harman: “all things distort, caricature, or inadequately translate the other things they encounter, leaving the things- in- themselves (what Harman calls the “real objects”) to “withdraw” from any access. In other words, the withdrawal of objects is not some cognitive trauma that afflicts only humans and a few smart animals, but expresses the permanent inadequacy of any relation at all.
p.21 - the world is fundamentally composed of “objects”…[and] every object has two faces: a “sensual” face that can be encountered by other objects and a “real” face that withdraws from all relations (skeptical realism).
Meillassoux and Brassier - >< - Harman
Real is indeed accessible but through reason, science, and mathematics.
Meillassoux: correlationism cannot be simply dismissed, because even though its wrong, it is rationally consistent.
Hyper-Chaos: there is no reason for anything to be or to remain the way it is; everything must , without reason, be able not to be and/or be able to be other than it is.
Brassier: appeal to naturalism, disenchantment of the world (since Enlightenment)
p. 23 - Grant + Brassier - idealism+realism (although they are opposed) = idealist materialism
Grant: explores Shelling and Deleuze. Shelling reveals how “mind is a product of nature”.
Feminism -> materialism (Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler, and
Elizabeth Grosz, Rosi Braidotti - taking up materialist and realist arguments and strategies.
Many feminist theorists turned from questions of language and representation toward the capacity of material bodies to affect and be affected by one another.
Prevalent interest (feminist theory/art practice): divide between human beings
and nonhuman animals.
1) establish a counter model to both norms of scientificinvestigation and feminist suspicions about technology and science;
2) to rethink embodiment (on a realist/materialist footing).
Elizabeth Wilson, “Biology Is Not Destiny”: connectionist neurobiology - lived experience is transforming human cortical-nerve system.
Catherine Malabou: “transition from a purely biological entity to a mental entity” (via natural history of the mind).
The power of the linguistic-graphic scheme is diminishing and plasticity is establishing itself as the paradigmatic figure of organisation in general.
Manuel DeLanda: vindicates Deleuze’s rejection of the “hylomorphic model,” in which entities arise through the imposition of form on inert matter, in favor of a conception of nature as intrinsically self- organizing.
p. 25 - All materialists are realists, but not all realists are materialists (real need not be materially manifest, e.g. symbolic meaning).
VIEWS BY THINKERS:
Harman: rejects materialism, as it posed threat to his object-oriented realism (because materialism views objects either as reducible to smaller components and forces or mere bundles of qualities).
Laruelle: rejects materialism arguing that materialism remains a philosophical theory of matter that conceives matter in its own philosophical self-image rather than encountering it in its own right.
Meillassoux eschews the term “speculative realism” in favour of “speculative materialism” (to differentiate from “naive realism” and ordinary conceptions of “reality”).
Brassier: committed to materialist naturalism of the sciences rather than a broadly conceived realism.
Idealism - the view that reality is fundamentally mental or mind-like.
Essentialism - A philosophical theory ascribing ultimate reality to essence embodied in a thing perceptible to the senses.
p.26 Notes on Contemporary art:
Art is construed as always caught up in webs of discourse and interpretation without origin, end, or ground.
Epistemologically: rejects naive conceptions of representation and signification that construe images and signs as picturing … pre-given world.
Ontologically: rejects essentialism - construal of the world as manifesting fixed conceptual or material essences to which images and signs would refer.
In contrast to essentialism, c.a. aims to foster contingency of meaning, the multiplicity of interpretation, possibility of change.
In sum, C.A. = practice+theory+criticism -> maintain that experience is always necessarily mediated by the symbolic field.
In this light,
Nature/matter - merely a social construction
Science - historical and cultural discourse (no priority over other discourses)
Truth - (1) measure of claim’s coherence to other accepted claims or (2) term applied to claims that are currently uncontested.
-> these lead to resurgent interest in materialism and realism.
Meillassoux: collaborated with sound artist Florian Hecker: Speculative Solution
Ray Brassier: collaborated with Mattin, Jean-Luc Guionnet, and Seijiro Murayama.
“Genre Is Obsolete,” in Noise and Capitalism - arteleku.net/audiolab/noise_capitalism.pdf
“Metal Machine Theory” (with Mattin), Revue & Corrigée 86 (December 2010), available at
www.mattin.org/METAL_MACHINE_THEORY.html; and “Idioms and Idiots” (with Mattin, Guionnet, and
Seijiro), Revue & Corrigée 93 (September 2012), available at
What traction that challenge will have on contemporary art?
2010, Tate Modern exhibition “The Real Thing”, panel discussion curated by Robin Mackay (Urbanomic).
Object-oriented philosophy was popularised in talks by writers Levi Bryant and Timothy Morton.
C.A. long-standing interest: limitations of human perceptual and linguistic conditions of understanding.
P.28 - Documenta 13 (2012) as the most prominent project inspired by object-oriented thinking.
Exhibition catalogue: texts by Harman, Haraway, Braidotti, and Karen Barad.
⁃ Art as a complex form of knowledge, which is irreducible to a single explanation, question, subject matter or paradigm. Art and artistic research often avoid any form of stable meaning (www.d13.documenta.de/#/programs/).
⁃ “In the Holocene”: artworks dealing with questions of entropy, consciousness, perception, and deep time (proposing that art could expand upon the science’s speculative potential).
⁃ Bruno Latour (deconstruction of the modern boundaries between culture and nature), his cross- disciplinary curatorial projects: “Iconoclash” (2002) and “Making Things Public” (2005) - subverting the primacy of art objects, a.o.=scientific and cultural artifacts.
Latour We Have Never Been Modern -> Anselm Franke’s “Animism” (2010–2012) (wiki - Animism is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence); “Ghosts in the Machine” (2012), Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion- Murayari; Mark Leckey’s UK touring exhibition “The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things” (2013) (digital interfaces are making objects more human).
Some new terms associated with new realist/materialist ideas: ancestrality, techno- animism, dark ecology, cosmology, de-anthropocentrism, animality, hyperstition, and affect.
Less attention, though, is given to the dilemma implicit in the term art itself (post-Duchampian legacy, focus on signification shifts within linguistic and cultural framing).
p. 30 - What remains unexamined is the challenge that realism presents to the way artworks claim to produce meaning.
p.30 - Section 3: (conslusion)
There is then no uniform or particularly consistent account for the current conditions, ambitions, and frameworks of realism, materialism, and art.
1) catch key moments in the current discussion of realism and materialism, predominantly in relation to art but also in relation to other fields;
2) to expand the terms of engagement of realism, materialism, and art;
3) to affirm the contention that no thematic or discipline has a privilege in realist or materialist investigations.