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Conceptualising the Coming World, Rearming Collective Thought

Florian Gaité
Traduction de Phoebe Clarke
p. 151-155
Cet article est une traduction de :
Penser le monde à venir, réarmer la pensée du collectif
General Intellects: Twenty-One Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century
McKenzie Wark, General Intellects: Twenty-One Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century

Londres : Verso, 2017, 326p. 24 x 16cm, eng


ISBN : 9781786631909. _ 16,99 £

Reclaiming Art, Reshaping Democracy: The New Patrons & Participatory Art
Reclaiming Art, Reshaping Democracy: The New Patrons & Participatory Art

Dijon : Les Presses du réel, 2017, 431p. ill. en noir et en coul. 25 x 16cm, eng

ISBN : 9782840667209. _ 28,00 €

Sous la dir. de Xavier Douroux, Estelle Zhong Mengual

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Texte intégral

1In his analysis of Kant's “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?”, Michel Foucault defined modern criticism as a way of detecting a difference in history within one's own time, of being mindful of the plasticity of one's present. Two books expound on the capacity of intellectuals and artists to survey current events and “see what's coming”, identifying what the times are pregnant with and what already pervades them. From the future of industrial societies within the newest forms of capitalism to the fate of democracies faced with neoliberal excesses, the present is addressed from the perspective of these high-risk changes that demand new collective action.

2In his examination of the present times through the prism of the past, the sociologist McKenzie Wark draws on Marx's Fragment on Machines in order to test the validity of speculation on the future of industrialisation. Beyond the paradox it raises – an automated society at once promises emancipation for workers and threatens knowledge with alienation by technology – the author seeks to secure arguments for a theory that would be located neither on the side of technophobic rejection or technophile optimism. His critical introduction to the ideas of 21 thinkers active in the public debate presents a diachronic cross-view of the international intellectual landscape, revealing its salient features, situated at the intersection of post-marxist philosophy, psychoanalysis, cultural studies, speculative realism, political theory, communication studies and critical epistemology. From the confrontation of these different kinds of knowledge emerges the shared notion of the crisis of the subject, attributed to “technological slavery” and the “decline of symbolism”, which, in the new dominant economic model (“semiocapitalism”, “cognitive” or “cultural” capitalism), reveals the market's inability to fulfil technology's promises of emancipation. Beyond their intrinsic divergences (post-structuralist linguistics versus materialist empiricism, cosmopolitism versus agonistic democracy), the synthesis of these voices above all points to the difficulty of thinking in a world where information is monetised, and the necessity there is of doing so through resistance.

3McKenzie Wark's theory is implicit throughout: he believes that the constitution of a technology-savvy creative class (hackers) could be the symptom of a repositioning of artists in relation to politics. The volume edited by Estelle Zong Mengual and Xavier Douroux supports this argument with its study of the appearance of new modes of collaboration through the analysis of an institutional initiative (the Fondation de France's “Les Nouveaux commanditaires” [New Patrons] project). By organising the mediation between artists, cultural agents, politicians and audiences, the program effectively is a micro-model of participative democracy, attesting to contemporary art's tendency to becoming a laboratory for communal forms, without this being a mere aestheticisation of politics. This pragmatic project, freed from the norms of the market, rests upon the need for pacified exchange in a consensual environment: from evaluating needs to the concerted making of an artwork, and the election of a project by a committee, it embodies an ethical, economic, social and cultural ideal, that exceeds the usual framework of public commissions.

4“Les Nouveaux commanditaires” [New Patrons] programme thus revitalises the participative experimentalism of John Cage, Fluxus, George Brecht or the GRAV, along with the idea of shared authorship with the audience of conceptual art, in order to deconstruct the old hierarchies and redistribute relationships with artists. In this new regime of cohabitation, the mediator (galleries, curators...) becomes the operator of a social relationship, whereas the audience self-appoints itself as autonomous subject. At the heart of this “constellation”, the artwork becomes the catalyst for an encounter in the strongest sense, in which participation leads to an heightened consciousness of togetherness.

5As discussions of individualism and ghettoisation have highjacked the public debate, these contemporary thinkers remind us how important it is to rearm our concept of collectivity, by drawing upon artistic strategies that reshape the idea of democracy. It is only through this inclusive pluralism that art can operate its shift from institutional critique to political action.

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Référence papier

Florian Gaité, « Conceptualising the Coming World, Rearming Collective Thought », Critique d’art, 49 | 2017, 151-155.

Référence électronique

Florian Gaité, « Conceptualising the Coming World, Rearming Collective Thought », Critique d’art [En ligne], 49 | Automne/hiver 2017, mis en ligne le 21 novembre 2018, consulté le 19 décembre 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/critiquedart.27215

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Florian Gaité

Florian Gaité holds a PhD in Philosophy, is a research fellow at the Institut ACTE (Sorbonne Paris 1 University- CNRS), a lecturer of Art theory (Paris VIII and Lille III universities), and a critic (a member of AICA-France, he collaborates with Art press and France Culture). He is also a dramaturgy consultant to dance companies, a curator and a debate organiser at the CDN-La Commune theatre in Aubervilliers. He is the coauthor of Collaboration et co-création entre artistes : duos, groupes et collectifs en arts plastiques du début des années 1960 à nos jours (Canopé, forthcoming (2017) and is currently co-directing Créations, cerveaux, infinis (Presses universitaires de Rennes, forthcoming (2018).

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