Art After Culture? cumulative conference in New York

Art After Culture? cumulative conference in New York

Forces from Libya’s new regime fight Gaddafi troops in Sirte as Masoud Biswir plays the guitar on 10 October, 2011. Photo: Aris Messinis

e-flux journal presents
Art After Culture? cumulative conference in New York
June 14, 2019
311 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a “global” art world began to form. Sure, there were already a number of world’s fairs and established international biennials, but this would be different. From the 1990s onward, national boundaries would dissolve, centers and peripheries would level out, and the internet would host worldwide cultural exchange. In many ways this really did happen, but some other things also happened. As people and ideas began to move across borders, money did too. Faced with an unmanageable planetary scale, capital became a more efficient regulator of flows than laws or nations. Suddenly, capital rises to become the primary form of representation and expression for the global community, and its flair for flexibility and recombination would even be mistaken for a democratic, autonomous, or anti-authoritarian character, sealing it in as a new form of sublime non-governance. Capital’s twin, the internet, would also democratize many scarce resources and forms of representation just as efficiently as it would mask its control by state agencies and some of the largest corporations in human history.

In art, the call to join with the global would be answered by a vast industry of events—pop-up museological exhibitions across the world—that would animate a thriving art market. Artworks would be produced and exhibited on a previously unimagined scale, and newspapers would distinguish works by their relation to capital (record-setting prices). Better-informed practitioners in the field of art who might once have used politics or history to engage with artworks found themselves faced with cultures they did not understand, and by no fault of their own. Suddenly, the passage to any political or historical understanding would be covered over by the abstraction of cultural exchange—a mode of communication that supposes that you don’t really understand where I am from or what I have been through. Forced to pander to a global community with unlimited resources but limited access to the forces and urgencies that animate my own work and thinking, I may even become foreign to myself. I may seek global approval to accept that my own politics, my own history, even exist. Without that recognition, I might need to enlarge the spectacle—add violence, sharper colors, car chases, happy endings, a whiff of fascism, or a full sectarian withdrawal from the superstate.

But the mandate to become cultural becomes far more complex than this when the globe tells us what we already know to be to true: that with or without the recognition of a planet of others, we still do not understand what we ourselves have been through. An art aligned with modern and humanist traditions and ambitions appears unhelpful. The cultural peculiarities of European scientific, industrial, and political revolutions seem only to deepen the problem. Faced with looming planetary ecological meltdown, when institutions that were not qualified to blaze pathways for all of humankind to begin with come down from their galactic ambitions, they too land on culture—not as a project or technology, but as a naturalized way of including politics and histories they are unable or unwilling to understand. They, too, forfeit questions of scale to global flows of spectacle and capital.

The cumulative conference at e-flux asks: If we remember the artistic avant-garde tradition and its iconoclastic contempt for culture, how can we reconcile our own unknown culture with apparently simultaneous traditionalist fetishes? If we are now chained to an apparatus of representation that can only be spectacular in its scale, what is the project that art must necessarily undertake against reactionary self-homogenizing withdrawals? Can art still gain access to something larger than the culture it was born into? If staging mass ecological self-extinction is the ultimate spectacle, perhaps we should pause for a moment to see it not as human death but as a cultural endpoint. And if art—ancient, modern, or whatever—was always able to project past these endpoints, then what is art after culture?

Join us at e-flux on Friday, June 14, from 7–9 pm and Saturday, June 15 from 10:30am–7:30pm for “Art After Culture?,” the fourth and cumulative installment of the conference series Art After Culture? organized in RotterdamParisBerlin, and New York launching off the next ten years of e-flux journal.

With Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abu Rahme, Franco “Bifo” BerardiMary Walling Blackburn, Kaye Cain-Nielsen, Keller Easterling, Irmgard EmmelhainzLiam Gillick, Boris Groys, The New Red Order, Charles Mudede, Reza Negarestani, The Otolith Group, Hito Steyerl, Anton Vidokle, and Brian Kuan Wood.



FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 7–9pm

7pm Introduction by Anton Vidokle

7:15pm Boris Groys, “The Museum as the Cradle of Revolution” | lecture and Q&A

8:15pm Hito Steyerl, “A Campfire Story” | lecture


SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 10:30am–7:30pm

10:35am Liam Gillick, “To The Gardeners of the Creative!” | prologue

10:45am Introduction by Kaye Cain-Nielsen and Brian Kuan Wood

11:00am Session One, introduced and moderated by Brian Kuan Wood
- Franco “Bifo” Berardi, “Pleasure, Desire, and Evolution” | lecture
- Irmgard Emmelhainz, “Shared Meaning Beyond Representation?” | lecture
- Mary Walling Blackburn, “Technologies of Ancestor Phantasy for a Final Generation: from the Gnome’s Genome to Trash DNA” | lecture
- Q&A with speakers


2:15pm Session Two, introduced and moderated by Brian Kuan Wood
- Reza Negarestani, “APNE: The Art of Making Intelligence” | lecture
- Charles Mudede, “There Can Be No Advanced African Technologies Without the Angel of Death” | lecture
- The Otolith Group, Nucleus of the Great Union | screening
- Q&A with speakers


5:00pm Session Three, introduced and moderated by Kaye Cain-Nielsen
- The New Red Order, New Red Order Presents: Crimes Against Reality | performance
- Keller Easterling, “Superbugs” | lecture
- Ruanne Abu Rahme and Basel Abbas, At those terrifying frontiers where the existence and disappearance of people fade into each other | performance, sound, video
- Q&A with speakers

7:15pm Closing note by Kaye Cain-Nielsen


Admission is free but capacity is limited, please RSVP on Eventbrite.

The conference will be livestreamed on

For more information, contact program [​at​]

Contemporary Art, Philosophy

Anton Vidokle is an editor of e-flux journal and chief curator of the 14th Shanghai Biennale: Cosmos Cinema.

Boris Groys is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, media theorist, and an internationally renowned expert on Soviet-era art and literature, especially the Russian avant-garde.

Hito Steyerl is a filmmaker, moving-image artist, writer, and innovator of the essay documentary. Her principal topics of interest are media, technology, and the global circulation of images. Through her writing practice, films, and performative lectures, Steyerl considers the status of the image in an increasingly global and technological world.

Liam Gillick is an artist based in New York. His work exposes the dysfunctional aspects of a modernist legacy in terms of abstraction and architecture when framed within a globalized, neo-liberal consensus, and extends into structural rethinking of the exhibition as a form. He has produced a number of short films since the late 2000s which address the construction of the creative persona in light of the enduring mutability of the contemporary artist as a cultural figure. Over the last twenty five years Gillick has also been a prolific writer and critic of contemporary art, contributing to Artforum, October, Frieze, and e-flux Journal. His book Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820 was published by Columbia University Press in March 2016.

Kaye Cain-Nielsen is the editor-in-chief of e-flux journal.

Brian Kuan Wood is an editor of e-flux journal.

Franco Berardi, aka “Bifo,” founder of the famous Radio Alice in Bologna and an important figure in the Italian Autonomia movement, is a writer, media theorist, and social activist.

Irmgard Emmelhainz is an independent translator, writer, researcher, and lecturer based in Mexico City. Her book Jean-Luc Godard’s Political Filmmaking was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2019. The translated expanded version of The Tyranny of Common Sense: Mexico’s Neoliberal Conversion is coming out this fall with SUNY Press, and so is Toxic Loves, Impossible Futures: Feminist Lives as Resistance (Vanderbilt). She is a member of the SNCA in Mexico (National System for Arts Creators).

Mary Walling Blackburn was born in Orange, California. Artist and writer Walling Blackburn’s work engages a wide spectrum of materials that probe and intensify the historic, ecological, and class-born brutalities of North American life. Publications include Quaestiones Perversas (Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, 2017) co-written with Beatriz E. Balanta, and MAGIC FECES or cream psychosis, a forthcoming book of collected writings (e-flux, 202+).

Charles Tonderai Mudede is a Zimbabwean-born cultural critic, urbanist, filmmaker, college lecturer, and writer. He is senior staff writer of The Stranger, a lecturer at Cornish College of the Arts, and director of the feature film Thin Skin (2023).

The Otolith Group is an award-winning artist-led collective and organization founded by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun in 2002, that integrates film- and videomaking, artists’ writing, workshops, exhibition curation, publication, and the development of public platforms for the close readings of the image in contemporary society. The Group’s work is formally engaged with research-led projects exploring legacies and potentialities of artist-led proposals around the document and the essay film, the archive, the aural and sonic mediums, speculative futures, and science fiction.

Keller Easterling is a writer, designer, and professor at Yale University.

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