The Art of Speculation


Joint Symposium Berlin

November 13-15, 2014

Venue: Clubhaus of Freie Universität Berlin, Goethestr. 43, 14163 Berlin (U-Bahnhof Krumme Lanke)

Theoretical and practical reflections on the act of speculation currently boom in a unique way, equally facing economic, political, aesthetic and epistemological domains. In correspondence with the recent emergence of the philosophical movement of “Speculative Realism” a so-called ‘speculative turn’ in art and curatorial practices is being proclaimed. The Art of Speculation offers a platform to approach this contemporary phenomenon from an interdisciplinary perspective and critically question its origins, significance and sustainability. While many curators, gallery owners, artists, and theorists currently embrace the discourse on speculation, the Joint Symposium will emphasize the conditions and objectives of transfer between their individual and at times contradictory ambitions analyzing its various sites and protagonists.

1. Aesthetics of Speculation

This group focuses on the ways in which speculation is currently being incorporated into the production, exhibition and reception of the arts. It is dedicated to the question of how ‘speculative art’ presents itself and which means, practices and concepts of materiality it is based on. The aim of the group is to work out whether a common ‘aesthetics’ or poetology can be determined that is equally inherent to all manifestations currently labelled as ‘speculative art’. Correspondingly, adequate criteria of analysis and criticism will need to be elaborated. Against this background we would also like to ask how the collapse of the financial markets has recently influenced the various manifestations of speculative art’ including the strategies art has developed to evade its commodification. A special emphasis will finally be put on the status of subjectivity in speculative art theory and its implications for the notion of aesthetic experience.

2. Scenarios of Speculation

As an epistemological practice, speculation functions as a means to create, play through and design alternative and/or potential scenarios. As such it can help predict and simultaneously produce alternative ‘realities’. Computer simulations based on algorithms enable us to model and envision future and past best- and worst-case scenarios. Games and aesthetic in(ter)ventions open future labs for the – critical or neutral – imagination and negotiation of the potential or non-actual, that is for the anticipation of ‘the becoming. Those practices thus not only revise but reorganize spatio-temporal coordinates. This group focuses on the creative potentials and limitations inherent to artistic, theoretical and scientific operations and scenarios of speculation, particularly emphasizing practices such as designing, simulating, playing and experimenting with deviant orders of reality.

3. Temporalities of Speculation

This group examines the specific temporality of speculative operations. Speculation designs alternative pasts and futures trying to anticipate, control and tame time as well as to erase, augment or overwrite our present. Against this background, it is necessary to ask about the effect of speculation on existing notions of past, presence and future and their interrelation. Betting on the difference between current and future immaterialities, speculation furthermore appears as an act of creating and sustaining spectres. An analysis of the temporality of speculation thus also needs to ask when those spectres first started haunting us, which purpose they serve and whether we can imagine a world without them. In correspondence with that, this group also aims to trace the particular historicity of speculation itself. Experiencing its first boom as a theoretical and aesthetic concept in the 18th century with German Romanticism it is important to ask why speculation has gained influence again. The group will thus look at the conditions and objectives of the 18th century as well as the current conceptualization of speculation in order to determine whether a periodicity between the two can be observed.