The chance meeting of worthy objectives.
One, the major art gallery wanting to transcend its depressing raison d'être as trendy gift boutique and extension of Helvetica coffee culture, a status it shares nowadays with most all other galleries. Two, offering people an alternative to the stultifying prospect of another Booze Britain Friday night. Three, finding something you can actually do with philosophy, the ancient intellectual discipline, ever since it made that terrible pact to become part of organised religion otherwise known as academia.
Robin Mackay's Urbanomic and Tate Britain thus staged one of the regular monthly Friday evening themed specials together, bringing together an enticing variety of artistic stimulation under the theme of Speculative Realism. And people turned up in their hundreds. In addition to the chance to wander around the beautiful building, there were video installations, sculpture, sound performances, a symposium, and a set of 'complimentary' (sic) picture captions responding to the paintings in the Tate's Room 9 Sublime collection. My own contribution being an opportunistic, if not mischievous, exercise in dark post-hypnotic suggestion.
Even though the UK's ingrained weekend drinking habits probably once again triumphed over all three above-stated goals (mostly thanks to the Tate's bright yet flawed idea of setting up a bar in the Octagon), there was really lots to like. The discussion on Speculative Realism featuring the excellent Mark Fisher (K-Punk) and Iain Hamilton Grant seemed to be well-received by the multitude and Hecker's sound piece was a typically abrasive delight.
The picture labelling experiment felt like a glorious opportunity missed. The new captions supplied by the Urbanomic team were certainly infinitely more coherent than the typically tired vacuous bullshit art-speak of the juxtaposed originals. However, by again buying wholesale into the traditional academic referential paradigm, along with all its wearying baggage, they betrayed the potentially subversive intent of any radical philosophical notions promised by Speculative Realism.
Too timid given such a glorious opening. Surely this must be about more than competent enhancement? Otherwise, philosophy is stuck in an abyss of despair in the form of university and college classrooms and hallways whose only escape route is by forming a diabolically exciting cult or new religion. Time for a re-read of Collapse IV: Concept Horror.
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