Contemporary art and the speculative turn
This practice-led Ph.D. intertwines a written thesis, a folio of my own curatorial work, and relevant case studies of contemporary art projects: a multi-modal research project that traces the emergence of a ‘speculative turn’ across diverse fields, examining its impact on and through contemporary art. In particular, it identifies and explores a particular milieu of speculative work concerned with refusing inherited and pre-formatted logics, institutions, values, doxa, even metaphysical frameworks, as immutable, natural or perennial. Consequently, I argue that in contrast to a wholly critical method, the focus of such speculative work is to construct, to revise and to explore. It enacts a turn away from a perceived epistemicide, towards elaborating and experimenting with unorthodox vocabularies, concepts, models, and practices. I argue that such unorthodoxies, or speculative heresies, are adaptive navigational protocols and ultimately expand the parameters of the Overton window. They reflect the political, climatological and technical contingencies of a moment that has earned a variety of useful, yet controversial, inter-related designations that each afford different forms of speculative and navigational modelling (‘The New Normal’, ‘The Anthropocene’, ‘The Posthuman Nexus’, ‘The Thick Present’, The Long Now’, ‘The Post-Truth Era’, ‘The Speculative Time Complex’). As such, this Ph.D. also commits to operate speculatively alongside the work it foregrounds and analyses: it speculates. Through my curatorial projects, I offer a unique dynamic model for thinking with and through contemporary art and the speculative turn. From this model emerges my own speculative cosmology, concepts and vocabulary to be tested both within the analysis of this thesis and the active multi-modal discourse of the milieu I present therein. This is evident in the explication of my project, Most Dismal Swamp.