Artists Space: symposium The Demonstration of Capitalist Realism. With participants including Evan Calder Williams, Howie Chen, Mark Fisher, Doreen Mende (DAI core-tutor), Susanne Rennert a.o
Artists Space Books & Talks
55 Walker Street
$5 Entrance Donation
Members Free, Guaranteed Entry
In the mid-1960s the coining of the term "capitalist realism" by Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter emerged from the ideological divide of a post-war Germany, with the authoritarianism of Stalinism in close proximity to the aspirational boom of the West German "economic miracle." For particularly Lueg, Polke and Richter, a turn to realism suggested both the weight of a moral imperative to represent historical and social conditions, and the staging of the artist as economic subject. They sought not to simply depict the subjects or objects of capitalism, but to demonstrate the reality that capitalism itself presented. In the words of Richter: "I am fascinated by the human, temporal, real, logical side of an occurrence which is simultaneously so unreal, so incomprehensible, and so atemporal. And I would like to represent it in such a way that this simultaneity is preserved."
Fifty years later, and after the fall of the Berlin wall, the term capitalist realism has been re-defined by cultural theorist Mark Fisher "as the belief that capitalism is the only viable ("realistic") political economic system." Here, the notion of a realism that reveals the insensible facets of capitalist society, only serves to reinforce the sense of such inequities as an inevitable part of "reality." Capitalist ideology has become naturalized, and what Fisher has described as a "business ontology" is installed in every aspect of society.
This one day symposium, programmed as an epilogue to the exhibition "Living with Pop. A Reproduction of Capitalist Realism", addresses the term capitalist realism through both the specificities of its art-historical usage, and a contemporary theorizing of capitalism and the "real." Through a series of presentations from art historians, philosophers and theorists ranging from close-readings of capitalist realism as employed by Kuttner, Lueg, Richter and Polke, and later the gallerist René Block, to considerations of the ontological shifts that have accompanied the ascendancy of neoliberal capitalism, the event will trace the movements between realism as artistic strategy, and as mediated by pervasive ideology.