The current normal is eventless. Owing to an excess of eventness, the present state of normalcy is that of continued, constant, streaming presentations of “events.” This condition both generates and is born of the collapse of any distinction between action, reflection, and reaction.
At the heart of this “eventlessness” lies a predicament best defined by Niklas Luhmann’s term “risk society”: an order in which risk becomes the prime organizational feature of our social, economic, and cultural relations. Given the lack of any other guidelines (traditional, religious, political, etc), the individual becomes a second-order observer: an observer aware of her own observation. As a result, norms become rooted in ever-fluctuating and -readapting social conventions that seemingly change at whim, but never move beyond crisis. When everything that is possible materializes in a state of presentness and urgency, how can one recognize the start from the stop? Moreover, how does one evaluate what to do next, much less act?
The commissions presented in this first issue of aCCeSsions seek to go beyond the diagnosis of a state “perpetual crisis” now commonly declared in contemporary art and beyond. Both Pamela M. Lee and Lane Relyea, in their otherwise distinct analyses, significantly identify our condition as one in which art draws asymptotically closer to other dimensions of social production and circulation. For both of them, art therefore slides from a presumed critical posture in relation to prevalent social norms—a model that has informed art over the past fifty years or so—to instead directly contribute to the ubiquity of the flexible, mutable, and therefore crisis-prone condition of our contemporaneity. The contributions in this issue of aCCeSsions engage with such current socio-economic realities while proposing possible restructurings. In broad terms, two concerns are of fundamental importance in the processes identified here, to which cultural production now significantly contributes. Firstly, the current condition has led to a saturated plane of flattened-out singularities, none of which bear the marks of the Event as transformational potentiality (a potentiality that was at the root of art’s political claims). Secondly, at the level of global ordering, regional (art) markets are flattened and absorbed by an international “art world” in the name of inclusion that is ultimately sustained by the former.
In response, this issue of aCCeSsions on the one hand positions eventlessness as a possibility for intervention and not just another loop in today’s economy of crisis (for example, the contributions of Elena Esposito, Mat Dryhurst, Lane Relyea, and Guccivuitton). The overlap and imbrication of events complicates not just the terms but also the very possibility of exceptionality, and its twin in otherness, the “outside.” More specifically, the contributions in this issue ask whether there are other concepts and tactics (in the vein of traction, reflection, or contrast qua slowness, absence, or refusal) by way of which one can position a response to the event-flattening regime of generalized eventhood. How can this condition be mobilized either from within the art world or in reference to it, without reproducing existing circumstances? On the other hand, some of our contributors challenge the myth of multi-culti-integrationism that is still prevalent and operative in the binding actions of the putatively internationalized art world. In this dimension, they examine and work with the reality of the material, informatic, investment and financial flows and infrastructures by means of which the artworld operates at various levels, ranging from the individual’s subjective and neurological ordering and reordering (Toril Johannessen and Bruce Wexler), to the systems of social and community engagement (Lindsey Berfond), to the rapid reorganization of the urban and metropolitical environments that have been the privileged site of art in modernity (Richard Florida and Gean Moreno), to the construction of international and global construction of circuits of cultural circulation and recognition that are central to these latter reconstructions (Zoe Butt, Patrick D. Flores, and Ingrid Schaffner in the “Global Questionnaire”), to the abstract and dislocated conditions of the internet (Dryhurst, Johannessen, and Wexler) and consumption (Guccivuitton).
It is only a mild stretch to say that in their varied and divergent formats, voices, positions, and propositional claims, the contributions to this issue of aCCeSsions each emphasize that the several factors just mentioned each and together contribute to the expansion of a chronically eventful eventlessness in which the artworld now takes its increasingly unexceptional place. This condition constitutes the overall proposal that is also the license of this first issue of aCCeSsions: namely, that the normalcy of the artworld is now not only established in the condition of eventlessness, but is, moreover, integral to its current construction.