Three Figures of Contingency


Why has the concept of contingency taken on a marked importance both in contemporary philosophy and in contemporary art practice? And if this simultaneity derives from parallel problems met with in the two different fields, what are their common roots?

At its simplest ‘contingency’ refers to the attempt to think events that take place but need not take place: events that could be, or could have been, otherwise. Why does such an apparently simple concept lead us into a rich new vein of speculative thought?

Contingency implies a particular relation to thought: contingency, real contingency, is that which thinking can grasp only as event, not as proceeding from a rational necessity—as having been in some sense, ‘already written’ and thus in principle, if not in actuality, predictable…