Preface: Diagrammatics of the Contemporary


The subject to be tackled in these volumes of exploration—contemporary art—is so manifestly ‘of the moment’ that it obliges us to clarify our project, in a kind of declaration of intent, so as to reinstate (and resituate) the experimental nature (that of a thought-experiment) of what we have tried to achieve here. This will be the real object of the pages that follow.

Taking a step back from a zeitgeisty contemporary art, an art become the cutting-edge trophy-piece of the creative (and still cultural) industries, we aim not so much to produce a philosophy of contemporary art, as to slide in between Art and Philosophy in order to introduce an oscillation, a supplementary pulsation, between a philosophy that is contemporary with contemporary art and an art that is contemporary with contemporary philosophy. The contemporary grasped in this doubled manner, divided in itself, is not a ‘philosophical condition’ (let’s face it, what could a contemporary art placed under condition of contemporary philosophy even mean?) Rather, it’s a problem—a problem rendered yet more acute by the reciprocal problematization of the two terms, now placed in chiasm, disrupting their categories along with all their received and affiliative disciplinary divisions. And indeed, the problem is most decidedly that of the ‘contemporary’: for the common notion of the contemporary, with its untenable a priori/a posteriori, leaves no room for any ‘differential’ critical temporality of and in art and philosophy. We must presume that the concept of the contemporary will ring hollow so long as it falls short of the political-speculative construction (a monster, needless to say!) that would determine its dramatization; and so long as it fails to grasp the extent to which it must be out of phase with the zeitgeist that it tracks. The contemporary must instead become a fractured zone of interference introduced into what Giorgio Agamben calls ‘the inert homogeneity of linear time’…