16 October 2015

AAF Reads Zalamea

'The case studies of the second part should have made it clear that contemporary mathematics is incessantly occupied with processes of transit in exact thought, involved in multiple webs of contradistinction, both internal and external. [...] As we have seen, we are dealing with a vision that ramifies through all the mathematics of the epoch, and which is also capable of giving rise to a genuine Einsteinian turn in the philosophy of mathematics.'

- Zalamea, Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics

We've been slowly working our way through Fernando Zalamea's Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics over the last couple of months and are meeting for the final session on Friday 23rd October at UNSW in Robert Webster, 301 (4.30 pm - 6 pm) to discuss Part Three - 'Synthetic Sketches'. In this section Zalamea theorises the relation between mathematics and thought, and mathematics and creativity, exploring this 'Einsteinian turn' in mathematics. Attendance at the first two sessions is absolutely not required: part three is a turbulent journey through 'transitory ontology' and mathematical creativity and is a juicy read regardless of whether you've covered the first two parts. All welcome.

The New Centre for Research and Practice is also currently live-streaming a series of seminars given by Zalamea at the Pratt Institute in NYC. 

You can access the videos here.

11 May 2015

Writing is Faster than Thought :: AAF on Ayache

Word on the street is that Elie Ayache (author of The Blank Swan: The End of Probability) will be visiting UNSW on Tuesday, May 19th to present his work. Information on this event here

Aesthetics After Finitude will be running a preparatory reading group session on Ayache's work on Monday, May 18th (next Monday). Elie has very kindly provided us with the introduction of his unpublished new book The Medium of Contingency to discuss alongside Jon Roffe's 'From a Restricted to a General Theory of the Pricing Surface' (Collapse VIII, Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014) - which takes Ayache's work seriously as a starting point from which an immanent philosophy of the market (and of writing) might unfold.

Robert Webster 310
4.30 - 6 pm
University of New South Wales

'[T]he generalisation of the market is the book and the market becomes philosophy when it is recognised that philosophy too is looking for a necessity of thought, not as a transcendent sum of possibilities, but in the immanent material sense of Blanchot's necessary book (referring to Mallarmé's). Writing is faster than thought, and to say that a literary thought can be philosophical is to say that it should retain what writing and literature have specifically given to it - the event - and should not be slowed down by reflexive (ordinary philosophical) thought. In my elaboration of the word "writing" , writing takes place when thought races at the same speed as the event, overtaking traditional reflexive thought - thought that is slowed down by states of mind and representation.'
All welcome.

28 January 2015

AAF 2015 Full Conference Program

The full conference program for Aesthetics After Finitude 2015 is now available to download here.

A reminder that there are still a few places left in the Reza Negarestani Masterclass with Ben Woodard that will be taking place on February 4rd, the day before the conference. More information here.

If you haven't yet registered, you can do so here. All welcome!

Follow us on Twitter next week > Conference hashtag: #AAF2015

21 January 2015

AAF 2015 Conference Schedule

A full program with abstracts and biographies will be published here shortly. In the meantime, the schedule, panels, and paper titles can be found below. We also regret to announce that, due to travel restrictions, Reza Negarestani is unable to attend the conference in person and will be joining us via Skype instead.

The conference will take place at the UNSW Art and Design campus (formerly known as COFA). This is a separate campus to the main UNSW campus and is located on the corner of Oxford St and Greens Road in the inner city suburb of Paddington. Register here.

Day I

February 5th

First Stream (EG02 Lecture Theatre)

Sound and the Body
Marc Couroux (Chair)
Ryan McGoldrick - ‘Bio/Neuro Immersion in Digital Interactive Environments: The Post-human Aesthetics of Pia Van Gelder’s ‘Psychic Synth’ (2014)’ 
Andrew Goodman - ‘The Noise in the Noise: Micro-Perception as Affective Disruption to Listening and the Body’
Rahma Khazam - ‘Out of Earshot, Out of Mind, the Tribulations of Object-Oriented Sound (Part II)‘

Stephen Muecke (Chair)
Charles Robb - ‘The Ways of Things: objects and agency in the studio’
Wendy Alexander - ‘Between and Within: An Object-Oriented Inquiry (OOI) of South Asia in Australia’
Belinda Dunstan and Jeffrey Koh - ‘Robots Suck, but You Suck More: A Visual Survey’

Organisation, Contingency, and Control
Prue Gibson (Chair)
Guy Keulemans - ‘Capturing the Middle: Experimental Product Design and the Expression of Socio-Environmental Relations in Material’
Thomas Mical - ‘Oblique Strategies for a Nomad Science’ 
Renata Lemos Morais - ‘Hypersurveillance’
Paul Thomas - 'Speculative Theory, Quantum Science, Measurement and Art'

Second Stream (F205)

Metaphysics and Aesthetics
Laura Lotti (Chair)
Thomas Sutherland - ‘Art, Non-Philosophy and the Generalized Transcendental Aesthetic’
George Ioannides - ‘Animacies After Finitude: Towards a Post-Secular Eco-Philosophy of Film’
Justin Clemens - ‘Immortal Hate’ 

Dancing to the Electrocene
Amy Ireland (Chair)
Adam Hulbert - 'Folding the Soundscape :: A Speculative Ad Hoc Account of Synthes/is Plateaux in Relation to Actual Control'
Marc Couroux - 'PSYCHO(tic)ACOUSTICS: Five Psychoalchemical Pathological Propagational Vectors'
Lendl Barcelos - 'An Aural Fixation: Or, Receptive Alienation Toward the Varieties of (sonic) Identity'

Sneaking up on the Thing-Itself: Practical Approaches to Infinitude
Virginia Barratt (Chair)
Cat Jones - ‘Somatic Drifts: Tactility, Illusion and Olfactive Interventions in Empathy’ 
Monika Behrens - ‘Seasonal Object’
Geneviève Smith-Courtois - ‘An Aesthetic of Infinitude: A Feminine Movement Artist’s Perspective Regarding Post-pornography’
Jacquelene Drinkall - ‘Anthropocene Aesthetics of Telepathy and Action-at-a-Distance in New Materialisms’

KEYNOTE #1 (EG02 Lecture Theatre)
Mohammad Salemy - ‘Scientific Surface: Contemplation on the Art of the Future and the Future of Art’


Day II

February 6th

First Stream (EG02 Lecture Theatre)

Mathematics, Computation, and Literature
Lendl Barcelos (Chair)
Christian Gelder - ‘Re-reading Sonnet en -yx: The Mathematical Problem of Mallarmé’s Meaningless Sign’
Baylee Brits - 'Speculative Aesthetics in Samuel Beckett’s Quad (Or: Hyperstition has been around for a while)'
Oscar Schwartz - ‘A Turing Test for Poetry’

Inhuman Economies
Baylee Brits (Chair)
Laura Lotti - ‘Enter the Black Box: Aesthetic Speculations in the “general economy” of Being’  
Julian Murphet - 'From Text to Code to Organism’
Ari Mattes - ‘Spring Breakers: Towards a Theory of Accidental Narrative’

Climate, Ecology, and Nonhuman Actors
Edward Scheer (Chair)
Stephen Muecke - ‘Picture that Cyclone’
Josh Wodak - ‘Climate by Design: Art in the Age of the Anthropocene’
Sumugan Sivanesan and Tessa Zettel - ‘Disappearing Bees’ 
Alexis DeStoop - ‘Psycho-geography of Remote Environments’ 

Second Stream (F205)

Chronic Mutation: Modernity and Time
Ben Woodard (Chair)
Chris Shambaugh - ‘The Emergence of Hyperstition’ 
Amy Ireland - ‘Anastrophic Modernism: Occult Time and the Production of Radical Novelty’ 
Patrick Quick - ‘Land/Cioran & Plant/SI Discuss Time in Downtown Kowloon City, 1994’

The (Un)Contemporary
Patricia Reed (Chair) 
Edward Colless - 'Contempt'
Su Ballard - ‘Infinite Matter and Vital Objects: Thinking About Contemporary Art with Mikala Dwyer and Lady Anne Conway’ 
Elizabeth Pulie - ‘Human and Aesthetic Finitude’

Christian Gelder (Chair)
Tessa Laird - ‘Data, Demons and Discipline: Jess Johnson’s Gnostic Dungeons.’
Douglas Kahn - 'Reverse Icarus'
Prue Gibson - 'Robotany and Speculative Plant-Talk'
Sigi Jottkandt ‘Allegories of Criticism: Mourning and Melancholia in Nabokov's Pale Fire.’

KEYNOTE #2 (EG02 Lecture Theatre)
Reza Negarestani - ‘Where Thought is Headed (Abstraction, Orientation, Self-Conception)’ via Skype

Any questions call Baylee on 0478 693 563

12 January 2015

AAF Masterclass: The Philosophy of Reza Negarestani

The masterclass will be held on Wednesday the 4rd of February at the School of the Arts and Media, UNSW, Kensington Campus. Cost $40 (Student/Unwaged), $60 Waged. Places are limited. 

Click HERE to register.

This course will examine some of the conceptual trajectories in the work of the philosopher Reza Negarestani. Negarestani’s texts have covered material ranging from Islamic esotericism, geophilosophy, mathematics, radical politics, emergence, functionalism and mechanics, artificial general intelligence, and neo-Confucianism. 

Despite such historical and intellectual breadth, this course attempts to familiarize new comers to Negarestani’s work as well as propose a specific conceptual continuity in his eclectic set of works, namely that of how to properly relate construction or synthesis (as human but not merely human labor) to the notion of an exterior or outside whether in topological, terrestrial, or temporal terms. 

Readings for the course can be accessed HERE.

BEN WOODARD is a PhD student at Western University in Ontario, Canada. His dissertation is on the role of motion and space in the naturalism of FWJ von Schelling. He has published numerous works on contemporary philosophy, ecology, pessimism, as well as weird fiction and horror film. 

18 December 2014

Aesthetics After Finitude Conference Registration LIVE January 1st

Registration for: 

XHums Conference
Aesthetics After Finitude
 w/ Reza Negarestani & Mohammed Salemy 
5-6 February, 2015
Hosted by the National Institute for Experimental Arts @UNSW Art & Design

... will open on the 1st of January and be available until the 4th of February. 

Be sure to register early to qualify for the discounted rate. You will be able to register for the conference here. 

Please note that registration is open to all, you do not have to be presenting at the conference to attend.

Fees are as follows:
• Early-bird registration (before January 15th) is $120 waged and $90 student/unwaged. 
• Regular registration (after January 15th) is $150 waged and $120 student/unwaged. 

The conference will take place at the UNSW Art and Design Campus (formerly known as COFA). This is a separate campus to the main UNSW campus and is located on the corner of Oxford St and Greens Road in the inner city suburb of Paddington, Sydney, Australia.

Full conference program to follow early January.

3 September 2014

AAF talks to Michael O'Rourke and Eileen A. Joy

Next Tuesday September 9th, Michael O'Rourke and Eileen Joy will be joining Aesthetics After Finitude via Skype to discuss queer politics in the movement formerly known as speculative realism, and para/peri-academic tactics.

If you're in Sydney join us in Room 310, Robert Webster Building, UNSW at 7 pm (or come at 5 pm for a Philip K Dick/AAF double bill). All welcome.

We'll be discussing the following pieces:

O’Rourke, Michael. ‘Negarestani’s Queer Polytics of the Twist’ in Rogue Theory (NY: Punctum Books) Forthcoming [Draft Version]. 

Joy, Eileen A. 'Weird Reading' in Speculations IV (2013) http://speculations.squarespace.com/storage/Joy_Weird%20Reading_Speculations_IV.pdf

Email aesthetics.after.finitude@gmail.com for texts.

30 July 2014

Get Reassembled by Your Own Future: Time, Intelligence, Acceleration

A week-long program for PAF Summer University involving seminars, lectures, film-screenings, reading-groups, conversation, mind alteration, and the dance floor.

Departing from the work of Nick Land and Reza Negarestani this week-long seminar will embark on a chronoportational trip that hurtles headfirst through nineties cyberculture, the philosophy of desire, and tech-inflected antihumanism towards a twenty-first century reanimation of the Enlightenment project which seeks to spark an emancipatory, universalist program off from local coordinates, guided by the exigencies of reason and self-cultivation - these latter having been recognised for what they really are: agents in the installation of a pragmatic inhumanism.

 Prepare for catastrophic phase-shift. Get reassembled by your own future.

Featuring live and Skype discussions with Reza Negarestani, Nick Land, Robin Mackay, Olivia Lucca Fraser, Peter Wolfendale, Mark Fisher, Ben Woodard, Benedict Singleton, Tom Trevatt, Marc Couroux, Lendl Barcelos, Amy Ireland, Katrina Burch, Diana Khamis, Laura Lotti, Beau Deuwaarder, Mårten Spångberg + others.


Tuesday 12th August - Monday 18th August

Practical Info
Monday lunch - Friday breakfast: 17 euro per night, accommodation, individual cooking. 

Friday lunch - Monday breakfast: 100 euro, including accommodation, food and wine. 

Membership: 12 euro, valid 12 months. 

Booking: contactpaf@gmail.com 

13 May 2014

AAF 2015: Call for Papers and Works

This conference and exhibition address the problem of a non-, post-, trans- or inhuman aesthetics: an ‘aesthetics after finitude’ that is capable of investigating the cultural, technological and ecological demands of a rapidly dehumanising present. As well as being formulated in response to the urgency of the human situation at the beginning of the twenty-first century, this call to develop new trajectories for artistic, poetic, and sonic practice arises alongside the recent and profound shift in contemporary philosophy attributed to thinkers such as Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, and Reza Negarestani, whose work seeks to divest philosophical writing of its critical and subject-bound dimensions, while giving full weight to a politicised aesthetic, a rigorous, speculative modality of thought.

While the notion of ‘speculation’ might seem native to creative practice, the category of aesthetics as it is traditionally deployed - with its valorisation of the interpretive singularity of the human subject - is largely ill-equipped to reckon with the experimental demands of a creative force that does not ground itself in any fundamental distinction between subject and object. If the question of a speculative aesthetics has largely been neglected by philosophy, it is because art has not yet posed it with a sufficiently difficult problem. Aesthetics After Finitude takes up this task.

We encourage proposals that consider the possibility of aesthetic experience and practices (artistic, literary, sonic, etc.) that traverse—or operate in excess, defiance or via the augmentation of—traditional human subjectivities. Disruptive and inventive engagements with technology, perception, mathematics, neuroscience, fiction, theory, sound, and other ecologies will all be welcomed.

Abstracts for academic papers or proposals for inclusion in the exhibition from scholars/writers/artists/scientists and other relevant fields are invited. Please send your 500-word abstract or proposal for an artwork or performance, along with a short bio to aesthetics.after.finitude@gmail.com by August 15th, 2014 

Key words: 
Speculative Realism
Literature and Mathematics
Digital Media
New Materialism
Robotics, Computation and AI
Theory Fiction/Science Fiction
Ecological Crisis
Post-phenomenological Experience
Speculation’s Mathematical and Aesthetic Axes


Aesthetics After Finitude conference team: Professor Stephen Muecke // Amy Ireland // Baylee Brits // Prue Gibson 

11 May 2014

Phonoegregorean Chance: The Transfermation of eGregore

'I don't know what happened. Seems I went into a dissociative fugue over the weekend. When I became aware of my surroundings I realised I'd opened a ProTools session. Appears to combine the reading of Couroux's Xenochronic Dispatches with some of the music that was referenced therein, in various odd mutations and permutations. Hope you can make something of it...'

5 May 2014

_.-+ Section for the Diminishment of the Mantle +-._

A Practical Guide to the Ungrounding of Art

Over the last year and a half, the AAF research collective has been discussing, experimenting and theorising at the frontiers of aesthetic theory. Taking the critical tradition of aesthetics to be no longer adequate to the possibilities of knowledge and experience of the twenty-first century, we have begun to develop an experimental practico-aesthetics that is less oriented towards the success or impact of work that defers to the judgement of a (human) receiver, than towards an aesthetics that is productive of realities, experience, and new declensions of 'art'. This alternative is generational, not analytical; interventionist rather than evaluative. For this purpose, we hereby inaugurate a new component of our blog, entitled Section for the Diminishment of the Mantle [via the cosmic urchin in the sidebar]. 

This space, inspired by hyperstitional activity and the inventions of the ( )hole complex, will publish new work that defies the surface world we spontaneously take to be 'real', engendering new linkages between science and experience, fiction and reality, past and future. This is the work of the imagination against anthropomorphism, and towards an inhuman future. 

Submissions: aesthetics.after.finitude@gmail.com

'Rats (AQ = 94): The process of ungrounding at any level (from epidemic incursion to deterritorialisation) is performed by acephalic units known as rats. Composed of three main functions – flight, displacement and tail-function – rats can concentrate a disintegrating force whose intensity is capable of surpassing the ground’s intensity of consolidation. In rats the political correlation between the head and the tail is not only twisted but also obscure.'
- Reza Negarestani, Glossary to Cyclonopedia

‘In the same way that works of art are not simple projections of the human mind but possess an independent objectivity, making demands on the human mind of their own accord (even if this is a question of a ‘non-physical’, immaterial objectivity) - one can also say that the brioche passes by way of the consumer just as much as the consumer passes by way of the brioche.’

- Patrice Maniglier, ‘Fictions et attachements : Métaphysique comparée de l’art et du commerce’
'Take a walk around the block. Come back and write down precisely what happened with particular attention to what you were thinking when you noticed a street sign, a passing car or stranger or whatever caught your attention. You will observe that what you were thinking just before you saw the sign relates to the sign. The sign may even complete a sentence in your mind. You are getting messages. Everything is talking to you. You start seeing the same person over and over. Are you being followed? At this point some students become paranoid. I tell them that of course they are getting messages.'
- William Burroughs, ‘On Coincidence’

24 April 2014

Cold Dark Matter: Laruelle and Speculative Aesthetics in Cornelia Parker's Installations

There are as many definitions of speculation as there are definitions and usages of the real, but the basic definition of speculation that I want to evoke here is a kind of thought that is not beholden to the Kantian formula where objects and subjects mirror each other, and where thought becomes capable of approaching objects in relation to other objects, existence without human experience. For me, the key necessity of speculation is that it opens up the sciences for the humanities. There are irreconcilable forms of truth between the humanities and the sciences, which are habitual and uninterrogated, and close off one magisterium from the other. Humanities, as such, is in danger of becoming isolated or redundant, just as the sciences too might exist in a state of peril and isolation if divorced from what we traditionally understand as the humanities. In Reza Negarestani's words: 
'If knowledge is a generic approach or system of navigation corresponding to schemata of the Universe, then we can recognize speculative thought as a particular navigational scheme corresponding to schemata of a Universe that explicitly express its contingency, bottomless continuity, invisible layers and alternative passages or conceive the meaninglessness of the free sign, the unbound modality of the eternal and the in-divisibility of 0 qua nothing of nature for thought' (Leper Creativity, 290).
It is here that we see speculation bind the aesthetic, philosophic and scientific modes of enquiry. This speculative task involves understanding how concepts or identities co-create the real, but also the originary decision that provides this creation. In my paper here I am going to try and show how Francois Laruelle’s non-philosophy might be manipulated into fulfilling this task: I believe that Laruelle's non-standard aesthetics helps us navigate the speculative nature of the artwork, as well as suggesting a form of writing or theoretical praxis that might align itself with this.

Francois Laruelle is unique for developing what he calls a science of philosophy. He does not seek to subsume philosophy with non-philosophy, or deconstruct it, or subvert it – enacting some sort of raid on the affirmations of philosophy – but rather aims to construct something that is the companion, one might say, to philosophy. Laruelle has recently given up the idea of non-philosophy being a science, because he is wary of the privileging of science as the particular form of comprehending the non philosophical, and refers to this more often as a sort of theoretical praxis. Nonetheless, his initial demarcation of a certain mode of thought called science is indicative, I think, of a broader distribution of modes of science, including within philosophy. For Laruelle, every philosophy proceeds from a first 'Decision'. Each philosophy starts with a 'One' – an original unit, an atom – and the philosophies proceed in exclusion from each other based on different conceptions of this One. Laruelle formulates the One as the original particle from which a particular theory of the world proceeds. To speak about sight, if we are thinking in terms of visual art, one could speak about the original decision being the inescapability of human perception, or, to gesture towards an example from Laruelle that I am about to use, the inability to see light. In terms of philosophy, we might think of Derrida's distinction between presence and differance. Ray Brassier calls the identification of this One a 'transcendental presupposition for thought' and identifies this as a real that every necessary decision is blind to yet proceeds from, each philosophy extends from a real of 'transcendental immanance' ('Behold the Non Rabbit,' 67) that is foreclosed to it. Brassier explains this very clearly: 
'[...] the non-thetic immanence of what Laruelle calls "the One" or "the Real" becomes an index of radically singular but non-consistent Identity, an identity shorn of the presumption of ontological unity. And it is this suspension of thetic positing, of intentional correlation and transitivity, which the 'non' in 'non-thetic immanence' imparts to thought insofar as it begins to think … on the basis of radical immanence as its real, yet non-ontological presupposition' (ibid, 70). 
What Laruelle provides, here, is a formulation of transcendental immanence without content, that effectively allows us to think originary decisions in philosophy as a multiplicity, providing a kind of eclecticism of philosophy; no one system is right but provides a different decision on the constitution of the world (this is an amphibolous existence for philosophy). The phenomenological world is thus an 'empirical occasion' which presents a different world to the one we are perhaps used to seeing: 'a bunny rabbit has exactly the same phenomenal status as an axiom of set theory, and a particle accelerator has exactly the same phenomenal status as a toothache' (Brassier 71).

25 October 2013

Critical Animals, 2013 /// Panel Recordings

Each act of speculation begins with the invocation of a limit, and whether one construes it epistemologically, ontologically or eschatologically, a hypothetical line traced through each of these declensions will invariably reveal the silhouette of the human subject. As it is traditionally understood, aesthetics can only take place on the inside of this limit because of the pact it has made with human subjectivity and its experience. 

In resistance to such configurations, this panel proposes to develop a set possibilities for speculative aesthetics in response to art that works at and as an interface of the real. What kind of artistic and literary practices constitute speculative work? How might the non-philosophical take up that which is strictly unthinkable for philosophy? What kind of mark does the thought of human extinction leave on the human? We will look at the outside of experience from the inside and vice versa via a parallax interfacing of human and object, thought and matter, imagination and mathematics, data and narrative, and truth and fiction that traverses and ultimately dissolves disciplinary and philosophical boundaries in an efflorescence of speculative trafficking.

Individual talks below:

Panel in full:

18 October 2013

What if Objects Were Beautiful Without a Human Standing By to Judge Them to Be So?

Introduction to 'Art After Finitude: Speculative Aesthetics in the Humanities'

I want to start with a little aphoristic question: “What if objects were beautiful without a human standing by to judge them to be so?” And I stress the what if…? Because that is the key or tone under which one writes speculatively. Whether one is composing poetry (like many of our panel) or composing essays about poetry, the speculative attitude - as opposed to the critical or judgmental attitude, which sets up one position against another - is one of following a process of things being made and being surprised at all the weird stuff that gets into the composition.

Of course objects are beautiful, you might say, without us being there: ‘tiger[s] burning bright’ or ‘c-beams glitter[ing] in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate’. But the habit of always putting aesthetics into the subject-object relation, let’s call this the ‘I shall interpret the world’ approach, has an unfortunate effect. The human is solidified through its inevitable centralisation, and objects are generalised as all being instances of the same kind of external reality. But what if… what if we saw that that old subject-object relation was a very clumsy sort of philosophical prop, that there are multiple ways that objects relate to each other and enter into compositions with each other, enliven each other, long before any human enters the compositional mix? Then we might get more modest about our will to judge and interpret.

Maybe we will stop seeing objects as all dead in the same way, and rather, all animated in all their own ways and necessarily indifferent to ‘the human’, whatever that is. The human, as so many have been saying lately, is no longer the privileged subject, because we have language, or consciousness or culture, but is itself an object in the process of being reinvented as it enters into new and multiple relations.

Can you see how an object-oriented speculative aesthetic might be able to do things that a more human-centred one will not be able to do? Consider once again the object that has its own beauty independently of being processed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the human brain. Hang on, isn’t that a bit like the sublime, where the object awesomely exceeds human apprehension? If it is a Sublime, it isn’t a romantic one because the subject is not a kind of subject produced under those romantic historical conditions. For the speculative realist, the subject is a kind of object defined by its objective attributes. The subject-object correlation just isn’t there anymore.

The object doesn’t need human perception to exist, to get back to my original aphorism. The object will persist in all its beauty long after we are dead and gone, hence the title of this panel, ‘art after finitude’. Niagara Falls will be there in all its awesome, dare I say absolute, sublimity in the far-flung future. Except that the aesthetic is not absolute, it is necessarily contingent. When Oscar Wilde remarks about the landmark honeymoon destination that "It must be the second greatest disappointment for American brides,” Niagara as aesthetic object will not disappear because of the impact of Wildean wit, because it is sustained by all sorts of other object-relations, including millions of picture postcards.

Let me just say a few words about the origins of speculative realism, of which our speculative aesthetics is an offshoot. Graham Harman is a key figure. When I met him in Paris in the summer of 2006 he was talking about a book he was writing about a new group of philosophers that he was calling ‘School X’ at the time. He gave me a copy of Quentin Meillassoux’s Après la Finitude: La Nécessité de la Contingence, which had come out in January. When we met Meillassoux for lunch (I was brought along as translator), I found out that he had been Alain Badiou’s student, but with significant departures, most notably with his critique of correlationism. Harman got excited in the conversation and dubbed Meillassoux’s thesis a ‘Copernican counter revolution’: something’s existence isn’t defined by how it appears to the human mind, but things can make their own ontological interventions; they may not even belong to ‘our world’. At this lunch, Meillassoux was teed up to go to the first Speculative Realism event in April 2007 at Goldsmiths College with Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Harman. This ‘School X’ debated their departures from humanist phenomenology, and their thoughts on the figures in continental philosophy that most interested them: Heidegger, Kant, Laruelle, but with more contemporary figures like Latour, D&G, Stengers, and Zizek shadowing their discourse.  Elsewhere, Ian Bogost and Levi Bryant were already working on Object Oriented Ontology. Sigi Jottkandt has published Levi Bryant in the Open Humanities Press; Timothy Morton is a key figure from literature, and I personally have found usefully-related writing among anthropologists like Mick Taussig and Kathleen Stewart.

Harman, as a pioneering figure, writes with the clarity of expression he learnt as a sportswriter, before he came under the influence of an equally lucid philosopher, Alphonso Lingis, at Penn State. SR and OOO have gone viral on the blogosphere, so inevitably the ideas shift and change as they are adapted by non-philosophers. But I feel they won’t be subsumed as yet another theory that will be injected like a drug into critical language, only to get normalised by the usual moves of critique, as summarised by Latour in our epigraph, where us academics are slow to respond to ‘new threats, new dangers, new tasks’ because we are always all too ready with a discourse of critique.

In July 2006 there was a heat wave in Paris and the sun had burnt the leaves of trees in the Jardin du Luxembourg near where I was having lunch at Le Rostand with Harman and Meillassoux. A burnt leaf fell from a tree into a wine glass on our table and of course the contingent event of an object asserting its presence delighted the philosophers. But it wasn’t autumn. The era of climate change is the kind of thing we are slow to respond to, that humanists have trouble responding to. I think, as I hand over to the ECRs, to the future, that SR, OOO and the ‘speculative aesthetics’ they have invented with such amazing intelligence and verve are asserting that ‘it isn’t all about us humans’ as they find ways to amplify the eloquence, the enchantment and the cries of danger coming from what we used to call ‘mere things’, objects that are now raised from the dead, ennobled and asserting their own singular modes of existence.

- Stephen Muecke, (Intro to SAM Public Seminar on Speculative Aesthetics, UNSW) 2013