The point of a speculative aesthetic is that space is opened up for artworks to engage with even more force than before. Engage with what or with whom? With the viewer, certainly. With the art institutions, certainly… with politics, even with the sciences… But without reducing art in each case to something else: to a human emotion, to making a living or a reputation, to a political necessity or a scientific truth. Avoid putting works of art on diets and they can really begin to throw their weight around. You get an inkling of that kind of force when you walk into this exhibition.
An inkling, because the speculative carpentry is not just about the physical things. It is all in the subjunctive mood: the force of the speculative aesthetic is ‘what if…?’. Without dietary restrictions, the imagination becomes excessive and impure. Not just human imagination, but indeed multirealist imaginations: ‘objects that comprehend other objects’ (Haley) as one thing, concept, or political urge, gives rise to another in a composition happening even before the artist has willed it, and she is delighted: “So that’s what I was creating!” This is what Etienne Souriau called ‘instauration’: the multiple potentialities that gel as a thing-becomes-art before anyone or anything has quite intended it.
So this is why this carpentry of things is an experiment. Experimentalism, here, is not about human artists breaking the rules of some older school of thought (though that might happen inadvertently). It is about allowing for the vitalism of things (feelings, concepts, etc.) as they take detours in their own unknown worlds and then recompose themselves differently to ask each other, and us, that important speculative question: ‘What if…?’
Stephen Muecke, 2013
From 'The Carpentry of Speculative Things: An Art Experiment' exhibition catalogue.