The Art of Speculation

Joint Doctoral Symposium Berlin / Copenhagen / London Nov 13-15, 2014

Theoretical and practical reflections on the act of speculation are currently booming in a unique way, in the economic, political, aesthetic and epistemological domains alike. Paralleling the recent emergence of the “speculative realism” movement in philosophy, a so-called “speculative turn” in art and curatorial practices is being proclaimed. The Art of Speculation offers a platform for exploring this contemporary phenomenon from an interdisciplinary perspective and critically questioning its origins, significance, and sustainability. While many curators, gallery owners, artists, and theorists currently embrace the discourse on speculation, the Joint Symposium will emphasize the conditions and objectives of transfer of the concept, and will analyze its various sites and protagonists.

1. Aesthetics of Speculation
This group will focus on the ways in which speculation is currently being incorporated into the production, exhibition, and reception of the arts. It will address the question of how “speculative art” presents itself and what means, practices, and concepts of materiality it is based on. The aim of the group is to work out whether a common “aesthetics” or poetology can be determined that is equally inherent in all manifestations currently labelled as “speculative art”. Correspondingly, adequate criteria for analysis and criticism will need to be elaborated. Against this backdrop, we would also like to ask how the collapse of the financial markets has influenced the various manifestations of speculative art, including the strategies art has developed to evade its commodification. A special emphasis will finally be put on the status of subjectivity in speculative art theory and its implications for the notion of aesthetic experience.

2. Scenarios of Speculation
As an epistemological practice, speculation acts to create, play through, and design alternative and/or potential scenarios. As such, it can help us to predict and simultaneously produce alternative “realities”. Computer simulations based on algorithms enable us to model and envision future and past best- and worst-case scenarios. Games and aesthetic in(ter)ventions become future labs in which the potential and non-actual are – critically or neutrally – imagined and negotiated, and “the becoming” is anticipated. These practices thus not only revise spatio-temporal coordinates, but also reorganize them. This group will focus on the creative potential and limitations inherent in artistic, theoretical, and scientific operations and scenarios of speculation, particularly emphasizing practices such as designing, simulating, playing, and experimenting with deviant orders of reality.

3. Temporalities of Speculation
This group will examine the specific temporality of speculative operations. Speculation designs alternative pasts and futures and tries to anticipate, control, and tame time as well as to erase, augment, or overwrite our presence. Against this backdrop, it is necessary to ask about the effect of speculation on existing notions of past, presence and future and their interrelation. Betting on the difference between current and future immaterialities, speculation furthermore appears as an act of creating and sustaining spectres. An analysis of the temporality of speculation thus also needs to ask when those spectres first started haunting us, what purpose they serve and whether we can imagine a world without them. In line with that, this group also aims to trace the particular historicity of speculation itself. As speculation experienced its first boom as a theoretical and aesthetic concept in the 18th century with German romanticism, it is important to ask why it has now gained influence again. This group will thus look at the conditions in which speculation emerged in the 18th century and the objectives its users had as well as the current conceptualization of speculation in order to determine whether a periodicity between the two can be observed.

Course dates
13 November 2014 - 15 November 2014

Berlin - Location TBA

2,3 for participation/3,8 for participation with paper.

Please register via by September 22nd, 2014 and indicate which of the three working groups you would like to participate in her

In your Email, please include your name, email address, department, which of the three working groups you would like to participate in and state the title of your contribution.

Please send your proposal (300 words) to by September 22nd and indicate which of the three working groups you would like to participate in.

Contributions may include

  • a ›classical‹ paper presentation (max. 15 mins) followed by a discussion,
  • theoretical texts (max. 10 pages) which will be discussed under your moderation based on a 10-minute introduction to the text and its main arguments including the questions you would like to address,
  • experimental set-ups and/or art works (max. 15 mins) followed by a discussion moderated by the contributor.

In your proposal please state the questions you would like to raise with your contribution and how these questions relate to the overall theme of your working group. If you are proposing a theoretical text, please include a digital copy of the text in question as well.

Once your proposal has been approved, the chairs of each working group will circulate the proposals together with the running order among the individual working group members .

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the organizers:

The European Doctoral Seminar in Culture, Criticism & Creativity meets three times a year, in Berlin, Copenhagen, and London, and comprises PhD students from:

Freie Universität Berlin - University of Copenhagen - Goldsmiths, University of London - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.