Forms of Abstraction engages with abstraction not as a formal option in art, or as an airy theoretical speculation, but as an operational force that has redesigned our world, and continues to do so.
What Alfred Sohn-Rethel has called the "real abstraction" of value-form moulds the world, and does so in conjunction with the real abstractions of the law and of technoscience. The increasingly tight integration of these forms of real abstraction produces our current regime of concrete abstraction, and it informs both humans and non-humans, persons and things, subjects and objects. While recent theory has often sought to do away with the distinction between object and subject as so much modern ballast, the current regime of concrete abstraction—marked by the increasingly close integration of the different vectors of real abstraction—witnesses a proliferation of moments of objectification and subjectification. An artist finds herself objectified in the form of a sagging career graph; an artwork's value-form shows itself to be capable of whims that outdo Marx's worst fever dreams; a natural person may find that their rights count for much less than those of certain corporate persons.
The first volume, Objections, takes its cue from the Latin root of object, obiectum—which refers to something put before the subject, something thrown in one's way. This sense of the object as obstacle or obstruction, and of the artwork as an aesthetic and political objection, is pursued in this volume. Objections sees artists engaging with materiality and value, with subatomic particles and radiation as well as with the objectification of human and nonhuman organisms. Along the way, we encounter theoretical objects such as the fetish, the plaster cast, the patented bacteria, the buried radioactive container, and the contemporary artwork itself. Contemporary art is analysed here as a set of aesthetic practices revolving around problematic and questionable objects that can act as productive objections.
Art critic and historian, teacher at VU University, Amsterdam, Sven Lütticken contributes regularly to catalogues (Citizens and Subjects: The Netherlands
, The Question of the Day
, De Rijke & De Rooij
...) and art magazines such as Artforum
, New Left Review
, and Texte zur Kunst
He is the
author of Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art
Rotterdam, 2006) and the curator of Life, Once More: Forms of Reenactment
in Contemporary Art
(Witte de With, Rotterdam, 2005) and The Art of
(BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 2009).