On February 11th, 2016 Scientists from LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) announced the detection of gravitational fields, the same phenomenon that Einstein proposed in his theory of general relativity almost precisely 100 years ago (he sent the final study to Annalen der Physik 20th of March 1916). According to LIGO these gravitational waves detected last year were produced by the clash of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago. Nonetheless it is taken to prove Einstein’s theory and its claim that gravitation is part of space-time.
This discovery was of course no coincidence and required not only a large team of scientists with significant equipment, in fact what they needed even more was the expectation and the projection of what they were actually looking for in order to set up the technological apparatus which then corroborated this knowledge (in this case it was necessary to set up two facilities each with two 4 kilometers long tubes with vacuum and laser beams detecting the changes in time-space). What we must note is that science does not always directly refer to observable entities yet encompasses the understanding that the range of what is perceivable becomes expanded through prosthesis. Ultimately, the prosthetic (technical) basis plays a constitutive role in which scientific knowledge is formalised.
It is from such a backdrop that accelerationist and broadly speaking speculative thinking can emerge. Although its discourse may be bound to the humanities, its dynamics stems from understanding the technique of projective nature of thinking. Therefore acceleration is not the caricatured delirium of speeding up the gyrating circuits of Capitalism; rather it eccentricizes the orbits of temporalities and velocities that are bound by social and technological evolvement.1 We take acceleration to bring about the task of repurposing present means to reappropriate our future. That is why we call for reinventing horizons.
Speculative practice and epistopolitics
In order to address these issues we need to strategically align the arrangement of a wide range of discourses and agencies from among which philosophy, media studies, arts or science are only the most visible ones. Moreover this inclusive assertion should be applied to the very distinction between theory and practice. We use the phrase speculative practice, previously applied mainly in design and architecture, to denote a form of agency that evaluates theory and speculation while remaining practical or even purposive.2 Speculative practice orientates our focus precisely at the point of intersection between theory and practice. Our task in this respect is to create space for practice that is theory-informed and critical.
This task has important repercussions in the political context, which are now already forming our epistemological horizons. Here we import Mohammad Salemy’s epistopolitics, which reframes Foucault’s conception of the inseparable relationship between knowledge and power that shapes the various bodies of discourse, scientific understanding, and truth. Rather than regarding the production of knowledge as an already compromised field tied to mere power strategizing, epistopolitics endeavors to intercept the sites of knowledge-production to leverage new stakes and truths that effectuate gains in navigating towards postcapitalism. Salemy asserts epistopolitics consist of “producing a knowledge that uses both the critical (negative) and constructive (positive) forms of looking at the world to secure qualitative gains in the general production of knowledge.”3 Importantly, for a theory (this text including) to be practice oriented, we need to posit a certain space for possible action, even more substantially, the future. In this respect we find it useful to apply the well-known term hyperstition, whereas ideas tactically intervene to transmute and “causally bring about their own reality” as an index for a theoretical agency operating on the horizon of the possible. We take all this to be the subject of speculative practice as well as the primary issue of accelerationist thought.
If we aim at repurposing current means in society, technology, arts, or academia we need to contest the horizon of their normal modes of operation and common sense. ‘Horizon’ in this case does not represent just another boundary (To boldly go where no one has gone before…) but it marks an edge or a fold which uncovers a vast space for our future, our imagination and the virtual. On the one hand, this limit is both necessary in the sense that we need to relate ourselves to the horizons of the possible, while on the other hand it remains genuinely contingent since we cannot reach into the future.
The problems of the future and capitalism often tend to be essentialized, whereas our refuge in diagnosing our present conditions or resorting to historical examples as signposts for guidance surrenders to the urgent task of pushing towards anticipatory visions. Against such contentions we pose the very title of our book; neither the future nor capitalism can be described as objects, as for instance Amanda Beech explicitly argues in her contribution to this book. Rather, we wish to a employ a far less essentializing metaphor of horizon and its processual reinvention. It suggests that we indeed have a very complex and continuous relation to our future and we cannot resort to simplifying claims about having no future. One of the fundamental aspects of the accelerationist discourse is an attempt at refining and disentangling its relation to the notion of modernity from the affective systems of contemporary (post)capitalism. Can the possibilities inherent in new technologies be envisioned as autonomous from the foreclosed totality of ‘capitalism’?
Envisioning possibilities necessitates the resistance to personifying Capitalism as an autonomous agent that perpetually outstrips our capabilities to decipher its internal operations and dynamics. The project of repurposing the potential of technologies, practices, and conceptual frameworks are underlined by the question of orientation. Therefore, the conception and realization of mediatory tools adequate to mapping our enmeshment within the virtual geography of the digital sphere whose composition consisting of nodes, clusters, hubs, platforms or its entire architecture ‘The Stack’4 yields potential affordances. Fundamentally, we need to realize once again the immanent plurality of possibilities and perspectives which enable scaffolds and speculative constructions to emerge.
What speculative practice in this context uncovers and creates is not an exhausted index – its specificity lies rather in its navigational and hyperstitional character. A fundamental aspect of this is the practice of what Frederic Jameson termed ‘cognitive mapping.’ Creating a model which maps the extremities of potential and which charts navigable paths between variegated aspects and tendencies and networks at this point comprises a fundamental aspect of the overall accelerationist endeavor. Ultimately, The redemption of an emancipatory program of Modernity must thus be conjoined with the understanding that progress must be inscribed within a database of set relations, within already accreted platforms of organization. The future stands on tangible horizons, which must be refashioned.
The book you hold arises from a peculiar set of motifs and circumstances. It aims at accompanying the conference held on the 18th and 19th of March of the same name and an exhibition Artificial Cinema, both being held in Tranzitdisplay, Prague. It also serves a purpose of its own, trying to interject itself into the specific context of contemporary thought. As such, the book takes its point of departure in the accelerationist discourse, which we take to be a broad and heterogeneous strand of thought attempting a redefinition, or even a repurposing, of current means, be it within the context of academia, the arts, technology or media, in order to address contemporary socio-political problems and controversies.
It is our objective to bring together a broad variety of contributors. We are in this way trying to accommodate variegated themes of discourse coalescing around the debates of contemporary thought.
We begin with a text by Nick Srnicek who sets the problem of the future and an alternative to capitalism, framing it by analyzing a myopic relationship between present and future temporality. Utilizing Reinhart Koselleck’s themes regarding the horizon of expectation and the space of experience as a bedrock to conceive and grasp our mutating conception of a historical time; he attempts to recapitulate the changing threadwork of temporality. Srnicek explores the important relationship fostered between experience and expectations whereas the latter derived and became determined from the former to constitute the basis for the future. The advent of Modernity produced a new image of time that enabled a discovery of the future, potentiating leaps towards different imaginaries coupled with emancipatory ends. Yet, modernity also bore a disruptive link separating expectations and experience where individual experience becomes eclipsed by a broader totality that exceeds our capacity for comprehension and mapping out new visions. Characterizing our embroilment within in an eternal present that liquidates a social imaginary or mortgages expectations to the turbulent and indeterminate operations of the market Srnicek identifies strategies for reinvigorating the role of an imaginary and disrupting the repetitious horizon of expectation.
Amanda Beech’s essay Space is No Object addresses the problem of horizon explicitly, extrapolating it against the, recently popularized, object oriented approaches. She is preoccupied with the manner aesthetic products have shaped and fleshed out our concept of the space lying beyond our Earth’s atmosphere. Indeed she critiques the implications of Srnicek and Wiliams’ Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics, and uses examples of sci-fi which have shaped a horizon of possibility. Beech poses the question whether there will still be an Outside which lies beyond the signifying register fostered by the entertainment complex. Can we still, despite our hyperstitional aesthetics, attempt to access space as a ‘beyond’ of the reach of accreted capital? In her essay, she uncovers the mechanisms which foreclose space as an always-already created concept. Using various examples from contemporary cinema, Beech attempts to unravel the ideal of a space functioning as a transcendent realm.
Mohammad Salemy similarly expounds on what he terms “science non-fiction”. Evoking names such as Manuel Delanda and Gilles Châtelet, Salemy attempts to carve out a space for science non-fiction – a space where it would be capable to construct new ideologies for the coming future. Salemy vehemently critiques the contemporary political situation and criticizes the functioning mechanisms of disaster capitalism, while always keeping in perspective the inchoate but, in his view, inevitable ascent of the machines. He posits the horizontal and inclusive potential of human-machine interaction against that of the vertical, hierarchical construct of the world’s capitalistic “managerial / professional class,” and implies that a new ethics is necessary in order to accommodate for the nascent phenomenon of human-machine interaction.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is an ongoing critique of academia and its mode of engagement. Armen Avanessian‘s Accelerating Academia: On Hyperstition in Theory undertakes this endeavor providing a diagnostic on the stalemate of contemporary Humanities, that is based on a Humboldtian model primed on elevating the role of the modern research hero coinciding with the university appearing as a sanctuary immune to the destructive tendencies of marketization. Avanessian invokes the necessity to emphasize the social and global context that various institutions are embedded within, whereas the activation of a ‘politicization’ becomes manifest through all its material forms: settings of writings, spaces of communication, and challenging practices of evaluation could play a shaping role in confronting academic economics. He further inquires what Accelerationism offers and if so what are the necessary tools to deploy for the intervention within these established frameworks. Accordingly, Accelerationism must engage and generate formations that cultivate alternative practices of knowledge circulation and distribution, trigger hyperstitional fictions into realities, manipulate the extant infrastructure of power strategies that ultimately enable local and global contexts to produce transformation.
After these four formative text the book features contributions that are more particular within their scope, outlining specific strategies or hypersititions. We start with the problem of automation as articulated in the text of Luciana Parisi. This text connects the philosophical recuperations with the reflection of technology. The author constellates the role of automation and its contested role within the infrastructure of Technocapitalism, where its direct absorption executes a vast array of coding functions performed through software protocols, databases and interfaces that are central to cultural, social, and economic capitalization. Conversely, she points to the circumspect embrace of automation and its reappropriation towards new ends that are espoused by the likes of Antonia Negri and Tiziana Terranova, which underlines its affinities with Accelerationism. Parisi contends the importance of attending to understanding how the operation and logic of automation has entered a novel arena of non-compressibility that coincides with the possibilities of constant chance, experimentation, and non-conscious decisions. Therefore, the advent of a paradigm of ‘automated cognition’ now exceeds a subsumption under a totalizing theory or program. Provided with capabilities of self-modification, invention of new axioms, rules and codings we discover a gap between automation’s instrumentalisation and autonomy. Ultimately, Parisi ponders what is required for means to address and articulate a critical automaton theory.
Diann Bauer in her text You Promised Me Primer and You Gave Me Gossip Girl excavates the ramifications of the term ‘hyperstition.’ By providing the specific example of Lockheed-Martin promotional videos, she identifies the hyperstitional manifestations of the de- and re-territorializations of contemporary politics – with enough capital at one’s disposal, all prophecies can inevitably become self-fulfilling. Making contact with thinkers such as Land, Srnicek and Williams, Bauer attempts to wrest from the grip of a military-industrial-entertainment complex, access to the modern ideal of constructing and engineering a future. It is in this way that she attempts to reclaim hyperstition as a method for an emancipatory and abductive politics.
Exploring the central role of innovation Victoria Ivanova‘s piece as she underscores its complementarity to accelerationism’s progressive praxis. Shuttling through the works of Longo, Simondon, and Easterling she echoes the role of cunningness to play a part in intercepting potential sites and phases of development that are conducive for reinvention. Importing the concept of Novelty Intermediation we discover the convergence of creative rationality and strategic insight potentiating the means to recombine extant elements of reproducible structures to manipulate and importantly shape ‘new unitary appearances.’. Ivanova highlights Keller Easterling’s work Extrastatecraft that pinpoints free trade zones as conducive spaces for hacking and reengineering through their exemption from civil law and government control and the confluence of alternative technologies, urbanities and politics.
Context of Art and Politics
Shifting the focus to art we turn to its reinventive potential (connected to speculative practice). Peter Wolfendale‘s The Artist’s Brain at Work explores the relationship between production and consumption of artwork to conceive and inquire into the shared cognitive capacities between artist and audience. Elucidating on the opposing models characterizing the consumption of artworks: the aesthetic and semantic, Wolfendale attempts to circumvent their deadlock through the reexamination of the dialectic of sensibility and intelligibility. Through this dialectic we unlock the synthetic and discursive nature of cognition through language competency and various neural mechanisms involved in integrating our sensations and underpinning the role of information-processing. Primarily, the commonality between artist and audience via a similar cognitive makeup becomes the pivot point to investigate into various registers of information-processes involved. Therefore Wolfendale affirms the artists’ role becomes to discover and navigate possible states characteristic of our collective cognitive architecture.
In the text For a Nontrivial Art by Patricia Reed the problem of art is connected to the problem of “subjectivity”. According to her its current models desperately need theoretical reformatting in the contemporary art world since it serves as the fundamental buttress or legitimizing factor related to process of individual agency, free play of the senses or subjectivity as such. This still resembles the Romantic models (bound even to Schiller) that have little correlation with neuro-scientific or systems theory perspectives on the ‘subject’. Furthermore, politically speaking, such models in part keep the field entrenched within a neoliberal schematism. To articulate this Reed aims at mediation, integration or iteration of the scientific image with manifest image line of thought resorting to Wilfrid Sellars and the concept of epistopolitics.
Antonia Majaca‘s feature considers the transformation of a computational paradigm that decouples from executing an instrumentalized set of instructions towards a mode of incomputability, randomness, and contingency and its implications for Epistemology. Extrapolating from Luciana Parisi’s work who postulates a shift of algorithmic operation through the amalgamation of a vast number of computational sources that are bent on an inexhaustible search for ‘unknown unknowns’; she posits a touchstone for novel knowledge formations that are incongruous to the organizational method premised on what is known, understood, and self-evident. This search for the ‘unknown unknowns’ that circumvent programmable logic and outpaces human cognition parallels the ‘paranoid imagination’ or creative imagination. Majaca, ponders on the possible ingression of the incomputable within Art, whereas the exalted role of creativity emanating from the wellspring of human imagination could be reinvented through an alliance of machinic and alien intelligence.
The book concludes in a series of features related to politics. Jason Adam’s text focuses primarily on the transformed nexus of technoculture, political economy and the nation state. Analyzing the decelerative disjunctures between global technoculture and political economy and the fragmented configuration of eroding nation-states and peripheral non-states he attempts to provide the groundwork for a planetary governance. Disentangling the conception of planetary governance from its potential authoritarian associations becomes a crucial endeavour, an endeavour that must also align with Srnicek and Williams espousal that Accelerationism must discover a ‘universal space of possibility’. Here Adam’s provides a tentative framework that underscores strategically accelerating the new capacities of emerging technoculture and political economy via a combination of radically democratizing, financially supporting, and legally regulating currently-crumbling domains of research & development.
Martin Brabec addresses the issue of Universal Basic Income. In his essay subtitled A Radical Socioeconomic Alternative on the Horizon. The author provides an introduction to and an appeal for the implementation of Universal Basic Income – an economic concept which has been gaining more and more traction in the developed countries of the West. Brabec identifies a number of constitutive features of the of Universal basic income, where the first part presents its traits and historical roots. The second part focuses on the issue of the existence of a moral argument for implementing basic income. Finally the last section discusses the egalitarian consequences of implementing basic income – its effect on problems with unemployment, empowering the bargaining power of employees, supporting the aims of the environmental and women’s movements, and extending real freedom.
The whole book concludes in contribution of Federica Bueti. She critiques the male-dominated schemes which have conditioned the historical, as well as contemporary notions of possible horizons of the future. By evoking the name of the blind-prophet Tiresias, she appeals for a reflective vision of a future, a “future of within”. Tiresias’ ability to feel his way in his environment while projecting a vision for navigation is portrayed as being anathema to the scopic visions of a man-machine-god. The androgynous Tiresias is, in Bueti’s treatment, given a free, creative quality, which stemming from a knowledge oriented towards and feeding back into the within.
We believe this profusion of themes and motifs of the texts presented leads to a collection aimed at presenting the overarching issues concerned with rethinking the relation of our perspective with that of technology, rejuvenating the visions of the future with a fresh infusion…
We want to thank all the authors of texts, the participants of the conference and other people involved in the project of Reinventing Horizons. It already proved itself to be not only a highly stimulating endeavour, but also a platform for connecting many interesting persons in a hyperstitional dialogue.
This book is dedicated to Mohammad Salemy. Meeting him was essential to our course of thought and action, and we take this book to be a direct extension of this meeting.
Václav Janoščík, Vít Bohal, Dustin Breitling
1 We derive the conception of eccentricity from Patricia Reed’s feature in the Accelerationist Reader: Patricia Reed, “Reorientate, Eccentricate, Speculate, Fictionalize, Geometricize, Commonize, Abstractify: Seven Prescriptions for Accelerationism,” In R. Mackay and A. Avanessian (eds.), #ACCELERATE: The Accelerationist Reader (Berlin/London: Urbanomic and Merve Verlag, 2014).
2 Rachel Armstrong writes: “speculative explorations can be used as models to represent and compare ideas or to explore incomplete knowledge sets. This allows increasingly more reasoned trajectories to be developed, which may eventually be experimentally testable and gain the status of of scientific hypotheses.” Rachel Armstrong, Vibrant Architecture: Matter as a CoDesigner of Living Structures (Berlin: de Gruyter Open, 2015), 66.
3 “Mohammad Salemy on the New Centre for Research & Practice,” accessed on 26th of February, 2016,
4 Benjamin H. Bratton, “The Black Stack,” e-flux Journal 71 (2016), accessed on 26th of February, 2016, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-black-stack/