Representation. Ends, Means, Desires and Capitalia
A Seminar with Amanda Beech

04.05.2024, 16:00

This-is-not-real-Amanda-Beech This-is-not-real-Amanda-Beech
Amanda Beech, Covenant Transport Move or Die (still), 2015. Main screen as part of a 5 screen installation.

We invite you to this Desire and Capital post-scriptum, fronted by Amanda Beech, at Rib. During the seminar titled Representation. Ends, Means, Desires and Capitalia, Beech will present her work on the subject of representation (politics) in contemporary art. It will be followed by a response from Maziar Afrassiabi as himself: as embodied representative of Rib. The event is meant to facilitate an encounter so we may interrogate and reevaluate our positions regarding questions of representation in the art, capital and desire triad.

This event is organized by Sonia de Jager, Maziar Afrassiabi and Amanda Beech.

Representation and revelation
We would like to make this event as dialogical and interactive as possible. Therefore, in order to participate, it is important that you come prepared to enter this conversation. Please read the event description that follows, formulate comments, questions in advance, and feel free to read the texts suggested at the bottom (not strictly necessary but definitely suggested reading).

The main questions guiding our conversation will be: what do we (collectively) understand the “role” of art to be, in an age of derailed, maladaptive capitalist desires which are deeply entangled with the logic of artistic production? What ‘picture of the world’ (Beech) are we promoting? How do (artistic, academic, philosophical) gestures signal alternatives and/or reinforce current regimes, or even propose as “representation”? What kind of representations ensue from the negation of meaning and representation itself? What does art/do we/does capitalism understand representation to be? Oppression and inequality inevitably ensue from any practice that forgets how and it is embedded in larger dynamics, but materialisms that try to attend to our imbrication within the world of things also produce their own hierarchies. Let us think together about how we foster a very naive false consciousness in ontological and epistemological claims. As Beech suggests: “This naivety belies the Romantic realism hidden in [the] universal claim: “everything is contingent.”

As Beech also contends, the legacy of art’s epistemological crisis blown out in the context of 1968, has implicitly and explicitly manifested art as an ideological pseudo-apology for the failure of its own means. It is underwritten by a popular hatred of instrumentalism, the dread of universalisms and the fetishization of its innate resistance to any telos of ends. In the face of this, how do the images and affects of art re-map and re-think the lens by which art practices view the structure of reality and conceive themselves in it? Can art make extensions to a future that is not simply trivial, but thinkable beyond the principles of capital? What structure of fiction is necessary for this?

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Amanda Beech, Covenant Transport Move or Die (still), 2015. Main screen as part of a 5 screen installation.

Maziar Afrassiabi has reflected on these issues in the context of Rib as a space of (re)presentation. How do we think about being confronted, or comforted, by dominant art systems and ideologies? As he claims, “art has nothing to do with epistemology. Burdening art with such a task is itself part of the dominant ideology in art, and is also often a blindspot in both theory and art that imposes a false start in its self-reflection.” In a McLuhanesque vein, which problematizes figure-ground relationships, Afrassiabi moves beyond the positing of art as about something.

If we think beyond the idea of simple revelation (something is shown, something appears, something is witnessed), can we frame things around how revelation as a possibility, rather than an assumption, can perpetually and actively re-structure our engagement? To Afrassiabi, revelation is an interruption of the course of ‘progress’ of the status quo; a discontinuity and a new continuity. Revelation is an event. It’s not an image in the sense of ‘aboutness’, nor even an image of an event. In the context of Rib: revelation cannot emerge within/in the face of a project (defined as a “well-executed plan,” with a projected outcome) but as a program that includes the possibility of its own interruption. This aspect of the event is conventionally considered as a cause of system-failure, something to be avoided. But: the efforts to prevent the event by way of planning and anticipating possible risks to minimize an unexpected outcome, is actual system failure, one-dimensional maladaptivity (de Jager). In the event that is art, that translates into aforementioned art ideologies: aboutness, contingency-fetishism, the comfort of an affirmed relevance as a solution rather than a problem.

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Amanda Beech, Covenant Transport Move or Die (still), 2015. Main screen as part of a 5 screen installation.

The logic of “the project” proposes these possible unpredictabilities and structures itself in a way that a predictable product is revealed. A project is, by definition, governed by risk management and prevention to realize an expectation. But expectations are the road to hell. And repetition is considered wasteful, redundant in a capitalist system, unless as a revival: feeding on e.g., nostalgic or “rarity” desires (e.g., the fetish for analogue synths). Repetition in our view of things is a possible way to bypass the logic of overproduction and growth, which is a repetition without difference because it's rather the repetition of the image of difference without risk or consequence; novelty in a capitalist system is a mute image, the illusion of difference which fosters extractive desires and demands. In Rib’s program the event determines its own course: the event is not planned but planted. The question of failure for whom and for which system is foregrounded. What is emancipatory here is failure for the capitalist system. But are we really here? Is this thought actually possible? Rib at least tries to perform and stage such a program, where art as catastrophic fiction, or as an image of revelation/possibility becomes real in relation to an economy that is all about risk-management and “transparency”.

The end is already defined by the means that is the given infrastructure. Considering infrastructure as a site of change turns it into a means without end, a pure revelation (not of this or that, but of a possibility as such within the regime of impossibility and finitude). Rib is therefore not an infrastructure of representation but of creation and change. As a side note, from Afrassiabi: these aforementioned symptoms might be also why art (at least in NL) has no real ‘materialist’ answer, and certainly does not answer to the plans of the political right to take revenge on art by dismantling its governmental support. It is itself based on a political ideology that has lost its self-evidence. Enough supposed, presumed revelation, since this is not what we create but what inevitably happens to us in these given entrenchments. Perhaps revelation is the result of a long process where small discontinuities accumulate, reaching a critical mass that has the capacity to irreversibly transform reality.

Amanda Beech is an artist and writer. In video, painting and other forms, her work apprehends structures that subtend and are coextensive with our lived reality. By exploring the connection and estrangement between the act of saying what is and manifesting what ought to be she invests in the capacity for a new form of realism. This demands the invention of new techniques and forms of reason and comprehensions of contingency which are drawn from philosophical theory, science, literature and real political events. The proposition that art can produce a form of intelligence beyond the principles of capitalism necessarily questions the limits that art has historically set for itself by means of its critiques. She has exhibited widely in various Biennales and has written texts for anthologies and museum catalogs. She has edited numerous books including being the contributing editor of Construction Site for Possible Worlds, 2019, Urbanomic/MIT Press and Cold War, Cold World, Urbanomic, 2015. Her recent work includes an essay on Jean Francois Lyotard’s exhibition Les Immateriaux for Beyond Matter, ZKM, Karlsruhe, and a solo show at Twelve Ten Gallery, Chicago. Recent talks include Map of the Bomb, as part of her role as visiting professor at Aalto University Finland and The Question of Realism, for Vienna University of the Angewandte as part of her current role as Visiting Professor at the Vienna Akademie of Art. Forthcoming work includes a new book on art, aesthetics and philosophy; The Intolerable Image, from MIT.

16:00: Introduction Maziar
16:15: Seminar Amanda
17:15: Discussion

18:00: Dinner break (not provided, but there are places around Rib)

18:45-late: Extended discussion with drinks, provided by Rib

Please note this event will be recorded.

We kindly ask you to RSVP, since it will be open on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to reserve a spot please send an email to:

Please come prepared for a seminar-like event. The idea is that we work towards ideas collectively, hand-waving and dick-swinging will not be appreciated.

Suggested readings
Amanda Beech, “Art’s Intolerable Knowledge”, in The PostResearch Condition, eds. Henk Slager and Iris van de Tuin. Volume/Event Contributors: Peter Osborne, Hito Steyerl, Vytautas Michelkevičius, Florian Cramer, Terike Haapoja, EARN Working Groups, Rachel Armstrong, Amanda Beech, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Irit Rogoff – Editor Henk Slager, Final Editor Annette W. Balkema.

Amanda Beech, “Heroic Realism: Violence, Conservatism, and the Fate of Culture”, in Urbanomic Docs, 2016.