Modern and contemporary art is, needless to say, a phenomenon of recent centuries; the same is true of sustained economic growth, a condition historically unheard-of before modern times and one pursued as an explicit political objective only since World War II. Economic growth clearly belongs among the fundamental features of modernity, and, without it, the compulsion to novelty characteristic of much art since the Industrial Revolution is difficult to imagine. And yet there exists virtually no reflection on growth as a basis of modern and contemporary art and aesthetics. In his lecture “Steady-State Aesthetics,” Benjamin Kunkel offers a set of provocative theses on our default aesthetic of endless growth—a way of seeing so habitual that we don’t see it—and the different kind of art-making which might emerge in a society that no longer grows economically, even as it continues to develop artistically and otherwise. Ecological economists speak of “steady-state economics” to describe such a post-growth condition: what might a steady-state aesthetics look like?
This event is free and open to the public and will take place at The Artist’s Institute, 132 E. 65th Street. Seating is limited and is first come, first served. A recording of the talk will be made available online by the following Saturday.