Amanda Beech

Amanda Beech is an artist and writer, and is Dean of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita, California. Her work has been shown in solo and group shows worldwide, and she has also published artist's books including Sanity Assassin (Urbanomic, 2010) and Final Machine (Urbanomic, 2013).

  • The Intolerable Image

    The Intolerable Image

    Reason, Realism and Art

    Amanda Beech

    On how art can be understood as a space within which the project of reason is pursued.

    Modern and contemporary art have often defined themselves against the conceptual and linguistic mediations of reason, claiming that their practices offer a different and more direct access to the real or the material. 

    Employing a unique configuration of philosophy, art theory, and a consideration of specific artworks together with analysis of popular culture, current political events, and Hollywood cinema, artist, and theorist Amanda Beech challenges this deep-seated orthodoxy, asking how art can instead be understood as a space within which the project of reason is pursued.

    Developing out of the idealism of theological-sacral art, sustained in Romanticism and entrenched by poststructural antirealist critiques, the notion that art is opposed to reason defined the political and social hopes of the avant-garde, was manifested in the crisis of a self-conscious conceptualism, and remains implicit in the ontologies of immanence, anti-representationalism, and new materialist theories of affect championed in contemporary works today.

    But the grounds for art's autonomy as nonreason have never been secure, Beech argues, and are associated with a tragic sensibility and ultimately with naive and conservative beliefs about the nature of the image. 

    Worse still, while it asserts its natural right to the field of unreason and its access to a real that language cannot touch, contemporary art in fact continues to be of service to persistent and dominant ideologies.

    Considering the various possible relationships between reason and realism, Beech asks what kinds of "picturing" they involve, and what forms of epistemology they mobilise. When we can no longer maintain the assumption that it necessarily exceeds the normative linguistic practices of reason and is more "real" than other ways of addressing the world, what might the practice of art become?

    • Paperback $29.95
  • Construction Site for Possible Worlds

    Construction Site for Possible Worlds

    Amanda Beech, Robin Mackay, and James Wiltgen

    Perspectives from philosophy, aesthetics, and art on how to envisage the construction site of possible worlds.

    Given the highly coercive and heavily surveilled dynamics of the present moment, when the tremendous pressures exerted by capital on contemporary life produces an aggressively normative “official reality,” the question of the construction of other possible worlds is crucial and perhaps more urgent than ever.

    This collection brings together different perspectives from the fields of philosophy, aesthetics, and art to discuss the mechanisms through which possible worlds are thought, constructed, and instantiated, forcefully seeking to overcome the contemporary moment's deficit of conceptualizing alternate realities—its apparent fear of imagining possible new and compelling futures—to begin the arduous task of producing the political dynamics necessary for actual construction.

    Implicit in this dynamic between the imaginary and the possible is the question of how thinking intertwines with both rationality and the inherited contingencies and structures of the world. With no ascertainable ground on which to build, with no confidence in any given that could guarantee our labors, how do we even envisage the construction site(s) of possible worlds, and with what kind of diagrams, tools, and languages can we bring them into being?

    • Paperback $17.95
  • Cold War/Cold World

    Cold War/Cold World

    Knowledge, Representation, and the Outside in Cold War Culture and Contemporary Art

    Robin Mackay, Amanda Beech, and James Wiltgen

    A multidisciplinary collection of essays reflecting on Cold War cultural tropes in film, fiction, and contemporary art, and the models of knowledge that they imply.

    If the term “Cold World” describes a world of infinite complexity, algorithmic capital, and the technological sublime, in many ways the dread experienced during the Cold War, when clear oppositions were laid out between nation states, is echoed in the hall of mirrors of Cold World globalization, where our collective consciousness is overtaken by a flood of difference, uncertainty, and the dread of the incomputability of this alien yet constructed world.

    But what is the crime scene of the Cold World? How is it to be decrypted? Where are its discontinuities, what is the nature of its violence? This is to say, what is our place in this alien world and how do we even compute the “we” that we describe ourselves to be?

    Given the existential uncertainty unleashed for those who lived through the Cold War, but whose repercussions are in many ways amplified, relayed, and replayed in a new form for those who must now survive what has been called the “Cold World”—that of technological subjectivation, political malaise, cultural dysphoria, and ecological crisis—this terrain comprises an experiential and experimental horizon that prompts many to pose, and to stage in myriad forms, a fundamental question: “What will we of make of ourselves?”

    Cold War/Cold World documents a research project in progress that attempts to evaluate and respond to this fundamental shock to the system, examining attempts to render knowable, representable, or figurable the looming threats of both Cold War and Cold World—the common denominator being a distressed attempt to inquire into the dynamics of a real that seems in excess over understanding and the means of politics traditionally conceived; and a concomitant temptation to abandon any intelligent collective engagement in favour of a pragmatics that limits itself to wrestling with local contingencies, or an aesthetics mesmerised by a global sublime.

    • Paperback $12.95


  • Collapse, Volume 8

    Collapse, Volume 8

    Casino Real

    Robin Mackay

    An assembly of perspectives on risk, contingency, and chance—at the gaming table, in the markets, and in life.

    A transdisciplinary survey of practices that produce, analyse, and exploit risk and uncertainty, the eighth volume of Collapse uncovers the conceptual underpinnings of methods designed to extract value from contingency—at the gaming table, in the markets, and in life. The indictment of “casino capitalism” and the centrality of risk to contemporary society are traced back to a ubiquitous image of thought that originated in games of chance, but which is no longer adequate to address a world whose realities are now shaped by risk models and trading in speculative futures.

    To challenge the “casino” model, this volume brings together philosophers who extend the thinking of contingency beyond statistical modelling, professional traders and gamblers whose lifelong experience has shaped their understanding of chance, researchers analysing the perception and treatment of risk and uncertainty in diverse arenas including derivatives trading, quantum physics, insurance, sonic experimentation, literature, futurology, mathematics, and machine gambling, and artists whose work addresses both the desire to confront chance and the need to tame it by bringing it to order.

    • Paperback $31.95
  • Speculative Aesthetics

    Speculative Aesthetics

    Robin Mackay, James Trafford, and Luke Pendrell

    An examination of the new technological mediations between the human sensorium and the planetary media network and of the aesthetic as an enabler of new modes of knowledge.

    This series of interventions on the ramifications of Speculative Realism for aesthetics ranges from contemporary art's relation to the aesthetic, to accelerationism and abstraction, logic and design.

    From varied perspectives of philosophy, art, and design, participants examine the new technological mediations between the human sensorium and the massive planetary media network within which it now exists and consider how the aesthetic enables new modes of knowledge by processing sensory data through symbolic formalisms and technological devices.

    Speculative Aesthetics anticipates the possibility of a theory and practice no longer invested in the otherworldly promise of the aesthetic, but acknowledging the real force and traction of images in the world today, experimentally employing techniques of modelling, formalisation, and presentation so as to simultaneously engineer new domains of experience and map them through a reconfigured aesthetics that is inseparable from its sociotechnical conditions.

    • Paperback $12.95