What is critical consciousness at bottom if not an unstoppable predilection for alternatives?
Theory is no longer theoretical, when it loses sight of its conditional nature, takes no risk in speculation, and circulates as a form of administrative inquisition over the world paralyzing all of us practitioners’.
Today critique has become the primary mode of practicing theory. A growing dissatisfaction with the political capacities of critique is emerging facing the many crises in our world today. The persistence of melancholy as a primary affect of much contemporary theory derives from the recognition of this inability of critique to fulfill its transformative promises. And yet such expressions of dissatisfaction with critique generally are not accompanied by propositions of a different practice of theory as political intervention. What I am looking for is a new model for theory (ideas, concepts and material practices) in search of a social project aimed at both autonomy (independence) and democracy in the spirit of Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?” given the post-political condition of Neo-liberalism with its managerial spirit focusing on sustainability, comfort and security.
What I look for are new social, ethical and political theories – which are both present in our material practice and the body of ideas (its past, present and future) – that potentially confront the urgent questions of the future; theories that develop speculative spatial, performative and aesthetic models, and ask: “What it could mean to be Modern today“ within the very domain of praxis.
I see theory not only as a system of ideas intended to reflect, but – as in the Greek meaning of theoria – also as a system to speculate and contemplate – to develop a view (positions) and practice of actions that reach outside the limits and boundaries of accepted fields and methods, hybridizing them, inventing new categories and new modes of experimentation that includes the rewriting of history from novel, urgent and actual perspectives. Besides a short theoretical retrospective – critically interrogating the current situation in theory – the paper is after marking a new beginning, or in other words outlines what a possible other approach practicing theory could consist off. With the help of what has been happening in other fields such as film, art, literature studies and what has been happening under influence of the material turn (speculative realism) a new framework of Theory Now will be outlined including references to contemporary architectural practices and innovative examples of research happening at different architecture faculties.
thisthingcalledtheory 12th international conference of the AHRA - Architectural Humanities Research Association 19th-21st November 2015, Leeds, United Kingdom