Research Essay

No More and Less: The Withdrawal of Speculation



In the ten years since the seminal workshop on Speculative Realism at Goldsmiths College (Bassier), speculation has become the new noumenon of the art world: Promising the final fulfilment of the avant-garde dream that would finally emancipate the art object from indexicality, the speculative has held an irresistible appeal for artists (Beech, 1–2). As leader of the pack, Graham Harman’s Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) has become the champion of the cause. Yet, after all this speculation around realism, we seem to have got no closer to the real object of art than we ever where: OOO and its speculative variants, have left artists standing in the studio with nothing but a handful of sensual qualities that, as a symptom of transcendental withdrawal, are of little practical use. Speculation it seems has failed the facticity of practice and threatens to reduce art to little more than an indirect aesthetics. Anticipating the release of Harman’s Art and Object in mid 2019, this paper attempts to head off any speculative Greenbergian revitalisation by considering the implications of Tristan Garcia’s intensity with regard to the facticity of practice (Garcia, 2018). Central to Garcia’s ontology, intensity – the difference between what a thing is and what it is not – is seen to resists speculative naivety while informing practice’s need for certitude. Thus, unlike the speculative withdrawal of indirect aesthetic, aesthetics of intensity withhold nothing, and emerge in art practice as the tension between thought and action. Bassier, Ray, et al. “Speculative Realism.” Collapse, III, 2007, pp. 306–433. Beech, Amanda, et al. Speculative Aesthetics. Urbanomic, 2014. Garcia, Tristan. Life Intense: A Modern Obsession. Edinburgh University Press, 2018. Harman, Graham. “Aesthetics and the Tension in Objects.” [Met]Afourism, Midsea Books Ltd, 2018, pp. 11–19. Harman, Graham. The Quadruple Object. Zero Books, 2011a. Harman, Graham. “The Road to Objects.” Continent, vol. 1.3, 2011b,171–179. Harman, Graham. Art and Object. Polity Press, 2019.


speculative realismpracticeOOOintensityaestheticsphilosophy
  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 3 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 4
  • DOI: 10.5334/mjfar.41
  • Published on 18 Jul 2019
  • Peer Reviewed