Tate Britain Talk

Exit or Escape?

This session will examine the tensions between exit and escape in relation to art, design and politics.

There is a movement within the fields of contemporary art, design and political action that faces the disparity of ambition and actuality head-on. The focus then becomes, how do we navigate through these fields - should we attempt some form of exit or escape? But, strategies that seek to exit these contemporary structures often seem to end up perpetuating the limitations that they seek to overcome. Indeed, is it plausible to conceive of "exit" in a context where the neoliberal hijacking of the imagination is also one which feeds-off the plasticity of false alternative futures and seemingly emancipative action, ultimately channelling thought and action under the axiom of Capitalist Realism: there is no alternative? Against this backdrop of the stasis of post-modernity and the inertia of an ever-more globalised capitalism, what might it mean for art, design and politics to operate under the conditions of a future, which appears impossible?

Do we, instead, look towards a logic of escapology, rather than exit, in which the resources of the current structural restrictions are harnessed against themselves? Is it possible to "flip the game" and convert the structure of passivity into an active resource, to engender modes of thinking that do not coincide with the modes of contemporary life? If so, might it be possible to construct insurrections by which a logic of escape reconstructs and builds its own future? In this setting, what would art, design and politics look like?

The session will consist of three short papers leaving ample time for discussion and debate.


Patricia Reed: The Alienation of Contemporary Art
Benedict Singleton: Design: The Weapon of the Weak
Alex Williams: Political logics of escape versus exit

Suggested reading and viewing

The Nature of Constraint, Art, Habit and Rule
Amanda Beech, 2013

Exit not escape - On The Necessity of Art's Exit from Contemporary Art
Suhail Malik Lecture at Artists Space NYC, 2013

Diagramming the Common
Patricia Reed (lecture), 2014

Benedict Singleton, Maximum Jailbreak

Camatte, J (1973) The Wandering of Humanity

Brassier, R (2014) Wandering Abstraction

Williams, A. & Srnicek, N (2013) Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics

Keith Tilford, The Hooks Beneath the Bait, Entrapment and Escape in Althusser and Art, 2013

Fixing the Future: Strategies of exit, logics of escape (conversation between Keith Tilford, Suhail Malik and Benedict Singleton)


Patricia Reed is an artist and writer based in Berlin. An avid diagramme-maker, her recent research centers on perspectivalism, modeling, economy and architecture. She is a board member of The New Centre for Research & Practice and is host to the Inclinations lectures series at the Or Gallery, Berlin.

Benedict Singleton is a designer based in London. He divides his time between commercial consultancy, teaching architecture at the Royal College of Art, and self-directed projects that pursue new connections between design, film and philosophy.

Alex Williams is a political theorist. He is the author (with Nick Srnicek) of Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics and the forthcoming Inventing the Future: Folk Politics and the Left (Verso 2015).

Tate Britain

London SW1P 4RG
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Date & Time

15 October 2014 at 16.00–18.00