Cartographies of the Absolute

Cartographies of the Absolute

An aesthetics of the economy for the twenty-first century.


Can capital be seen? Cartographies of the Absolute surveys the disparate answers to this question offered by artists, film-makers, writers and theorists over the past few decades. It zones in on the crises of representation that have accompanied the enduring crisis of capitalism, foregrounding the production of new visions and artefacts that wrestle with the vastness, invisibility and complexity of the abstractions that rule our lives.


How much of capitalism can we see from the moon? This remarkable, unclassifiable book sets out to map the ways. Cartographies takes as its object representation as such, which it tracks through theories, models, visual works, films, novels, engineering projects and whole cities: it is an immense museum exhibition of artefacts material and mental which attempt, consciously or not, to convey the totalisation implacably at work everywhere in late capitalism. But this is also a profoundly theoretical work: indeed, it summons us to think new philosophical thoughts about this system and how to make it visible. We ought to emerge from it with a new conception of the tasks of criticism and the production of art itself. ~ Fredric Jameson, author of Representing Capital and The Antinomies of Realism​

Cartographies of the Absolute is an essential guide to the most formidable and urgent questions about how we see, represent and try to understand the greatest forces shaping our historical moment. ~ Trevor Paglen, artist and author of Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World

Cartographies of the Absolute takes us beyond current fashions for perspectivalism and flat ontologies, and beyond the tired (and often quietistic) formulae that argue how capitalism’s modern complexities must remain forever beyond human grasp. Bringing vital insights to a range of aesthetic practices – and recognising the torsions, refractions and ruses required to puncture the reified social forms before us - Toscano and Kinkle elaborate a praxis of dissident totalisation to counter capital’s limited horizons. ~ Gail Day, author of Dialectical Passions: Negation in Postwar Art Theory

Culture, in the last decade, has had a simple duty: to be the dreamlife of the bust. It has answered this call in ways uneven, tawdry, messed up, beautiful — but it has finally not failed to make a veiled reading of this obscene catastrophe. But how then to wake from the purling images, how to leap from dream to map of the present? Here we need ideal readers of culture's readings, and none have come closer than Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle. Their bravura cleavings of spectacular representation and the transformations of global capital become themselves a kind of new knowledge, a kind of psychelocation from which we might take an orientation and a sense of possibility. ~ Joshua Clover, author of the Totality for Kids and 1989

How this complex, chaotic, vicious system of exploitation called capitalism has been rendered by TV writers, Hollywood directors, and glamorous or struggling artists forms the theme of this book. From box sets to boxes floating across the seas, from dialectical thinking to diabolical reckoning: it is all here, laid out, picked out and unpicked, absorbed and turned over. Rubbish practices are called out, whether they originate in governments or the artworld. Cognitive mapping, which may be the poor analyst's conspiracy theory, gets its abstractions made real. Read it and move more consciously and dialectically through the globe. ~ Esther Leslie, author of Walter Benjamin and Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry

A grand tour de force of western cognitive maps and a searching dérive through anti-capitalist dimensions of theory, media and art - now pulsing on the rotting flesh of the world system. With critical acumen, serious political commitment and more than a modicum of erudite cool, Toscano and Kinkle revisit Jameson's landmark work on cognitive mapping and, by drawing extensively on the Marxist critical tradition, forward the life and death project of teaching readers to read in a dialectical mode. Grasping the aesthetic as at once program and battleground, they clearly manifest the necessity, the stakes, and the fine-grained resolution of a radical critical practice. ~ Jonathan Beller, author of The Cinematic Mode of Production

Alberto Toscano
Alberto Toscano Alberto Toscano is Reader in Critical Theory at the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. He sits on the editorial boar...
Jeffrey Kinkle
Jeffrey Kinkle Jeff Kinkle completed his PhD at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London. His dissertation was on Guy Debord, para...
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