If farce follows tragedy, what follows farce? Where does the double predicament of a post-truth and post-shame politics leave artists and critics on the left? How to demystify a hegemonic order that dismisses its own contradictions? How to belittle a political elite that cannot be embarrassed, or to mock party leaders who thrive on the absurd? How to out-dada President Ubu? And, in any event, why add outrage to a media economy that thrives on the same? What Comes After Farce? comments on shifts in art, criticism, and fiction in the face of the current regime of war, surveillance, extreme inequality, and media disruption. A first section focuses on the cultural politics of emergency since 9/11, including the use and abuse of trauma, paranoia, and kitsch. A second reviews the neoliberal makeover of art institutions during the same period. Finally, a third section surveys transformations in media as reflected in recent art, film, and fiction. Among the phenomena explored here are “machine vision” (images produced by machines for other machines without a human interface),“operational images” (images that do not represent the world so much as intervene in it), and the algorithmic scripting of information so pervasive in our everyday lives.
“What Comes After Farce confirms what many have known for a long time: Hal Foster is indisputably the most important cultural critic writing in English today. No one else consistently offers such nuanced and cogent analyses of the tangled trajectories of the arts and media in this era of globalized financial capitalism. At the same time, few come close to Foster’s discerning familiarity with the work of the most venturesome artists, novelists, filmmakers, and architects or to his critical understanding of the difficulties and challenges now facing them in our current state of emergency.”
“These essays, mostly on art (and culture and politics and violence and technology) read as one seamless and disturbing account of a catastrophic historical epoch: our own. Hal Foster offers no solace but instead his deft and trenchant wisdom on how we got here.”
“Every word cuts to the quick in this extraordinary book. Foster shows that true criticism must be swift and surgical, but it must also hurt. He casts his relentless and unflinching gaze on the crises of our time, from new fundamentalisms to alternative facts, from cultural imperialism to perpetual war. And yet these essays do not pose the twenty-first century as a cycle of tragedy and farce, doomed to repeat itself, but as a threshold—through which art can, and perhaps must, take us.”
“Illuminating, theoretically informed criticism of contemporary art.”