In Search of a Recuperative Aesthetics

In Search of a Recuperative Aesthetics is an Art & Education Classroom curated by Kayla Anderson (Alum Berlin ’19).

The hypertext ‘seeks out art works and practices that we might call recuperative – those that grapple with the present by carving out space to feel, mourn, dream, and build.’


Providing introduction to the space/programme, Anderson opens:

In discourses about climate change, extinction, slow violence, and lingering manifestations of colonialism, to profess hope can seem questionable—a naive, placating gesture. However, some would argue that a well-informed sense of dread or hopelessness is an equally disabling position.

At a conference I attended on approaching the Anthropocene from a humanities perspective, an economics student delivered a paper arguing that discussing climate change made him and his fellow students depressed, and therefore we should cease doing so. Avoiding “eco-depression,” to use his term, is clearly not in anyone’s best interest. But how can we face the world—a world that has come to seem like too much—and really allow ourselves to rub up against its pains and contradictions in a way that does not leave us feeling simply devastated or defeatist?

What does it mean—in art and in life—to hold these contradictions in conjunction?

Deliberating on this question, I’ve been drawn to works of art that engage feelings of hope and hopelessness at the same time, that linger in complexity and complicity, that imagine life in capitalist ruins and stay with the trouble These works position the viewer in relation to the histories and narratives in question at a point that seems both just in time and already a little too late. At once aspirational and elegiac, they neither offer solutions nor render us entirely helpless.

In Search of a Recuperative Aesthetics takes prompts from Carrie Lambert-Beatty’s “Make-Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility,” Bruno Latour’s “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?” and Terry Smith’s “Contemporary Art and Contemporaneity,”– and includes videos by: Alexis Shotwell, Donna Haraway & Anna Tsing, Allora & Calzadilla, Metahaven, Danny Giles, Ruby T, Black Quantum Futurism, Fictilis, Hito Steyerl, Irena Haiduk, Coco Fusco & Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The Yes Men, Walid Raad, and Solange Knowles.

Visit the classroom here.


Kayla Anderson

Kayla Anderson is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and organizer based in Chicago, IL. Per* acts as an intermediary between objects and ideas, and views art and design as practices capable of radical imagining. Her writing and research engages with concepts of speculative futures, non-anthropocentric ontologies, post-humanism, animism, and the Anthropocene. Her material existence is based in Chicago, Illinois.

*“per” (from “person”) was a non-gendered pronoun proposed by Marge Piercy in the 1976 novel “Woman on the Edge of Time.”