The Uncontemporary
The Uncontemporary



The Uncontemporary

Date: 11-Mar-2016

Location: Contemporary Art Tasmania


Edward Colless calls on us to disconnect with “contemporaneity” as a commodity tag for the sort of globalised art of e-flux advertising that he diagnoses as a mode of rarefied neo-liberalist aesthetics.


“Contemporaneity: in common usage as well as in professional critical jargon, this word has become a mantra. It is the contemporary made “smart”. A commendation as well as commodity tag, its use is a tactic of value adding to contemporary art that induces a pathological affirmation of the present tense. We could diagnose this pathology as an urgent and total compulsion to be immersed in and fluent with the sleepless, weightless, 24/7 globalized marketing and remediation of images and signs (from e-flux advertising to the ubiquitous labour of personal data-management in social media, such as Instagram and Facebook accounts). Against the imperative to be connected, accessible, participatory and continuously upgraded, I propose the manoeuvre of the “uncontemporary”. Although I hasten to add that this not a crusty rear-guard or reactionary posture reeling with exhaustion, but instead an accelerated distension and distortion of those vectors—through aesthetic and semiotic strategies of disconnection, esotericism, anachronism, excommunication, and collapse—that pervert the streaming ubiquity of the contemporary. Think of the “uncontemporary” as a slur on the contemporary rather than a simple negation of it, in the way the “uncanny” is an evil suspicion that something familiar is being warped.”


Edward Colless is Head of Critical and Theoretical Studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. He has in the past worked in theatre, film, broadcasting and architecture, been a curator, worked as a travel writer, and dabbled in fiction—but mainly he writes art criticism. In this field he has, among other assignments, been arts reviewer for the national newspaper The Australian, and associate editor and features writer for Australian Art Collector. He is currently editor of the imminently re-launched journal Art + Australia, with its associated book publishing program. He also uses every opportunity to write on arcane topics, the more obscure the better: heretical theology, art historical marginalia, crypto-zoology and crypto-archaeology.

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