Books for changing the world
Art in the After-Culture
Capitalist Crisis and Cultural Strategy

“This kaleidoscopic collection will help you see and comprehend the world anew—which is, in my book, what good art should do.”
—Astra Taylor

It is a scary and disorienting time for art, as it is a scary and disorienting time in general. Aesthetic experience is both overshadowed by the spectacle of current events and pressed into new connection with them. The self-image of art as a social good is collapsing under the weight of capitalism’s dysfunction.

In these incisive essays, art critic Ben Davis makes sense of our extreme present as an emerging "after-culture"—a culture whose forms and functions are being radically reshaped by cataclysmic events. In the face of catastrophe, he holds out hope that reckoning with the new realities of art, technology, activism, and the media, can help us weather the super-storms of the future.
  • Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis and Cultural Strategy is worth it for the chillingly ingenious prologue alone. This book is for everyone who cares about art and anyone who is concerned with culture in the digital age. Contemporary art might seem like a bewildering indulgence for the rich, but, as explored in Davis’s glistening, passionate yet coolly precise prose, its power to shape our perceptions and our politics extends far beyond the art-fair cocoon. In a world of AI-enabled “prosumers”, “the technological society that has made plausible the promise that everyone can be an artist” has become “a new instrument of alienation” via which the aesthetic and hence the real has come to be defined by an ever more powerful technocracy. Brilliant, revelatory, urgent.”
    —Lisa Hilton, Times Literary Supplement Best Books of the Year 2022

    ”Ben Davis understands that you can't truly understand art without an analysis of the economic system that created the artist. He understands that movements create change and that artists only create change if they are involved with that movement in other ways than being the expert observer. Here's to art criticism with an axe to grind.”
    —Boots Riley

    “Ben Davis is the only art critic I read. These erudite and entertaining essays take the reader on a mind-bending tour through our fragmented, confounding, and commodified cultural landscape, providing welcome historical and political context to many of the high-profile controversies and existential challenges that define our age. Ever attuned to questions of power and profit, Davis never yields to cynicism or forecloses the possibility of creativity’s role in our collective liberation. This kaleidoscopic collection will help you see and comprehend the world anew—which is, in my book, what good art should do.”
    —Astra Taylor

    “Amid the cultural sandstorm of infinite memes and ravenous engagement algorithms, rare sneakers and mythic NFTs, made-for-Instagram immersive installations and the relentless firehose of TikTok clips, Ben Davis asks a simple question "What about Art?" What follows is an indispensable series of provocations on the future of culture, politics, and society that speak to some of the most urgent issues facing societies where culture, capitalism, and identity have become nearly indistinguishable from one another. Following in the footsteps of theorists like John Berger, Stuart Hall, and Lucy Lippard, Ben Davis is an essential guide to the politics of culture in the 21st Century.”
    —Trevor Paglen

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