Neomedieval Fictioning before
and after Contemporary Art
University of Manchester 1st July 2017
In its attempt to disrupt postmedieval anthropocentrism, art is currently gripped by intense speculation on all things nonmodern. This can take the form of nonmodern world-building, the practice of constructing theory-fictions. 'Fictioning' as a world-building technology combines with mythopoesis: how previous modes of existence might be utilised against the impasses of the present. By using the term ‘fiction’ as a verb, we refer to the writing, imaging, performance or other material embodiment of alternate worlds.
Broadly speaking, while the pre-modern bestiary has long formed the sine qua non of small scale curating, the pre-modern university – a hybrid, transtemporal fictioning of social relationships, tools and things – is fictioned as the true modus operandi of today’s artists. The medieval Wandergesellen is fictioned as a permanent supranational state, one in which artisans, scholars, cultural pilgrims, artefacts and many other things drift endlessly betwixt compagon and biennale.
In the three art works presented in Manchester, cultural production is periodically fictioned after contemporary art. The timeframe of artistic practice has shifted from the finite ‘just-now’, bound by human finitude, to a ‘long-now’ that outlives and eludes us, in which the people of the middle ages are our exact contemporaries. Fictioning today, thus, is both before and after contemporary art.