Realism Today?

Esanu, Octavian; Beech, Dave; Khatib, Sami; Roberts, John and Vishmidt, Marina. 2018. Realism Today? ARTMargins, 7(1), pp. 58-82. ISSN 2162-2574 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

While much attention has been paid in recent years to philosophical realism—especially to speculative realism—and its implications for contemporary art, this roundtable purposefully aims to broaden the discussion to account for more “traditional” and art historical forms and modes of realism, which one can still find at the centers and margins of contemporary artistic and aesthetic debates. Without necessarily favoring or promoting any particular direction—be it mimetic, figurative, social or socialist, critical, or speculative—we are inquiring whether today the renewed interest in various modes of realism is simply another postmodern citation of what the Russian Formalists would have called an “automatized” and outdated historical device, or if it is an indication of the potential for a radical transformation of realism that is taking place at the crossroads of progressive art, culture, technology, and critical theory. We invited our respondents to reflect upon both the history and the present of realism, asking how its various revivals might be regarded as part of a long trajectory of “Western” art and aesthetics, and how such revivals might be triggered by discourses outside of contemporary art. If a new aesthetics of realism were possible, how would it differ from its multiple historical antecedents? Is realism in its various modes an obsolete artistic form or style of the past (like baroque painting or modernist collage) that as such is incompatible with the modes of production and the augmented social reality of late capitalism?

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


art, realism, technology, socialism, critique, materialism, critical theory, speculation, labour

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


4 February 2017Accepted
22 February 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

13 Mar 2019 14:27

Last Modified:

28 Jul 2021 15:37

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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