The false security provided by modern industry has revealed itself as such. When failures of the scientific method—and the indisputable logic implicit in it—become impossible to ignore, society scrambles to recover a lost sense of protection that held no guarantee in the first place. To cope with the knowledge that we can’t actually know anything, society allows the anticipation of catastrophe to govern the behavior of its citizens. This is how sociologist Ulrich Beck describes the world risk society—a society occupied with managing risks created from within.

Global risk separates nations based on the degree to which different threats are perceived, and further separates the individuals living in those nations by appearing as an omnipresent uncertainty. Mistrust of societal systems and structures tampers with our ability to use information—a resource which is already delivered through a series of different filters that leave the individual to decide which version to accept. Michel Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon to demonstrate the effects of mass uncertainty, illustrating how the individual spurs autocracy through self-surveillance. Indeed, though risk society has no spatial or temporal limit, its affect resonates in personal choice and decision-making.

The space of uncertainty pointed to by Beck and Foucault, formed of the emptiness of modern promises, has been activated by policies and procedures that attempt to mitigate risk at scales spanning the personal to the global. Recent exhibitions at Columbia College Chicago and MOCA Taipei, titled RISK: Empathy, Art and Social Practice and Risk Society: Individualization in Young Contemporary Art in Germany respectively, show that the art world has felt the effects of global risk on an autonomous level. What then are the particular roles of risk in contemporary art practices, where risk is defined as both a context-specific social phenomenon and, more simply, the threat of the unknown? 

KAPSULA asks arts writers to investigate aesthetic negotiations, manipulations, and interventions that relate to RISK in contemporary society.

Possible Topics

  • Social and economic precarity in contemporary art: the plight of the arts worker in a world risk society
  • Artists who put themselves or others at risk in their work (the body becoming metaphor)
  • Ulrich Beck’s description of risk always “becoming real” as an aesthetic proposition
  • The aestheticization of ethics in a risk society (Nietzschian philosophy; “God is dead.”)
  • Works of art and design that attempt to gauge or evaluate potential risk
  • Ars economica and accelerationism as responses to risk society
  • Risk management in the arts, specifically in arts institutions
  • Movements between knowing and unknowing in contemporary art

Submit finished texts or abstracts to submissions at by midnight on September 1st, 2015.z 
Before sending, we encourage you review our submission guidelines.