Speculation as Surplus-Value

Andrea Eckersley, Terri Bird

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Speculation is an artist’s capital, enabling the emergence of the new. This is art’s capacity to bring about new frames of reference—new kinds of questions, experiences, events or encounters— to leverage difference in order to open onto an indeterminate future. As Elizabeth Grosz (2014: 123) notes, ‘(i)f art reads as other than an artistic expression, it is always about the summoning up of a new future, and as such it’s always a kind of political gesture’. Brian Massumi (2018: 25) regards this gesture as a means of reclaiming value from its reduction to the economic logic of the market, in order to emphasise the intensities of experiences that have value in and of themselves, such as the singular vivacity of an experience of colour. Excess is at the core of this theory of value, the unselected that forms the virtual background, a world of surplus. However, Massumi argues that capitalism produces an impoverished version of surplus value, dependent on a continual accumulation of increasing quantity to the detriment of the singular quality appearing as such. Artists’ social, affective and material speculations, their attempts to create something new, produce a processual surplus value as an affective excess that differs in kind from the surpluses of capital accumulation. We will argue that these speculative practices ought to be understood primarily in terms of an ethos actualised in an artist’s practice and not, as is so often the case, only in terms of the speculative financial returns the products of such practices may yield in the global art markets. The paper will explore the affective aspects of speculation through an investigation of the practice of Belgian artist Joëlle Tuerlinckx. Her associative mode of working produces a web of processual thinking that forms connections as well as leaving loose ends open, often reactivating forgotten or abandoned objects, in a manner that produces a different order of value. Grosz, Elizabeth and Esther Wolfe (2014). ‘Bodies of Philosophy: An Interview with Elizabeth Grosz’, Stance 7, April, pp 115–126 Massumi, Brian (2017). ‘Virtual Ecology and the Question of Value’, in General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm, Erich Hörl with James Burton (eds.), London: Bloomsbury, pp 345–373.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalMaHKUscript: Journal of Fine Art Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • value
  • surplus value
  • affect
  • speculation
  • Tuerlinckx
  • art practice

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