Written in the wake of the far-right populist turn in Europe, the US, and beyond, What We Do Is Secret addresses aesthetic and intellectual affinities between recent art and conspiracy, proposing a theory of conspiracy that is not primarily concerned with conspiracy theory. This inquiry takes shape across chapters on the politics of post-internet art aesthetics; the sublime and possessive individualism in recent “critical” art; Cady Noland’s security fences, and silkscreens of the Symbionese Liberation Army; and mutuality, secrecy, and improvisation in the work of Ima-Abasi Okon. Larne Abse Gogarty discusses the relationship between culture and contemporary politics, following on from David Lloyd’s proposition that through its compensatory qualities, the aesthetic sphere naturalizes forms of life lived under the rule of property. What kind of art can work against this? Can art exist as a conspiracy capable of corroding that rule?
Larne Abse Gogarty is a writer and art historian from London. She works as a lecturer in History and Theory of Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Alongside this book, she is the author of Usable Pasts: Social Practice and State Formation in American Art and has published in journals and magazines including Art Monthly, New Socialist, Tate Papers, Third Text, and Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte. In 2020 she co-edited with Andrew Hemingway a special issue on “Keywords for Marxist Art History” of the journal Kunst und Politik.
Jenny Nachtigall is Lecturer in Modernity and its Critical Histories at University College London. Recent publications include a cluster of essays on materialist feminist art historian Lu Märten for October magazine (vol. 178, 2021) and the coedited volumes Hybrid Ecologies (diaphanes, 2019). Her book Form as Contradiction is forthcoming from Brill Publishing.