CAP (Centre for Art and Philosophy) is an interdisciplinary research platform based at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Most of its members have been or are still working at the department as lecturers, researchers or affiliates.

Metamodernism - The Return of History (Stedelijk Museum A'dam, 25/09/2014)


In collaboration with The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, CAP members Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen organised Metamodernism - The Return of History to draw a cognitive map of our present in order to grasp the changing contours of our everyday lives, towards a paradigmatic shift lived by a generation born in the 1980s and after.

Structured as a one-day discursive event (from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.), this large-scale symposium invites such internationally renowned speakers as Francis Fukuyama, Camille de Toledo, Nina Power, Michel Bauwens, Adam Thirlwell and CAP member SJoerd van Tuinen to reflect on the discourse of a generation: from the historical fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, moments of global (financial and/or political) crisis in 2008 and 2011, to the present moment we collectively call contemporary. Looking at the turn of events, what precisely constitutes a historical moment and/or rupture? What defines this generation that was born in the 1980s or 1990s? The symposium draws on the concept of metamodernism, which seeks to galvanize the questions, experiences, and anxieties of a generation born in the 1980s. But what is this metamodern state of mind precisely? As the speakers inside the Stedelijk debate these questions and more, actor Shia LaBeouf will embark upon an actual (#meta)marathon around the perimeter of the museum.


In 1989, social theorist Francis Fukuyama published an influential article in the National Interest titled “The End of History?” In the article he anticipated the fall of the Berlin Wall and that with subsequent demise of the Soviet Union, History with a capital “H”--the narration of humanity’s sociocultural evolutionary process--had ended. The battle had been fought and the only one left standing was liberal democracy. Some twenty years later, in 2012, Fukuyama wrote another article on the subject of History. Published, tellingly, in Foreign Affairs, it was entitled “The Future of History.” Here, Fukuyama wrote that heralding the end of History may have been, in retrospect, slightly premature. 

According to Fukuyama’s 2012 essay, the alleged victory of liberal democracy was a tenuous one. Liberal democratic governments all over the world have increasingly failed to deliver on their promises: most national economies have not proliferated but have stagnated or undergone recessions; political extremism is on the rise; the middle classes, the traditional stronghold of democracy, are shrinking; and the recent Twitter lawsuits, WikiLeaks, and the Snowden files have problematized 20th century notions of freedom of speech. In addition, new governance models have been revealed: China’s state regulated market system, Russia’s crony capitalism, Brazil and India as rapidly developing economies where the idea of democracy is established and nominally enacted. Meanwhile, global warming is causing increasing concern, as is the politically more suspect issue of overpopulation. In other words, there are plenty of “big questions” left to answer. History may have, to use John Arquilla’s apt expression, “bended,” but it has certainly not come to a halt. It is, as it has always been, ongoing.

Fukuyama’s proclamation of the “End of History” and the many notions that emerged in close relation to this moment – the end of ideology, the end of the grand narratives, the end of Art, the end of the subject, of the real, of truth – are often associated with postmodernism. Now that History has returned and many of the postmodern discourses on society, culture, and the arts feel increasingly outdated, cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen (assistent-professor Radboud University Nijmegen) and Robin van den Akker (Lecturer Cultural Studies and Theory at Erasmus University College Rotterdam) have proposed abandoning this term for another: metamodernism. In light of recent socio-economic changes and contemporary forms of artistic production – such as the New Engagement in the arts and the New Aesthetic in design, the New Sincerity in literature and the New Weird in music, Quirky Cinema and Quality Television – they theorize metamodernism as a structure of feeling that emerged around the turn of the millennium. For them, the 2000s – seen as a historical period rather than a temporal decade (and ranging from the late 1990s to 2011) – served as a passage from late capitalism to a fourth and global stage of capitalism and from a postmodern cultural logic to a metamodern one. 

In response to these developments, the Metamodernism symposium seeks to map the consequences of the end and the return of History for the generation that came of age in the meantime, particularly as seen through the lens of the arts. Promised a life of peace and plenty, of consensus and comfort, the generations born in the 1980s and 1990s are now confronted with an increasingly uncertain existence. Confident and confused, assertive and anxious, isolated and connected, pampered and poor, they try to come to terms with this rather unforeseen reality and the not-so-foreseeable future. To what extent was 9/11 a Historical Event? How does nationalism relate to Utopian desires? How did the financial crisis influence the arts? What effects did Web 2.0 have on narrative? And what about P2P and the Grand Narrative?

Structured in four clusters – referencing the years 1989, 2001, 2008, 2011 – the Metamodernism symposium seeks to draw a cognitive map of our present in order to grasp the changing contours of our everyday lives. The symposium kicks off with a keynote lecture by Frances Fukuyama in which he will reflect on the events since 1989 that have led him and others to reconsider the relation between History and our times. Then, three panels, each focusing on 2001, 2008, or 2011, reflect on the developments that have shaped the 2000s and continue to shape the 21st century.

 Meanwhile, Shia LaBeouf will create a work of performance art in the spirit of metamodernism, in collaboration with Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö.



10.00 a.m. Doors open

 11.00 a.m. Word of welcome by Hendrik Folkerts (curator, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam)

 11.10 a.m. Introduction by Timotheus Vermeulen (assistant-professor Cultural Studies, University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands) and Robin van den Akker (Lecturer, Erasmus University College Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

 11.30 a.m. Key-note Lecture: Francis Fukuyama (Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), Stanford University, United States)

 12:20 p.m. Q&A: Francis Fukuyama 

 12:40 p.m. Lunch break

 2:10 p.m. Key-note lecture ‘2001’: Camille de Toledo (writer and artist, France)

 2:55 p.m. Panel ‘2001’

Jonas Staal (visual artist, the Netherlands)

Sjoerd van Tuinen (philosopher at EUR)

Hassnae Bouazza (writer and director of the documentary Sex and the Sin, the Netherlands)

Jelle Brandt Corstius (writer and journalist, the Netherlands)

 4:25 p.m. Coffee break

 4:55 p.m. Key-Note Lecture ‘2008’: Nina Power (Senior Lecturer, University of Roehampton, United Kingdom)

5:40 p.m. Panel ‘2008’

 Ewald Engelen (Professor Financial Geography, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

Zihni Ozdil (Historian, Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Joerg Heiser (co-editor, frieze magazine, United Kingdom/Germany)

Cally Spooner (visual artist, United Kingdom)

 7:10 p.m. Dinner Break

 8.55 p.m. Key-note Lecture ‘2011’: Adam Thirlwell (writer, United Kingdom)

 9:40 p.m. Panel ‘2011’

 Markus Miessen (Architect, writer and founder of Studio Miessen, United Kingdom/Germany)

 Birgitta Jónsdóttir (artist, writer, activist and member of the Icelandic Parliament for the Pirate Party, Iceland)

Sarah Rifky (curator and writer, Beirut, Egypt)

Michel Bauwens (writer, theorist and founder of P2P Foundation, Belgium/Thailand)

 10:55 p.m. Final remarks

 11:00 p.m. End