Future Ruins: The Art of Abstractive Democracy will examine ways in which representation feels unmoored in early twenty-first-century United States. A useful term for coordinating legal, linguistic, and aesthetic dimensions of contemporary life, this book considers representation as a philosophical project, a mode of address, and a category of image-making, among others. In examining performance and art of the last decade, Future Ruins will dwell in a contemporary disciplinary indistinction that broadens the space between image and meaning, word and thought. Future Ruins will pair its disciplinary approach with the condition it observes, bringing together methods, terms, and objects from art history, performance studies, political philosophy, black studies, and queer theory to articulate a modernist genealogy that has introduced instability to the normative representational schema. In the performances and artworks discussed, broad questions of sovereignty and subjectivity are entangled with political failures, contested authority, and radical action. Future Ruins will seek out the limits of the avant-garde, the racialization of form, and a reorganization of public and private.

Malik Gaines is a writer and performer whose book, Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (NYU Press, 2017), traces a transnational circulation of political ideas through performances of the 1960s and beyond. He has published articles in Women & Performance, Artforum, Art Journal, and many essays and interviews about art and performance for journals, magazines, and museum publications, as well as monographs for artists Mark Bradford, Andrea Bowers, Sharon Hayes, Charles Gaines, Glenn Ligon, and Wangechi Mutu. Gaines has performed and exhibited with collaborators Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade as the group My Barbarian, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Kitchen, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Toronto’s Power Plant, Amsterdam’s De Appel, Madrid’s Matadero, Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery, and many others locations. Gaines has had solo exhibitions at the New Museum, PARTICIPANT INC, the Hammer Museum, Human Resources, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Gallery 400, Transformer, Museo Experimento El Eco, and Yaffo 23, and has received awards and grants from United States Artists, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Creative Capital, Art Matters, and the City of Los Angeles. Gaines is Associate Professor of Performance Studies in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.