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ArtReview x Modern Forms

This collaborative project between Modern Forms and ArtReview considers a transitional moment in cultural and intellectual history. 

That we are all dependent upon systems so complex that they defeat human understanding is an increasingly familiar feeling. The unfolding catastrophe of climate change and the recent global economic crisis are among the most obvious examples of the failure of systems that humanity has the capacity to influence, but not perfectly to control. 

As it has become that reductive scientific methodologies are insufficient to predict the behaviour of these intricately entangled networks, so the mechanistic worldview of Enlightenment and modernist culture is being challenged, or complemented, by an understanding of complexity and emergence as organising principles.  

This shift has profound and widespread implications, both theoretical and practical. This project – which takes the form of talks, interviews and newly commissioned content – asks how art can reflect these new ways of thinking. 


Complexity and Emergence

Complex systems are those in which the actions of the systems is not explicable in terms of its constituent parts. The most familiar examples are the way that birds flock, termites function as a single colony, bees swarm, the weather behaves and fish school. 

This idea of complexity also describes the behaviour of interacting systems such as stock markets, the internet, and big data, and as such has become an important way of thinking about the forces - organic and inorganic - that shape our world, and emergence has recently gained currency in scientific fields as a means of describing the ability of simple components in a system to give rise to these complex behaviours. 

Yet it remains in essence a catch-all to describe the difficulties we have in apprehending the relationship within and between those systems. This project hopes to introduce audiences to the application of these ideas in art, and to begin to unpick them. 


About Modern Forms


Modern Forms is an art collection and editorial platform that supports contemporary art and culture. It was founded by collector Hussam Otaibi and Creative Director Nick Hackworth. 


About ArtReview


ArtReview is one of the world’s leading international contemporary art magazines, dedicated to expanding contemporary art’s audience and reach. Aimed at both a specialist and a general audience, ArtReview and its sister publication ArtReview Asia feature a mixture of criticism, reviews, reportage and specially commissioned artworks, and offers the most established, in-depth and intimate portrait of international contemporary art in all its shapes and forms.