Tom McCarthy in conversation with Mark Campbell and Mark Cousins

Critical Paranoia and the Great Report

Series: Evening Lecture
Date: Thursday 28 January 2016
Time: 18:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 85 mins

Salvador Dalí invented the ‘paranoid-critical method’ as a means to exploit the creative potential of associative thinking. It has since informed a multitude of practices, from the literary avant-garde to military stratagems. Tom McCarthy’s recent novel Satin Island tracks the method’s bastard contemporary offspring through the intersections of architecture, urbanism, design and cutting-edge consultancy. It does so in relation to one of modernity’s other grand assumptions, the ‘Great Report ‘ - a putative compendium borne of the belief that an almost absurd variety of material can be compiled and given meaning in a singular form. Is such a report ‘writable’? Has digital culture, with it endless capacity for horizontal archiving, perhaps been compiling it all along without our aid? What space does that leave for creativity - or, for that matter, dissent?

Tom McCarthy is a writer and artist whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages. His first novel, Remainder, which deals with questions of trauma and repetition, won the 2008 Believer Book Award and was recently adapted for the cinema. His third, C, which explores the relationship between melancholia and technological media, was shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize, as was his fourth, Satin Island, in 2015. McCarthy is also author of the 2006 non-fiction book Tintin and the Secret of Literature, an exploration of the themes and patterns of Hergé’s comic books; of the novel Men in Space, set in a Central Europe rapidly disintegrating after the collapse of communism; and of numerous essays that have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The London Review of Books, Harper’s and Artforum. In addition, he is founder and General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society (INS), a semi-fictitious avant-garde network of writers, philosophers and artists whose work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Palais de Tokyo Paris, Tate Britain and Moderna Museet Stockholm. In 2013 he was awarded the inaugural Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction by Yale University.

Mark Campbell is the Director of the MPhil in Media Practices and Paradise Lost AA Research Cluster. He is also a unit master of Intermediate 1 at the AA and a Visiting Professor of Architecture at Southeastern University, Nanjing.

Mark Cousins is the Director of the graduate and undergraduate Histories & Theories programmes at the AA. He is also Visiting Professor of Architecture at Columbia University and Visiting Professor designate at the University of Navarre, Pamplona. He is a founding member of the London Consortium graduate school.

A DVD recording of this conversation will be available for viewing at the AA Slide Library (not online). A recording of Tom McCarthy's 'Everything Becomes Buffering', first screened on BBC Newsnight in 2015, is available at:

All lectures are open to members of the public, staff and students unless otherwise stated.

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