Edited by Jingyi Wang, Idun Vik, Adriana Alves March 2018 Bergen, Norway
By Jingyi Wang in collaboration with Idun Vik (CN/NO)
www.postcapauction.com Artworks by Marie Storaas, Håkon Holm-Olsen, Helene Norseth, Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, Thora Dolven Balke, Dan Mihaltianu, Toril Johannessen and Annette Kierulf. Articles by Knut Ove Arntzen, Dave Beech, Jenn Webb, Paul Mason, Jacob Hjortsberg, Erlend Hammer, José María Durán and Andrea Philllps. Co-production BIT Teatergarasjen, BEK, Bergen Kunsthall/Landmark | 15-16 March 2018 Supported by Norwegian Arts Council, Fond for utøvende kunstnere, Fond for lyd og bilde, Bergen kommune, Bergen Dansesenter and Fritt Ord. Post Capitalisitic Auction © Jingyi Wang 3
PROLOGUE Preface Jingyi Wang On the documentary, the aura and the emergency incident of an art auction Knut Ove Arntzen Agenda
SEMINAR: POST CAPITALISTIC VALUES
POST CAPITALISTIC AUCTION
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About Rules Marie Storaas Håkon Holm-Olsen Helene Norseth Gabriel Johann Kvendseth Thora Dolven Balke Dan Mihaltianu Toril Johannessen Annette Kierulf Advising panel
Art, Capitalism, Critique: A Contribution to a Political History of the Relationship between the Studio and Art’s Commodification Dave Beech
Commodity life of arts Jen Webb
The end of capitalism has begun Paul Mason
Have We Really Entered the Age of PostCapitalism? Jacob Hjortsberg
Kunsten og det nettbaserte livet Erlend Hammer
Art and Labor – A Fragment on William Morris’s Utopian Socialism (and beyond) José María Durán
Devaluation Andrea Phillips
PREFACE Although Post-Capitalistic Auction reflects more, I hope, than just a utopian dream, its conception can be traced back to the youthful utopian mind of my 18-year-old self, when I was a freshman at university. A casual conversation between my cousin and myself ended with me asking: “Why do artworks end up in the hands of the rich? Why isn’t it people who really understand art and artists who own their work? Why does money decide everything? ” My cousin’s silence and his indulgent smile gave me a clear answer: “Isn’t that how it should be? Doesn’t everyone agree on that?” Born and growing up in Beijing, the capital city of newly wealthy China, I have witnessed in the 12 years since leaving university, the rapid and deep embedding and justification of capitalism in every aspect of economic and cultural life — although obviously not on a national, ideological level. In China, as in the capitalist West, whoever holds the biggest share in a corporation, has the final say. In commercial movie making, whoever invests the most money, has the power to make decisions that can extend as far as selecting the cast. I have no intention of criticizing corporations or the commercial movie industry here, as they are so evidently inextricably bound up with the capitalist mechanism. But what about art? Is it by definition different? In the past, artists such as Joseph Beuys and movements like Situationism persistently tried to de-commodify art. But despite the push to abstraction and conceptualization, art and artists have struggled to extricate themselves from the very material pull of both financial and social capital. Art auctions are a powerful reflection of the paradox that even though we create an aura of ‘otherness’ around a work of art, its material (and therefore prosaic) value remains. I am not claiming that people who buy art don’t have a true love of art, or that an auction is nothing more than a financial game. Many collectors have a close and ongoing relationship to, and understanding of, the work 6
that they buy. But, as Henri Neuendorf - a journalist at artnet Berlin - observes, others are certainly in it purely for the money. And regardless of who is buying, in an auction environment, it is always and only money that talks. And this is an exchange in which artists have no voice. Moreover, money translates to social and symbolic capital for the exclusive group of participants in an art auction or fair. Despite postmodernism’s attempt to challenge the elitism of the art world, it has continued to defend the territories of its various cliques. Since it seems unavoidable that everything has its price, that money is power, and that status is also tied to the value of ideas, how can art extricate itself from this complex of forces? The values we attribute to art are a reflection of how we evaluate within the social, cultural, political and economic structures within which it is embedded. In the end, value reflects what are important for us. Can I suggest a new value system to replace the current one? No, I can’t. But this does not mean we can’t call it into question. And already, the rise of information-based social structures is a challenge to capitalism. Journalist and author Paul Mason claims the transition to post-capitalism has already begun. It doesn’t matter if we agree on what post-capitalism is, or indeed whether we are heading towards being a post-capitalist society, it is clear that the internet and information technology has had a huge impact on our social and economic relationships. Economic and Social theorist Jeremy Rifkin discusses this in detail in his book The Third Industrial Revolution; How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, as does Futurist thinker Kevin Kelly in The Inevitable. Financial capital plays an unprecedented role in the development of business. On the other hand, big data and attention resources are predicated by many to be the next most valuable capital. Company mergers are more and more prevalent, but at the same time we see that the spontaneous rise of collaborative production and a sharing economy
is challenging private ownership and the monopoly of big corporations. The behavior model and values of the digital generation should address a familiar question but in a new context. What change will this make on how art is accessed, possessed and valued? Rooted in this social and economic change, Post Capitalistic Auction looks into our current value mechanisms, as well as trying to propose new parameters. Post Capitalistic Auction is an opportunity to bid for art using currencies other than money. But it doesn’t exclude money, and doesn’t intend to orient the bidding towards a non-money or anti-money result, since capitalism, as a long-establish economic system functioning in many ways like a religion, is deeply bound up with how human beings co-exist on many levels. In Post Capitalistic Auction, different values come together in dialogue. People within or outside the art field, with or without auction experience, are equally involved. Artists, collectors, dealers, critics, art lovers, art sceptics, etc. encounter each other and present their perspectives. There is reflection, but not judgement, there is investigation but no manipulation, there is dialogue but no exclusion. This project is planned as a long term, ongoing series in different countries, aiming to investigate within different social and art economies and ecologies. Imagine how different the results of Post Capitalistic Auction will be in Beijing - a new booming market, where the evaluation of art is highly financialized, in comparison to London, where there is not only a strong tradition in both the mainstream academic and underground art scenes, but also a mature capitalist art market, in comparison to Berlin, where the spontaneous art scene has been developing in recent decades. Bergen, as my current home city, is a natural place for it to begin. What surprised me, interestingly, is that, during my communication with artists in Bergen, it became clear that there is not a strong culture of exchanging private money for art. Not many people collect art. And it seems
there is not a commercial gallery that operates as most do. There is not yet an auction house in Bergen. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Post-Capitalistic Auction has no point here. On the contrary, Bergen, whose art scene could be defined as insular, and is obviously highly dependent on public funding, will generate its own discussion reflecting the possibilities of valuing art. Bergen’s rather unique position further convinces me of the importance of conducting this project in different cities, so to form comparative research results. People might say that this project is riddled with paradoxes. That is very true. I hope this is also where the significance and value of the project lies. Post Capitalistic Auction is an investigation, a case study in how we value art, and, finally, in how we evaluate value itself. It will not immediately, in reality, change the rules of auctions or of the art ecology. Nevertheless, at least for one night, we can make an alternative and very real auction happen that both reflects the value system we have undoubtedly accepted for too long, as well as being a vehicle for envisaging future possibilities. This project from concept to realization has involved more than 50 people’s contribution which I am deeply grateful to. I would like to specially thank my collaborator in Bergen Idun Vik and dramaturge Iris Raffetseder who have contributed tremendous energy in the development of this project with their enthusiasm. Thanks to Sven Åge Birkeland, the artistic director of BIT teatergarasjen who has believed in this project since the very early stage of my conception.
Jingyi Wang Concept and Director 7
ON THE DOCUMENTARY, THE AURA AND THE EMERGENCY INCIDENT OF AN ART AUCTION By Knut Ove Arntzen
The notion of authenticity in arts may be treated in a variety of ways theoretically as well as practically, and I will not present a complete survey of this complexity. Something may be true – or supposedly untrue – which can be spoken of as a new way of perceiving new developments within arts. It is related to the question of new authenticity and the political as result of the free play with irony and effects, something close to allowing illusion to be something to play with in a manner reflecting the virtual character of illusion as he does French philosopher Jean Baudrillard (cfr. Baudrillard 1999.) The project of a post capitalist auction by Jingyi Wang in collaboration with Idun Vik is situated within this reflection. According to Baudrillard´s theory of the simulacrum, it is legitimate to talk of a re-making of reality, in which search for fervency and truth will necessarily have to take an illusory enacted character which is reflecting and playing upon the surface so characteristic of post-modern art in general, with all its criticism of authenticity as romantic cliché – and as such a transparent phenomenon. Such a project is a not a question of pretending and not pretending, but rather a question concerning the commodification of the arts, which can also be seen as an elaboration of truth. By the real time “fictionalizing” of truth with reference to post capitalism and the art auction, there is a new way of establishing a fictional contract with the audience. It is the matter of a conscious search for circumstances and contexts that invite us to feel the individual as being “authentically” present in such a project, as something fictional on the edge to becoming a real situation. The artist’s subjective statement is in an immersive exchange with the audience, in which the artist is able to transfer to the viewer or participant/spectator the experience of taking part in an interactive and virtual play which at the same time will be perceived of as real. This PCA Catalogue gives you an overview and understanding of aspects of art and its commodification. In this preface to the catalogue, I find it necessary to take a look on how a term like authenticity is treated in a European continental and modern aesthetic philosophical and aesthetic tradition, and thus give the legitimacy for how to use of the term in the manner this presentation requires. Walter Benjamin has claimed that a thing’s authenticity is the essence of what may be derived from a durability imprinted by its function as “silent witness” and expression of experienced history.
(Benjamin 2001 168-169.) This is an authenticity conveyed as sort of “the aura of things”, the charisma from something of patina, or something apparently pure or authentic. Richard Shusterman says it so: “/…/Such experience had what Walter Benjamin called aura, a cultic quality resulting from the artwork’s uniqueness and distance from the ordinary world.” (Shusterman 2000 18.) An art auction can have such qualities when it transgresses the capitalistic dimension, and thus turns into a post capitalistic auction. It is a performative event on the edge of something more – it is pointing towards a more idealistically turn of the fictional contract of performance to shed light upon the commodification of the arts and how to make it post capitalistic by changing the rules of the auction, from bidding with money to bidding with art objects or gifts. This even resembles the powwow of the North American Indians or west coast aboriginal people, which was a feast of exchanging gifts which was forbidden by the US American authorities. They thought it would corrupt the aboriginals in direction of not being able to deal or act in a capitalistic way. The question is how art can be compared to such a situation, if we speak about an art auction as a replica of a real auction. Then it lies on the verge to compare the feeling of authenticity through comparing the direct encounter with a fake encounter. For instance, in the primary encounter with architectonical replicas like in California, with all its copies of European architecture. In an essay, the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco is exemplifying the degree of proximity to what affects you, and that primary or authentic exposure to arts compared to the secondary or tertiary encounter. Eco puts it this way: “/…/But the fact is that our journey into the Absolut Fake, begun in the spirit of irony and sophisticated repulsion, it now exposing us to some dramatic questions…The condition for the amalgamation of fake and authenticity is that there must have been a historic catastrophe, of the sort that has made the divine Acropolis of Athens as vulnerable as Pompeii, city of brothels and bakeries.” (Eco 2001 404.) Out of this, Eco deduces a final momentum; the absolute “deception”, what will possibly be present in pop-culture through its play on kitsch and pastiche. This deception may be said to be manifest in post-modern art’s playing with
surface and the virtual. This play has produced a reaction transgressing mere cultivation of surface, and in “our” case the surface of a post capitalist auction. Such a reaction will in the case of PCA be produced by performance as an auction based in an immersive interaction using new concepts of communication. We will in this project simply experience an auction which is as real as can be. So, I would speak about it as a reality fiction based in the study of commodity value of the art, presented as a performance addressing the audience and teaching them stories of a different art market as an expression of post capitalist emergency.
References: Baudrillard, J., Revenge of the Crystal. Selected writings on the modern object and its destiny, 1968–1983, London 1999: Pluto Classics. Benjamin, W., “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproductions”, Continental Aesthetics. Kearny, R. og D. Rasmussen (ed.) Continental Aesthetics. Romanticism to Postmodernism. An Anthology. Oxford 2001: Blackwell Publisher. Eco, U., “Travels in Hyperreality”, I , Kearny, R. og D. Rasmussen (ed.) Continental Aesthetics. Romanticism to Postmodernism. An Anthology. Oxford 2001: Blackwell Publisher. Kearny, R. og D. Rasmussen (ed.) Romanticism to Postmodernism. An Anthology. Oxford 2001: Blackwell Publisher. Shusterman, R., Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art, 2nd edition with a special introduction and a new chapter, New York 2000: Rowman and Littlefield.
Knut Ove Arntzen is professor of Theatre Studies at the University of Bergen and a theatre critic. 9
AGENDA Thursday 15 March 2018, Bergen Kunsthall Upstairs 18:00-19:00
Vernissage Viewing of the artworks that will be auctioned.
Seminar: POST CAPITALISTIC VALUES Keynote speech by Hans Marius Hansteen (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Bergen). Moderated panel debate with Erlend Hammer (Curator/ Critic), Eirik Saghaug (Gallerist, Vault Studio), Annette Kierulf (Artist/Professor KMD), José María Durán (Art Scholar). Moderator: Malin Barth (Director Kunsthall 3,14). Open discussion.
Friday 16 March 2018, Bergen Kunsthall Upstairs, Landmark 11:00-17:00
Viewing of artworks Upstairs
20:00-21:00 Doors open Registration and reception drinks in foyer. Learn how to use the PCA bidding software. 21:00-23:00
POST CAPITALISTIC AUCTION Artworks by: Toril Johannessen, Thora Dolven Balke, Marie Storaas, Håkon Holm-Olsen, Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, Annette Kierulf, Dan Mihaltianu, Helene Norseth. Advisors: Kjersti Solbakken (Curator/Director Kunstnerforbundet), Erlend Hammer (Blomqvist), Knut Jarl Jøsok (Collector). Auctioneer: Idun Vik.
23:00-02:00 Post Capitalistic Party
SEMINAR: POST CAPITALISTIC VALUES Thursday 15 March, 2018 19:00 - 21:00 Bergen Kunsthall Upstairs
Several theorists claim that post capitalism is in sight. The digital revolution, the new access to information and the emerging sharing economy impact our lives and values. Not least, our relationship to art. No matter if we label it post-capitalism or not, thereâ€™s no doubt that the economy and culture are going through tremendous changes. What does it do with the perception and potential of art? Can the current changes make new grounds for how we engage with and value art? Can art be a societal instigator, and make way for alternative experiences and values? The day before Post Capitalistic Auction, we invite you to a seminar on Post Capitalistic Values. The seminar will open with a keynote lecture, followed by a moderated panel debate and an open discussion with the audience.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER Hans Marius Hansteen Hansteen is an associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bergen since 1994. In 2002 he defended a doctoral thesis on Adorno. Research interests include critical theory and rhetoric. Recent publications include “Rhetoric and Authority in Kant’s Account of Enlightenment” - a contribution to Social Cohesion and Human Rights. Reflections on the Contemporary Society, Milano, FrancoAngeli 2017.
PANELISTS Jose Maria Duran Durán (Vigo, Spain, 1971) is a lecturer at the HfM Hanns Eisler in Berlin. Durán holds a PhD both in Art History and Philosophy. He is an award winner of Escritos sobre Arte granted by Fundación Arte y Derecho for his book Iconoclasia, historia del arte y lucha de clases (Madrid 2009). Member of the scientific committee of ANIAV, Durán has published extensively on the political economy of art, his most recent publications on the topic being La crítica de la economía política del arte (Murcia 2015) and “Artistic Labor and the Production of Value. An Attempt at a Marxist Interpretation” (Rethinking Marxism, 2016). Erlend Hammer Hammer (Oslo, 1978) is an art historian, curator and former art critic. His critiques have appeared in Billedkunst, Kunstkritikk, Morgenbladet and Dagbladet, and he has written numerous catalogue essays. His curatorial work includes Bunnies, it must be bunnies (Lautom Contemporary, 2009) and Momentum 7 (Moss, 2013). Hammer lives in Oslo and works as an arts expert for the auction house Blomqvist Kunsthandel.
Annette Kierulf Kierulf (Oslo, 1964) is an artist working with drawing, woodcut, sculpture and artist books. She graduated from Vestlandets Kunstakademi (National Academy of Art, Bergen) in 1992. She has exhibited in numerous museums and galleries and her last solo show was at Hordaland Kunstsenter in 2017. Her work is represented in the collections of The National Museum of Art, Oslo, Haugseund billedgalleri, and the Faculty of Art, Music and Design, University of Bergen, where she aslo is a professor. Eirik Saghaug Saghaug (Bergen, 1981) is the owner of Vault Studios. Before becoming a gallerist, he worked in the real estate industry. Through Vault Studios he presents contemporary art with focus on urban, pop, and photo works. Affiliated artists include Dolk, Pushwagner, Fredrik Wiig Sørensen and Sandra Cheerier and more. Saghaug has been a collector for many years.
MODERATOR Malin Barth Barth (Bergen, 1966) is the Director of Kunsthall 3,14. Her curatorial practice spans from solo or thematic exhibitions that revise artistic issues and discourses; site-specific projects; the presentation of interdisciplinary projects derived from relationship between contemporary art and other areas of knowledge. Her focus is on contemporary art set against the various dominant political actions worldwide, and is engaged with connotation through its intermediation with its surroundings.
16 MARCH 2018 LANDMARK
Post Capitalistic Auction is a real, but alternative auction. Collectors, art lovers, and anyone else who are interested are invited to bid for artworks in new ways. Eight works by eight different artists will be auctioned. Actual transactions will take place. The twist is that bidders are invited to make offers not only with money – understanding, opportunity, and exchange are introduced as additional currencies. The creators of the works will all be present at the auction, and when the different offers are made, the artist will decide who gets the artwork. An advising panel will offer different perspectives on their decision. Through the act of bidding, a performance unfolds. Can the change of the rules change our ways of thinking? Can alternative currencies make way for a new era or new ways of valuing art? In the frame of this real, but alternative auction we put our views and actions to the test. Whilst looking at the present – and what might be in the future – Post Capitalistic Auction invites to a reflection on art and value.
All members of the audience are welcome to participate in the bidding. The bidders have the opportunity to make offers within any of the following categories – solely or in combination. MONEY: The traditional way: Bid with money.
PCA CURRENCIES 14
OPPORTUNITY: The bidder offers the artist a career opportunity in exchange for the artwork. In this instance, the bidder may possess social capital in form of network or other significant industry contacts they may introduce the artist to, e.g. a curator or person connected to a gallery, an institution, or a festival, or other connections with the potential for furthering the artist’s career. UNDERSTANDING: The bidder is given the opportunity to convey his or her understanding of the work – why and how it appeals to them. The bidder may offer an intellectual understanding or contextualization, which might include references to art history or other relevant theories or practices. Or they may offer an emotional understanding of passion and immediacy, and express how they might feel as “The soulmate” of the artwork.
EXCHANGE: The bidder offers an exchange of goods or services in return for the artwork. This could be anything. Maybe the bidder offers the artist a stay at their summer house or a private concert, a car, free babysitting, art, technological expertise, a romantic dinner, plumbing work, valuable information, or various labour, services, or advice. The exchange may also occur at the actual event, for instance in the shape of a kiss or a performance. Whether material or immaterial, artistic or domestic – and everything in between: the bidder’s imagination might be the only limitation to this category.
Bids are made through our specially designed PCA bidding software. It is easy to use and can be accessed through the browser of any smartphone or tablet. If you do not have one, we will gladly lend you one. To place bids, please follow these steps:
HOW TO PLACE BIDS
Enter pca.bek.no from the browser of your smartphone or tablet. Enter the pin code «TEST» (this is used for testing only). Enter your real name. Press the button(s) for the category/ categories in which you want place bids. (money, opportunity, understanding, and/ or exchange. Combinations are welcome). Tick off the box «I agree». Confirm.
If you press the wrong button, simply press it again to delete. The bids will be shown consecutively on a screen. When you have placed your bid, the auctioneer will ask you to stand up and make yourself known to the artist. If you place bids in other currencies than money, you will be asked to present the content of your bid. The auctioneer facilitates the presentation of the offers and the dialogue between the artists, bidders, and advisors. You must purchase a ticket and be present in the room during the auction to participate. 15
We allow maximum 10 bids per artwork, on a first come, first served basis.
The artists have the right to pass all bids. The auctioneer has the right to reject and/or exclude unserious bidders.
All bids are binding.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
A contractor will formalise the agreement between the artist and the buyer immediately after the auction. 5% tax will be added to all monetary bids surpassing NOK 2000 (Collected by Bildende Kunstneres Hjelpefond, Norwegian law since 1948). The artist receives reward of the winning bid in full. No cuts to the organiser. An advising panel will be present at the auction to offer their perspectives on the artworks and the offers. This may or may not sway the artistâ€™s decision. Our advisors are Kjersti Solbakken (Curator/Director Kunstnerforbundet), Erlend Hammer (Blomqvist), and Knut Jarl JĂ¸sok (Collector). Bidding is optional. You are perfectly welcome to just watch.
THE ARTWORKS THE ARTISTS
MARIE STORAAS Artwork: Untitled Since graduating with an MA from the former Bergen National Academy of Art, Marie Storaas has worked on and explored a technique in which she blends concrete, oil, and pigments. The result of her method is a material surface where the motives naturally integrate with the background. The technique has parallels with frescos. In this piece, Storaas has explored how to create a landscape that dialogues with the utopian, where a detail of something concrete sets the premise for where and when we are in time. Storaas structures an indefinable ambience open to interpretation. *BIO: Marie Storaas (1981) works with visual art through an amalgamation of painting and sculpture. By blending different materials like concrete and plaster with pigments and oil, she creates a sensory expression. Her works are dreamlike and poetic, often with political undertones. She often makes use of old photographs as a base, and reflects on the concrete in the photo in an abstract frame. Storaasâ€™ works have been exhibited nationally at various gallery spaces, such as Astrup Fearnley Museum Oslo, and Fredrikstad Kunsthall, and her record also lists a number of public art commissions, for instance for Bergen Prison and Bergen Litteraturhus. Upcoming exhibitions include a solo show, as the appointed Vossa Jazz 2018 festival artist, at Voss Kulturhus, commissioned by Vossa Jazz in collaboration with Voss Kunstlag. Upcoming exhibitions also include LCA Malaga Gallery in Spain. www.mariestoraas.com
UNTITLED by Marie Storaas Technique: Oil, pigment, and concrete on canvas Dimension: 82,5 x 172 cm Edition: Unique Year: 2018
ET ÅPENT LANDSKAP
Tekst: Mikkel Vetaas, februar 2018
Marie Storaas utforsker tvetydige landskap som strekker seg mot det utopiske så vel som det konkrete og håndfaste. Teknikken blander betong, olje og pigment, og har fellestrekk med fresko. Hun sier det skal mye til for at hun selger verket sitt for noe annet enn penger, samtidig som hun tror hun lett kan la seg sjarmere av andre tilbud.
DJ, som kunne generert mer arbeid. Utstillingsplass på en godt eksponert arena. Eller man unner en person det, fordi han eller hun har en forståelse, sier de sinnsykt rette tingene. På en veldig troverdig måte.
– Hvorfor sa du ja til å bli med på dette prosjektet?
– Det å kunne holde på med det er ekstremt viktig. Og å kunne leve av det. Det estetiske og visuelle språket er et viktig språk, og det er mitt språk. Litt tilfeldig at det er maleriet jeg uttrykker meg gjennom akkurat nå. Det har vært foto, tekstiler, skulpturer, video. Og hva jeg formidler, varierer. Det er ofte stemninger. Melankolske stemninger. Et grenseland mellom noe vakkert og noe sårbart. Noe som skurrer litt. Det synes jeg er spennende. Og mine motiver er gjerne mennesker, relasjoner, noen universelt. Og samtidig mitt perspektiv. Noe som snakker et åpent språk, som tilskueren kan legge sin erfaring inn i.
– Jeg skulle jo egentlig ønske jeg hadde et tydelig svar på det. For jeg lurer jo fortsatt på hva de (les: initiativtakerne) vil med prosjektet. Men jeg tenker jo at det er viktig å «prøve» kunsten. Og det er jo fint at de som ellers er ekskludert fra det å kunne kjøpe kunst, nå kan få en mulighet. For det er jo det som er så irriterende, at kunst er så dyrt, og derfor så lite tilgjengelig. Så det setter jo i gang en diskusjon. – Og hvem ender opp med din kunst? – Nei, det er jo de som har penger til å kjøpe den. (Ler.) – Ja, for du er jo ærlig på at du trenger penger. - Ja, for det er jo helt sant. Men samtidig … Det må være et sinnssykt bra tilbud hvis jeg ikke skal selge for penger. Jeg trenger å fø mine tre barn. Jeg trenger jo penger for å ha mulighet til å holde på med dette. Men jeg kan lett la meg sjarmere av et eller annet. Fordi jeg ønsker at akkurat den personen skal ha bildet. – Lek litt med den tanken. Fantaser litt. Hva kunne et sånt tilbud være? – Si det. En tjeneste … Lære min sønn å spille gitar, for eksempel. Ekstra mattetimer. En kjempekul spillejobb som
– Hva er det som driver deg? Kunstnerskapet ditt?
– Jeg har lyst til å snakke om det aktuelle verket. Hvorfor valgte du akkurat dette verket til denne auksjonen? - Det var det jeg hadde. Og så er det et bilde jeg har tenkt lenge på å male. Jeg liker ideen veldig godt. Og det representerer hvordan jeg jobber. Materialitet. Litt uvante farger. Symbolsk tematikk, uten at det er for påtrengende. Noe jeg gleder meg til å vise. Det er ikke ferdig, men det nærmer seg veldig. – Er det politisk? - Ja, det er jo det, men det er litt skummelt å snakke om det. Plutselig har man rasjonalisert vekk hele bildet. Politisk ja, men ikke i den grad. Som noen av bildene jeg har malt tidligere.
– Husker du når du fikk ideen til verket? At du for eksempel syklet rundt i byen og fikk øye på en due. – Ja, det begynner jo ofte sånn. Jeg hadde veldig lyst til å male et stort, åpent landskap. Med en spesiell dybde. I et bredt, stort format. Og der to mennesker beveger seg. Noe ubestemmelig. Rundt relasjonen. Kjønn. – Hva er det viktigste du har fått oppleve sånn rent karrieremessig? – Jo, det var en utsmykking på Litteraturhuset, på Colonialen. En jobb som har generert veldig mange andre jobber. Eller kanskje det største høydepunktet var da jeg ble spurt om å være med i en bok: «21 Norske innovative kunstnere». Akkurat nå skjer alt samtidig, og jeg har aldri vært så inaktiv som maler. Og levd så tilbaketrukket. – Hvorfor det? – Jeg har skjønt at jeg må være i vater for å male. For å kunne konsentrere meg. Prestere på en bra måte, for å klare å formidle noe. – Hva verdsetter du mest i kunsten? – Det må være den prosessen man går inn i. Å løse problemer på en annen måte enn man ellers gjør. Nå er det sjelden jeg svarer på denne typen spørsmål, men det er jo sånne spørsmål som dette jeg gir videre når jeg underviser i fengselet, for eksempel. Og det å få undervise innenfor sitt eget felt, det er veldig stimulerende.
HÅKON HOLM-OLSEN Artwork: Tre versjoner av universet / Three Versions of the Universe The work “Three Versions of the Universe” consists of three handmade books gathered in a transparent box, posing as some kind of collectible or museum artefact, something you would expect to find in an auction. Each book contains a visual narrative, or bits and pieces of a narrative: humans performing various rituals and activities, apparently with their own inner logic. The work springs from a larger body of works titled “Archive”, consisting of images, objects and books, as well as larger wall based works. In this series, started in 2012, themes like the past and the future, fact and fiction, man and machine are explored. *BIO: Håkon Holm-Olsen (1982) is a Norwegian artist living and working in Bergen, Norway. He graduated with an MA in fine art from the former Bergen National Academy of Art in 2012. He works mainly with found material that he transforms into collages, drawings, artists books, and scenographic installations. Thematically his works revolve around the exploration of visual storytelling and narrative structures, and a fascination with the relationship between the past and the future and the real and the fictional. Recent activities include a solo exhibition at House of Foundation, Moss, as well as a touring exhibition in collaboration with artists Helene Norseth and Hans Borchgrevink Hansen at various galleries in the Akershus region. In 2018 he will present an exhibition of new works at Trykkeriet, Bergen. In addition to his artistic practice, he is a board member of the artist-run studio collective and exhibition space BLOKK in Bergen, Norway. www.hholsen.wordpress.com
THREE VERSIONS OF THE UNIVERSE by Håkon Holm-Olsen Year: 2017 Technique: Artists’ books with collage Dimensions: 13,5 x 32,5 x 23,5 cm Edition: Unique 23
TRE VERSJONER AV UNIVERSET Tekst: Mikkel Vetaas, februar 2018
Håkon Holm-Olsen reflekterer over omgivelsene gjennom collage og tegning. Teknologi, angst og optimisme filtreres gjennom science fiction og femti- og sekstitallsestetikk. Når det gjelder hva slags bud han ønsker seg på Post Capitalistic Auction, vil han ikke legge noen føringer. – Interessante arbeider. – Takk for det. Jeg veksler litt mellom collage og tegning, hovedsakelig. Alt som interesserer meg, kokt sammen og kanalisert ut. Disse går ut fra en annen serie med arbeider som jeg begynte på i en periode jeg leste ganske mye science fiction. Her er noen eksempler på noe jeg begynte på i 2012. Jeg jobber på den litt til og fra. – Veldig eksistensielt. Utklipp av mennesker mot en svart bakgrunn. – Ja, og det rommet her kan være så stort som helst. Tidligere var det flere arkitekturelementer, mens nå, på de nyeste, mest mennesker. Jeg reflekterer rundt disse greiene vi har rundt oss. Teknologi. Filtrert gjennom en femti- og sekstitallsestetikk. Kald krig. Angst. Og samtidig denne optimismen. Men ganske enkle rent teknisk. Klippet ut og limt på. Og så vokser det utover. Så grunngreien er collage på svart bakgrunn. [...] Men dette er altså det gjeldende verket. Har puttet det i en boks, for at det skal se mer ut som et samleobjekt, eller en museumsartefakt. Tre bøker laget for hånd. Så de finnes bare i ett eksemplar hver. Med collager inni. Fra en konstant ekspanderende serie collager.
– Og dette kan folk få bla i? – Dette skal være tilgjengelig, så folk kan bla i dem. Det er ikke en sånn mystery box. – Bare de ikke river i stykker sidene. De er jo ganske skjøre. – Ja. Det håper jeg ikke de gjør. Hver bok har en tittelside, som antyder noe rundt hva hver bok handler om. Men at det skal se ut som en historie. Mer enn at det er en historie. Verket er praktisk med tanke på at det kan bæres. Håndterlig. Self contained. Hvis det gir mening? Tre forskjellige måter å se universet på. Derav tittelen Tre Versjoner av Universet. Boken som et samleobjekt. Passer auksjonsformatet. Sjeldne bøker er jo en typisk auksjonsgreie. Derfor har jeg laget noen veldig sjeldne bøker. Egentlig laget for en utstilling på House of Foundation i Moss. [...] Så sånn ble de unnfanget. – Hvorfor ble du med i dette prosjektet? Post Capitalistic Auction. – Jeg har samarbeidet med Jingyi Wang før. Og en del av de tingene som står på bordet her, kommer fra disse prosjektene. Tredimensjonale figurer. Til en teaterforestilling uten skuespillere, men med kunstverk på scenen. Lyd, bilde og video-projeksjoner.
– Ja, her kan man jo by med hva som helst. Hva kunne du tenke deg? – Vet ikke. Jeg er nysgjerrig. På meg selv og de andre. Det var kanskje også hovedmotivasjonen for å bli med. Hva kommer jeg til å velge? Og hva kommer folk til å finne på å by? Se hva som skjer. – Hva er motivasjonen for kunstnerskapet ditt? Eller det å være kunstner? – Den må jeg tygge litt på. Det er vel det jeg kan best. Det som faller seg naturlig. Jeg har aldri tatt stilling til det å skulle bli kunstner. Det ene har ført til det andre. Det er bare en blanding av alt man er opptatt av, som blir bearbeidet og hostet opp i en eller annen form. Noe som jeg håper at flere enn meg kan synes er interessant. Jeg vet ikke helt hva jeg skulle jeg ha gjort ellers. Jeg har jo en undervisningsjobb, men også den handler jo om å snakke om kunst. Det begynte med tegning. Jeg liker upretensiøse medium. Og har blitt oppmerksom på at jeg velger tegning i relativt små formater. Jeg liker den umiddelbarheten. Å jobbe med hendene.
– Hendene … Kan du si litt mer om det? – Jeg vet ikke. At det er få transportetapper. Fra man begynner til man transformerer noe. Gjerne en hel vegg dekket i utklipp. En prosess. Sitte og se på veggen. Flytte litt rundt på ting. Og på et eller annet tidspunkt ser du en slags match. Og da er det blitt et nytt bilde. Rett og slett fordi jeg liker å jobbe litt sånn intuitivt, noe jeg kan i disse mediene. Og når det er gjort, kan jeg tenke: Hva fikk meg til å gjøre dette her? Famle meg frem. Hver enkelt komponent er ganske håndterlig.
HELENE NORSETH Artwork: Henge The work Henge is part of a larger series of objects, Remnants 2015â€“2018. The objects are made of found flakes of graffiti paint, assembled in layers on a mirror, where the forms are built up and reduced. The construction is complete through the reflection in the mirror. The shapes of the objects are inspired by cairns, natural formations, and ruins. The format is inspired by typical objects one brings home from ones travels: souvenirs and fragments of nature. *BIO: Helene Norseth (1984) is a visual artist based in Bergen. Her main practice is centered around found materials recovered in her immediate surroundings. She often applies a site-specific approach and uses unconventional blends of materials to create unexpected connections between painting, crafts, and archeology. Norseth graduated with a Master of Arts from the Bergen National Academy of Art in 2011 and has participated in numerous group exhibitions and art projects in Norway. During the past year she has been touring an exhibition in collaboration with HĂĽkon Holm-Olsen and Hans K.B Hansen at three different galleries in Akershus. Since 2012 she has also co-curated exhibitions at BLOKK showroom. Helene has received grants from the City of Bergen, Billedkunstnernes Vederlagsfond, and The Norwegian Arts Council.
HENGE by Helene Norseth Year: 2017 Technique: Eight objects of found flakes of graffiti paint and glue on a mirror Dimensions: 12 x 39 x 39 cm Edition: Unique
KUNSTEN SIVER INN I ALLE HJØRNER AV TILVÆRELSEN Tekst: Mikkel Vetaas, februar 2018
Med flak av graffitimaling har Helene Norseth skapt objektene som inngår i installasjonen Henge. Hun sier at hun ofte jobber med materialer som kanskje andre ser på som avfall. – Noe organisk, noe som vokser. På Post Capitalistic Auction mener hun at det er ingenting som heter skambud. – Hva var det som gjorde at du «tente» på dette prosjektet? – Jeg har vært med på to prosjekter med Jingyi Wang tidligere. Jeg vet ikke om kunstnere har en litt annen verditenkning. Tiden vår er jo ofte ikke målbar i penger. Mye handler om utveksling. Og om frigjøring av tid til kunstnerskapet sitt. Og det å få mannen i gata til å kjøpe kunst, det er jo også en diskusjon som pågår. Og det er interessant å overføre den typen spørsmål til en auksjon: det bidraget jeg har og hvilke tanker de som eventuelt vil by har omkring mitt kunstverk, og hvordan den transaksjonen blir. – Men du trenger jo penger, gjør du ikke det? For å betale strømregningen. – Nei, eller … Alle trenger jo penger, men det er ikke det som er hovedmålet her. Kunstnere snakker mye om penger, og så snakker vi også lite om penger. Vi anerkjenner at det er viktig, men fortsetter å lage kunst på tross av at det kanskje ikke genererer så mye penger.
– Og verket som skal auksjoneres bort? Har du det her? – Ja. Det er ikke nødvendigvis laget for auksjonen. Litt kort frist. Det er dette her. Skulpturer som skal stå på et speil. Laget av graffitimaling. Sånn at formen på en måte blir komplett i speilbildet. Det har tittelen «Henge», som i en steinformasjon. «Henge» på norsk. Ikke direkte oversettbart, men at de da henger. Den optiske illusjonen. Jeg har en pågående serie som tar for seg ting i «hjemlig» format. Når man er på reise, tar man ofte med seg suvenirer. Postkort eller biter av Berlinmuren. Altså en serie av hjemlige former. I en størrelse man kan ta med seg hjem. Og som passer til en auksjon. Materialene er fra graffiti-veggen i Bergen. Og lagene i malingen, linjene, henspiller også på geografi. Kart. – Hvilken budgiver er det som får ta med seg dette kunstverket hjem? – Jeg har tenkt litt på det. Jeg tenker at jeg vil være åpen for forslag. Jeg prøver å nullstille meg. Det er ikke noe som heter skambud. – Det kommer jeg til å sitere deg på. – Ikke i denne konteksten. (Ler.) Penger er selvsagt en mulighet. Men også en utveksling. At jeg får noe annet enn penger tilbake. Og det er jo interessant hva det kunne blitt. Så lenge konteksten er interessant. Noen kommer og ser verket ditt, og du deltar som kunstner. En performance
har en verdi i seg selv. Morsomt å ikke bare være en flue på veggen, men være aktivt deltakende i transaksjonen. Referanser, innspill og personlige tolkninger er også velkomne. – Og motivasjonen? Hvor kommer den fra? – Utforskning er hovedgrunnen. Analysere omgivelsene på en subjektiv måte. Gjennom utforskning av materialet. Tema, form, prosesser. Jeg er prosessorientert. Jeg har ingen konkret plan. Kanskje bare en løs ide. Utforske for å kunne oppdage noe nytt. Et nytt uttrykk. En naturlig nysgjerrighet rundt estetisk uttrykk. Og håndverk. Også koblet opp mot natur og organiske former. Forfall og vekst. Jeg har jobbet en del med materialer som kanskje andre ser på som avfall. Gammel maling som jeg finner på bakken. Brutt ned av vær og vind. Som jeg går og plukker opp. Materialer som har blitt bygget opp over tid ved at noen sprayer på en vegg. Noe organisk, noe som vokser. Historien til veggen. Og så finner man informasjon om andre. Interessen for denne materien begynte egentlig på MA-utstillingen, da jeg skar ut sirkler i veggen i Kunsthallen, sånn at man kunne se alle lagene. Fargene som var malt på veggen siden 2005. Det ble det første verket i denne serien.
– Hva er det ved kunsten du verdsetter mest? – Det er kanskje åpenheten. At man kan bruke sine egne erfaringer. Oppnå mer kunnskap. Oppdage noe nytt. Kunne projisere seg selv inn i andres uttrykk. At det også er en utveksling i det å observere kunst. – Du snakker her både som kunstner og som betrakter av andres kunst. – Ja. som kunstner tenker jeg jo også på hvordan kunstverket oppfattes, i og med at presentasjonen også er en stor del av verket. At det forandres ut fra hvor og hvordan det vises frem og etter hvem som ser det.
GABRIEL JOHANN KVENDSETH Artwork: Save Me / Sink Me / Free Me / Tie Me / Hang Me Save Me / Sink Me / Free Me / Tie Me / Hang Me is a rudimentary weaving of found and assimilated ropes, textile, shoe laces, strings, threads, and wood. *BIO: Gabriel Johann Kvendseth’s (b. 1984, Karlsøy, Norway) artistic practice encompasses sculpture, installation, writing, performance, and participatory situations. He lives and works in Bergen and is a graduate from the Bergen National Academy of Art and Design. He has exhibited at numerous museums and galleries, including Arkhangelsk Fine Arts Museum and Murmansk Regional Art Museum in Russia, Sámi Center for Contemporary Art in Karasjok, Nordic House in Reykjavik, Northern Norwegian Art Museum in Tromsø, Kunstnerforbundet and Kunstindustrimuseet in Oslo, Kunsthall Oslo, and KODE 2 and Kraft in Bergen. His works are represented in the collections of KODE1, Hordaland County, and the Faculty of Art, Music and Design at the University of Bergen, in addition to being included in numerous private collections.
SAVE ME / SINK ME / FREE ME / TIE ME / HANG ME by Gabriel Johann Kvendseth Year: 2016â€“2018 Technique: Weaving Dimensions: 155 x 125 cm Edition: Unique 31
MED UTSIKT TIL EN FLYTENDE VERDEN Tekst: Mikkel Vetaas, februar 2018
Gabriel Johann Kvendseth skal auksjonere bort Save Me / Sink Me / Free Me / Tie Me / Hang Me på Post Capitalistic Auction. Et verk vevet frem av tau og tekstiler og som det har tatt ham to år å lage. – Tauet er et sterkt og åpent materiale, sier han. – Det drar i alle retninger. – Hvordan har det seg at du ble med i dette prosjektet? – Jeg var med i et prosjekt som Jingyi Wang hadde i 2016 på Kunsthall 3,14, When I am Talking to You I am not Talking to You. Det var mitt første møte med henne og begrepet «statisk teater», som hun bruker. Det var en interaktiv forestilling hvor aktørene var byttet ut med kunstverk. Når jeg nå fikk høre om grunnlaget for Post Capitalistic Auction, ganske tidlig i prosessen, så var det umiddelbart veldig tiltalende, siden verdi og abstrakt verdi er noe jeg har jobbet ganske mye med selv, blant annet prosjektet The Give Away Archive. En utstilling som egentlig spant ut av at jeg flyttet fra et stort til et lite atelier, og som i grove trekk gikk ut på at jeg samlet verk fra atelieret, både ferdige og uferdige. Skrot, søppel, skisser, bøker, alt mulig. Og stilte det sirlig ut i galleriet og inviterte publikum til å komme og ta det de ville ha, mot en gjenytelse i form av at de beskrev med egne ord hva de tok, i et sånt skjema som jeg hadde, og legge det igjen. Slik at de beholdt objektet og jeg beholdt ideen om tingene. Det er jo en viss resonans der til Platon sin «hulelignelse» og Joseph Kosuth sin «One and Three Chairs».
– Så du tenker at dette konseptet kan ha noe for seg? – Ja. Jeg er veldig spent på hvordan det skal bli. Det involverer jo en risiko. Man kan legge premissene, men hvis publikum ikke er villig til å ta del, så sitter en igjen med ingenting. Og den risikoen synes jeg er kjempeinteressant. Og det resonnerer jo også med de interaktive arbeidene jeg har gjort tidligere. Jeg liker det avhengighetsforholdet som oppstår mellom utøver og betrakter/deltaker. – Hva var det som gjorde at du valgte akkurat dette verket her til dette prosjektet? – Jeg kom over denne, som jeg begynte på for over to år siden og hadde lagt vekk. Så hadde jeg Jingyi på besøk, og vi så gjennom ting som kunne være aktuelle. Gjennom hennes blikk likte jeg den bedre selv og fikk lyst til å gjøre den ferdig. Jeg foretrekker å vise nye ting. Hvis jeg viser noe som har vært utstilt før, og som jeg vet fungerer, så kan det bli litt for bekvemt. Dette verket er kanskje en litt ny retning for meg. Tydelig håndverkspreget, selv om det jo er et veldig primitivt håndverk. Jeg liker denne interaksjonen mellom håndverk og samtidskunst.
– Husker du hvilken tanke som hadde slått ned i deg og som gjorde at du begynte på dette verket i utgangspunktet?
– Har du opplevd noe som har vært spesielt viktig for deg som kunstner?
– Jeg jobber ikke planlagt, mye på grunn av måten jeg samler materialer på: Jeg kjøper ikke nytt, men finner på gata, eller spør om å få, låne, stjele. Når dette når en kritisk masse, som i dette tilfellet med ymse tau og tekstiler, så ble det på et tidspunkt naturlig å jobbe med det. Noen materialer tiltaler meg mer enn andre, men det er en ubevisst samleprosess. Tauet er et sterkt og åpent materiale. Det drar i alle retninger. Henrettelse, skipstrafikk. Mye menneskelig historie i det materialet. En enkel skolisse er svak, men når du slår dem sammen, blir de sterkere.
– Generelt når man opplever at kunsten resonnerer med betrakteren, når frem. Jeg tror på kunstens transformative kraft. At den har potensial til å utløse om ikke en ny virkelighetsforståelse, så i hvert fall en ny «take» på virkeligheten.
– Hva ønsker du å få i bytte mot kunstverket? – Det kan jeg ikke svare på. Hadde jeg bare villet ha pengene, så hadde jeg nok heller stilt det ut på vanlig utstilling. For salg. Jeg er vel egentlig bare interessert i å se hva som dukker opp. Men det kommer til å sitte litt inne å skulle gi det fra seg. Så det må jo være mot noe noe som oppleves like viktig. Men det vil jo alltid være en utfordring å skulle klare seg økonomisk, så penger er absolutt et relevant byttemiddel som jeg kommer til å vurdere. Men jeg er veldig nysgjerrig på hva de andre eventuelle budene er for noe.
THORA DOLVEN BALKE Artwork: Word Word (2011/2018) is a sound installation, a conversation between two characters in a language of sound effects. The sounds, or words, are simultaneously open to interpretation and loaded with meaning and emotion. A mechanical exchange filled with humour, sadness, and violence unfolds over the course of one hour and twenty minutes. *BIO: Thora Dolven Balke lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Oslo, Norway. Her work has been part of exhibitions such as The Collectors, Danish and Nordic Pavilions, at the 53rd Venice Biennale, LIGHTS ON - Norwegian Contemporary Art at the Astrup Fearnley Museum, and the Biennale of Jafre, Spain. She recently completed the 2016 Capacete programme in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dolven Balke was one of two curators of the biennale Lofoten International Art Festival (LIAF) in 2011 and she co-funded and programmed the artist-run space REKORD in Oslo from 2006 to 2010. She has held solo exhibitions at UKS/ Young Artists Society and the Ultima Festival, Kunstnerforbundet, Kristiansand Kunsthall, and Melk, Oslo. Recent group exhibitions include Preus Photographic museum, Centre CrĂŠation Contemporaine Olivier DebrĂŠ (France), Galerie Drei (Cologne), and Wilkinson Gallery (London).
WORD by Thora Dolven Balke Year: 2010/ 2018 Technique: Sound installation Length: 01:20:26 Dimensions: Variable Edition: 3 + 1 AP
EN SAMTALE AV LYD Tekst: Silje Heggren, februar 2018
Thora Dolven Balkes Word består av to høyttalere som fører en samtale med lydeffekter. Lydene kan være både triste, morsomme og vanskelig å identifisere, og kunstneren er åpen for at den som kjøper verket selv får bestemme hvordan det skal presenteres. – Kan du beskrive verket du vil ha med på Post Capitalistic Auction?
konspirerer. Utstillingen var basert på et radioprosjekt hvor jeg intervjuet folk fra en rekke felt om det å konspirere, i ordets originale betydning. Etymologisk kommer ordet fra conspirare, som betyr “å puste sammen”. Verket Word skiller seg fra denne måten å bruke lyd på i den forstand at det er mer abstrakt. Jeg tenkte at det var et verk som egnet seg til dette prosjektet fordi det er mer som et objekt; at verket kan være et objekt og at lydene også er som objekter.
– Jeg skal vise et eldre lydverk som heter Word. Dette lydverket er en samtale mellom to høyttalere, hvor begge høyttalere spiller såkalt foley-lyd.
– Hvis du kunne fått hva som helst for dette verket på auksjonen, hva ville drømmebudet ditt være? En karrieremulighet, fritid, yogatimer …?
Dolven Balke forteller at foley-lyd er lydeffekter som er laget for film, hvor man bruker forskjellige objekter for å lage lydene. Verket Word består av en serie foley-effekter som veksler mellom å være komiske, triste og abstrakte.
– Penger kommer alltid godt med, men jeg tror kanskje det jeg aller helst ville hatt var et annet kunstverk. For meg er drømmen å kunne samle på kunst. Man kan snakke mye om hele verdisystemet rundt kunst, og hvordan verdien av kunst defineres. Det er jo som et børsmarked, på mange måter. Derfor er mange holdt utenfor muligheten til å kjøpe verk, med mindre de kjenner kunstneren selv. Dette er et system som kan føles ekskluderende. Jeg synes det er viktig at folk får muligheten til å leve med kunst og oppleve verdien av dette. Derfor liker jeg godt den eldre tankegangen om Artotek; altså at man kan låne hjem et kunstverk og leve med det over tid. Dette er en fin måte for folk å ha kunst i hjemmene sine.
– Kan du si noe om bakgrunnen for verket? – Jeg jobber med mange forskjellige medier; som fotografi, skulptur og installasjon. Tidligere har jeg gjerne jobbet med lyd på en narrativ måte, ofte med surround- sound installasjoner som fokuserer på lyd i rom. I det siste har jeg jobbet med lyd på en mer radiobasert måte. Jeg hadde nylig en utstilling på UKS i Oslo, som het Alt som puster
– Hvorfor valgte du å si ja til å være med på PCA? – Jeg synes det var en fin tanke og et fint eksperiment. Jeg er spent på hva som kommer ut av det. – Hva tenker du om å skulle sitte der og ta imot eller avvise et mottatt bud? For det er vel ikke den måten du vanligvis selger eller prissetter verkene dine?
liggende og murre, trigger noe, og på sitt beste setter den kanskje i gang nye verk og samtaler. Men det med å kunne ha et verk i sitt eget hjem; som man ser hver dag som barn eller som voksen, som minner om ens egen historie, stiller et spørsmål eller gir trygghet; det synes jeg er en utrolig fin og viktig del av hva et kunstverk er.
– Dette er en helt annen prosess, selvfølgelig. Prissettingen av et kunstverk er avhengig av så mange ting: som materialer, hvor du er i karrieren eller hva du solgte for sist. Dette prosjektet er mer konkret og har en menneskelig entil-en-tankegang, som jeg gleder meg til å være en del av. – Hvorfor valgte du akkurat dette verket til Post Capitalistic Auction? – Jeg synes det er kjempeviktig å gjøre video- og lydkunst tilgjengelig for salg til privatpersoner, og ikke bare til institusjoner. Jeg tenker at for personlig eie er det fint at lydverket er håndterlig, slik at man kan leve med det i et hjem. Dette prosjektet gir folk mulighet til å leve med et kunstverk over tid. En ting er å gå på en utstilling og oppleve den, og la den vokse inne i seg etterpå. Når man ser en utstilling tar man den jo ikke med seg fysisk, men den blir
DAN MIHALTIANU Artwork: Liquid Capital (bottle edition) The work is a performative/participative installation dedicated to the works of Karl Marx. The public is invited to chew dollar bills and spit the pulp into a glass container after rinsing their mouths with vodka. The resulting blend will be distilled by the artist in the presence of the audience and bottled. The bottle edition 1/1 (prototype) can be acquired during the auction. Liquid Capital is a continuation of “Das Kapital - Distillation”, the distillation of Marx’s book, which was shown at Playbour: art and immaterial labour, Karl Marx Memorial Library, London, 2015; Landmark/Bergen Kunsthall, 2016; Karl Marx Buchhandlung, Berlin 2016; and Moneylab #3, Amsterdam, 2016.
*BIO: Dan Mihaltianu (born 1954 in Bucharest, based in Bucharest, Berlin, and Bergen) has studied art at the Institute of Fine Arts Bucharest (1975–1983). He was cofounder of subREAL (1990), editor/associate editor of Arta Magazine Bucharest (1990–1993 and 2011 to present), professor at Bergen Academy of Art and Design (2001–2007), and artist/guest professor at Université du Québec à Montréal (2008– 2009). He practices a process oriented artistic discourse concerning historical, social, and transcultural aspects, involving a wide range of media and forms of representation (photography, film, video, installation, printmaking, object making, and writing). Since the 1980s he has been exhibiting internationally at a range of venues and contexts, including: International Drawing Competition “Joan Miró”, Barcelona (1980, 1985), Impact Art Festival, Kyoto (1986, 1997, 1988), European Print Triennial, Grado (1987), Third Eye Centre, Glasgow (1990), Istanbul Biennial (1992), ifa-Galerie, Berlin (1993, 1996), La Biennale di Venezia (1993, 1989, 2001), Art in General, New York (1996), Museum of Contemporary Art – Ludwig Museum, Budapest (1997), Periferic, Iasi (1999, 2000), Museum of Modern Art, Skopje (2004), Renaissance Society, Chicago (2004), Tallinn Print Triennial (2004, 2014), Bergen Kunsthall (2005), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest (2005, 2012), The Kitchen, New York (2006), Prague Biennale (2007), Rotor Gratz (2009), Nuit blanche, Toronto (2009), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2010), Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (2011), Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo (2011), Renate Kammer, Hamburg (2011), Tallinn Art Hall (2012), SALT, Istanbul (2013), Plan B, Berlin (2013), MAGMA, Sf. Gheorghe (2014), Les Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin (2014, 2015), Vienna Biennale (2015), NR Projects, Berlin (2015), Vargas Museum, Manila (2016), Tranzit, Bratislava (2017), and National Portrait Gallery, London (2018).
LIQUID CAPTIAL by Dan Mihaltianu Year: 2018 Technique: Alcohol, Dollar-bills pulp, glass, wood, galvanized steel Dimensions: 15,5 x 6,5 x 3 cm Edition: Unique (prototype) 39
MONEY PULP Tekst: Silje Heggren, februar 2018
In the work Liquid Capital, the Romanian artist Dan Mihaltianu will invite the audience to chew on dollar bills, rinse their mouths with vodka, and spit the resulting pulp into glass containers. The pulp will then be distilled and bottled up and sold to the highest bidder. Mihaltianu works in a field somewhere between performance and art installation, and he wants to invite the audience to be both co-authors and consumers of the work. – Can you tell me a little bit about the background for this artwork? – Liquid Capital is part of a larger, long-term project, initiated in the early nineties, called Liquid Matter. This project refers to a wide range of aspects from water resources to financial resources, and from political transparencies and clearness to culture and entertainment. – What is the work Liquid Capital about? – In the work Liquid Capital, there are several aspects. Not only do the bottles encapsulate the result of the distillation of the chewed-up dollar bills, vodka, and saliva containing DNA from the participants, they are also an essence of the entire action, which involves the public as part of the creative process. The participants are producers, consumers, and co-authors of this work. It is a work which has physical and symbolic aspects, both material and immaterial. – What made you join the project Post Capitalistic Auction? – This auction obviously has several things in common with my distillation projects. Not only do we share the social critique and alternative practices, but we also share a more relaxed way of working, creating, and living in a world of Capital.
– Why did you choose the work Liquid Capital for Post Capitalistic Auction? – I initially proposed two complementary works, the other being a piece entitled Capital Pool. It is a pool filled with vodka, which functions as a “fortune-fountain”, which the public is invited to throw money into. The generated capital could be reinvested by the “associated public” in artistic, social, and philanthropic initiatives. In the end, only Liquid Capital was chosen by the organizers. I guess they chose it for practical reasons, as it would be much easier to produce in such a short time. – What is the driving force behind your works, what is your core motivation? – There are several layers of approaching, understanding, and “consuming” my works. Aspects like knowledge, creativity, participation, entertainment, and even revelation play a part. The artistic process combines material and immaterial forms, and in this sense, the distillation process is the transformation of matter from a solid into something volatile, and then into liquid form – a process which could reach endless cycles. However, apart from the more or less “spiritual” and philosophical aspects, there are also elements of political, economic, and social critique in this work – presented in palatable and digestible forms. It is an open project, and in the end, everyone can take it, understand it, and interpret it as they like, and if possible add something to it.
– If you could request anything you wanted in return for this artwork, what would it be? Money? A text? Tickets to a tennis match? Art? – Dollar bills, actually. They are the motor driving this project, and I need as many of them as possible in order to continue. And people should get rid of them as soon as possible, in an artistic way, if they want to be happy. This is the best therapy. I think Marx would agree. But who knows, I could be surprised by other offers that are more important than money and art. – What do you value most in art? And do you yourself buy or collect art? – Authenticity, the capacity of art and artists is to be true to itself and themselves. I am first and foremost an art producer, as opposed to an art consumer. In this respect, I don’t buy art, and I don’t collect art in order to build a collection, or to invest. However, I have a few art pieces. Some I inherited, some I have found, some were given to me, and some I have exchanged with artist friends and colleagues over time.
TORIL JOHANNESSEN Artwork: AA-MHUMA-AITI-KITTEKITII AA-MHUMA-AITI-KITTEKITII is a supposedly warming word that must be said in order to fulfill its function.The word is mediated in various forms. The word is constructed based on a memory of the existence of such a warming word that is long, hard to remember, and with a particular combination of soft and hard sounds. Delivered orally and in its written representation, the word is accompanied with an explanation of its function: There is a word you can say to warm yourself up when freezing. The word is not a spell. It does not work by magic. It is a word that, when uttered, makes you stop being cold because of the physical movement that the word makes you perform. The way the word shapes your mouth causes your body temperature to rise. When you give voice to the word, the signals sent to your brain and spinal cord mitigate contractions of the muscles, and your shivering ceases. The auctioned work is a representation of the word AA-MHUMA-AITI-KITTEKITII. The word has been materialised in various forms, such as wax sculptures (2014), exhibition title (2015), stamp for a book shop (2016), and entrance ticket for a show (2016). First and foremost, the word is mediated through use: It can be learnt, read, noted, memorized, pronounced, and passed on by anyone at any time.
*BIO: Toril Johannessen (b.1978, Norway). Ways of seeing — and not seeing — are recurring themes in Johannessen’s artistic practice. By combining historical records with fiction and her own investigations, she applies a critical and subjective view on various forms of knowledge production. Her works often have elements of storytelling in visual or written form, making use of various media and genres such as photography, print, textile, installation, and audio. Johannessen has made works on optical illusions, impossible energy cycles, time measurement and spatial disorientation. Currently she is interested in eyes, and, as before, in cognitive dissonance, paradoxes and how rationality and logic coexist with myths and superstition in one and the same person, in one and the same society. Johannessen has studied at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway (MFA, 2008) and The Mountain School of Arts, LA (2011). Her work has been shown extensively at renowned exhibitions and institutions such as the 13th Istanbul Biennial, Sculpture Biennial at Vigeland-Museet, Palais de Tokyo (Paris), dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, and Witte de With (Rotterdam). Solo shows include exhibitions spaces such as OSL Contemporary, AROS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Trondheim Kunstmuseum, the Museum of Contemporary Art (National Museum, Oslo), and UKS.
AA-MHUMA-AITI-KITTEKITII by Toril Johannessen Year: 2014/2018 Technique: Text on paper. Laser print on acid free paper Dimensions: 2 sheets, 29,7 x 21 cm. Edition: Unique 43
SPRÅKET DIKTERER KROPPEN Tekst: Silje Heggren, februar 2018
I verket AA-MHUMA-AITI-KITTEKITII undersøker Toril Johannessen hvordan språket og ordene påvirker kroppen, og hun leker med tanken om hvordan det å forme ord kan gi uventede fysiske effekter. Kunstverket består av et ord skrevet med fonetisk skrift på en lapp, og ifølge kunstneren kan man uttale ordet når man fryser. – Kan du si noe om bakgrunnen for verket? – Jeg ble en gang fortalt at det fantes et ord man kan si når man fryser. Jeg husket i ettertid ikke helt hvordan ordet var, bare at det var langt, begynte på a og hadde en spesifikk kombinasjon av myke og harde lyder. Ordet på huskelappen er konstruert på bakgrunn av dette minnet, og jeg prøvde å finne et ord som lå i munnen på samme måte. Johannessen forteller at hun aldri fikk noen forklaring på hvorfor det skulle fungere å si det varmende ordet. Hun fikk heller ikke vite noe om ordets bakgrunn; om det var noe magisk, om det tilhørte en spesiell kultur eller om det bare var noe man gjorde. – Uansett hvilken bakgrunn ordet har, så synes jeg det er interessant at språk og ord også dikterer kroppen. Hvordan man beveger munnen og tungen, luften man trekker inn og slipper ut; det er noe veldig fysisk over det. – Har du selv prøvd å si det når du fryser? Virker det? – Ja, og vi målte det en gang. Jeg gikk opp 0,1 grad eller noe sånt. Jeg skal ikke gjøre det mer mystisk enn det er, det kan være mange grunner til at slikt virker for en. Som når noen lager seg et mantra, for eksempel. For meg kan det rett og slett hende at jeg blir litt flau av å uttale ordet, og så rødmer jeg og blir varm.
– Det er vel kanskje denne tvetydigheten som er poenget: virker dette, og i så fall hvorfor? Du kommer ikke med et endelig svar? – Nei, jeg er ikke så interessert i å komme til en konklusjon; jeg vil mer presentere en mulighet. Det at språket dikterer kroppen kan man overføre til andre ting også. Bruken av språket influerer måten å tenke på, og det er sammenhenger mellom tanker, kropp og språk. – Hvorfor sa du ja til å være med på “Post Capitalistic Auction”? – Jeg var nysgjerrig på hva prosjektet egentlig var, men også skeptisk til å skulle “performe” noe; til å gjøre et skuespill av den transaksjonen det er når et kunstverk går over til noen andre. – Hvorfor valgte du dette verket? – Jeg tenker at det er mange paradokser i prosjektet, kanskje for mange paradokser. For det første: hvorfor har de valgt auksjonsformen hvis man snakker om et post-kapitalistisk samfunn? I et kunstmiljø i Bergen, som ikke forholder seg til den typen marked? Kunstauksjoner er ellers stort sett forbeholdt annenhånds-markedet, eller “gode formål”. Videre forutsetter auksjonsformen tradisjonelt at verkene er objekter; at det finnes en vare man investerer i og som kan selges igjen. Det var på grunn av slike problemstillinger jeg ville ha med nettopp en vare. Den varen er en fysisk ting, men selve verket – ordet, ideen – kan ikke auksjoneres bort. Jeg ville putte noen ekstra paradokser på de paradoksene som allerede lå i prosjektet.
– I kunsten din jobber du ofte i skjæringspunktet mellom det som er veldig fysisk og forskningsbasert, og noe som er mer “magisk” eller “mytisk”? – Det der magi-ordet er litt skummelt. For å si det på en annen måte: jeg er opptatt av opplevelsen av at det er mange ting som krysses; både i kulturen og samfunnet, og i en person. Det oppstår en kognitiv dissonans mellom den rasjonaliteten man tenker at man holder seg med, og de mer emosjonelle eller sanselige reaksjonene. Jeg har ikke et helt klart ord for det, men det handler om at vi bestreber oss på å være rasjonelle, samtidig som den moderne nasjonalstaten holder oss med religion, for eksempel. Det er mer det jeg er interessert i, mer enn at jeg ønsker å si noe sånt som at hvis vi bare trekker bort det vitenskapelige blendverket, så ser vi at verden er magisk. – Det at du ikke har et fikst ferdig begrep for hva det er du utforsker er vel litt av poenget? At du ikke har svaret klart, med to streker under? – Ja, verket AA-MHUMA-AITI-KITTEKITII har bare en rød sikk-sakk linje som viser at ordet ikke eksisterer eller er feilstavet. Den røde streken under ordet sår vel heller tvil enn det slår fast at det er det riktige svaret.
ANNETTE KIERULF Artwork: Utopiar tek til i heimen / Utopias Start at Home In her woodcuts, Annette explores the possibilities and limitations of the technique, the relationship between flatness and space, simplification, text, and storytelling. *BIO: Annette Kierulf (b. 1964, Oslo) works with drawing, woodcut, sculpture, and artistâ€™s books. She graduated from Vestlandets Kunstakademi, the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, in 1992. Kierulf has exhibited at numerous museums, including the Great North Museum: Hancock (Newcastle), National Museum of Art (Oslo), Centro Cultural Correios (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil), and Bergen Kunsthall. Among her solo and duo-exhibitions with her sister and colleague Caroline Kierulf, one can list venues such Gallery F15 (Moss) Hordaland Kunstsenter, Kunstnerforbundet (Oslo), and Galleri Norske Grafikere. Her work is represented in the collections of The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Haugesund Billedgalleri, Hordaland County, and the Faculty of Art, Music and Design, University of Bergen. Kierulf has also curated several exhibitions, among them Local Connection at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2004, Vestlandsutstillingen, 2005, and Momentum â€“ Nordic Festival for Contemporary Art, 2006. From 1999 until 2007 she was the director of gallery By the Way, Bergen. Annette Kierulf is a professor at the Faculty of Art, Music and Design, University of Bergen.
UTOPIAS START AT HOME by Annette Kierulf Year: 2008 Technique: Woodcut Dimensions: 90 x 60 cm Edition: 10
UTOPIAR TEK TIL I HEIMEN Tekst: Silje Heggren, februar 2018
I tresnittet Utopiar tek til i heimen utforsker kunstneren Annette Kierulf kontrasten mellom de store visjonene og den hjemlige sfæren. Hun forteller at for henne er hjemmet en viktig arena for både å skape og oppleve kunst, og hun kan godt tenke seg å bytte verket mot en tjeneste snarere enn penger. – Kan du si noe om bakgrunnen for verket ”Utopiar tek til i heimen”? – Da jeg jobbet med dette verket tenkte jeg litt på kontrasten mellom de store vyene eller ideene utopiene står for, og den nære virkeligheten heimen står for. Jeg tenkte på krysningspunktet mellom hverdagen og de store visjonene. Det er en del mennesker som opplever tresnittene mine som politiske, de spiller jo på den politiske plakaten. Men det er samtidig ikke noen klar politisk mening i kunsten min, det er mer diffust enn som så. Jeg finner det interessant å jobbe med det som umiddelbart virker tilgjengelig, men som samtidig er mer komplekst. – Verket er et tresnitt, altså et grafisk arbeide. Hva er opplaget på? – Det er på ti. – Oi, det var lite! – Ja, det er fordi jeg trykker selv. Dette verket er faktisk på grensen til å være monotypi, fordi det kombinerer teknikker som tresnitt, linosnitt og pappsjablong. Dermed blir det en blanding av tresnitt og monotypi, hvor hvert trykk blir litt forskjellig. – Litt av poenget med Post Capitalistic Auction er å stille spørsmål rundt salg av kunst, og allerede med måten du jobber på, med grafikk i så små opplag, sier du noe om prissetting? – Altså; hvis jeg hadde trykket store opplag så hadde 48
hvert enkelttrykk vært mye billigere. Jeg tenker vanligvis ikke så mye på det med pris, men det finnes ulike normer for hvordan man prissetter ulike medier. Maleriet har én type pris, og papirarbeider har en lavere pris. Dette er antageligvis fordi det historisk har vært vanskeligere å ta vare på og samle papirarbeider. Man kan faktisk gå på museer og få lov til å bla i Picasso sine tegninger, hvilket viser at papirarbeidene ikke blir behandlet med like stor ærbødighet som maleriene. – I dette prosjektet skal publikum kunne by på kunsten med helt andre ting eller tjenester enn penger. Har du tenkt på hva som ville vært et drømmebud å motta? – Ja, jeg tenkte litt på hva som hadde vært fint å få i retur. Jeg kunne for eksempel ha tenkt meg en modell. Det trenger selvsagt ikke være en aktmodell, det er mer portrett jeg tenker hadde vært spennende. – Dine verk er jo i en prisklasse som gjør det mulig for privatpersoner å kjøpe, så for deg er det ikke en ny tanke eller opplevelse at verket ditt kan bli solgt til en privatperson? – Nei, jeg lager jo egentlig mange arbeider som passer i private hjem. Hjemmet er en bra arena for kunst. Det jeg har lyst til når jeg ser noe jeg virkelig liker, er gjerne å ta det med meg hjem. Selv store installasjoner, hvis jeg bare hadde hatt plass! – Hva var det som gjorde at du sa ja til å bli med på dette prosjektet? – Jeg fikk to umiddelbare reaksjoner på henvendelsen: den ene var skepsis, og den andre var nysgjerrighet. Det som gjorde meg litt skeptisk var om jeg skulle se prosjektet som en performance; altså i hvilken grad det er en iscenesettelse. Man kan godt debattere kunstens verdi; men når det gjøres som en performance, blir det da det samme? Er dette en
liten teateroppsetning? Nettopp det at dette er i grenseland gjør det interessant, og det utfordrer meg. – Har du en slags ideell kjøper? – Nei, det er vanskelig å se for meg en kjøper. Noe av det jeg synes er morsomt, er at man opplever å ha hatt et bilde på en utstilling et sted, og så går det kanskje flere år og man plutselig får en e-post fra noen som lurer på om det fremdeles er mulig å kjøpe bildet. Det er veldig fascinerende at noe kan feste seg på den måten. Men altså; Nasjonalmuseet i Oslo har kjøpt flere verk av meg, men KODE i Bergen har aldri kjøpt noe. Så KODE kan jo nå få et verk billig, kan du si. – Mot at Petter Snare sitter modell for deg? Så nydelig! – (Ler.) Ja, det hadde vært en ideell kjøper!
Petter Snare er direktør for KODE Kunstmuseer og komponisthjem. 1
An advising panel will be present at the auction to offer different perspectives on the offers and the artist’s decision. Our advisors are: Kjersti Solbakken Solbakken (b.1984) is a curator based in Oslo, currently appointed as the director of Kunstnerforbundet. Former director of Galleri Format in Oslo and artistic director of Fotogalleriet in Oslo. She has curated and co-curated exhibitions such as BIOGRAPHY by Elmgreen & Dragset at the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo, and NAVIDAD/ NAVidad at Telemark Kunstsenter. Sobakken co-organised Tekstallianse, a Nordic festival for imprints and small press publishers. Erlend Hammer Hammer (b.1978) is an art historian, curator and former art critic. His critiques have appeared in Billedkunst, Kunstkritikk, Morgenbladet and Dagbladet, and he has written numerous catalogue essays. His curatorial work includes Bunnies, it must be bunnies (Lautom Contemporary, 2009) and Momentum 7 (Moss, 2013). Hammer lives in Oslo and works as an arts expert for the auction house Blomqvist Kunsthandel. Knut Jarl Jøsok Jøsok (b.1950) is a doctor and a collector. As a child he collected stamps, and in the 1970s he became passionate about art. His early collections were focused on graphics. Since 2000, he has built an ample collection with over 200 original works by Norwegian and international artists, which includes paintings, sculptures, photographs and video works. No expressions are left out. Most aspects of life have found their way into his collection, and humanity can be seen as a theme of his collection.
ART, CAPITALISM, CRITIQUE: A CONTRIBUTION TO A POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE STUDIO AND ART’S COMMODIFICATION By Dave Beech
Art’s abiding critical relationship to capitalism, which can manifest itself equally as militant activism, mild discomfort or sentimental taboo, is underwritten by the anomalous mode of production of artworks which is neither a survival of the feudal mode of production nor fully adapted to the capitalist mode of production. Art is economically exceptional. While this is best demonstrated through an analysis of the relationship between the artist and capital, the split between art and capitalism can also be detected in the distinctive spatial patterns of artistic production. The studio, for instance, is the spatial logic of both art’s reformulation under capitalism and art’s incommensurability with the capitalist mode of production. Daniel Buren’s rejection of the studio, which he partially justified in his essay ‘The Function of the Studio’, does not capture the historical significance of the studio. The three functions that he ascribes to the studio at the beginning of the essay turn on the social encounter with the artwork as opposed to its production. He said of the studio: 1. It is the place where the work originates. 2. It is generally a private place, an ivory tower perhaps. 3. It is a stationary place where portable objects are produced. Buren’s recipe for the exodus from the studio, therefore, may express a critical relationship to the capture of artistic production by capital, but it does so only in terms of an alleged social detachment of art – often represented in physical distance or spatial metaphors – which resonates more with the courtly reception of art in private palaces than with the modern production of art in the studio. What Buren neglects, as a result, is the analysis of whether the studio and its mode of production can be evaded simply by leaving the building. In her book Machine in the Studio Caroline Jones narrates the passage from the Abstract Expressionist romance of the studio to the abandonment of the studio in the early 1960s. Jones constructs a gendered critique of the artist as a heroic individual and yet unwittingly provides an unusually vivid lens through which to address the question of art’s relationship to 53
capitalism. This is because the withdrawal from the studio can be reframed as the progressive retreat from art’s critique of the commodity. In order to draw out this political narrative of the studio we need to extend story so that it does not culminate in the escape from the studio but with the conviction, expressed emphatically by the political strain of Conceptualism in the first half of the 1970s, that artworks are marked by their circulation through the art market and artists are complicit with capitalism.
isolation of artistic production from the sales. The separation of the studiolo and the bottega provided a space for the ‘master’ to mark himself off from the manual labour of apprentices and journeymen. The studiolo represents scholarship, management and business, all of which were regarded as gentlemanly rather than mechanical. However, the transition from the studiolo to the studio, and from the artisan to the artist, develops within and against the historical transition from the guild system to the wage system.
If the passage that Jones narrates could be extended forward, so to speak, to follow how the evacuation of the studio metamorphosed into the collective, dialogical and conceptual critique of the artist as the solitary producer of aesthetic artefacts, the historical account of the exodus from the studio can also be extended backward, so to speak, to trace the emergence of the studio from the artisan workshop which predominated prior to the formation of art as a category distinct from the several arts of painting, sculpture, music, poetry and dance. The studio not only marks the territory of the heroic modernist individual but is also the spatial order of a mode of production distinct from the characteristic spaces of capitalist commodity production such as the factory, the office block, the shop and the warehouse.
Artisan painters and sculptors in guild workshops were teachers, employers, shopkeepers and ‘master’ practitioners who worked alongside indentured apprentices and journeymen. Artists in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, on the contrary, were isolated in the studio, isolated not only from the social life of the workshop but also the range of activities that took place there. The studio is the spatial correlate of the narrowing of artistic practice. This narrowing was not the result simply of the development of the art market as it replaced the system of patronage. In the historical period between the dominance of the guild system and the emergence of the gallery system another system had set out deliberately to differentiate the painter and sculptor from the handicraft and business practices of the artisan’s workshop. It was the academies of Fine Arts that first discredited commerce in order to classify the painting and sculpture as liberal arts rather than mechanical or vulgar arts.
Two historical episodes need to be reconstructed, one in which the studio came to signify the remoteness of the market, and another in which the studio was abandoned because it was perceived to be a spatial motif of art’s commodification. If these two transitions are separated from one another then it is likely that the social relations initially inscribed in the studio that survive in the practices of artists who conscientiously leave the studio walls will be overlooked and naturalised. Artists who enter the wilderness or take up residences in the workplace only abandon the physical studio but continued to occupy the absolute studio that they have internalised and is operative in the social relations that determine their activities as artists. The studio, which emerges initially within the artisan workshop through a spatial division between the bottega and the studiolo, signifies from the start, in Renaissance Italy, an activity removed from handicraft but not yet cordoned off from business or commerce. It was the Academies that were established in France in the seventeenth century that demanded the
Art’s antagonism to capitalism is rooted historically in the academic elevation of the Fine Arts according to a hierarchy of practices in which manual work was shunned, an animosity which, it must be said, is revived by some strands of Conceptualism, Appropriation Art and Dialogical Art. The academies of painting and sculpture opposed artisanal practices not only by stressing drawing and making studies from the nude but also by replacing the apprentice system with a new form of scholarship in which the student of painting and sculpture is no longer an indentured assistant in the workshop and, at the same time, replacing the commercial activities of the artisan workshop with an inventory of prizes, awards, privileges and patronage. The academies separated the painter and sculptor from commerce by inserting itself between the producers and consumers of works of art and regulating their interaction.
The academy system drove a lasting wedge between art and the artisanal traditions of handicraft, workshop training and direct commerce with the consumers of works of art but did so on the basis of an aristocratic model of patronage that by the end of the eighteenth century was dissolved. The French Revolution initially scrapped the academies as aristocratic institutions but also abolished the guild system. As the capitalist mode of production became dominant, even if the factories required artisans as suppliers and finishers for their industrially produced goods, a large proportion of artisans (masons, carpenters, weavers, etc.) were transformed into wage-labourers. Practitioners of the Fine Arts, however, did not pass from being artisans to workers, they were given a new name: artists. Alongside the manufacturing of brushes, pencils, and other supplies, as James Ayres says, by 1716 paint was being manufactured by suppliers rather than produced within the workshop by apprentices and assistants. By the 1770s Reeves were selling watercolour cakes, and at the same time ready-made prepared canvases were being purchased by painters in standard sizes. The painter comes to occupy a position distinct from the artisan and independent from the industrial worker or entrepreneur not simply by resisting industrialisation but as a consequence of it. That is to say, the conspicuous opposition of artistic production to mechanisation or industrialisation, which is anticipated by the academic revulsion to commerce, was the result of the industrialisation of the handicraft element of artistic labour which isolated the artist in the studio. The industrialisation and commodification of what had previously been produced by apprentices and journeymen converted the technical division of labour within the artisanâ€™s workshop into a social division of labour and thereby introduced market exchanges between the various stages of production that had previously occurred in a relatively organic way under
one roof. These transformations of the social relations of artistic production by the Industrial Revolution have been veiled by inquiries into the act of painting itself such as deskilling because the crucial changes are not evident in the labour process but the isolation of the painter or sculptor as an individual producer who purchases tools and materials from suppliers that is the first sign of the effect of industrialisation on artistic production. Although artistic production is not converted into capitalist commodity production and the artist emerges from the scholarly occupation of the Fine Arts into capitalism not by becoming a wage labourer but by becoming an anomaly to both the old regime and the modern industrial system, art is given its peculiar social ontology through historical processes that it opposes. Art in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries defies mechanisation and industrialisation but only by ejecting the mechanised and industrialised aspects of artistic production from the studio. We might even say that the Industrial Revolution is the precondition for the studio even as the studio is constituted as the spatial exception to everything mechanical and industrial. Abstract Expressionism represents the last classic defence of the studio as the site of resistance to capitalism, industrialism and mechanisation. This opposition can be overstated, as it is in David Cravenâ€™s book Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique, which bases its claim that Abstract Expressionism resisted capitalism on anecdotal evidence of what the artists said and wrote rather than through an analysis of the social relations of production that prevailed at the time. Nevertheless, it is evident that some form or other of the critique of commodity production is operative in the critical discourse of North American painting in the 1940s and 1950s. It is codified, for instance, in Clement Greenbergâ€™s opposition of avant-gardism and kitsch, which is not principally a comparison of superior and inferior
culture but a contrast between art produced freely and art produced either for the market or for the authoritarian state. Greenberg speaks of art ‘detaching itself from society’ and Mark Rothko refers to ‘the unfriendliness of society’, or ‘hostility’ towards the artist. For Greenberg the emphasis on medium, craft, discipline and process is the direct result of the rejection of the capitalist mode of production insofar as ‘the avant-garde’s emigration from bourgeois society to bohemia meant also an emigration from the markets of capitalism’. This is why he characterises the stakes of art’s detachment from society through a specific attitude to production: ‘In turning his attention away from the subject matter of common experience, the poet or artist turns it in upon the medium of his own craft’ to the ‘processes and disciplines’ of art. Although Greenberg refers to art’s attention to art as the ‘avant-garde’s specialization of itself’, he does so without conflating artistic technique with commodity production, in fact specialisation could be seen as the prerequisite of the kind of exceptionalism that Greenberg plotted through the distinction between avant-gardism and kitsch. In 1957 Meyer Schapiro expressed the resistance to capitalism within artistic production even more emphatically than Greenberg. Paintings, he said, ‘are the last hand-made, personal objects within our culture. Almost everything else is produced industrially, in mass, and through a high division of labor’. Schapiro stressed the value of the ‘devices of handling, processing, surfacing’, which, he said, ’confer to the utmost degree the aspect of the freely made. Hence the great importance of the mark, the stroke, the brush, the drip, the quality of the substance of the paint itself, and the surface of the canvas as a texture and field of operation – all signs of the artist’s active presence’. His rhetoric is more directly oriented around the politics of labour than Greenberg’s. ‘All these qualities of painting may be regarded as a
means of affirming the individual in opposition to the contrary qualities of the ordinary experience of working and doing’, he argued, explaining that ‘[f] ew people are fortunate enough to make something that represents themselves, that issues entirely from their hands and mind, and to which they can affix their names’. Abstract Expressionism’s emphasis on the independence of the authentic producer, the sovereignty of whom inevitably had to be protected from external forces by, among other things, a disavowal of the market, was jettisoned in the 1960s. The tone of the defence of artistic production based on the Abstract Expressionist conception of high modernism was romantic insofar as it opposed the expressive individual to the anonymous aggregate forces of society. Not only were the politics of labour thematised in Abstract Expressionism and its discourses shaped by a sentimental and nostalgic trope of the genius, or something very much like it, as the epitome of bourgeois individual liberty, it was also predicated on the existence of a tiny minority of such producers with the privilege of working freely. The first generation of artists who rejected Abstract Expressionism’s resistance to capitalism, the Minimalists and Pop artists, presented themselves, therefore, as both post-romantics and anti-elitists. Frank Stella proclaimed his intention of being an ‘executive artist’, in other words, a capitalist, businessman or manager. Warhol renamed his studio the Factory, that is to say, both as a site for the production of market goods and the place in which labour is social rather than individual. Both in their different ways crossed the divide between art and business that had been so dear to the Abstract Expressionist version of modernism. Stella and Warhol directly confronted what Jones calls ‘the romance of the studio’, a peculiarly masculinist spatial imaginary that seemed to act as a time machine for transporting modern North American artists to
nineteenth-century Western Europe. Hostilities between the 1960s generation and the Abstract Expressionists were announced in terms derived from business and commerce. Stella’s refusal to ‘rely on the agonized self to generate art’, and his turn to ‘the housepainter, the industrial surface, the manufactured object, the fabrication workshop’ was shocking because these were commercial forms of painting. Similarly, Warhol’s statement that ‘somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me’ was an inflammatory gesture in 1963 because it cast the artist as a manager, owner, employer or entrepreneur. Neither claim was literally true, but these speech acts were first and foremost rhetorical bricks thrown through the windows of high modernism’s affirmative institutions. These discursive violations were justified conjuncturally by the perceived fossilisation of the Romantic discourses in abstract art’s expressive facture. The history of the critique of high modernism is the history of displacing and reorienting the discourse of independent production into a set of positions taken up against the heroic individual artist and the disembodied viewer of his works. What these statements by Stella and Warhol suggest, however, albeit hyperbolically, is not the presence of a machine in the studio but the arrival of the capitalist in the studio. In large part the rejection of Abstract Expressionism’s romantic elitism was announced by the twofold shift away from the terrain of production to the arena of consumption, and from the handicraft activities of the lone individual to the semi-industrial techniques of management within a new model of the socialised production of art. Neither Stella nor Warhol converted the artist into a capitalist strictly speaking, but the choice of the rhetoric of business to signal their difference from the Abstract Expressionists confirms to some extent the opposition of North American high modernism and capitalist commodity production. Despite the rhetoric, however, Stella’s use
of technicians and Warhol’s busy Factory were closer to the guild workshop than the industrial workplace both in scale and in the relationship between the employer and the employees. One of the most conspicuous changes during the transition from the guild system to the wage system was that the ‘master’ of the artisan workshop and the academic studio alike was an exemplary practitioner, whereas the new ‘masters’ (capitalist employers of wage labour) derived their authority from wealth alone. In the historical transition to the capitalist mode of production, the social legitimacy of the employer was transposed from being based in a shared craft to a form of social legitimacy that separated bosses and workers, namely the possession of capital. Within a conceptual framework that can be drawn from an analysis of the distinction between the guild workshop and the capitalist mode of production, Stella and Warhol were not capitalist employers of technicians and assistants since they derived a large proportion of their authority within the production of their work by being the artist and not merely the capitalist. There is a political significance of the deployment of the rhetoric of business by the new generation of artists that exceeds the rejection of the romanticism of the heroic individual artist in the studio. The real or feigned embrace of capitalism is a critique of the critique of capitalism that was enshrined in the Abstract Expressionist studio. Jones inverts this by aligning the Abstract Expressionists with capitalism through their attachment to individualism, and the role they were assigned in the Cold War. She allows the impression to settle that the abandonment of the romantic individualism in Abstract Expressionism places this new generation of artists who embrace business and commerce in a more critical relationship to capitalism. Given that the tropes of independent production in Abstract Expressionism were primarily
drawn from the lexicon of the worker and the tropes of anti-romantic social production of the 1960s generation were drawn from the lexicon of management, it would be possible to reconstruct this generational skirmish between artists in New York in terms of a confrontation between the romance of workerism and the counter-romance of the entrepreneur. There is another narrative yet to be written, which traces the incremental diminishment of the critique of the capitalist mode of production within the studio. A lineage can be constructed from Pop Art and Minimalism to Commodity Sculpture and the celebrity art market operators of yBa via Conceptualism, which does not hinge on questions of style or form but is driven by the perception of an escalating immersion into the circuits of capitalist exchange. Marxist theories of art’s commodification played a part in both the critical and cynical complicity of artists in the art market since the 1960s, and the dealers and speculators did not put up a fight when artists became more businesslike, but the story of contemporary art’s retreat from the critique of the commodity is the story of how artists themselves lost faith with the possibility that artistic production might be antagonistic to commodity production. By becoming – or appearing to become – more businesslike, however, we can see the anti-heroic artist as reversing in part the elevation of art above commerce that was central to the academies of Fine Arts. Just as art’s antagonistic relationship to capitalism has its roots in an aristocratic rejection of manual labour, though, the reunion of art and commerce that recasts the contemporary artist in some sort of alliance with the premodern artisan is achieved not through an affirmation of the guild system or any other pre- or anti-industrial mode of production, but a resignation to capitalism.
While the exodus from the romantic imaginary of the studio arguably brings to an end the romance of the studio – despite the persistence of heroic individualism and so on within the romance of the trope of the artist in the wilderness or the risk-taking heroism of the entrepreneur – the trajectory of the relinquishing of art’s critique of the commodity is not completed until Conceptualism, especially the debates between the English and North American branches of Art & Language that come to be driven by questions of art’s relationship to capitalism. High modernism’s principled rejection of the commodification of culture, both in its myths of the artist and its objections to kitsch was not fully refuted until the politicised wing of Conceptual Art condemned the romance of art’s independence from capitalism. Sarah Charlesworth, writing in Art & Language New York’s The Fox magazine in 1975, complained that the New York art world was dominated by ‘socially convenient (marketable) formal models of art (i.e. painting and sculpture)’ and ‘socially convenient (non-controversial) theoretical models (formalism, art for art’s sake)’. In the same year, Sandra Harrison, another occasional member of Art & Language, asserted that artists ‘are self-employed’, explaining ‘They do not sell their labour. They do not receive salaries. They are supported in various ways. To use the language of proletarian class struggle is to sink into fantasy’. These were urgent and far-reaching issues for Art & Language in the middle of the 1970s as they struggled among themselves to identify a political purpose for art after Conceptualism that located itself pragmatically rather than sentimentally in relation to the workers’ movement and the real politics of the working conditions of artists in an artworld dominated by the bureaucratic structures of the museum and the financial dependence of artists on the art market.
While some Conceptual artists overstated the freedom of ideas and words from the systems and structures of capitalism, the politicised wing of Conceptualism confronted the discrepancy between the utopian qualities of text art and the evident circulation of them within the New York art market. In the mid-1970s, for instance, Ian Burn drew vivid analogies between avant-gardist innovation and ‘endless market expansion’, and Mel Ramsden rejected Seth Siegelaub’s call for a network of booksellers and mailing lists, saying ‘the reason art can be “international” ... is not the result of any daft McLunacy like the growth of the global village but because of a global acquisition system always needing to expand’. Burn argued, While it may once have seemed an exaggeration of economic determinism to regard works of art as ‘merely’ commodities in an economic exchange, it is now pretty plain that our entire lives have become so extensively constituted in these terms that we cannot any longer pretend otherwise. Not only do works of art end up as commodities, but there is also an overwhelming sense in which works of art start off as commodities. (Burn 1975, p. 34)
If some members of Art & Language appear to overidentify with the worker and their complicity in the market while others insist too emphatically on the artist as a bourgeois intellectual with a role inside the workers movement, both we could say rejected the modernist belief that the labour process of art could stand outside capitalism and be antagonistic to it. It was no longer possible to claim that the artist was anything other than coopted by the market and art’s institutions and yet Art & Language saw their own collective dialogue within the studio as set against art’s institutions and capitalism. The studio, which might be a kitchen or an apartment, or a studio borrowed from another artist, was not the site of a special kind of labour or personality but the spatial setting for a form of exchange that was not reducible to or fully recuperable by the market or art’s bureaucratic systems.
There can be no shock in the statement that art is embroiled in the market after the mid-1970s because it appears rather that there is no denying it.
After the waning of Abstract Expressionism, the problem of kitsch, which for Greenberg et al was fundamentally integrated with the problem of commodification and production for the market, was transposed into the perception of an elitist scorn for popular culture and its pleasures. One of the preconditions for translating the question of kitsch from the critique of capitalist culture to the critique of high modernism’s elitism is the establishment of the perception of art as ineluctably lodged within capitalism itself.
The debate between within Art & Language between its UK and NY groupings turned, at least in part, on the class analysis of the artist and the role of art in the reproduction of capitalism and its contestation.
Art’s principled rejection of capitalism is exemplified by both the aristocratic condemnation of trade and the high modernist advocacy of aesthetic practice as nonalienated labour. Both these traditions survive
to some degree in the principled disclosure of the extent to which the artist’s studio has been colonised by the market, big business and bureaucratic systems. Institutional Critique today is animated by a perceived antagonism between critical practice and art’s institutions of display and circulation that is rooted in the history of the studio as a space of independent production that is as ethical as it is economic. This is at once a fulfilment of Conceptualism’s politicisation of art and a retreat from its most emphatic insight. While Pop art embraced what had previously been regarded as kitsch and Minimalism produced artworks out of industrial raw materials that connected art directly to industrial capitalism and its values, it was not until the Conceptualist politicisation of art that the studio is understood as a function of the market rather than a sanctuary from it.
Dave Beech is Professor of Art at Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg, and author of the book Art and Value: Art’s Economic Exceptionalism in Classical, Neoclassical and Marxist Economics (2015).
COMMODITY LIFE OF ARTS By Jenn Webb
Culture is a stake which, like all social stakes, simultaneously presupposes and demands that one take part in the game and be taken in by it... The value of culture, the supreme fetish, is generated in the initial investment implied by the mere fact of entering the game, joining in the collective belief in the value of the game which makes the game and endlessly remakes the competition for the stakes. (Bourdieu, 1984:250) I would like to examine the social character of the arts, and the social life with which artists and their works are endowed, and to do so with reference to the analytical perspectives developed by Pierre Bourdieu and Arjun Appadurai, and by drawing on discussions I held with professional artists in the Central Queensland region during 1995. I will approach this, initially, by engaging with what Bourdieu terms ‘field’. Field, for Bourdieu, refers to a relatively autonomous social system, and its structures, discourses, internal logic and rules of behaviour (Bourdieu, 1993:162). It can be described through the analogy of a game, by referring to the players, the designated positions from which they operate, the range of authorised moves, the rules of the particular game, and the prizes offered for winning. The more powerful social fields, such as the government, or the economy, are typically part of the public sphere. The field of arts is concerned with the private sphere through its connection to pleasure and personal expression, and to this extent is in a relatively dominated position. However, it also has a stake in the public sphere, and this is my concern in this paper - to discuss the relations between arts and the dominant social fields, how artistic objects achieve a social form and a social character, and how they circulate in the community. The field of arts is embedded within, and partially regulated by, the field of power. This means that its internal logic is not fully autonomous with regard to the more dominant field; for instance, although artistic products are not produced primarily for sale, they still function as commodities, and the field is managed and regulated by government policy statements, ministries and theoretical disciplines. This is, arguably, because arts products are symbolic objects and hence, as Janet Wolff states, “the repositories of social value and social meaning” (1981:14). Their symbolic, rather than utilitarian nature, allows the wide circulation
of a discourse of distance from economic necessity, and a disavowal of commercial interest. William Blake offered a eighteenth-century perspective on the relation between art and money - ‘Where any view of money exists, art cannot be carried on’ (cited in Hughes, 1987:388) - a view that remains dominant. The focus group participants, for instance, stated that production is “largely for the artist’s personal development,” and “not constrained by what the general public demands”. Arts, then, ‘should be’ incommensurable with economics. Certainly, artistic works are not produced for a pre-established market, and the primary object of arts is not economic return, but the accumulation of symbolic capital - or prestige (Bourdieu, 1993:75). In consequence, works that are produced for an established market, such as seascapes for sale in the tourist market, are not considered ‘real art’ by ‘real artists’, or by those literate in the arts field. The focus group participants, for instance, stated that, “categorising as professional only those artists who make their living from art is a bad distinction, because it brings an economic factor into the production of art”; that is, art ‘should be’ disinterested. Under this reversal of economic logic, commercial success is often regarded as artistic failure. Despite this, however, arts cannot maintain a complete independence from the laws of the economic and political fields: since it is embedded within these more powerful fields, at some point arts objects must take on a commodity status. Bourdieu argues that this results in a polarisation of logic and practice within the field of arts. One ‘pole’ is the site for art produced according to a logic which is heteronomous with respect to the logic of economic profit - that is, art produced for commercial success - and which is discredited by the dominant logic of arts. At the other pole is work which is autonomous with respect to the economic field - the consecrated, or ‘art for arts sake’ approach - in which it is symbolic capital, or prestige, which is valued, and in which success is determined by the approval of other autonomous producers (Bourdieu, 1993:39). In practice, artists and their works are situated somewhere on a continuum between the two poles. This is exemplified by the (commercially successful) Australian youth band, silverchair, who stated: “We hope it [their new album] doesn’t go to number one in the mainstream charts... It’s not that we don’t want success. We just don’t want to get established as a mainstream teen band” (cited in Jinman,
1996:14). Being ‘established’ or ‘mainstream’ is discredited in terms of the logic of arts which values the innovative, the avant garde, and the oppositional. It is not possible to hold a pure position, though - there is no suggestion in the interview with silverchair that they spurn their arts-generated wealth - but the discourse pertinent to the position they are taking up as autonomous artists demands a distancing from the intent to sell. Artists position themselves on this autonomous/ heteronomous continuum according to their own literacies, tastes, levels of expertise, and their own dispositions to particular forms of practice. This taking up of positions can be explained through Bourdieu’s notion of ‘habitus’: that is, the sets of dispositions which are durably installed in us on the basis of the experiences and contexts through which we have moved, and which have served to constitute us as subjects (Bourdieu, 1990:53). This concept provides a critique of, and a point of articulation between, the received (charismatic) definition of artists as solitary intuitive genius, or the objectivist definition of the artist as a “trained and efficient economic unit” (Burn, 1991:156). Habitus rejects these as discrete positions, and instead posits artists as subjects who are produced by their social contexts, and simultaneously shape their social reality through their dispositions to particular forms of practice, and through their possession of the ‘practical sense’ which allows them to enter the game of art. This concept is also applied to the community as a whole. That is, a community of subjects will share a habitus in that they will have shared sets of values and shared understandings of ‘appropriate’ social relations. Similarly, they will have shared understandings of what constitutes art: because artistic products represent social meaning, even those who lack literacy in the field will share a sense that art is valuable for the community generally. An Australia Council survey, for instance, found that even people with no connection to the arts community considered that Australian arts are “a source of national pride” and “contribute importantly to national understanding and social evaluation” (Australia Council, 1989:54). Consequently, what constitutes art is not inherent, nor does the ability to identify art depend on a natural aesthetic sensibility. Rather, ‘art’ is a field of representation, whose status and identification depends on local criteria and local systems of value.
This means that there must be some common ground for establishing what constitutes art. There is general recognition within the field that art works must circulate as economic commodities to affirm their public status since, as Zizek argues, until an object has exchange value, it does not exist socially (1994:296). However, artistic production is not readily reduced to economic logic, which problematises its connection to the economic field. Its products are not produced primarily for an economic return, are not easily translated into commodity value, since they are freely available in the public domain (i.e. radio programmes, art galleries and public libraries), and unlike most commodities, do not automatically offer the promise of exclusive possession of the object. Arts’ exchange value, then, is not based on a logical relation of supply and demand, or on the material or economic context of its production. Rather, it depends on a general belief that an object is an art work, and that it has value in terms of the logic of that field. Arts products, then, are fetishes, constituted through “the (collective) belief which knows and acknowledges it as a work of art” (Bourdieu, 1993:35). Their disavowal of practical use is part of what constitutes them as art for those literate in this field; as Bourdieu, again, states, “It is barbarism to ask what culture is for” (1984:250). Increasingly, however, it is the ‘barbarians’ - those outside the field of artistic production, such as investors or policy makers - who determine what constitutes art, and how it should be valued, and this intrudes upon the disinterest of the autonomous pole of artistic production. Purely autonomous art, for instance, has no established market, and consequently relies on government support; this means that at some level artists must produce work that will meet funding criteria, and hence produce work for a pre-existent market and demand. Art, then, must be both autonomous and heteronomous in relation to the field of economics, and meet the rules of the economic game in various contexts. Since artists and artistic products function as incarnated sign systems and privileged forms of expression only to the extent that they are so identified, they must produce themselves as such in order to affirm a social character. This typically takes the form of assuming a commodity status for themselves and their products, and I would like to move now to discuss this with reference to Arjun Appadurai’s analysis of the social nature of commodities.
Appadurai defines a commodity as any social thing intended for exchange (1986:9); this means that anything, or anybody, can be a commodity at that point where the significant feature of the object is its exchangeability. As noted earlier, ‘real’ art is not produced principally for economic exchange. However, at some level it is always produced for an audience, and hence is designed to be exchangeable for money, respect, social advancement or other forms of capital. Ian Burn, in fact, argues that “Not only do works of art end up as commodities, but there is also an overwhelming sense in which works of art start off as commodities” (1991:152) - and hence that the field of arts is fundamentally structured in terms of economic logic. Nonetheless, the logic of pricing in this field must be negotiated differently from that of objects with an obvious use since as Bourdieu shows, “Cultural production ...must produce not only the object in its materiality, but also the value of this object” (1993:164). Consequently, the value of arts depends on the orchestration of demand, and this is predicated upon belief in its value - that is, on its status as fetish. The production of this belief is augmented by the context in which the object or practice is located: artists, art products, and arts audiences are situated, and consequently, art is often identified as such merely because of its context. For instance, Marcel Duchamp’s urinal is an art object because it is disconnected from its utility, associated with other art objects by being placed in a gallery, associated with a known artist, and named (labelled) as an art object (“Fountain, 1917”). The social character of artists, and the conditions for the production and reception of their works, similarly depend on context, and particularly on the discourses - or fantasies - of communities and the stories that circulate locally as truths. In Central Queensland, for instance, art is not a privileged form, and does not function as a fetish with high exchange value. Consequently, artists across the region have complained that their works attract a substantially lower price at home than in metropolitan centres. Their statements are supported by local officials, who have publicly expressed surprise and dismay that “$50 worth of paint and frame can be priced at $500” - it is not ‘obviously’ worth that much, according to the logic of rural economics. This rejection of art’s value can be negotiated, for instance by representing art as productive in order to credentialise the work and the artist in terms of local structures of logic and value. However, since art does not
accord readily with notions of productivity or economic logic, arts practitioners must discursively produce the field, and its players and products as having an intrinsic worth, one based on an abstract (decontextualised) value (Zizek, 1994:299). This depends on a process of disavowal, since it is only possible to posit the existence of decontextualised value if other knowledges are forgotten: for instance, the knowledge that exchange value is based on social context rather than inherent value, or the knowledge that money, the medium of convertability, has no ‘real’ value itself and so cannot ‘really’ accord value to an object. The disavowal works, in that we know very well that there is no ‘real’ connection between the object and value, or between money and value, but we behave as though a connection exists, and as though exchange on this basis were feasible. Through this misrecognition, we construct a social reality in which it, in fact, becomes possible, and while we recognise the social reality, we disavow the illusion that constructs it (Zizek, 1994:318). This fetishistic disavowal is particularly evident in the arts market, since artistic discourse depends on disinterestedness - “artists are not supposed to slaver after success” (Burke, 1990:20) - but the arts world is as marked as other public fields by ambition and self-aggrandising. The focus group participants state that art is “a solitary journey with one’s own artform”; however, they simultaneously acknowledge that works are instituted as art by being sold. Consequently, while artists may scorn ‘merely commercial’ success, winning grants or selling works to powerful institutions constitutes symbolic as well as economic capital, and therefore artists must commodify their work and develop market literacies while simultaneously masking this interest in order to affirm the character of the ‘true artist’. Nor is it possible, even for fully autonomous artists, to pursue their ‘solitary journey’ in a way that is not inflected by current artistic norms. Artists and their works depend on, and are produced out of, the contexts in which they are made or found (Chadwick, 1990:9), and have meaning and value attached to them by cultural agents and discourses, and to this extent they are never free. As Ian Burn complains: I am obviously faced with functionally different circumstances from those of the early 1950s. In that period, in order to create a privileged art, it was necessary to produce something markedly different from what Europe was producing... To create a
successful (that is, privileged) art [now], I must now affirm and perpetuate at least one of the dominant styles. (Burn, 1991:158-59) That is, whether artists consider themselves ‘pure’ or commercial, they and their styles are produced out of various discourses, norms and belief systems, as well as the market structures. The susceptibility of arts practices to external forces is more visible in regional than in urban areas, since regional communities are usually marked by the absence of an arts infrastructure. Consequently, the pricing and selling of art, which is conventionally the task of gallery directors and dealers, must be undertaken by the artists themselves, which exposes them to the rifts in the logic of artistic disinterest. Central Queensland, for instance, is a particularly difficult site for marketing arts, and artists must visibly negotiate this. Difficulties for artists include the relatively impoverished status of the area, the absence of wealthy tourists, and the absence of a culture which values art. It is also difficult for local artists to break into the urban market, since they have found that city dealer monopolies tend to neglect regional artists in favour of urban art. These difficulties are typically responded to by practice that pertains to the heteronomous pole: the artists produce for established markets, offering representational scenes of local interest to the local market, and expressive or avant garde work for the city. The pricing and selling of art, then, constitutes that uncomfortable point where the ‘repository of social meaning’ is transformed into a ‘mere’ commodity, and hence is an insertion of the vulgar real into the pure life of the transcendent thing. This can be negotiated, however, and the work retrieved from its commodity phase and reinscribed into the field of pure art, by being associated with consecrated agents. The focus group participants state that their work is particularly consecrated “if it is purchased by a recognised market such as the university, or a city dealer, or wins an award or other certification”, and targeting such markets redeems their practice from the ‘merely’ commercial, or the fully heteronomous. Art products, then, are instituted as art by being sold as art. They are also instituted by being made by consecrated practitioners, as is evident in the transformation of urinal to artistic work by its association with Marcel Duchamp.
Locally, objects are instituted as art because they are produced by practitioners who are known to be ‘good artists’, and who are identified as such because they have been credentialised by external forces, as above, or because other ‘good artists’ recognise them as peers. That is, it depends upon a fetishising of the artist, and hence on a logic of belief. It is not the decontextualised work in itself, but the association of that work with a recognised artist, that lends it value and a social identity. Its value depends not on itself, but on that sleight of hand by which a (consecrated) name can transform a product from the ordinary into the artistic, and hence from an object worth only the cost of its inputs, into something whose value is detached from the purely material (Bourdieu, 1993:81). This means that there must be processes by which local artists are consecrated as such. In Central Queensland, this is generally through their association with external consecrating agents operating within the wider field of power. For instance, a remarkably high percentage of the local artists who participated in my research project have tertiary qualifications and are employed as artists by the university, City Council or TAFE. That is, they are consecrated by professional employment and by official credentials, rather than being affirmed by the field of arts. Local artists in Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast are also consecrated as artists because of their difference from the norm: the participants argued that artists think of themselves, and are viewed by the general community, as “having a different mind-set” which is in opposition to “local redneckery”. They dress, think and behave differently from their neighbours, and consequently they and their lifestyles are different from, and interesting to, the general community. That is, they are identified and consecrated according to a certain authorised exoticism which is produced in terms of the logic of arts, and through reference to a notion of distinction. This production of the exotic relies on the received definition of the artist as alienated, as intrinsically different, and as able to transcend the banality of the everyday; and in terms of a binary logic, means that it is simultaneously part of, and dependent upon, the everyday. The magic of the sign of the artist, then, depends not on the logic of the field of arts, but on a wider set of structures and relations in which it is constituted.
Consequently, there is no such thing as an abstract or decontextualised artist or art object. While art theory and history can present a concrete map of the field and its structures, the field is marked by incommensurable discourses and practices, by structures whose form is inflected by external fields and agents, and by a series of misperformances. The map, then, is continually reshaped by complex patterns of performance based on various forms of interest. Further, though the discourse of pure art has material effects in that it shapes the field and the range, and value, of positions available to practitioners, it does not ‘really’ exist, since the field of arts is never fully autonomous from the social fields in which it is embedded. Rather, all autonomous production is ‘contaminated’ by economic logic; simultaneously, all heteronomous production takes its form by virtue of its association with the space of pure art. Consequently, the heteronomous and the autonomous ‘poles’ exist only with reference to, and by continually spilling into and reshaping, each other. Consecrated (autonomous) artists and art works exist as such because they have been able to assume a commodity form according to the logic of the heteronomous pole; similarly, heteronomous artists and art works attract commodity value because of the reflected logic of the autonomous pole, and this constitutes a point at which the discourse of the disinterested and alienated artist, or the transcendent art work, can be problematised. Finally then, artists articulate the autonomous and the heteronomous principles through the working of another kind of Zizekian fetishistic disavowal: they know very well that their art must be published in order to exist, and so at some level it is produced for a specific market; yet they behave as though it were transcendent and disinterested. In this way the local artists manage to negotiate the exigencies of arts practice outside the support structures that exist in metropolitan centres, realise their identity as producers of consecrated art, and thereby accumulate the symbolic capital that accrues in their part of the field.
Bibliography Appadurai, Arjun (ed.) (1986) The social life of things: commodities in cultural perspective, Cambridge UP (Cambridge) Australia Council (1989) The Arts: some Australian Data (3rd ed.) Australia Council (North Sydney) Bourdieu, Pierre (1993) The field of cultural production: essays on art and literature (edited and introduced by Randal Johnson) Polity Press (Cambridge) -- (1990) The Logic of Practice (translated by Richard Nice) Stanford UP (Stanford) - (1984) Distinction: a social critique of the judgement of taste (translated by Richard Nice) Routledge (London) Burn, Ian (1991) Dialogue: writings in art history, Allen & Unwin (North Sydney) Burke, Janine (1990) Field of Vision: a Decade of Change: women’s art in the seventies, Viking (Ringwood) Chadwick, Whitney (1990) Women, Art, and Society, Thames & Hudson (London) Hughes, Robert (1987, 1988, 1990) Nothing if not critical: selected essays on art and artists, Collins Harvill (London) Jinman, Richard (1996) “sells like teen spirit,” Australian Magazine, March 23-24, pp.12-18 Wolff, Janet (1981) The social production of art, Macmillan (London) Zizek, Slavoj (ed.) (1994) Mapping Ideology, Verso, (London)
Jenn Webb is Distinguished Professor at the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research at the University of Canberra, Australia.
THE END OF CAPITALISM HAS BEGUN By Paul Mason
Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse. Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did. If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism. As with the end of feudalism 500 years ago, capitalism’s replacement by postcapitalism will be accelerated by external shocks and shaped by the emergence of a new kind of human being. And it has started. Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.
Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely. Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue. Almost unnoticed, in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis. You only find this new economy if you look hard for it. In Greece, when a grassroots NGO mapped the country’s food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies and local exchange systems they found more than 70 substantive projects and hundreds of smaller initiatives ranging from squats to carpools to free kindergartens. To mainstream economics such things seem barely to qualify as economic activity – but that’s the point. They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff. It seems a meagre and unofficial and even dangerous thing from which to craft an entire alternative to a global system, but so did money and credit in the age of Edward III. New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.
I believe it offers an escape route – but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a fundamental change in what governments do. And this must be driven by a change in our thinking – about technology, ownership and work. So that, when we create the elements of the new system, we can say to ourselves, and to others: “This is no longer simply my survival mechanism, my bolt hole from the neoliberal world; this is a new way of living in the process of formation.” … The 2008 crash wiped 13% off global production and 20% off global trade. Global growth became negative – on a scale where anything below +3% is counted as a recession. It produced, in the west, a depression phase longer than in 1929-33, and even now, amid a pallid recovery, has left mainstream economists terrified about the prospect of long-term stagnation. The aftershocks in Europe are tearing the continent apart. The solutions have been austerity plus monetary excess. But they are not working. In the worst-hit countries, the pension system has been destroyed, the retirement age is being hiked to 70, and education is being privatised so that graduates now face a lifetime of high debt. Services are being dismantled and infrastructure projects put on hold. Even now many people fail to grasp the true meaning of the word “austerity”. Austerity is not eight years of spending cuts, as in the UK, or even the social catastrophe inflicted on Greece. It means driving the wages, social wages and living standards in the west down for decades until they meet those of the middle class in China and India on the way up. Meanwhile in the absence of any alternative model, the conditions for another crisis are being assembled. Real wages have fallen or remained stagnant in Japan, the southern Eurozone, the US and UK. The shadow banking system has been reassembled, and is now bigger than it was in 2008. New rules demanding banks hold more reserves have been watered down or delayed. Meanwhile, flushed with free money, the 1% has got richer. Neoliberalism, then, has morphed into a system programmed to inflict recurrent catastrophic failures. Worse than that, it has broken the 200-year pattern of industrial capitalism wherein an economic crisis spurs new
forms of technological innovation that benefit everybody. That is because neoliberalism was the first economic model in 200 years the upswing of which was premised on the suppression of wages and smashing the social power and resilience of the working class. If we review the take-off periods studied by long-cycle theorists – the 1850s in Europe, the 1900s and 1950s across the globe – it was the strength of organised labour that forced entrepreneurs and corporations to stop trying to revive outdated business models through wage cuts, and to innovate their way to a new form of capitalism. The result is that, in each upswing, we find a synthesis of automation, higher wages and higher-value consumption. Today there is no pressure from the workforce, and the technology at the centre of this innovation wave does not demand the creation of higher-consumer spending, or the re-employment of the old workforce in new jobs. Information is a machine for grinding the price of things lower and slashing the work time needed to support life on the planet. As a result, large parts of the business class have become neo-luddites. Faced with the possibility of creating gene-sequencing labs, they instead start coffee shops, nail bars and contract cleaning firms: the banking system, the planning system and late neoliberal culture reward above all the creator of low-value, long-hours jobs. Innovation is happening but it has not, so far, triggered the fifth long upswing for capitalism that long-cycle theory would expect. The reasons lie in the specific nature of information technology. … We’re surrounded not just by intelligent machines but by a new layer of reality centred on information. Consider an airliner: a computer flies it; it has been designed, stress-tested and “virtually manufactured” millions of times; it is firing back real-time information to its manufacturers. On board are people squinting at screens connected, in some lucky countries, to the internet. Seen from the ground it is the same white metal bird as
in the James Bond era. But it is now both an intelligent machine and a node on a network. It has an information content and is adding “information value” as well as physical value to the world. On a packed business flight, when everyone’s peering at Excel or Powerpoint, the passenger cabin is best understood as an information factory. But what is all this information worth? You won’t find an answer in the accounts: intellectual property is valued in modern accounting standards by guesswork. A study for the SAS Institute in 2013 found that, in order to put a value on data, neither the cost of gathering it, nor the market value or the future income from it could be adequately calculated. Only through a form of accounting that included non-economic benefits, and risks, could companies actually explain to their shareholders what their data was really worth. Something is broken in the logic we use to value the most important thing in the modern world. The great technological advance of the early 21st century consists not only of new objects and processes, but of old ones made intelligent. The knowledge content of products is becoming more valuable than the physical things that are used to produce them. But it is a value measured as usefulness, not exchange or asset value. In the 1990s economists and technologists began to have the same thought at once: that this new role for information was creating a new, “third” kind of capitalism – as different from industrial capitalism as industrial capitalism was to the merchant and slave capitalism of the 17th and 18th centuries. But they have struggled to describe the dynamics of the new “cognitive” capitalism. And for a reason. Its dynamics are profoundly non-capitalist. During and right after the second world war, economists viewed information simply as a “public good”. The US government even decreed that no profit should be made out of patents, only from the production process itself. Then we began to understand intellectual property. In 1962, Kenneth Arrow, the guru of mainstream economics, said that in a free market economy the purpose of inventing things is to create intellectual property rights. He noted: “precisely to the extent that it is successful there is an underutilisation of information.” You can observe the truth of this in every e-business model
ever constructed: monopolise and protect data, capture the free social data generated by user interaction, push commercial forces into areas of data production that were non-commercial before, mine the existing data for predictive value – always and everywhere ensuring nobody but the corporation can utilise the results. If we restate Arrow’s principle in reverse, its revolutionary implications are obvious: if a free market economy plus intellectual property leads to the “underutilisation of information”, then an economy based on the full utilisation of information cannot tolerate the free market or absolute intellectual property rights. The business models of all our modern digital giants are designed to prevent the abundance of information. Yet information is abundant. Information goods are freely replicable. Once a thing is made, it can be copied/pasted infinitely. A music track or the giant database you use to build an airliner has a production cost; but its cost of reproduction falls towards zero. Therefore, if the normal price mechanism of capitalism prevails over time, its price will fall towards zero, too. For the past 25 years economics has been wrestling with this problem: all mainstream economics proceeds from a condition of scarcity, yet the most dynamic force in our modern world is abundant and, as hippy genius Stewart Brand once put it, “wants to be free”. There is, alongside the world of monopolised information and surveillance created by corporations and governments, a different dynamic growing up around information: information as a social good, free at the point of use, incapable of being owned or exploited or priced. I’ve surveyed the attempts by economists and business gurus to build a framework to understand the dynamics of an economy based on abundant, socially-held information. But it was actually imagined by one 19th-century economist in the era of the telegraph and the steam engine. His name? Karl Marx. … The scene is Kentish Town, London, February 1858, sometime around 4am. Marx is a wanted man in Germany and is hard at work scribbling thought-experiments and notes-to-self. When they finally get to see what Marx is
writing on this night, the left intellectuals of the 1960s will admit that it “challenges every serious interpretation of Marx yet conceived”. It is called “The Fragment on Machines”. In the “Fragment” Marx imagines an economy in which the main role of machines is to produce, and the main role of people is to supervise them. He was clear that, in such an economy, the main productive force would be information. The productive power of such machines as the automated cotton-spinning machine, the telegraph and the steam locomotive did not depend on the amount of labour it took to produce them but on the state of social knowledge. Organisation and knowledge, in other words, made a bigger contribution to productive power than the work of making and running the machines. Given what Marxism was to become – a theory of exploitation based on the theft of labour time – this is a revolutionary statement. It suggests that, once knowledge becomes a productive force in its own right, outweighing the actual labour spent creating a machine, the big question becomes not one of “wages versus profits” but who controls what Marx called the “power of knowledge”. In an economy where machines do most of the work, the nature of the knowledge locked inside the machines must, he writes, be “social”. In a final late-night thought experiment Marx imagined the end point of this trajectory: the creation of an “ideal machine”, which lasts forever and costs nothing. A machine that could be built for nothing would, he said, add no value at all to the production process and rapidly, over several accounting periods, reduce the price, profit and labour costs of everything else it touched. Once you understand that information is physical, and that software is a machine, and that storage, bandwidth and processing power are collapsing in price at exponential rates, the value of Marx’s thinking becomes clear. We are surrounded by machines that cost nothing and could, if we wanted them to, last forever. In these musings, not published until the mid-20th century, Marx imagined information coming to be stored and shared in something called a “general intellect” – which was the mind of everybody on Earth connected by social knowledge, in which every upgrade benefits everybody. In short, he had imagined something close to the information
economy in which we live. And, he wrote, its existence would “blow capitalism sky high”. Marx imagined something close to our information economy. He wrote its existence would blow capitalism sky high … With the terrain changed, the old path beyond capitalism imagined by the left of the 20th century is lost. But a different path has opened up. Collaborative production, using network technology to produce goods and services that only work when they are free, or shared, defines the route beyond the market system. It will need the state to create the framework – just as it created the framework for factory labour, sound currencies and free trade in the early 19th century. The postcapitalist sector is likely to coexist with the market sector for decades, but major change is happening. Networks restore “granularity” to the postcapitalist project. That is, they can be the basis of a non-market system that replicates itself, which does not need to be created afresh every morning on the computer screen of a commissar. The transition will involve the state, the market and collaborative production beyond the market. But to make it happen, the entire project of the left, from protest groups to the mainstream social democratic and liberal parties, will have to be reconfigured. In fact, once people understand the logic of the postcapitalist transition, such ideas will no longer be the property of the left – but of a much wider movement, for which we will need new labels. Who can make this happen? In the old left project it was the industrial working class. More than 200 years ago, the radical journalist John Thelwall warned the men who built the English factories that they had created a new and dangerous form of democracy: “Every large workshop and manufactory is a sort of political society, which no act of parliament can silence, and no magistrate disperse.” Today the whole of society is a factory. We all participate in the creation and recreation of the brands, norms and institutions that surround us. At the same time the communication grids vital for everyday work and profit are buzzing with shared knowledge and discontent. Today it is
the network – like the workshop 200 years ago – that they “cannot silence or disperse”.
modified form of a complex market society. But we can only begin to grasp at a positive vision of what it will be like.
True, states can shut down Facebook, Twitter, even the entire internet and mobile network in times of crisis, paralysing the economy in the process. And they can store and monitor every kilobyte of information we produce. But they cannot reimpose the hierarchical, propaganda-driven and ignorant society of 50 years ago, except – as in China, North Korea or Iran – by opting out of key parts of modern life. It would be, as sociologist Manuel Castells put it, like trying to de-electrify a country.
I don’t mean this as a way to avoid the question: the general economic parameters of a postcapitalist society by, for example, the year 2075, can be outlined. But if such a society is structured around human liberation, not economics, unpredictable things will begin to shape it.
By creating millions of networked people, financially exploited but with the whole of human intelligence one thumb-swipe away, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being. … This will be more than just an economic transition. There are, of course, the parallel and urgent tasks of decarbonising the world and dealing with demographic and fiscal timebombs. But I’m concentrating on the economic transition triggered by information because, up to now, it has been sidelined. Peer-to-peer has become pigeonholed as a niche obsession for visionaries, while the “big boys” of leftwing economics get on with critiquing austerity. In fact, on the ground in places such as Greece, resistance to austerity and the creation of “networks you can’t default on” – as one activist put it to me – go hand in hand. Above all, postcapitalism as a concept is about new forms of human behaviour that conventional economics would hardly recognise as relevant. So how do we visualise the transition ahead? The only coherent parallel we have is the replacement of feudalism by capitalism – and thanks to the work of epidemiologists, geneticists and data analysts, we know a lot more about that transition than we did 50 years ago when it was “owned” by social science. The first thing we have to recognise is: different modes of production are structured around different things. Feudalism was an economic system structured by customs and laws about “obligation”. Capitalism was structured by something purely economic: the market. We can predict, from this, that postcapitalism – whose precondition is abundance – will not simply be a
For example, the most obvious thing to Shakespeare, writing in 1600, was that the market had called forth new kinds of behaviour and morality. By analogy, the most obvious “economic” thing to the Shakespeare of 2075 will be the total upheaval in gender relationships, or sexuality, or health. Perhaps there will not even be any playwrights: perhaps the very nature of the media we use to tell stories will change – just as it changed in Elizabethan London when the first public theatres were built. Think of the difference between, say, Horatio in Hamlet and a character such as Daniel Doyce in Dickens’s Little Dorrit. Both carry around with them a characteristic obsession of their age – Horatio is obsessed with humanist philosophy; Doyce is obsessed with patenting his invention. There can be no character like Doyce in Shakespeare; he would, at best, get a bit part as a working-class comic figure. Yet, by the time Dickens described Doyce, most of his readers knew somebody like him. Just as Shakespeare could not have imagined Doyce, so we too cannot imagine the kind of human beings society will produce once economics is no longer central to life. But we can see their prefigurative forms in the lives of young people all over the world breaking down 20th-century barriers around sexuality, work, creativity and the self. The feudal model of agriculture collided, first, with environmental limits and then with a massive external shock – the Black Death. After that, there was a demographic shock: too few workers for the land, which raised their wages and made the old feudal obligation system impossible to enforce. The labour shortage also forced technological innovation. The new technologies that underpinned the rise of merchant capitalism were the ones that stimulated commerce (printing and accountancy), the creation of tradeable wealth (mining, the compass and fast ships) and productivity (mathematics and the scientific method). Present throughout the whole process was something
that looks incidental to the old system – money and credit – but which was actually destined to become the basis of the new system. In feudalism, many laws and customs were actually shaped around ignoring money; credit was, in high feudalism, seen as sinful. So when money and credit burst through the boundaries to create a market system, it felt like a revolution. Then, what gave the new system its energy was the discovery of a virtually unlimited source of free wealth in the Americas. A combination of all these factors took a set of people who had been marginalised under feudalism – humanists, scientists, craftsmen, lawyers, radical preachers and bohemian playwrights such as Shakespeare – and put them at the head of a social transformation. At key moments, though tentatively at first, the state switched from hindering the change to promoting it. Today, the thing that is corroding capitalism, barely rationalised by mainstream economics, is information. Most laws concerning information define the right of corporations to hoard it and the right of states to access it, irrespective of the human rights of citizens. The equivalent of the printing press and the scientific method is information technology and its spillover into all other technologies, from genetics to healthcare to agriculture to the movies, where it is quickly reducing costs. The modern equivalent of the long stagnation of late feudalism is the stalled take-off of the third industrial revolution, where instead of rapidly automating work out of existence, we are reduced to creating what David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs” on low pay. And many economies are stagnating. The equivalent of the new source of free wealth? It’s not exactly wealth: it’s the “externalities” – the free stuff and wellbeing generated by networked interaction. It is the rise of non-market production, of unownable information, of peer networks and unmanaged enterprises. The internet, French economist Yann Moulier-Boutang says, is “both the ship and the ocean” when it comes to the modern equivalent of the discovery of the new world. In fact, it is the ship, the compass, the ocean and the gold. The modern day external shocks are clear: energy depletion, climate change, ageing populations and migration. They are altering the dynamics of capitalism and making it
unworkable in the long term. They have not yet had the same impact as the Black Death – but as we saw in New Orleans in 2005, it does not take the bubonic plague to destroy social order and functional infrastructure in a financially complex and impoverished society. Once you understand the transition in this way, the need is not for a supercomputed Five Year Plan – but a project, the aim of which should be to expand those technologies, business models and behaviours that dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance. I call it Project Zero – because its aims are a zero-carbon-energy system; the production of machines, products and services with zero marginal costs; and the reduction of necessary work time as close as possible to zero. Most 20th-century leftists believed that they did not have the luxury of a managed transition: it was an article of faith for them that nothing of the coming system could exist within the old one – though the working class always attempted to create an alternative life within and “despite” capitalism. As a result, once the possibility of a Soviet-style transition disappeared, the modern left became preoccupied simply with opposing things: the privatisation of healthcare, anti-union laws, fracking – the list goes on. If I am right, the logical focus for supporters of postcapitalism is to build alternatives within the system; to use governmental power in a radical and disruptive way; and to direct all actions towards the transition – not the defence of random elements of the old system. We have to learn what’s urgent, and what’s important, and that sometimes they do not coincide. … The power of imagination will become critical. In an information society, no thought, debate or dream is wasted – whether conceived in a tent camp, prison cell or the table football space of a startup company. As with virtual manufacturing, in the transition to postcapitalism the work done at the design stage can reduce mistakes in the implementation stage. And the design of the postcapitalist world, as with software, can be modular. Different people can work on it in different places,
at different speeds, with relative autonomy from each other. If I could summon one thing into existence for free it would be a global institution that modelled capitalism correctly: an open source model of the whole economy; official, grey and black. Every experiment run through it would enrich it; it would be open source and with as many datapoints as the most complex climate models. The main contradiction today is between the possibility of free, abundant goods and information; and a system of monopolies, banks and governments trying to keep things private, scarce and commercial. Everything comes down to the struggle between the network and the hierarchy: between old forms of society moulded around capitalism and new forms of society that prefigure what comes next.
of capitalism that can only tear the world apart. Watching these emerge, from the pro-Grexit left factions in Syriza to the Front National and the isolationism of the American right has been like watching the nightmares we had during the Lehman Brothers crisis come true. We need more than just a bunch of utopian dreams and small-scale horizontal projects. We need a project based on reason, evidence and testable designs, that cuts with the grain of history and is sustainable by the planet. And we need to get on with it.
… Is it utopian to believe we’re on the verge of an evolution beyond capitalism? We live in a world in which gay men and women can marry, and in which contraception has, within the space of 50 years, made the average working-class woman freer than the craziest libertine of the Bloomsbury era. Why do we, then, find it so hard to imagine economic freedom? It is the elites, cut off in their dark-limo world, whose project looks forlorn It is the elites – cut off in their dark-limo world – whose project looks as forlorn as that of the millennial sects of the 19th century. The democracy of riot squads, corrupt politicians, magnate-controlled newspapers and the surveillance state looks as phoney and fragile as East Germany did 30 years ago. All readings of human history have to allow for the possibility of a negative outcome. It haunts us in the zombie movie, the disaster movie, in the post-apocalytic wasteland of films such as The Road or Elysium. But why should we not form a picture of the ideal life, built out of abundant information, non-hierarchical work and the dissociation of work from wages? Millions of people are beginning to realise they have been sold a dream at odds with what reality can deliver. Their response is anger – and retreat towards national forms
This article is an excerpt from PostCapitalism: A Guide To Our Future by Paul Mason, published in the Guardian, 17 July 2015
HAVE WE REALLY ENTERED THE AGE OF POST-CAPITALISM? By Jacob Hjortsberg
Not least for it’s sheer optimism, I was happy to read Paul Mason’s new book, Postcapitalism. In it, Mason makes two broad and largely commonsensical observations regarding the rapid development of information technologies – first, that as our information technology is getting increasingly more sophisticated, it is possible to automate away more and more jobs; second, that as this happens, more and more people will spend their time producing information of different kind – suggesting that these two development will together force capitalism to evolve, largely without any violence or class struggle, into a “postcapitalist” world order. Is he right? Probably not. Mason’s main suggestion is that the more our economy is organized around the production of information and knowledge, the less will it make sense for this economy to take the form of capitalism. Why? Because, as Mason (2015: 18) puts it, “markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant”. Imagine here the difference between sharing an apple and sharing an idea. If I have an apple and share it with you, I end up having only half an apple. If on the other hand I share an idea with you, I get to keep the whole idea only now you have it too. Thus, while ideas are inherently abundant, apples are inherently scarce – and capitalism, Mason points out, is really only equipped to deal with the production and circulation of the latter category of things. In economics, this difference between scarce and abundant goods is known as a difference between rival and non-rival goods, and the main reason why our current economic system is so bad at dealing with the latter is because money is itself a rival good. If I share twenty dollars with you, we both have ten and not twenty each. The problem is that, when the exchange of information (as well as other non-rival goods) is mediated by money, we will all have to act as if information is also a rival good, and that sharing it for free consequently diminishes it’s value – which, of course, is true in terms of the money that we use to measure its exchange-value, but horribly misleading in terms of the actual use-value of the information. When we actually do treat information as a non-rival good, “It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew”, to quote open source pioneer Aaron Swartz’s (2008). “But sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy”
(ibid). Popular wisdom notwithstanding, then, while it is no real problem to equate apples with oranges, we run into serious troubles when the equation is made between apples and information. This, I would say, is the gist of Masons diagnosis. Let me now suggest why I don’t think it will lead to “postcapitalism”. That we are currently living in an economic system modelled on the production and circulation of rival goods, yet witness how this system is increasingly based on the production and circulation of non-rival goods, is no doubt a major contradiction, and Mason is right to suggest that its severity should make us question the very viability of capitalism. Of course, he is not the first to do so, nor to do so precisely on this ground. For example, literary theorist and activist Michael Hardt made a similar case quite a few years ago, suggesting that the shift in capitalism from an older reliance on “material production” (production and circulation of rival goods such as shoes and apples) to a new reliance on “immaterial production” (production and circulation of non-rival goods such as information and ideas) would bring about nothing less than the material conditions of a communist revolution, as the free sharing of information, ideas and images would, as he phrased it, put “the common in communism” (Hardt 2010). That hasn’t really happened, though. More than anything, it seems to me, the main problem with this particular line of argument is the assumption that, by demonstrating that capitalism is ripe with contradictions (preferably adding some new contradiction to the list), one has effectively demonstrated that the end is near, too. This, however, is not at all self-evident. After all, precisely this prediction has been made many times before, and we are still living in capitalism. On the other hand, of course, to point this out is just as little an argument for why capitalism could never fall under the weight of its own contradictions. So let’s see if the argument seems plausible, this time around. At one level, Mason’s critique is the oldest one in the book; in fact, it’s found on the very first page of Marx’s Capital. This is the observation that capitalism rests on a contradiction between use-value and exchange-value. As we’ve seen, in Mason’s argument, this manifests itself as the newly emerging contradiction that an exchange-value modelled on scarcity is increasingly relying on the production of
abundant use-values. But of course, in its most everyday expression, the contradiction between use-value and exchange-value has been around since the birth of capitalism. As David Harvey (2014: 15) puts it: “Nothing could be simpler. I walk into a supermarket with money in my pocket and exchange it for some food items. I cannot eat the money but I can eat the food. So the food is useful to me in ways that the money is not.” The reason why this amounts to a contradiction in its own right is because those use-values that I buy at the supermarket are ultimately produced in order to maximize exchange-value – and in the long run, the maximization of exchange-value (which in terms of total economy means endless compound growth) will lead to the eventual depletion of use-values, not their maximization. This, at least, was Marx’s prediction when he wrote that “[c]apitalist production […] only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the workers” (Marx 1976: 637-8), a statement that has turned out to hold water, considering the unprecedented levels of both ecological and human devastation that two centuries of capitalist civilization has brought the world. Still, even if we accept that the contradiction between use-value and exchange value is both foundational to capitalism and at the root of much of our ecological and social misery – and I think that this is a proposition that stands up to testing – it doesn’t in any way support the claim that capitalism is about to come to an end. It might very well imply that human society as a decent and ecologically sustainable place is coming to an end, but this is not in itself something that will compel capitalism to “evolve” into something better (as should have been made abundantly clear by Naomi Klein’s (2014) book, This Changes Everything). No matter how much the internal dynamic of capitalism contradicts our ecological and social needs, capitalism will only crumble under the weight of its own contradictions once its ability to produce economic growth is severely threatened. Otherwise, we will still, unfortunately, have to struggle against it. In order to be considered plausible, therefore, Mason’s argument will have to demonstrate just this: how the contradiction between scarcity in exchange and abundance in production will actually threaten the logic of the exchange system. If this can’t be demonstrated, there is once again no reason to assume that capitalism will wither
away, as Mason predicts, on the backs of “something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system” (Mason 2015: 17) – a new use-value regime that finally will be able to abolish capitalism by “reshaping the economy around new values, behaviours and norms” (ibid: 18). Fortunately, there are ways to test most of this against empirical evidence. The strongest reason provided by Mason as to why his particular version of the exchange-value/use-value contradiction will prove fatal to capitalism is that people have already started to develop alternative exchange systems – ones that are much more in synch with the abundance characteristic of the information economy – within the shells of the old market system. “Almost unnoticed,” he writes, “in the niches and hollows of the market system, whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm. Parallel currencies, time banks, cooperatives and self-managed spaces have proliferated, barely noticed by the economics profession, and often as a direct result of the shattering of the old structures in the post-2008 crisis” (ibid: 19). Notice, here, how Mason repeatedly tells his readers that these new and supposedly postcapitalist economies are “almost unnoticed”, “barely noticed”, and “almost unseen” – by people in general, and economists in particular. To me, this seems to be an important ideological function of the argument. What apparently is being insinuated is that, if these new economic forms are “barely noticed by the economics profession”, then, surely, this must be because the economics profession could never incorporate them into their theory of capitalism. Their absence from economic theory thus proves their radical potential; their marginality signals their significance. Yet as with any message that is too insistently repeated – think of how frequently racist parties insist that they are not racists – suspicion lurks that it betrays its opposite. And sure enough, if one actually consults the economics profession, what one finds there is a rather large (not to say “abundant”) literature dealing exactly with this transition from a form of capitalism based on rival goods, to one based increasingly on non-rival goods. What has gone almost unnoticed by the economics profession, one the other hand, is the prediction that this will somehow lead to postcapitalism.
One good example is a book released 2014, The Second Machine Age, by the two MIT-economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Like Mason, these authors argue that we are currently witnessing a second technological revolution, one that is “doing for mental power – the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments – what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power”, the former being “at least as important for progress and development – for mastering our physical and intellectual environment to get things done – as physical power” (Brynjolfsson & McAfee 2014: 17-18). And just like Mason, they identify one crucial difference between the two, which they also locate in the distinction between scarcity and abundance. For Brynjolfsson and McAfee, however, the story begins with the relation between economic growth and wage developments. Historically, when society has seen increases in productivity, the general result has been an increase in living standard for the majority of the population. The reason behind this, Brynjolfsson and McAfee say, is that whenever capital could produce the same amount of goods from less labour, both production and wages have tended to go up – so that, as the total supply of goods and services increased, effective demand did so as well. Society thus produced more commodities, but it also produced a workforce that could afford to buy more. For economists, this has in many ways been the big argument for economic growth. But, Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue, with the rise of information technologies, economic growth has been largely disconnected from positive wage developments. For example, they show how between 1999 and 2011 median income in the US fell from almost 56 thousand dollars per year to just above 50 thousand – and this despite the fact that GDP hit a record high in 2011! The reason behind this new disconnect, Brynjolfssen and McAfee argue, has to do with the kind of productivity increases that information technologies are likely to bring about. For example, while it makes a great deal of macroeconomic sense to increase wages when technological development allows society to produce more cars or houses from the same amount of labour input – since all of these new things have to be bought by someone – it makes pretty much no sense to do that when technological development allows people to share information, ideas, or music with each other for free online. Yet, Brynjolfsson and
McAfee say, it is precisely this latter kind of technological development that has been driving economic growth the last twenty-or-so years (ibid: 205ff). Predictably, the result has been a “trickle up” of wealth to a small percentage of the population – economic “superstars” like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. What’s new about this new group of “economic winners”, Brynjolfsson and McAfee say, is that they make money not so much from producing new things and selling them to people, but by owning and controlling different information technologies that manage to be productive without having to invest in almost any labour (Facebook, for example, has only about nine thousand employees). Instead, the use-values that are produced from these new technologies are produced for free by everyone, all the time – from sharing images on Instagram to sending an email to uploading text on Facebook (ibid: 236-258). Up to this point, then, the story is more or less the same as Mason’s. Markets are not designed to deal with non-rival goods, because either they force us to behave as if sharing them is like sharing an apple (installing copy-rights and other forms of enclosures in order to create artificial scarcity), or they simply have no way of expressing the economic value of this new abundance, since nothing can both have a market value and be shared for free. Beyond this basic observation, however, disagreements begin to surface. Mason, as we’ve seen, describes this new sharing economy as a form of “collaborative production” in which “goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy”, mentioning Wikipedia as an example of a product that “is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue” (Mason 2015: 18-19). In contrast to this, Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that, while it is generally true that it’s become harder and harder to get paid for producing information of different kind (from books to music to software), this does not mean that it’s no longer possible to make money from the production of such things. The only real difference is where that money ends up: in the hand of capital (the owners of the means of production) or in the hand of labour (the actual producers). And, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee have shown in the form of falling median wages relative to GDP, a major transference of wealth from labour to capital
has indeed taken place. Now, as credit to Mason’s argument, were this particular trend to completely dominate economic development, we would no doubt be looking at a process that could eventually only spell the end of capitalism. This, indeed, is precisely what Mason has in mind when he references Marx’s short text from Grundrisse, “The Fragment on Machines”. Mason writes: “In an economy where machines do most of the work, the nature of the knowledge locked inside the machines must […] be ‘social’. In a final late-night thought experiment Marx imagined the end point of this trajectory: the creation of an ‘ideal machine’, which lasts forever and costs nothing. A machine that could be built for nothing would, he said, add no value at all to the production process and rapidly, over several accounting periods, reduce the price, profit and labour costs of everything else it touched” (Mason 2015a). The key phrase here is “costs nothing”, which of course means “requires no labour input” (in production as well as maintenance). And sure enough, a capitalist economy running entirely on machines that require no labour input whatsoever would soon collapse, because no labour means no wages, and no wages means no demand, which in turn means that these “ideal machines” would end up producing commodities without any market value. The problem is that Mason seems to believe that this is essentially a realistic description of the direction that our economy is taking. It emphatically isn’t. In fact, people are working more than ever; and, following Brynjolfsson and McAfee, it shouldn’t really surprise us that this is the case. After all, if economic growth is increasingly being produced in sectors of the economy that require little or no labour, the immediate result is not that capital becomes weaker but stronger. And capital, though it has been incredibly good at coming up with new technologies that allow us to produce more goods for less labour, is fundamentally not about such technological advances. Instead, it is and will always be about the purchase of labour. As John Stuart Mill once argued, never was a labour-saving device invented that actually saved anyone a minute’s labour (see Sahlins 1974: 35). The irony is that this is something that Mason seems to be fully aware of, as he rightly describes how a fully automated capitalism would self-implode due to a lack of effective demand (or at least makes an approving reference to Marx making this point). However, he seems to imagines that capitalism does not get it.
The question then is: does capitalism get it? It seems so. While information technologies have greatly reduced capital’s need to employ labour in certain sectors of the economy – facilitating in the process a huge transference of wealth from labour to capital – this has not in any way kept capital from employing labour in ever-new ways. In particular, capitalism has been very good at producing low-paying jobs in the service industry. In the US, for example, the three biggest employers – in order, Walmart (with 2.2 million employees), Yum! Brands (owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, with 523 000 employees), and McDonald’s (with 440 000 employees) – are all low-pay, low-security jobs within the service industry (and out of the ten biggest employers, six are in the service industry). Again, this should not surprise us. As Brynjolfsson and McAfee points out, when it comes to replacing workers with robots, “high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources” (Brynjolfsson & McAfee 2014: 51-52), so while robots have long since surpassed humans in playing chess or figuring out which is the best way to drive to the airport during rush hour, we’re yet to see a robot that is cheap and capable enough to replace even the worst McDonald’s employee (this tendency is known as “Moravec’s Paradox”). Still, it would probably be wrong to attribute the persistence of human labour in the service industry solely, or even mainly, to the inability of robots to make a Big Mac. As a large number of social theorists have noticed (see Hochchild 1983; Weeks 2007; Hardt & Negri 2000, 2004, 2009) most of the what’s being produced in the service industry is largely indistinguishable from the social relations in which it is being produced. As Weeks (2007: 239) puts it, service work “involves putting subjectivity to work in jobs that are less about manipulating things and more about handling people and symbols”. In other words, what’s being asked of people in the service industry is not simply that they perform mechanical tasks that robots aren’t (yet) able to perform, but precisely that they don’t act like robots – selling not only Big Mac’s or T-shirts but also their care and their smiles. And recent movies such as Ex Machina and Her notwithstanding – both telling the story of people falling in love with AI:s – we are most likely far from seeing robots whose smiles, touches, compliments or words of comfort produce the same effects as when coming from other humans. Yet we can’t all be service workers – that, after all, would rather defeat the purpose. According to Brynjolfsson and
McAfee, therefore, the best way for individuals to “race with machines”, as they put it, is to do the second thing that robots aren’t very good at, besides being human beings, which is to come up with innovations. “We’ve never seen a truly creative machine,” they write, “or an entrepreneurial one, or an innovative one” (Brynjolfsson & McAfee 2014: 300). These generic references to “creativity” and “innovation”, of course, really signify something quite specific. For Brynjolffson and McAfee, this is on the one hand the ability to come up with information and ideas that are truly new and possible to sell (like a poem or a journalistic story), on the other the ability to come up with information technology that is truly new and possible to sell (like Facebook or Windows). “These activities”, they write, “have one thing in common: ideation, or coming up with new ideas or concepts. To be more precise, we should probably say good new ideas or concepts, since computers can easily be programmed to generate new combinations of preexisting elements like words” (ibid: 300). Now, while this observation about ideation is obviously true (though also something of a truism), the more interesting thing about these two forms of creativity, it seems to me, is the way in which they differ from each other. This perspective receives no explicit discussion from Brynjolfsson and McAfee, yet it comes out of their description. The first kind of creativity, they say, achieves a market value mainly by having not yet been made redundant by information technology. “We’ve seen software that could create lines of English text that rhymed,” they write, “but none that could write a true poem” (ibid: 300), assuring the world’s poets that they can still feel safe. At the same time, this is a rather fragile assurance, because the second kind of creativity is geared precisely towards coming up with technology that will make other people redundant – from open-source encyclopedias like Wikipedia to, indeed, computers that can produce all sorts of creative writing. So while human beings might “race with machines” by being creative in a uniquely human way – thus complementing the machines – there is always the risk that some other human will create a machine that can simulate this ability, rendering it basically useless as a way to earn a living. Perhaps however it’s time now to call this what it is: a profoundly ideological vision. Consider, again, the short comment above on computers and poetry. Here, the implicit message seems to be that the only real difference between a computer and a poet is that the former cannot (yet) produce credible poetry; “a true poem”, as the
author’s put it – and not that poetry is essentially a form of communication between human beings. Apparently, from the point of view of economics, the only question that matters is that of the Turing test: can you tell the difference between a human and a computer? If you can’t – if the computer has made you believe that a human wrote the poem – then the computer has effectively created poetry. Simple as that. Still, it would seem that for anyone who is seriously interested in poetry, its value lies not in its ability to simulate human emotions but to actually express them – and in so doing invite the reader to share them, however briefly. If we teach our computers to simulate that experience, we haven’t taught them how to produce poetry – we’ve taught them how to lie. The important point here though is that this ideological blindness regarding the difference between a computer and a poet signals a broader blindness that is inscribed into the very DNA of capitalism. Marx called this blindness “reification”, i.e. the tendency of capitalism to reduce human beings to things. He argued that, even though a particular human practice originated as deeply embedded in and indistinguishable from social relations (say, the reading of poetry or the cooking and serving of food), if it is possible to strip it of all that and sell it in a “pure” way as a product or a service (i.e. something more akin to a thing), this is what capital will do. Thus, in economic terms, all that matters really is the Turing test. It is in this context, I think, that we should read a recent essay by the French activist group The Invisible Committee, memorably entitled “Fuck Off, Google”. In this essay, the authors make a compelling case for a distinction between “technology” and “techniques”. All human societies and forms of life, they argue, are technical in the sense that they represent “a certain configuration of techniques, of culinary, architectural, musical, spiritual, informational, agricultural, erotic, martial, etc., techniques. And it’s for this reason,” they write, “that there’s no generic human essence: because there are only particular techniques, and because every technique configures a world, materializing in this way a certain relationship with the latter, a certain form of life” (The Invisible Committee 2015: 122). Different techniques, in other words, are radically incommensurable: there is no universal human being who can pick and choose between them as she pleases, and no world in which techniques can be neatly displayed as so many means towards the same end. Instead, “Every tool configures and embodies a particular relation with the
world, and the worlds formed in this way are not equivalent, any more than the humans who inhabit them are. And by the same token these worlds are not hierarchizable either. There is nothing that would establish some as more ‘advanced’ than others. They are merely distinct, each one having its own potential and its own history” (ibid: 122-123). Still, the authors argue, such an equation and hierarchization of different techniques is precisely what the field of technology offers. This is the important point. According to the authors, technology introduces “an implicit criterion making it possible to classify the different techniques”, a way of imagining techniques as if devoid of any unique, and thus ethical, character. In the case of capitalism, this criterion “is simply the quantifiable productivity of the techniques, considered apart from what each technique might involve ethically, without regard to the sensible world it engenders” (ibid: 123). If you want a definition of the difference between a computer and a poet, I would say that this is pretty much it. The only situation in which it would ever make sense to replace a poet with a computer is one in which the ethical character of poetry as a technique of communication has been replaced by the attempt to produce more from less. Understood from the perspective of technology, poetry produces the same thing as a can of tomato soup or a pack of cigarettes, only in a different way: shareholder value for whomever owns the means of its production, the “bottom line” of business. If a computer does this more effectively, it does it better. Understood as a technique, on the other hand, poetry produces an ethical relation between the reader and the poet, so that, when reading Goethe, I am not trying to achieve in a more efficient manner the same thing that I achieve when reading Shakespeare – and even less than when I use my dishwasher. Rather, when reading Goethe, I am seeking to enter a distinct ethical world. For most people, this is a reward in and of itself. From this perspective, a world in which everything is either mediated or replaced by technology starts to look rather bleak – far from the glimmering visions offered by optimistic economists, in which everything “smart-“ is envisioned as the brave new future of all humanity. In fact, following the Invisible Committee’s suggestion, it seems that such a world must become increasingly “world-less”. As French philosopher Alain Badiou (2011: 10) puts it: “Any world […] only becomes visible, is only thrown into relief, by the differences constructed within it. […] But within a horizon in which everything is equivalent to everything else, no such thing as a world is discernible, only surfaces,
supports, apparitions without number.” Perhaps in such a world, it is rather that we will be “post-“ everything but capitalism.
References Badiou, Alain (2011). The Democratic Emblem. In Agamben, Giorgio … et al. Democracy in What State? New York: Columbia University Press. Brynjolfsson, Erik; McAfee, Andrew (2014). The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. Johanneshov: MTM Hardt, Michael (2010). The Common in Communism. Rethinking Marxism 22(3): 346-356. Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2000). Empire. Harvard University Press. Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio (2004). Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: The Penguin Press Hardt, Michael & Negri, Antonio (2009). Commonwealth. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press Harvey, David (2014). Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA. Hochschild, Arlie Russell (1983). The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press. Klein, Naomi (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster. Invisible Committee, The (2015). To Our Friends. South Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e) Marx, Karl (1976). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (Volume 1). London: Penguin Books Limited. Mason, Paul (2015). Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. London: Penguin Random House. Mason, Paul (2015a). The End of Capitalism has Begun. The Guardian 2015-17-17. Online resource: https:// www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun Swartz, Aaron (2008). Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. Online resource: https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt Sahlins, Marshall (1974). Stone Age Economics. New York: Routledge. Weeks, Kathy (2007). Life Within and Against Work: Affective Labor, Feminist Critique, and Post-Fordist Politics. Ephemera 7(1): 233-249. Jacob Hjortsberg is a PhD fellow in the Department of social anthropology at the University of Bergen
KUNSTEN OG DET NETTBASERTE LIVET Kan det sosiale nettet bety slutten på kunstinstitusjonen slik vi kjenner den? Av Erlend Hammer
Like sikkert som at nye kunstretninger får navn, oppstår det strid om disse begrepene. Noen vil alltid hevde at en bestemt tendens er over når andre nettopp har oppdaget den. Akkurat slik er det nå med begrepet «postinternett-kunst». Termen har blitt heftig debattert de siste fire-fem årene, og ble etter sigende endelig mainstream i 2015, med utstillinger som Surround Audience på New Museum i New York, Co-Workers på Musée d’art Moderne i Paris og Tunnel Vision under Momentum i Moss. Dermed skulle 2016 være det perfekte år for å proklamere at post-internett- kunst endelig er passé. Men hva om diskusjonen rundt post-internett-kunst ikke handler om en bestemt type kunst, men rett og slett innebærer avviklingen av kunstinstitusjonen slik vi kjenner den? Selve definisjonen av post-internett-kunst er i dag tilnærmelsesvis avklart. Noen mener riktignok det hele bare dreier seg om et markedsføringsverktøy, en betegnelse på en bestemt type visuelt slående kunst som gjør seg godt når gallerister på kunstmesser presenterer jpegs på en Ipad. De mer velvillige har samlet seg om to delvis overlappende definisjoner: Noen vil si at det handler om kunst som på ulike måter gjør bruk av internett og digitale teknologier. Andre mener det er kunst som handler om erfaringen av den teknologiske virkeligheten vi lever i. Den førstnevnte definisjonen er forholdsvis lett å avgrense, men har vist seg vanskelig å forsvare som noe grunnleggende nytt. Enten det dreier seg om frenetisk Youtube-estetikk, kunst plassert i sosiale medier eller tradisjonelle kunstobjekter produsert med digitale hjelpemidler (som 3D-scanning og 3D-printing), ligner den i stor grad på det vi siden 1980-tallet kjenner som mediekunst. Hverken de kunstneriske eller filosofiske spørsmålene er nye, men simpelthen oppdatert med den seneste teknologien. Den andre definisjonen av post-internett-kunst er vanskeligere å avgrense, men desto mer interessant. Den forholder seg til den moderne betrakterens samlede forbruk av kultur, og flytter oppmerksomheten til forholdet mellom kunsten, populærkulturen og offentligheten. Ett eksempel finner vi hos amerikanske DIS Magazine, som dekker mote, kunst, filosofi og nettkultur på en måte som sidestiller svært ulike fenomener og lar dem inngå i et åpent, flytende og anti-teoretisk kulturelt prosjekt. Hensikten synes å være å avdramatisere eskalert informasjonskonsum
og argumentere for at «kritikk» og «motstand» mot den globale kapitalismen ikke lenger er mulig. Deltagelse, eller «immersion», er det eneste alternativet. Metadata. Hva om vi i forlengelsen av dette ser post-internett-begrepet som et symptom på hva som skjer med kunstopplevelsen i nettets tidsalder? Hva om «post-internett» egentlig er betegnelsen på en teori om hva kunst fra nå av er og gjør? Det er jo unektelig noe tvilsomt ved et begrep som skal beskrive og avgrense et kunstnerisk uttrykk, når det samtidig handler om fraværet av et autoritativt ståsted. I stedet for å snakke om post-internett-kunst bør vi derfor fra nå av snakke om post-internett-begrepets metadata, dets evne til indirekte å beskrive en kunstinstitusjon i endring. For å forstå denne tilnærminge n til post-internett-kunsten, må vi forstå det sosiale nettet. I 2005 lanserte tre ansatte i betalingstjenesten Paypal domenet Youtube. Året etter ble Facebook åpnet for alle, og medie virkeligheten ble aldri den samme. Dagens clickbait-kultur begynte med medienes erkjennelse av verdien som ligger i å tiltrekke besøk ved hjelp av «virale» fenomener. Den negative konsekvensen av dette er kvalitetsfallet i de tradisjonelle mediene. Den positive konsekvensen er at nisjepublikasjoner og ulike mikrooffentligheter kompenserer for forflatningen. Kunstfeltet har alltid vært oppdelt i regioner og scener, men det nye nå er de endrede vilkårene for deltagelse på tvers av tidligere grenser. Hvis man for eksempel bor i Bergen, er det ikke lenger snakk om at en utstilling «åpnet i Oslo i går». Det er snakk om en utstilling som i realiteten kan ha funnet sted når som helst og hvor som helst. En utstilling er ikke lenger bare en tidsavgrenset hendelse på et bestemt sted, men i like stor grad et nettverk av hashtags, likerklikk, videresendinger, påmeldinger og, nå senest, muligheten til å være «interessert i». Hva som er den primære erfaringen blant alle disse hendelsene, er ikke lenger like enkelt å gi noe svar på, men det som er sikkert, er at de fleste utstillinger sees av flere mennesker på nettet enn IRL. Irrelevant. Dermed er også aktualitet blitt en stadig mindre relevant størrelse, for alle som «ser» en utstilling har uansett sin egen tidsmessige og geografiske relasjon til den. Et utstillingspublikum kan dermed lett ta form av en såkalt «lang hale», et stort antall betraktere spredt utover en svært lang periode i stedet for en høy konsentrasjon av
publikummere innenfor et mer begrenset tidsrom. Når «alt er blitt tilgjengelig for alle», blir vi også nødt til å velge hva vi følger med på, og ta konsekvensene av at disse valgene påvirker hvilken informasjon vi får tilgang til i fremtiden. Informasjonsflyten er ikke lenger styrt fra sentrum eller toppen av kunsthierarkiet, men den er heller ikke symmetrisk eller demokratisk. Spørsmålet er i stedet hvilke bånd som knyttes mellom ulike aktører. Enkelte kunstnere og kuratorer er opptatt av nymodernistisk maleri, andre deltar på seminarer om kunst i offentlige rom. Mens mange institusjoner fremdeles sender ut pedagogiske pressemeldinger der utstillingene presenteres på en tilgjengelig måte, finnes det stadig flere visningssteder som velger bort denne formidlingen og erstatter pressemeldingen med lange, ugjennomtrengelige tekster eller finurlig iscenesatte memer, hvis funksjon først og fremst ser ut til å være å generere en erfaring som er beslektet med kunsten som presenteres. Ofte er denne koblingen bare synlig for dem som allerede er involvert i prosjektet. Likevel forstås i dag begge disse to strategiene som gyldige. All evaluering av kunst, herunder kritikk, kuratering og innkjøp, springer nå, «post internett», ut av et perspektivmangfold som er nødt til å påvirke maktforholdene i feltet. Snart finnes det ikke noe grunnlag for å samle noen elitær posisjon basert på bestemte kunstneriske uttrykk eller distinkte fortolkningsmodeller. Et eksempel er såkalt «gatekunst», som kommer stadig nærmere de tradisjonelt toneangivende institusjonene. Det finnes ikke noe argument for dette, ingen institusjonell validering, det bare skjer. Det er ikke tyngdekraften som virker, det er påvirkningskraften i de sosiale mediene, og den er minst like sterk. Med dette bortfallet av en hundre år gammel sosial, kulturell og estetisk dynamikk åpnes det ideelt sett for en situasjon hvor makten er spredt og ingen er marginalisert. Dette er det opprinnelige internettets drøm, og en mulig tolkning av det som foregår når post-internett-begrepet nå migrerer fra bloggosfæren til den mer etablerte kunstsamtalen. Post-internett-begrepet kan være et utgangspunkt for å forstå det nye kunstfeltet som nå vokser frem. Opphøyd i livspraksis. Kanskje er dette også en realisering av den historiske avantgardens ambisjoner om å forene kunsten og livet. Alt foregår nå online, og det finnes ingen
institusjonelle skillelinjer som er sterke nok til å overdøve fraværet av forskjell. Vil ikke denne erfaringen av likhet vinne over tillærte sosiale konvensjoner? For hva er egentlig igjen av «kunstinstitusjonen» når jeg ser på dokumentasjonsfotografier fra en utstilling ved Kunsthalle Lingen i Tyskland samtidig som jeg leser en rapport på Artforums kunstkjendisblogg Scene & Herd, sjekker ut Instagram-feeden til Purple-redaktør Olivier Zahm, streamer en technomix på Soundcloud og leter etter gamle klipp fra Saturday Night Live på Youtube? Alt dette er estetiske erfaringer, og koblingene mellom dem kan være sterkere enn koblingene mellom de to seneste utstillingene ved Museet for samtidskunst. Dette har allerede forandret vår forståelse av informasjon, og etter hvert vil det også nedfelles i institusjonelle endringer. Det blir derfor stadig vanskeligere å opprettholde kategorier vi tidligere tok for gitt. Helt siden Duchamp i 1917 hevdet at et pissoar var kunst, har vi vært klar over at kunstinstitusjonen påvirker vår opplevelse av kunsten. Men skal vi nå, snart hundre år senere, endelig oppleve at institusjonen står for fall? Kanskje er det like greit. Det mangfoldet av informasjon som produseres innenfor kunstfeltet, fra aksjonsbaserte seminarer om kryssende identitetskategorier til datamaskingenerert crapstraction-maleri, er nå så bredt at det strengt tatt ikke gir mening å sortere alt dette under noe felles kunstbegrep. I så fall virker det ikke urimelig å si at dette er internetts skyld, eller fortjeneste.
Denne artikkelen ble publisert i Morgenbladet 19. februar 2016, som del av Morgenbladet Kunstkritikk nr. 1, et redaksjonelt samarbeid mellom Morgenbladet og nettidsskriftet Kunstkritikk.
ART AND LABOUR A Fragment on William Morris’s Utopian Socialism (and beyond) By Dr. José María Durán
After a morning bath, Dick, the man whose ‘business’ is “ferrying and giving people casts about the water,” that is the river Thames in London, offers the narrator of News from Nowhere, William Guest, to be his guide in the new world. Guest hesitates for a moment: “I fear,” he says, “I shall be taking you away from your work.” But Dick doesn’t think so. “Oh, don’t trouble about that,” Dick replies, “it will give me an opportunity of doing a good turn to a friend of mine who wants to take my work here… and being a great friend of mine, he naturally came to me to get him some outdoor work.”ii This conversation found in chapter two of William Morris’s utopian novel News from Nowhere shows work as joyful and sensuous labour. Labour isn’t any longer a means of life but it has become life’s prime want. It is important to realize how labour is placed here at the centre of human praxis, and not a word is said about its outcome. In fact, unequal forms of labour are exchanged without the intermediation of money, and this because here labour has overcome the capitalist regime of value. In a time in which we are experiencing immense changes in the labour process, from the rise of technological devices that have ‘freed us’ from hard work to the comeback of old and even pre-capitalist forms of exploitation, it would be useful to reconsider labour and value in this regard. In order to illustrate labour, and art, outside of the capitalist regime of value let us begin by quoting Marx. In a fragment of segment four, “The Elementary Form of Value Considered as a Whole”, of section three of the first chapter of the first book of Capital Marx writes: “Every product of labour is, in all states of society, a use value; but it is only at a definite historical epoch in a society’s development that such a product becomes a commodity, viz., at the epoch when the labour spent on the production of a useful article becomes expressed as one of the objective qualities of that article, i.e., as its value.”iii Marx’s insight that ‘spent labour’ has become an objective quality of the product or commodity in a particular historical time challenges the general assumption that thinks of ‘spent labour’ in a conventional manner as the natural form of all human labour as it materializes or objectifies itself in a product. There is no doubt that human labour is a process whose outcome is a useful product; or, in Aristotelian terms, human labour means the application of means to ends. However, it is doubtful that the labour process should be 87
reduced to a socially equal magnitude expressed as the amount of labour spent, i.e., its duration and intensity, that is required for a commodity to be produced concerning every form of labour without distinction. This reduction is the product of a particular historical time. In Marx’s paragraph quoted before we first find a transhistorical definition of labour: ‘the product of labour = use value’. This does not exclude other values that are useful for human beings but aren’t the product of human labour, e.g. air. Marx also defines a historically determined form of labour, one in which ‘the product of labour = commodity’. This occurs “when the labour spent on the production of a useful article” is incorporated as its value, it becomes expressed (through the money form) as one of the objective qualities of the article. At the social level we can assume that any antagonistic movement contrary to this historical form of ‘spent labour’ would mean an erosion of the socially constituted current form of value, namely the refusal to assume that human labour expresses itself objectively in the useful product or object. What are the implications of this move? In the Critique of the Gotha Programme Marx wrote that in a society based on common ownership of the means of production the producers do not exchange their products, nor “does the labour employed on the products appear as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them”iv (emphasis in the original). Here Marx pointedly questions that view that considers the products of labour in terms of private ownership, whose simplest form could be formulated as a series of misconceptions that, however, sound obvious in our historical time: ‘I have spent labour on it, therefore it is mine and I can sell it.’ However, Marx argues that also within the collective society we may still count the contribution of the individual producer as an exchange of equal values. “Accordingly,” writes Marx, “the individual producer receives back from society… exactly what he gives to it.”v But Marx sees this advance as a limitation: “this equal right is still constantly encumbered by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labour they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labour”vi (emphasis in the original). Now, the question is, whether we can imagine labour not in
terms of an ‘equal standard’, as Marx put it, but exactly as its opposite, i.e., in terms of its inequality. This would imply that the amount of labour spent is incommensurable or socially meaningless. The inequality of labour is reached in a higher phase of communist society, Marx points out as he raises the famous slogan From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs! Here labour becomes not only a ‘means of life’ (Mittel zum Leben) but ‘life’s prime want’ (das erste Lebensbedürfnis).vii Williams Morris’s description of labour and how different labours are exchanged is consistent with Marx’s picture of the communist society. In addition, Morris’s view of art can help us to envision a form of labour, which cannot be reduced to an ‘equal standard’. According to William Morris, individual labour has to meet the following requisites in order to become a component part of social labour for the benefit of society as a whole: • “Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers”viii (emphasis in the original); which points to the necessary usefulness of labour as opposed to the ends of surplus value and profit in capitalism. • Work shall “be of itself pleasant to do”ix (emphasis in the original); having in mind that in the capitalist mode of production labour as wage-labour means forced labour. • And work should be “done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious”x (emphasis in the original). It is clear that these three requisites arise from a critical understanding of the capitalist mode of production. They are sort of negative picture of it. According to Morris art can be characterized in the same manner, since art for Morris shares the main traits of labour, is a kind of labour, and cannot be considered as an independent social sphere but is necessarily influenced by the conditions of labour. But Morris recognizes that it is impossible to satisfy these claims “under the present plutocratic system.”xi The ‘Social Revolution’, which he dreams of, lays “the foundations of the re-building of the Art of the People, that is to say of the Pleasure of Life.”xii Here Morris gives a broad definition of art that is crucial, namely not the accustomed outcome of artistic skills or
of human capital in today’s jargon, but the expression of man’s joy in labour.xiii However, in order to achieve this condition we need first to imagine labour outside of the categories of political economy. In his conference “Useful Work versus Useless Toil” Morris gave a sharp critique of the mystifications typical of the political economy: “It is assumed by most people nowadays that all work is useful... Most people, well-to-do or not, believe that, even when a man is doing work which appears to be useless, he is earning his livelihood by it—he is “employed,” as the phrase goes; and most of those who are well-to-do cheer on the happy worker with congratulations and praises, if he is only “industrious” enough and deprives himself of all pleasure and holidays in the sacred cause of labour. In short, it has become an article of the creed of modern morality that all labour is good in itself—a convenient belief to those who live on the labour of others.”xiv Following Marx we find here a definition of labour that is a ‘means of life’. By contrast, if we place labour outside of the categories of political economy we come to the opposite understanding of labour, that is, a definition of labour as ‘life’s prime want’; or, in Bruno Gullì’s words, we will be able to grasp labour from the perspective of a radical poetic ontology.xv As Gullì sees the ontology of labour, labour is neither productive nor unproductive but the human activity that goes with life itself.xvi In this respect, Gullì suggests that productive labour (a category of political economy) should be distinguished from the ‘productive power of labour’ (a category of ontology),xvii provided that the word ‘productive’ “is taken in its broadest and most original sense” as ‘creative’.xviii In a similar vein Morris wrote that “a man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates.”xix Morris’s notion of art as joy in labour conveys exactly this. We are dealing here with the potentiality that human beings possess to shape their own world which, of course, includes a critical disposition towards it. However, Morris’s ambiguous appraisal of the
guild system of the Middle Ages, that he saw as forerunner of the socialist society, and his defending of a system in which producers would reap the fruits of their labour came close to the claims of the so-called Ricardian socialists.xx In any case Morris’s claim that art can only be founded on the joyful labour of people remains a powerful intuition. Joy in this sense implies the presence of a body in control of its sensuous and affective powers. Now, we want to illustrate this joyful dimension using an example of the popular arts in contradistinction to political economy. The Brazilian musician known as Cartola, one of the pillars of the traditional samba in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, told the story of being asked to sell the recording rights for a samba he composed, “Que Infeliz Sorte” (“What Bad Luck”). Cartola did barely live from his labour as a musician carrying on a bohemian lifestyle, although his compositions where widely played by acclaimed singers like Carmen Miranda during the 1930s. Somebody in the name of Mário Reis, a popular singer mostly famous for his radio broadcasts, approached him and asked, if he (Cartola) would like to sell a samba. Cartola’s sincere and naïve answer is extraordinary: ‘What is that, buying samba?’ Although Cartola did finally sell the samba, which became a success, he also confessed that at the time he knew nothing about the music business in the city. If we assume that both parties were trying to maximize their utilities, money and music, we are seeing the ‘transaction’ as a mere economic negotiation. It is however doubtful that in 1931 Cartola was fully aware of the productive (in the capitalist sense of the word) dimension of his labour as a musician. If Cartola wasn’t thinking of samba as the outcome of his productive labour spent, that is, in the terms of political economy, the question of buying and selling samba becomes impossible to make sense of. Simply because in a different economic regime of value Cartola’s compositions didn’t belong to him in the sense that he wasn’t the private owner of them. His labour was part of the rich cultural milieu of the slums where transactions between people cannot be reduced to standard economic terms. In fact, the selling of a samba usually seen as the recognition of Cartola as great author, really means the attempt to incorporate Cartola into the realm of political economy as a labour force for the cultural industry. We have seen how Morris was essentially moving in the right direction, i.e., detaching labour (and art) from the
categories of political economy to redirect its praxis to the production of objects both useful (thus not profit oriented) and beautiful. In this sense, beauty was for Morris not a mere appendage to achieve commercial success but an intrinsic quality of usefulness, and his utopian novel News from Nowhere is full of such references. In the other direction, Cartola provides a good example of how labour is continuously hijacked by the categories of political economy although its social significance transcend these. The examples of both Morris and Cartola show the importance of rejecting the regime of value, what can be done by exploring an unknown terrain. In this terrain individual labour vanishes in a flux of endless production. As essential human trait labour can be still understood pragmatically as concrete labour; but its outcome, which isn’t a commodity anymore, does not exist separately from labour itself, as it happens in the realm of political economy with consumption. In a post-capitalist society the outcome of labour can only come to mean new labouring. The outcome of labour becomes labour itself. The material wealth of the world shifts therefore from an immense accumulation of commodities to an immense accumulation of life. Dr. José María Durán HfM Hanns Eisler Berlin firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES i Originally published as “Labor and Art: A Fragment on William Morris’s Utopian Socialism, and beyond” in the online magazine ZNet for the Reimagining Society Project hosted by Michael Albert. The paper has been reviewed for its publication here. An extended version appeared in Spanish as “(Más allá) del comunismo utópico de William Morris.” Revista de crítica literaria marxista No.4 (2010): 25-36. Cf. further J.M. Durán. Trabajo y comunismo en William Morris. In Durán, J.M. (ed). William Morris. Trabajo y comunismo. Madrid: Maia Ediciones, 2014, pp. 7-62. We are grateful to Jingyi Wang and Idun Vik for their invitation to contribute to the catalogue. ii William Morris. News from Nowhere. In W. Morris. News rom Nowhere and Other Writings, ed. by Clive Wilmer. London: Penguin Books, 1993, pp. 50-51. iii Karl Marx. Capital. Vol. 35 of Collected works, by K. Marx and F. Engels. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1996, p. 72. iv Karl Marx. Critique of the Gotha Programme. Vol. 24 of Collected works, by K. Marx and F. Engels. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1989, p. 85. v Ibid., p. 86. vi Ibid. vii Ibid., p. 87. viii William Morris. Art and Socialism. In A.L. Morton (ed.). Political Writings of William Morris. New York: International Publishers, 1973, p. 123. ix Ibid., p. 111. x Ibid. xi Ibid., p. 129. xii Ibid. xiii William Morris. Art under Plutocracy. In ibid., p. 67. xiv William Morris. Useful Work versus Useless Toil. In ibid., p. 86. xv Bruno Gullì. Labor of Fire. The Ontology of Labor between Economy and Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005. xvi Ibid., p. 3; after Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. xvii Ibid., p. 69. xviii Ibid., p. 61. xix William Morris. Useful Work versus Useless Toil. Op. cit., p. 88. xx For an analysis of Morris as a Ricardian socialist see J.M. Durán. Hacia una crítica de la economía política del arte. Madrid, Plaza y Valdés, 2008, pp. 139-171.
DEVALUATION By Andrea Phillips
OVER THE COURSE OF THE 20TH century the market for contemporary art has emerged to dominate perceptions and discussions of art’s value. This is not to say that perceptions of value in the arts have not been subject to the impact of the taste-shaping and judgment exercised through commercial practices in previous centuries, but today art’s market provides a fulcrum for debate like never before. This is in part due to our ability to access limited information on art’s global trade and its mechanisms, and partly due to the industrialization of the production of art through the proliferation of art education and exhibition. The art market has become dominant in two ways: firstly by the production of a spectacular narrative of financial value in the arts, in which a very small minority of artists have their work traded for high profile sums of money; and secondly by trading in such a way as to disguise the financial exchanges of the market with a very different narrative in which trade is a word that is subsumed under a widely accepted ethos of art’s value being conceptually priceless. This contradiction between price and value is significant and unique to art inasmuch as it is the most abstracted and least industrialisable of luxury goods. This essay will claim that core to art’s market is the condition of value itself. I will argue that, whilst transparency of political and economic transaction in the market would go some way to exposing unevenness of financial distribution and thus the production of inequality between the many actors that make the market – artists, curators, dealers, collectors, museum and gallery directors, state funders, private patrons etc., – it is the broader and historically shaped condition of value that in fact produces the habits, mythologies and rituals that in turn make the market itself. My argument will be that instead of trying to find alternative values through different aesthetic and social arrangements, we need to turn to radical forms of devaluation in order to reposition art’s work within its social context (and confront the fact that art might not have a role within any such scene). e argument will begin with an equivalence to devaluation in recent political-philosophical discussions of dispossession, it will then proceed to describe the concept of value in sociological terms, analyze the processes (and ambivalences) of art valuation mechanisms before beginning to open up the idea of devaluation and its potential impact on contemporary art.
Dispossession In their 2013 publication Dispossession: The Performative in the Political, Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou twist the concept and process of dispossession into a subjective mechanism that links the fact of having one’s goods and properties taken away to the philosophical or ethical category of being redacted or recategorised – changed in the face of the circumstantial, physical other. Written as a series of email exchanges in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis (which was produced in large part through the extreme inequalities of housing desire and possession and the financial mechanization of ascendant property desire), as well as in the light of large-scale social movements objecting to the globalized endemicity of neoliberalism (Athanasiou in particular was writing from her location in Athens), the book traces links and refrains of friendship and communities in common via Levinas, Derrida and Nancy. These are juxtaposed with the realities of dispossession as it is felt and understood by communities of the disposed – migrants, exiles, people who have had their homes repossessed, people who have been ethnically cleansed or the recipients of institutional racism, LGBTQ communities of resistance, and the histories of feminist resistance to hierarchies of possession. Butler and Athanasiou, in the writing together of these two politics, demand that we use the radical alterity brought into being through philosophical dispossession to counteract – understand and find alternative mechanisms to combat - the violence of economic and physical dispossession. Butler says: It is true that dispossession carries this double valence and that as a result it is difficult to understand until we see that we value it in one of its modalities and abhor and resist it in another. [As Athanasiou says], dispossession can be a term that marks the limits of self-sufficiency and that establishes us as relational and interdependent beings. Yet dispossession is precisely what happens when populations lose their land, their citizenship, their means of livelihood, and become subject to military and legal violence. We oppose this latter form of dispossession because it is both forcible and privative. In the first sense, we are dispossessed of ourselves by virtue of some kind of contact with another, by virtue of being moved and even surprised or disconcerted by that encounter with
alterity. The experience itself is not simply episodic, but can and does reveal one basis of relationality – we do not simply move ourselves, but are ourselves moved by what is outside us, by others, but also by whatever outside ‘resides’ in us.1 Both authors ask their readers to think how disconcerting dispossession, or what they call, citing Derrida, “social disaggregation” may be; how forms of displacement of the self might transform normative political systems. Core to this is the disaggregation of property. Athanasiou: To ask and answer the question of how we might still articulate normative aspirations to political self-determination – taking into account the relational, ecstatic, and even property-less character of human subjectivity but also the foreclosures through which this is distributed and delimited – is to engage with a politics of performativity.2 Rather than a dialectical method, Butler and Athanasiou, in their attempt to describe the heterogeneity of the subject who is dispossessed, move beyond a threshold of having or not having, in the understanding that this dialectic is the fuel of capital (as Wendy Brown says, ‘[w] ithin neoliberal rationality, human capital is both our “is” and our “ought” – what we are said to be, what we should be, and what the rationality makes us into through its norms and construction of environment.’3). They can be accused of romanticism of dispossession. However, their objective of moving beyond descriptors of neoliberalism towards tactics of transformation, however polemical, is rooted in the reality of circumstance: Butler: ... we might ask why certain forms of human deprivation and exploitation are called ‘dispossession’. Was there a property that was first owned and then was stolen? Sometimes yes. Yet, what do we make of the idea that we have property in our own persons? Are persons forms of property and would we be able to understand this legal formulation at all if it were not for the historical conditions of slavery and those forms of possessive individualism that belong to capitalism?4 Within a political imaginary, this method of disconcert and displacement of individualized property and self-authorship
is an assertion of weakness in the face of normative power. Such an assertion can now be readily understood as the methodology of the Occupy movement or the organizational form of protests in Taksim Square and Gezi Park in 2013. I’d like to link this “double valance” of weak/violent dispossession to the market for contemporary art. This will take some precarious steps. I want to suggest that, in the same way that Butler and Athanasiou take up the theme of dispossession and war- rant it with a process and meaning that directly undermines the financial and ethical system that it serves to destroy (i.e., to dispossess a house is to destroy its inhabitants economically and psychologically under current conditions of property aspiration and property’s link to cultural ascendancy), so devaluation might act in the same way in the art market. I’d like to suggest that in the same way that a property’s dispossession would initially seem disastrous, so too under the conditions of the contemporary art market, the devaluation of an artwork is seen as entirely destructive of an artist’s career – prompting a whole set of desperate financial, exhibitionary and social movements on the part of the artist and her dealer (if indeed she has one) to shore up value in the face of its dissipation. But is there a form of artistic organization beyond that of symbolic and economic value accrual that comes into being through a radical embrace of devaluation? Or would the system of Anglo-European artistic production simply collapse within such conditions – or be transformed into something that simply does not resemble current regimes of artistic production? But in order to make this argument, and before returning to the dispossession/ devaluation corollary in political-philosophical terms, I need to briefly trace the history of sociologies of value and their application and understanding within the contemporary art market. “Value” is a widely used term, and one increasingly necessitating a political understanding in the arts. e suppositions of – and defense of – the symbolic value of art is at once supported by all investees in art and increasingly undermined in contemporary governance (which is to say, an increasingly global governance) by the ideological translation of art’s value into rough financial terms. At the same time, art’s value is presupposed by its relation to forms of property and propriety that propel long-held and systematic liberal
forms of social and political organization forward. Art has a market (I will go on to describe this market), but it also has a value system that avoids economic analysis of any great extent. Contemporary art, in particular, is produced, at least in the West, between these two values – the economic value of art’s trade, and the liberal value of its cultural significance supported (to a decreasing extent) by state subsidy. There are of course many inequalities in art’s value terms – in fact, value is a term that creates inequality synchronically with its application, as I will go on to argue. In terms of gender, for example, it goes without saying that female artists’ works sell at lower prices than those by men of a similar level of training and experience. (The history of pathological misogyny in the art world on the part of curators, museum directors, gallerists, collectors and, importantly, artists themselves has been well documented.5) What happens when demands for market equality for women’s work meets the inequities embedded in the desire for value itself? (This question is in my mind linked clearly to the correlation between value and devaluation as I will hope to explain.) In current art rankings (which I will describe below) only three of the top 30 artists are women6. Yet such inequalities are masked by a chaste description of the production and dissemination of art, a description shored up by most sociologies of value. What is value? Art’s value is historically shaped through the liberal norms of taste, perceived skill on the part of the artist and aesthetic judgment on the part of the contemplator: these values have morphed in the past 200 years into civic values, largely through social changes wrought by European and American revolutions, industrializations and their concomitant colonialisms. As described, this morphing between private taste and public morality entrenched in the structure of liberalism and its configuration of patronage is critical in the value form inherited in contemporary art. In The Worth of Goods, Jens Berkert and Patrik Aspers consider: What makes a product valuable? Value has several interrelated dimensions. In social life, different forms
of value are present simultaneously, such as moral value, aesthetic value, and economic value. Each form of value has a scale used for evaluating the things that value covers. An activity may be judged as more or less ethical, and an object may be more or less beautiful, more or less appropriate, or more or less expensive. These different scales of value exist concurrently. 7 The concurrent forms of value might be: 1. The amount of monetary worth – financial value; 2. The measure of the bene t that will be gained from using a product or service – use value; 3. The significance and esteem of an object, service or person – qualitative value; 4. The agreed or appointed terms of a collective ethic – social value. In addition, and of particular importance in terms of art, there is symbolic value, in which other forms of value are abstracted and distilled. What anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls different “regimes of value” are wrapped up in the art object in such a way as to obfuscate any particular scale or measurement.8 What Beckert and Aspers call the “radical subjectivation of value” that is one of the principles of neoclassical economics – where value is understood to be ontologically individualized – can be clearly related to art. Perhaps the clearest example of the subjectivation of value, in fact, is in the arguments we might have about the merits of one artwork over another. Instead of the value of an artwork being understood in a Marxian sense as the sum of the labour put into it, value acquires an individual life outside of the process of its making. In the “value regime” of Western neoliberal economics, art’s value is both individualized and an assemblage of different types of value – use value, facial value, social value, etc. It is, according to the Fabian Muniesa, “performative”. This idea of value’s performativity is key to any understanding of the value of contemporary art. This short description of sociological approaches to understanding value suggests that value is always enmeshed in the abstract and the social; that value is a belief structure and that what is valuable at any one time has value precisely because the condition out of which it arises necessitates its valuation. As Pierre Bourdieu proved in his extensive commentary on culture, value in the field is experiential, contingent, social and above all political:
[C]ultural capital only exists and subsists in and through the struggles of which the fields of cultural production (the artistic field, the scientific field, etc.) and, beyond them, the field of the social classes, are the site, struggles in which the agents wield strengths and obtain profits proportionate to their mastery of this objectified capital, in other words, their internalized capital.9 Of course, this is not just in the arts, but as any stock market analyst will tell you, value is manipulable, fictional. To adequately diagnose this situation as it pertains to Anglo-European developments in the cultural industries, it is necessary to historicize the relation between liberalism and the aesthetic worth of art. Post-Enlightenment, transformations in the figure of the artist, along with the slow development of cultural institutions such as art museums and philanthropic educative and social infrastructures, positioned the artwork (and its supportive edifice) as both valued ontologically and in terms of social worth. Here is the specific contradiction that still holds true today. In addition, the increased (though not new) focus on art’s financial valuation, has led to a series of semantically and economically crossed wires, all of which remain pro table to art’s core value. This core value migrates without constraint across nominally public and private domains, and is able to supersede any complaint concerning inclusion and exclusion, labor and living conditions, fair pay, equal access or any ambition to create anything other than temporary solidarity around such issues: i.e., what might be considered issues pertaining to civic equality. Writing on cultural policy, Dave O’Brien diagnoses this process of slippage between the private, the public, what is considered civic and what is considered of value as embedded in the DNA of contemporary policy-making itself, specifically cultural policy. He says: [P]olicy on funding is a policy on cultural value that is, in turn, a value judgment on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a community’s or individual’s culture. ... cultural policy is ... a legislative practice as much as it is an interpretive one.10
In this further complication of any understanding of value, in his book Cultural Policy: Management, Value and Modernity in the Creative Industries, O’Brien provides ample evidence of the entanglement of liberal state policy on culture, the systematic politicization of value as a tool of moral embedding and its role in the production of citizenship itself, including theoretical description and analysis: [I]t is possible to understand public value as both a reaction to historically and culturally specific theories of public administration, whilst operating within the constrained circumstances created by those theories and practices.11 Measuring value in the art market It is instructive to look at the language used by two dominant digital art measurement tools to find further proof of the confusion, or what I have termed profitable ambivalence, in the construction of art’s value through assemblages of cultural policy, civic morality, education, financializing and liberal taste. Firstly, the ArtFacts ranking system, which promises to give “real statistics on which artists are trending where now”.12 ArtFacts has developed a points system that is used to rank artists according to the amount of attention they have received from a similarly ranked set of museums and galleries around the world. ArtFacts says that “these points help to determine the artist’s future auction and gallery sales”:13 Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer variety of contemporary art production? We have always felt challenged by this, particularly due to the fact that so much of the time great art is discovered by accident. This is why we began structuring the mass of information, available on art production today. The first thing we created was the widely appreciated online art guide, ArtFacts.NetTM where we compiled tens of thousands of artists, exhibitions and institutions into a comprehensive and easy-to-use online tool. In spite of its success, we were not completely satisfied with the system of listing artists alphabetically. We were eager to devise and exploit even more effective ways to
organize artists and their exhibitions. So, we asked ourselves if it would be possible to predict an artist’s career using econometrical methods.14
$100-250 a year based on the level of access required. Whilst this analytic performance is based on economic logic, Mei Moses goes on to say:
ArtFacts.Net is very clear about the function of art professionals in value accrual and thus the apparently sound rationale for their data device:
The beauty and uniqueness of art as an asset class is that it gives individuals the opportunity of gaining pleasure and excitement from its ownership in three distinct ways. The first beauty of art is the obvious one of emotional appeal obtained from the visual image of the object. The second beauty of art is the enjoyment most individuals obtain from the process of its acquisition. This includes, but is not limited to, knowledge acquisition, socialization with like-minded collectors and experts, excitement of the chase, meeting its maker, etc.
Capitalist, or economic, behavior is based on property, lending money and charging interest. [...] [T]he curator (also the museum director or the gallery owner) acts as a financial investor. The curator/investor lends their property (their exhibition space and their fame) to an artist from whom they expect a return on their investment in the form of more attention (reputation, fame etc.)15 Basic ArtFacts data is available online. But in order to find more bespoke and granular data, it is possible to pay an annual subscription (again, it is revealing that the costs of this subscription vary – a “personal” subscription is currently $240 per year; an artist pays $360 and a gallery $480, suggesting that in fact the data is more useful for investees than investors). An alternative system of ranking is offered by Beautiful Asset Advisors. Rather than a ranking system based on subscription and attention, this system, The Mei Moses set of fine art indexes, is based on secondary market (auction) trades: The Mei Moses® family of fine art indexes is used on this website to study the historical performance of art as an investment and asset class based on auction transactions. The indexes have been developed from a proprietary database, collected over the past 20 years, of over 30,000 purchase and sale price pairs for objects that have sold at public auction more than once. To measure relative performance these indexes are compared to equities, government bonds gold, cash, real estate etc. In particular return, risk and correlation among the assets over many time periods and holding periods are analyzed in detail.16 The Mei Moses index can be accessed for a price of between
The third beauty of art is its longevity and financial performance. 17 Neither ArtFacts nor Mei Moses base their advisory value systems on primary market data (this is the figure that artworks are sold at by art dealers usually using galleries and art fairs as their main marketing tools). This data is virtually impossible to access, and those figures that are accessible are often proxied. This is not only extremely critical for any approximation of contemporary art’s economic contribution to a national GDP, for example (a data set that many believe would be useful to support arguments for continuing governmental investment in the arts given the symbiotic relation between public and private finance currently necessary to maintain artistic production and display in many advanced capitalist states), but it is also symbolic of a complex system of subscription and attachment that lies within and around primary trades.18 In her study of the pre- and post-impressionist art market in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, sociologist Raymonde Moulin describes the difficulty of extracting information from dealers and artists. Based on interviews conducted between 1958-9 and 1962-3 in Paris (just before the centre of the art market moved to New York), Moulin later observed: The art market is the place where, by some secret alchemy, the cultural good becomes a commodity.
Deliberate mystery shrouds the way dealers handle the art commodity, for the dealers’ stratagems, though they add to the work’s economic value, detract from its cultural value. The mechanism of price formation is not transparent. Some deals are made in secret. Unquantifiable or hidden influences affect prices more than obvious, measurable influences. The analyst must contend with the reticence of participants in the market to discuss their activities, reticence due to not only worries about the tax authorities (mentioned by all my interviewees) but also to a rule of silence invariable observed by insiders. Even those that urged me to “demystify” the art market were not prepared to divulge what they knew. “You will never find out anything,” I was told. And “what you do find out you won’t be able to print because you’ll have no proof.” 19 The weakness of art’s demand for financial support (and righteous indignation when critics suggest that it is simply an elite and bourgeois cult along with its consistent attempts to popularize the activities of its mainstream institutions) is now the core of art’s value construction. Ongoing assertions of art’s embedded cultural value in terms of national and international health, education, emancipation and openings for trade routes, etc., are weak claims based on belief structures that are, in turn, the producers of value. Value is at the core of art’s self-belief. Art’s value is its export; its general liberal value regime is exported across the world, masking anything from human rights atrocity to local labour debates. Devaluation Inequality is highly visible in the field of art, embedded and masked by the contradiction of value that I have described. Despite the prevailing modes of psychic and socially-claimed, civic values of openness and fairness, freedom of expression and rights to an effective community-building proposed by many artists, institutions and their funders (under the rubric of providing a public good), new generations of artists are emerging from arts schools to be faced with no future of any sort – no accessible funding to build their own practices, no cheap spaces in which to work, lack of will and/or connections in order to sweet-talk the rich elite into sponsoring them,
but perhaps most of all lack of generational learning about cooperative modes of working and political organizational skills at a unionized level. These people see inequality clearly at the Biennial, at the art fair, at the museum dinner (to which they are not invited). They are mainly speechless. Their dispossession is done in the name of art’s general value. So where is the solidarity that might form anti-value action? The liberal conditions of artistic value that shape the historic and contemporary immeasurability of art are the very conditions that residualise resistance. Artists are trained – both professionally and in the mythologised ontology of their own object production – to make, desire and expect freedom of expression, autonomy, creative choice and forms of separation from the common world. These are the values of art that, in turn, price the market. Demand for institutional change is hampered in the specific case of the arts by the desire not to break the bubble of value homologation. Demand for financial, corporate, working conditions transparency is annulled: why reveal the donation of an arms trade dealer when she is providing you with the money to keep your building open? Within this artistic capital, what needs to change? Firstly, we need to transform our institutions, and embed within them different forms of producing and sharing civic spheres of political experimentation using artistic, poetic and other tools. In many ways, rather than transversalise value by replacing it with alternatives (the much mooted move from value to values, for example20), we may need to rid ourselves of the concept entirely, firstly by beginning to experiment with radical forms of devaluation. We need to understand that value is capital, and value causes inequality. Poetic forms of transvaluation may or may not be the answer in this circumstance. The process of devaluation – of demeritocratising the aspiration to value that propels the art world as an intrinsic process of capital production – is a complex political tool. If value is capital, can we bring about a world of art in which we can rid ourselves of its propriety grip on our systems and our psyches? Can we dispossess ourselves of value as an economic and aspirational asset class?
Devaluation in the system of artistic production needs to be thought through at a number of levels and circumstances. To begin, the process of educating artists to aspire to forms of autonomous individuality – in procedures that mark their artworks apart from others – would need to be dismantled. There are many important ways in which artistic skills can be used in different ways to develop projects that do not necessitate individualized value as a form of capital expansion, but at the same time artists need to be able to eat. There are many good uses for which the spaces, equipment and pedagogical skills embedded in art schools can be repurposed, but they will still need to be lit and kept warm. e issue of funding and economic survival remains. How might artistic- financial mechanisms of investment be transformed? 21 Such suggestions have a recognisable history within the productivist movement in the USSR in the early 1920s but also within non-artistic forms of seeking to defer value or devalue in the name of equality, such as the workers movement of nineteenth century Europe. Contemporary calls for degrowth from high profile environmental campaigners are also aligned to such tactics.22 The art market itself can be transformed initially by making primary market sales and donations, collector bequests and distributions, investments and returns, etc., transparent. Transparency is not enough however, despite its presumed effect on price (in that it may or may not have the effect of either further hierarchizing or producing equality of price). Divestment will flow at the point of transparency. The ability of public institutions, where they exist, to survive in their current financial shape when investors move on, upon not wanting their investments and donations to be named, is a question. The funding strictures of biennials, in which gross inequalities between payments to artists
and workers exist and where the privilege of the sponsor is marked both in branding and elite access, may crumble – many biennials would not survive. Art fairs will become clear trading posts, but much of the allure of the fair, and all of the performative hierarchy of buying and selling will be removed. Many will leave the art world, displeasured by its removal of the gratifications once entrenched in its mythologies and practices. What would be left and would it be worth preserving, investing in, practicing?23 As Butler and Athanasiou note, dispossession is a risk. For example, whilst the feminist movement is founded on resistance to patriarchal forms of valuation, it has also historically demanded that women are valued equally to men, certainly not devalued. In this sense, how might a call to devaluation be accountable globally not simply in economic terms but also in terms of subjective emancipation? If art is not property, and those that produce it do not rely on its property-relation, how is it to be understood ontologically? What is the relation between the art-property object and the subject formation of those repressed and without access? Butler and Athanasiou’s ‘double valence’ suspends these questions somewhat. But in a response to Butler’s suggestion that core to her argument is the difference between morality (which “issues maxims and prescriptions”) and the “ethical relation” (which is “a way of rethinking and remaking sociality itself”), Athanasiou says:
Butler and Athanasiou suggest that we recognize the difference between devaluation as a radical form of refusal and devaluation as the violent form of neoliberalism in order to change the “ethical relation”. How can this be applied to art workers? The issue is systemic and, whilst the practical imaginary is immediately engaged with visions of empty galleries being repurposed for cooperative learning initiatives and alternative economic modes of exchange replacing the buying and selling of art, it is to the form of property that art is that we need to return to begin to both dismantle regimes of value and at the same time connect the small world of the art market to larger (and arguably more important) social struggles that exist within the same ambivalent value structure. Devaluation, in this light, as a process of making and maintaining worlds of equality, cannot be applied simply to the art market and the world it creates, but needs to work in the understanding of the embeddedness of transactional and valuation rituals as they exist systemically within contemporary capitalism. But rather than continue to contribute to these, why don’t we try something different?
Yes, “responsibilization” is certainly a case in point if we consider that the social therapeutics currently deployed by neoliberal governmentality is very much premised upon a morality of self-government, possessive individualism and entrepreneurial guilt. It is critical then that we distinguish the calculus of corporate and self-interested “responsibilization,” so common to the processes of neoliberal restructuring, from responsibility as responsive disposition that can make possible a politics of social transformation, in ways that cannot be reduced to a mere calculus of interests.24
Footnotes: 1. Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou. Dispossession: the performative in the political. 2013. p. 3 2. Ibid., p. 99 3. Wendy Brown. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. 2015. p. 36 4. Op. cit., p. 7 5. Feminist histories of art that cover this ground include Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay “Why Are there No Great Female Artists?” and Christine Battersby’s 1989 book Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics. More recent revisions of the topic include We (not I), a project developed by artist Melissa Gordon and writer Marina Vischmidt (see http://www.southlondon-gallery. org/page/we-not-i-symposium for an example of part of the project) and “Feminist Duration in Art and Curating”, curated by Helena Reckitt for the Goldsmiths, University of London Art PhD (see http:// art.gold.ac.uk/ research/). 6. See ArtFacts.Net for ranking at time of writing: URL: http://www.artfacts. net/en/artists/top100.html (Accessed 2015-09-07). 7. Jens Berkert and Patrik Aspers. (eds.) e Worth of Goods: Valuation and Pricing in the Economy. 2011. p. 6 8. See Arjun Appaduri. The Social Life of things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. 1986. 9. Pierre Bourdieu. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. 1986. p. 228 10. Dave O’Brien. Cultural Policy: Management, value and modernity in the creative industries. 2014. p. 49 11. Ibid., p. 114 12. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artfacts.net/. (Accessed 2015-09-06). 13. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artfacts.net/ about_us_new/. (Accessed 2015-09-06). 14. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artfacts.net/ tour/artist-ranking/. (Accessed 2015-09-04). 15. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artfacts.net/ tour/artist-ranking/. (Accessed 2015-09-04). 16. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artasanasset. com/main/artinvesting.php. (Accessed 2015-09-04). 17. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artasanasset. com/main/artinvesting.php. (Accessed 2015-09-04). 18. In 2011 Dr Suhail Malik (Art Department, Goldsmiths, University of London), Andrew Wheatley (Co-Director, Cabinet Gallery, London), Sarah Thelwall (arts consultant, London) and I set up a research project called “The Aesthetic and Economic Impact of the Art Market”. The intention of the project is to close the knowledge gap between the primary art market and state funding for the arts through analyzing the relation between quantitative data gathered from the commercial contemporary art market, the way in which contemporary art is commissioned, displayed and collected and the development of artists’ careers and reputations. We hope to bring about significant advances in our understanding of the relation between the commercial art market and civic cultural infrastructures particularly in the UK, and thus contribute substantially to new understandings of the creation of value within and through these structures and support mechanisms. Much of the thinking on this paper has been inspired by discussion with these colleagues. 19. Raymonde Moulin. The French Art Market A Sociological View. 1987. p. 3 20. For example, see Lisa Adkins and Celia Lury. (eds.) Measure and Value. 2012. 21. In his recent texts and lectures Michel Feher has discussed the idea of “investee activism”, a process whereby instead of opposing systems of
capitalist investment, workers instead identify themselves as that which investors are investing in and thus use collective tools to persuade investors to change the direction and mode of their investment. See: http:// blogs. mediapart.fr/blog/ michel-feher and http:// www.gold.ac.uk/visual- cultures/ guest-lectures/ 22. See for example: Naomi Klein. is Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. e Climate. 2014; and recent work by the New Economics Foundation. URL: http:// www.neweconomics.org/. (Accessed 2015-09-06). 23. ere are long histories of community arts practice where such an ‘art word’ has and does exist; there are also other forms of symbolic and aesthetic skill sharing that exist in different cultural contexts; these are perhaps the future. e asymmetry between this practice and the art market has been naturalized, only becoming more closely intertwined with the sales successes of some artists whose work is labeled as ‘socially engaged’. e community arts movement, however, exists in a very different ideological and social vacuum, the ideas and methodologies of which are intrinsic guides to altering the capitalization of art. 24. Butler & Athanasiou, op. cit., p. 103 References Adkins, Lisa and Lury, Celia (eds.) Measure and Value. Malden, Massachusets: Wiley-Blackwell. 2012. Appaduri, Arjun. e Social Life of ings: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1986. ArtFacts.Net URL: http://www.artfacts.net/. (Accessed 2015- 09-04). Berkert, Jens and Aspers, Patrik (eds.). e Worth of Goods: Valuation and Pricing in the Economy. Oxford: OUP. 2011. Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. London: Routledge. 1986. . Brown, Wendy. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. New York: Zone. 2015. Butler, Judith and Athanasiou, Athena. Dispossession: e performative in the political. Cambridge: Polity. 2013. Klein, Naomi. is Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. e Climate. 2014; and recent work by the New Economics Foundation. URL: http://www. neweconomics.org/. (Accessed 2015-09-06). Moulin, Raymonde. e French Art Market A Sociological View. Arthur Goldhammer (trans.). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. 1987. [Modi ed form the original 1967]. New Economics Foundation. URL: http://www.neweconom- ics.org/. (Accessed 2015-09-06). O’Brien, Dave. Cultural Policy: Management, value and modernity in the creative industries. London: Routledge. 2014.
Andrea Phillips is Professor of Art and Head of Research at the Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg. Ongoing research projects include The Aesthetic and Economic Impact of the Art Market, an investigation into the ways in which the art market shapes artists’ careers and public exhibition (2010-ongoing). This article is retrieved from PARSE Journal # 2, http://www.parsejournal.com.
CREATIVE TEAM CREDITS
Idea/Concept/Director Jingyi Wang (b.1984) is educated in global communication and performing arts. Her studies and works have kept her moving from one city to another, from Beijing to Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Brussels, Nice, and now Bergen. As a theatre maker she has developed the concept Static Theatre which has been presented in two parts at BIT Teatergarasjen. Static Theater #1: THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN LEFT BEHIND premiered at Studio USF, Bergen in 2015, and Static Theater #2: WHEN I AM TALKING TO YOU I AM NOT TALKING TO YOU premiered at Kunsthall 3.14 in November 2016. The concept was recently invited to be part of the NLGX Arts Festival in China, and will also be presented in Shanghai. Wang’s projects are defined by a crossover interest for performance and visual arts, which has also led to the concept and development of Post Capitalistic Auction. Co-creator/Performer/Producer Idun Vik (b.1985) is a performer, theatre maker and producer based in Bergen. She trained at the Guildford School of Acting, and worked for sevaral years in London. Idun welcomes wide range of different performative interests and approaches into her practice. Over the past few years she’s been based in Bergen, and developed Lykkeparadigmet (The Paradigm of Happiness) which premiered at BIT Teatergarasjen in 2015, and Cornerstone – an initiative for new writing based at Cornerteateret. Acting credits include The National Stage, Hordaland Teater and ITV Studios, as well as several projects in the independent field. Idun also works as producer for dance maker Kristin Helgebostad, and as communications manager for BIT Teatergarasjen. On invitation from Jingyi Wang, Idun has been working on the development of Post Capitalistic Auction since late 2016. Projects in the making include “Det Kosmiske Manifest” as concept/director. www.idunvik.com Dramaturge Iris Raffetseder (b.1986) has previously worked as a dramaturg for ImpulsTanz, and is currently working in the programming and dramaturgy department of the Vienna Festival. As a freelance dramaturg in dance, performance and theatre and assistant choreographer, she has developed projects for Steirischer Herbst, Tanzquartier Wien, Schauspielhaus Wien amongst others. She has studied Theatre, French and Performing Arts in Vienna, Paris, Nice and Francfort/Main. Iris Raffetseder is based in Vienna.
AUCTION Idea/Concept/Director: Jingyi Wang Co-creator/Performer/Producer: Idun Vik Dramaturge: Iris Raffetseder Consultant: Knut Ove Arntzen Production Coordinator: Adriana Alves Production Assistant: Ingvild Bjørnson Artists: Toril Johannessen, Thora Dolven Balke, Dan Mihaltianu, Annette Kierulf, Marie Storaas, Håkon Holm-Olsen, Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, Helene Norseth Advising Panel: Erlend Hammer, Kjersti Solbakken, Knut Jarl Jøsok Bidding Software: Sindre Sørensen, Stian Remvik / BEK – Bergen Elektronisk Kunst Recorder: Michael Laundry Legal supevisor: Snorre Bull Sæveraas Website design: Webpluss / Omid Tennet Logo design: Ingis SEMINAR Panel Speakers: Annette Kierulf, Erlend Hammer, Eirik Saghaug, José María Durán Moderator: Malin Barth Keynote Speaker: Hans Marius Hansteen CATALOGUE Editors: Jingyi Wang, Idun Vik, Adriana Alves Articles by: Knut Ove Arntzen, Dave Beech, Jenn Webb, Paul Mason, Jacob Hjortsberg, Erlend Hammer, José María Durán and Andrea Philllps
Co-production: BIT Teatergarasjen, BEK – Bergen Elektronisk Kunst, Bergen Kunsthall/Landmark Supported by: Norwegian Arts Council, Fond for lyd og bilde, Fritt Ord, Fond for utøvende kunstnere, Bergen dansesenter, Bergen Kommune
Interviewers: Silje Heggren, Mikkel Vetaas Design: Ingis Thanks to: VISP, Kunsthall 3,14, Bergen Dansesenter, Studentteateret Immaturus, Eirin Lindtner Storesund, Alwynne Pritchard, Dave Beech, Veronica Diesen, Gitte Sætre, Martin Clark, Pernille Skar Nordby, Alicia Eidesund, Henning H. Bergsvåg
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Published on Mar 13, 2018
Published on Mar 13, 2018
By Jingyi Wang in collaboration with Idun Vik Artworks by Marie Storaas, Håkon Holm-Olsen, Helene Norseth, Gabriel Johann Kvendseth, Thora...