The internet spawned Uber and Amazon, not the Paris Commune
December 14, 2018 9:14 AM   Subscribe

“In times in which financial institutions and even whole political entities may just dissolve into fluffy glitter, investment in art seems somehow more real. Moreover, as alternative currency, art seems to fulfill what Ethereum and Bitcoin have hitherto only promised. Rather than money issued by a nation and administrated by central banks, art is a networked, decentralized, widespread system of value. It gains stability because it calibrates credit or disgrace across competing institutions or cliques. ” If You Don’t Have Bread, Eat Art!: Contemporary Art and Derivative Fascisms (e-flux)
posted by The Whelk (3 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
<3 Hito Steyerl, thank you for posting this.
posted by salt grass at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2018

The idea that, despite perceptions of the art world as funded by the rich and bougie as, an awful lot of art is subsidized by workers, in their spare time or with the support of other workers or whatever, is fascinating to me.

I think it was on the Blue that someone said that the reason poetry ends up as resistance art and is produced by women more than other art a lot of time is because it's low-cost to produce, both in materials and to some extent time. You can pen a line in a smoke break, whereas the more advantaged can afford to spend a few years writing a "great novel" or producing a film.

I don't know exactly how accurate those suppositions are, but it seems interesting and relevant.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:03 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been slowly working through an anthology of essays about and primary documents from the conceptual art period of the mid-60s through mid-70s and one of the recurring themes among various participants of what could really only loosely be called a movement was the motivation to get outside of the system of institutionalized art, the dealers and gallerists and museums and wealthy collectors and speculators whose interests and inclinations defined the terms under which working artists had to operate.

The idea as I understand it was that by changing the terms of what art production was, by e.g. replacing a salable art object like a painting with something aggressively dematerialized and conceptual, or so dependent on its context that it couldn't be redistributed in a traditional sense, the normal system of commoditization of art and hence the capacity for existing art institutions and power structures to self-perpetuate off the market of those commodities would be disrupted.

In practice what happened is art institutions figured out how to commoditize some of it well enough, money kept getting made, and people kept making other kinds of art anyway. But it was an interesting juke for a hot minute in the late sixties.

Another big theme though was the parallel development of conceptual art in various parts of South America which, in the 60s, were experiencing ascendent military/dictatorial rule with all the cultural control and censorship that comes with it; and so you had artists contending not so much with the philosophically and economically oppressive power of art institutions as with the existentially oppressive power of heavy-handed governments. And the comparison between those two situations, between a kind of high-minded hand-wringing in the New York and London art communities and the guerrilla activism and agitprop of South American artists in conflict with fascistic dictatorships, makes the former look a bit like [insert jerkoff gesture here].

Anyway, I thought the linked piece was interesting and appreciated reading it (finally, days later) partly in light of the stuff I've been reading about above, both because a contemporary argument that maybe art as a vocation could exist in a less-fucked state is refreshing by now for me as contrasted with the post-mortem declarations of the failure of 60s/70s conceptualism and because the framing of art in terms of a tension with fascism and late capitalism feels more relevant to me now than in the abstract history of fifty years ago. I appreciate the call for a new idea of what a collectivist art world could be. I didn't come away from the piece with a particularly clear sense of what that idea is or how it would work, but that does always seem like the hard part.

The idea that, despite perceptions of the art world as funded by the rich and bougie as, an awful lot of art is subsidized by workers, in their spare time or with the support of other workers or whatever, is fascinating to me.

It makes me think too of the inevitably depressing and exploitative shape of independent local bands in any city with a music venue scene. There's always more bands than venues, rarely any money for the basic bottom-level bands that fill those slates up nightly, and the broad popular vision of what pop or rock music looks like is shaped predominantly by the outlier successes that are working within the confines of the power structures of the music industry. Most local music scenes couldn't function without bands playing for nothing or nigh on, doing a lot of labor in the process, etc.
posted by cortex at 9:33 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

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