Die Währung umstellen – Zur Problematik von Wert und Kritik in der Kunst.
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Abstract or Description
Changing the Currency
On the Problems of Value and Critique in Art.
In their recent manifesto, »Economists Are Wrong!«, the Freee art collective, commence by referencing the old leftist conundrum of how to use Marx’s concept of value in conjunction with works of art (if not »the work« of art), in an effort to criticize the very idea of art as an economic activity. The problem being, of course, whether the pricing of the commodity through the hours of labor involved, makes any probable form of sense in artistic production. Whereas other commodities, such as luxury goods, involve both many hours of work and thought, as well as a transformation of the finest materials, this is not really the case with artworks. Indeed, a work that has required very little in terms of production, either materially, physically or mentally, might be valued and priced much higher than more technically proficient works (just think of a spontaneous drawing or painting). Rather, Freee claims, the value of art comes from outside of its immediate conditions of production, given to it not by its producers, the artists, but by its mediators, such as critics and curators.In what follows, I shall not attempt to discuss the correctness of their claims, nor their highly idealist solution to the problem, which is to free art from its possible status of the commodity, through a focus on artistic production as a non–productive endeavor in any industrial sense. It is, rather, to focus on what I think is a crucial point, namely to see value as an interpellation happening outside the production itself, and thus ask how and by whom this value assessment is made, and what it implies for both artistic production and reception, or more precisely for both critical art and art criticism. In other words, value is to be disentangled from the materiality of the object and its production, and instead be seen in terms of image, language and branding. As such, the economic value of art is completely dematerialized and wholly fictitious, and thus more in line with the post–industrial evolution of capital (and labor), such as financial speculation and movement, the notion of derivatives and debts, and investment strategies such as hedge funds. So, the investment into art can perhaps be seen as parallel to the de–evaluation of everything that is the result of the so–called credit crunch of 2008, mainly brought about, of course by the very features of post–fordist capitalism just mentioned.
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