Immeasurable Extravagance: Proposals for an Economy of Abundance in an Age of Scarcity

Andrews, Jorella G. and Durner, Leah. 2016. 'Immeasurable Extravagance: Proposals for an Economy of Abundance in an Age of Scarcity'. In: Panel at CAA (College Art Association) Conference 2017. New York Hilton Midtown, NYC, United States 15 February 2017. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Extravagance is commonly associated with wastefulness, irresponsibility, self-indulgence, and a lack of restraint in spending money or using resources. Indeed, in a world in which the lives of ordinary people are increasingly dominated by the rhetorics and economics of scarcity at a global level, it is often specifically associated with such ‘non-essential’ practices as the creation and acquisition of art.
Drawing on historical and contemporary practices of art-making, visual/material display and performance, and informed by current studies in continental philosophy and material culture, this panel explores the possibilities of thinking about extravagance differently. For what if we were to disconnect it from its negative connotations and, instead, associate its ‘lack of restraint’ with practices capable of releasing a more fundamental but barely acknowledged economy of abundance? An abundance that—following Georges Bataille, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and others—persists beyond the contemporary cruelties of austerity?
Such a reconceptualization is desperately needed today. In The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy (1949) Bataille contrasted an original condition of wasteful abundance with a restricted economy based on scarcity. Indeed, austerity as it is now practiced—historically it was associated with the virtues of prudence and frugality—results in constriction, siphoning, cordoning, separation, and segregation. Ultimately, it may be seen to serve self-interest. But extravagance, we suggest (from the Latin extra "outside of" + vagari "to wander, roam"), may be aligned with the virtues of generosity and openness, union, and inclusion, self-forgetfulness, and the transgression of established boundaries.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Panel)

Additional Information:

Chairs: Jorella Andrews, Goldsmiths, University of London; Leah Durner, Independent Visual Artist

Session Introduction: Reclaiming Extravagance for a Time Such as This
Jorella Andrews, Goldsmiths, University of London

The Festive High Altar in Spain (1760-1780) and the Enlightenment Polemic over Folk Indulgence
Tomas Macsotay, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

The Lights Are Much Brighter There: Performance in Downtown New York (1978-1988) as an Economy of Abundance
Meredith Mowder, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

Extravagant Painting: Outpouring and Overflowing
Leah Durner, Independent Visual Artist


art history, art theory, ethics, abundancy, economies of abundance, scarcity, painting, 1980's performance, Baroque high altars

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


19 August 2016Accepted
15 February 2017Completed

Event Location:

New York Hilton Midtown, NYC, United States

Date range:

15 February 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Oct 2016 11:27

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 13:04


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