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Can Financialization offer art an Exit from Contemporary Art?

“what takes place at a gallery” is not, by my judgment, “an exit from contemporary art.” It is, of course the antithesis of such.

Stephen Wright points us to a more honest exit strategy (and could easily in the latter part be talking about this exhibition):

“I am referring to an art without artwork, without authorship (not signed by an artist) and above all without a spectator or audience. It is visible, public, and indeed, it is seen–but not as art. In this way, it cannot be placed between invisible parentheses–to be written off as “just art,” that is, as a mere symbolic transgression, the likes of which we have seen so often, whose principal effect is to promote the artist’s position within the reputational economy.”


this is hardly a genuine example of someone “exiting” Art – Malik’s ideas seem cool enough but his work reads as an academic “project” focused more on “potentialities” than actualities , and his published writing (I haven’t read the new book but will be buying it) so far is to my mind (excuse me) garbled nonsense . in fact , exiting Art requires continuous explication and re-subjectivization w/r/t art practices , a divestment from International Art English , and , most importantly , a commitment to Something held over and above Art . as per the valorization processes discussed so well in Groys’ “On The New” , you can’t escape your own legibility to Art , but you can openly combat it (see Lee Lozano , to take one successful example) in the work itself or in communications adjunct to the work . but you know , the biggest trap of all is to allow a polemical rejection of Art to parasitize your work (obviously granting more power to Art in the process ) . wait , actually the biggest trap might be going to one of Malik’s lectures and taking its pseudorevolutionary rhetorical dress seriously : welcome to a kind of Johnny-come-lately Institutional Critique . I mean , come on . I don’t mean to sound overcritical – personally , I love that Malik is working on this angle – who else in the art world wants to talk about “making an exit” – but the context of his claims says more than do the claims themselves . I have an idea : a return to --context-- !


Dilettante, I should add here that by Contemporary art I don’t mean art that is produced by people today in the gallery system but a specific genre of art which claims the larger frame of the present to make its specificity invisible. Contemporary Art is very specific and has more to do with the metaphysical claims of the work rather than its mode of material production.

@Victoria how would you go about finding a criterion by which to distinguish that which is merely curious and that which is transformative? The reason I ask is that I find it hard to imagine a measurement other than actual impact. Emphasizing just intention (“well, at least I am sympathetic to what they’re trying to do, even if they fail…”) seems inadequate to me. Not to mention that it’s difficult to judge someone’s intentions.

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@dxb I could not agree with you more! The reason I even speak of intention is because in the context where a project has come into the world a couple of months ago (Real Flow) or another one that will only be launched on Sunday (Ali Wong), it is too early to judge impact in a thorough way. We can speculate about impact by using the practitioners’ stated or implied intentions and the logics by which these specific projects function in order to schematize potential repercussions, which we can then label as either curiosities that are only relevant to that particular practitioner’s practice or transformations that could have systematic effects.

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Oh. It is a shame something more substantial isn’t at stake. I guess it is obvious I am interested in exiting art, not merely contemporary art. Why not revive the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and call it a day then?


@Dilettante But isn’t the gallery just one of the infrastructural nods in the field’s ecology that is currently implicated in a historically-specific ideological formation? In other words, “the gallery” just like Ministry for Transportation (for example) will function according to the agenda of the currently governing forces, which are subject to change just as is their agenda… So, just as the Ministry of Transportation is not antithetical to a social welfare state just because it is currently being governed by a libertarian party, it doesn’t seem that the gallery as a platform is necessarily antithetical to an exit from contemporary art.

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Quite a few people talk about this (see: http://randallszott.org/tag/escape/), although your qualifier “in the art world” might be important. Many are on the edges of the art world, or well outside of it.

And I have to say, if your interest is in a strategy of “divestment from International Art English,” it seems odd to cite Groys, whose his work I describe elsewhere as being “of such precious and predictably jargoned writing/speaking as to be source material for the “cut-up” method of generating exhibition wall texts [written in IAE].”

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TOTALLY. I think de-authoring (but REALLY de-authoring this time) art is crucial for an exit from the CA paradigm. But by the same token art needs to detach from its dependency on objecthood and become a systemic program if it’s not to fall into the default market of “funky goods/services.” So, I guess the really radical implication of Wright’s suggestion is that an exit from art is an entry into a new politics.


Or into an actual politics. :smile:


See: http://randallszott.org/2013/09/23/the-nebula-of-offroad-conceptualists-who-have-withdrawn-from-the-artworld-attention-economy-into-the-shadows-never-performing-what-they-do-as-art-stephen-wright-on-art-with/


Haha, YES. Actually, this is where speculating becomes actually interesting (as opposed to the tediously boring stuff about why CA needs to RIP). Does exiting into politics mean just collapsing into the existing parameters or could the parameters of actual politics be enriched by the exit?..

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Let me turn your argument around a bit, Could I not say then that the libertarian party “is not antithetical to a social welfare state” just because its current members are? That is, my view is that “the gallery” is more like the libertarian party in your example (which you appear to presume is more than “the agenda of the currently governing forces”) rather than the Ministry of Transportation. Perhaps I can state it more directly “the gallery” is not a neutral infrastructural element (no mere white cube). That is not to say that there can’t be better or worse employments of it within the cultural ecosystem, just as a gun can be used to kill good guys or bad guys. In the end though, someone almost always ends up dead.


True. But short-term/long-term, non? I realize that the pragmatic approach that I am suggesting is a bit similar to a communist stating that a socially organized capitalism is a step towards communism. Your gun example also works. But the guns are out there, so something has to be done about that in the short-term before we can even think of eradicating the arms industry together with the people’s desire to use guns as power-wielding instruments. Of course, we could just eradicate the people and call it a day. But that’s a bit of a bummer.

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yes , exactly : the most effective divestments are effected
naturally (i.e. those who drift away from the conceptual trappings of
the art world because it doesn’t suit or reward their practices or
disposition or circumstances) , or there never was an investment to
begin with (i.e. those who are systematically excluded ; those
marginalized by the peculiar ritual vocabulary of contemporary and past
Arts discourses ; those whose art simply isn’t recognized as anything
but a field of non-art with the potential to be “hybridized” with Art or
colonized into the gallery) . in light of this , my “interest” in
divestment isn’t so important .

I don’t fully understand your Groys comments because I happen to find
him a clear writer , generally . personally , I like the way he wanders
, and I think On The New a particularly well-written and
insightful book . your Groys comments make me remember that I shouldn’t
have harshed on Malik’s writing w/ such generalization , though : he’s
just doing his thing , and I remain interested in watching how his work
develops . but like , him & Phillips in “Tainted Love” : "Taking
art’s institutional capitalization to be a mode of sabotage
vectored/legitimized through an amorous/erotic ethos then permits a
number of medium-term future scenarios for the political economy of art
and the privatization of care to be anticipated. " I don’t think you’ll
find anything like that in any Groys …

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@Victoria It seems then that you agree that intention is an unhelpful measure. Are there particular cases in which we can assess how effectively the adaptation of an alternative art-object structure has fared? It’s not like finance was invented in 2005.

I think the impulse behind the invocation of finance is often the appeal of not having a clear provenance: artist -> curator -> dealer -> collector. This is certainly the impulse behind Goldin + Senneby’s insistent use of offshore as a structuring metaphor for their project Headless, for example. Of course, their ultimate reliance on cleverness makes them fairly legible in an art context: we know where the ownership really lies in the end, because they haven’t really gotten into the meat and potatoes of finance enough to actually obscure ownership. You can’t exit if you can’t read maps.

There’s a good discussion [here][1] of some of these approaches to using newer forms of currency to revise the art object’s ownership structure. Real Flow is quite diligent, but like you said, we have to wait and see. Did anyone mention Bitchcoin yet? That’s a misleading title because it’s basically a backed representative currency like gold or silver standards, which is exactly what a bitcoin isn’t.

I would like this discussion to be historicized slightly. Please share examples of prior attempts at “financialization”, successful or aborted. Much of the discussion around the examples raised here is hampered by their newness (which, of course, is also why we’re debating them: they’re fresh and exciting—what a gross motive!). An innovative product structure’s success depends significantly on whether it can weather it out, by holding on to its client base and being well-administrated. Unless the art is intended only as a gesture, the process of institutionalizing Bitchcoin, Real Flow, etc, is important. We should look to precedent for best practices.

Obviously, the question of what kind of infrastructure you commit to creating depends on your goals. The prompt for this discussion assumes that that goal is an exit from contemporary art In which light, @DADABASE, would you please direct us to a concise definition of Contemporary Art’s metaphysical claims and the attendant exit? I’ve seen Malik’s lectures on Youtube but that’s a little long and the book you linked to isn’t published yet.

If as a participant in this discussion you take issue with how @DADABASE frames this discussion, please articulate it. That way, when we’re arguing, we can distinguish between our different commitments, which can be left unresolved, and our disagreements themselves.

For example (correct me if I’m wrong in how I’m citing your earlier claims, but please aim to be consistent and specific) I myself believe in creating more durable and robust institutions than currently exist (they may be big, but they are morally and intellectually frail), and am interested in financial models because those creative ownership structures seem like they could help sustain such institutions outside the paradigm of selling goods OR soliciting donations. @Victoria is committed to a social-democratic Scandinavian model of art production. the question of how financialization might relate to that is thorny. @Dilettante is committed to removing authorship from art. @DADABASE is committed to exiting Contemporary Art. @osrtapes You haven’t committed yourself to any position yet.
[1]: http://dismagazine.com/issues/73342/monegraph-and-the-status-of-the-art-object/

The only one of your assignments regarding how we engage this topic that I accept is the one to correct your characterization of earlier claims. Concerning this thread, I am committed to exiting Art, removing authorship is merely a byproduct (one could say that I am trying to extend Kaprow’s unartistic ambition). More broadly, I am committed to an expansive engagement with aesthetic practices/experience, of which Art is but one (extremely narrow, academic, elitist, and overly professionalized) example. Unfortunately, Art has waged a fairly extensive propaganda campaign that overstates its claim on aesthetics as a whole.


“It seems that through practicing finance, these art making strategies, one way or the other, abstract art’s mode of financial existence into its general reason dterre.” While value extraction willingly and creatively occurs in the context of art’s consistent valorization, this cannot be divorced from labour and the value added process of authorship and the production cycle of commodities made for a willing art market. In short, I think what this conversation fails to touch on is the role of the submerging artist as a figure in contemporary labour consistent with “precarious, flexible, mobile and fluid” roles…processes which inevitably come with marking “an exit from contemporary art.” This project reads to me like a never ending paradox, in which most socially engaged artists continually find themselves in (in advance of a broken arm): “the paradox of this position of the artist is that they run ahead of capitalism, but only to prefigure it, to capture it in advance, at the level of art” (Benjamin Noys, The Art of Capital:Artistic Identity and the Paradox of Valorisation, 2011). While Im certainly of the ilk that practicing finance and the residual affects this can lead to allows artists to re-strategize systematic engagement and practical preoccupation with the money form as ‘remixable,’ as an open ended project I’m quite fond of work like this that tends to disrupt, rather than conform, to accepted roles and models of valorization.


@dxb : that’s right , I haven’t , not really . : ) but I am enjoying reading & participating in this conversation all the same . what I’m committed to : my practices , trying to follow them where they’ll lead me , trying not to instrumentalize them for any discourse – in my estimation , arts discourses in the end only offer decontextualization / reinscription with corrupted signifiers & post-hoc rationalizations of the vicissitudes of really quite boring valorization regimes that are ultimately just the naked power effects of who has the most money , who’s writing hype these days , and who can offer the most domesticated “challenge” , who can best signify what’s outside of Art’s reach . I’m with , like , Roger Taylor , you know ? John Berger , Lee Lozano , Ray Johnson . but obviously , at least three of the aforementioned had significant involvement with Arts institutions , so it’s not like I advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater .

I just really think these in-house ‘departures’ need to be seen as strategic re-entrances . a real ‘exit’ is probably as simple as going outside arts institutions / never having been invited in to begin with . it’s quite easy to escape if you actually really want to (or have no choice) . and in an art world where “Donelle Woolford” and “outsider art” can happen in this century & the Duchamp / Elsa Freytag-von-Loringhoven appropriation stands as a kind of secret cipher for the development of arts institutions and discourses in last one , staying “inside” just doesn’t strike this reporter as tenable , unless to make war , and that of course strains the heart .

I guess it’s easier for me to feel this way as I’m in music , not gallery art etc. – there’s no “but …” money here , no salvation , no Exit . : )

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