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Freeportism as Style and Ideology: Post-Internet and Speculative Realism, Part II


Continued from “Freeportism as Style and Ideology: Post-Internet and Speculative Realism, Part I

Freeports are large, tax-free storage facilities that are uniquely suited to housing works of art adapted to the demands of contemporary financial markets. Because of the dominance of these markets, “freeportism” can be understood to signify the conditions of representation, production, and distribution that correspond to this dominance. The successful freeport artwork requires a strong artistic brand, ample liquidity in the form of tradable artworks, galleries operating as market makers, and photogenic material objects that produce likable images on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.

In the first part of this essay, I argued that the kind of art known as “post-internet” adapted to these conditions within a relatively short period of time—about five years—mostly by leaving aside its initial focus on web-related practices and processes. This transformation has turned “post-internet” art into a style of freeportism as such, much in the same way that, once upon a time, it could have been argued that Dutch still-life painting, with its depiction of worldly goods, was the style of the early financial market that flourished around the Amsterdam stock exchange founded in 1602.

To make the transmission from financial markets to artistic practices complete, an ideological framework was needed that supported the turn from discursive to material practices, from rituals of communication to objects and commodities, and from web-oriented and process-based artworks to shiny items provided in ample liquidity. The new brand of philosophical thinking called “speculative realism” offered itself as the ideology of freeportism and its associated modes of artistic production and circulation. Whether its appearance was a lucky coincidence, or whether both post-internet art and speculative realism are symptoms of the very same economic and technological regime, is open to discussion. However, both serve each other exceedingly well.

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