PIIGS Interview #4

As far as art is concerned, is it possible to defined it as the last critical space in neoliberalism reality? Can art free itself from the rules of the dominant market? Or if not, how can art deal with both the dominant economic rationality and develop an analytical approach to it?

PT: The modern economic system of art, which can be dated to the late XIX century, erupted in Paris somewhat by the instauration of the first art galleries. This galleries were envisioned to support the distribution and spreading of impressionist and post-impressionist artworks, thus representing a rebelliousness against the highly restricted art exhibited at the Salons, still clinging to the canons of the French Academie. At this point in history, approaching the spectators, by the means of another market segment, opened the possibilities of public choice and support of other artistic aspirations by the means of consumption, allowing the public to endorse another alternative order for art appreciation and validation.
On one hand, this method proved to be an advantageous and fertile ground for the emergence of modern and contemporary art, in all its idiosyncrasies. Given that, once the moorings from the official Academie were released, the West witnessed a period of the most impressive, controversial, diverse in methods and conceptual backgrounds of art. On the other hand, art and its agents became an intrinsic part of the capitalist commodities exchange system, therefore contributing to his propagation, even when they to try oppose to it (see Conceptual Art or Installation). In the present seems that the market reasoning is so disseminated that his shadow cast upon any attempt to escape its logic, by the means of speculation, marketing and profit making policies.
As aesthetic is concerned, therefore art also, seems that we came to a point in time, that prove to be saturated by the distribution of image, instigated by the media, marketing and technologic reproduction and apparatus. As Rosalind Krauss advocate [1], through this image saturation, the aesthetic experience is disseminated throughout the social field and everyday activities, emptying the concept of aesthetic autonomy, essential for the establishment of a capable specification for an analytical process of a work of art.
For if there is to be any space left for critical thinking in this neoliberal reality, is necessary to define some aesthetic autonomy. This is necessary for discerning art from the market sphere, legitimated by the hegemonic situation of privilege of intermedium works or installations, and its appropriation by capitalism. I believe this aesthetic redefinition is indispensable if the goal is of avoid that art continues to be hostage of a general equivalency principle of art to general commodities, promoted by capitalism.
The answer to the question, “what is pertinent art?” is the one capable of offering the tools for critic assessment for the success or fail of an artistic endeavour. Accordingly, it is necessary to establish some common ground of analysis, one that is not a dictatorship of taste, form, or medium, as more made explicit by the Academie, but also not another that conforms anything and everything as an artwork.
In conclusion, for art to engage critically about an economic order that seems omnipresent, it is necessary that it finds the means for exclude itself from its logic, by the methods of proper analytic reasoning, that combines the history of forms, mediums and conventions, layered upon an artwork. For that is to define by the means of art theory alone, the validation of an artistic endeavour, escaping any form for speculation or equivalency to any other commodities promoted by capitalism. Therefore this is what art curatorship and its methodological tools can provide.

[1] KRAUSS, Rosalind E., “A Voyage on the North Sea”: Art in the age of the post-medium condition, Thames & Hudson, New York, 1999, p.56

IR: No. Art is both ineffably bound up in indefinable strands of neoliberal capitalism, and is not the only discipline that questions or comes into conflict with dominant political narrative. Art, along with all other elements of life, does not exist in a vacuum. Art can engage or not with economic narrative, but will be influenced by the context in which it exists regardless.

IT: It is difficult that art can emancipate from markets as long as it uses promotional channels suggested by market itself. Some sociologists and philosophers do not talk anymore about capitalism, instead of ibridal forms such as semiocapitalism, informationalism, turbocapitalism, and so on. These are lots of intermediate forms which testify the economical pervasivity in every semantic field. What is pivotal, in this kind of dialectic, is ethic: get paid for the work, intended as a cultuural value, does not justify every kind of artistic production. Actually, the core of the artkwork should impose on the kind of production, not the opposite. It is an artist’s task to say or to do the right thing at the right moment; due to that, ethic of production is central in this topic. Crisis showed well this fact; it is reasonable to live with the market, but in an extreme conscious way, in order to understand the remaining means of production. To select and share the contents consciously it is the only true critical act, despite neoliberism.

GR: Art cannot be defined as the last critical space in neoliberalism reality. Many academic disciplines as for example critical theory, anthropology, social and political sciences, articulate their criticism towards the global imperative of capital. These disciplines are not isolated from the contemporary art practice. Contrariwise, they sometimes share common theoretical tools and analytical speculations, constructing alliances and working in a creative dialogue. It would be a problematic positivism to state that art can free itself from the rules of the dominant market. It works within this market, as a part of it but at the same time as a destabilizing factor of the market’s hegemony.  Nevertheless, art’s reflective capabilities and constant scepticism as it’s historically constituted characteristics give us the potentiality of a different less rationalistic but more sensible social reality in the horizon.

SP: In neoliberalism, citizen success is associated with professional success and, therefore, economic success. A healthy economy is the best sign of a good professional subject, and spending money its best leisure and amusement way. Therefore, it is clear that in the neoliberal system, capital wins. This theory could be extrapolated to all areas, which in capitalism become ‘professional’, including art. Thus, the system has seized all the tools that were previously in dissent, using them and perverting them. We would also find two areas of action for the artistic object: the public and the market.
Sometimes, these areas are blurred boundaries and a certain inability to redraw them is perceived. At this point we position ourselves in the defence of a public art centres system (physical or otherwise), which are independent from external sponsorships in their income that could affect to their content. Places conceived as real battlegrounds for any kind of representation, stranger to any repression.

PT : Portugal
IR : Ireland
IT : Italy
GR : Greece
SP : Spain

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