Critical Perspectives on Economies of Art Today

Digital Art and Culture After Industry? by Soeren Bro Pold/ Welcome to ARTOUT - the first artist escort service in the history of art! by I-Wei Li and Anton Koslov Mayr/ Workers of the Future at the Frontier of a Pivotal Work: Innovation at Work by Marie Michele Cron/ Laborers of Love/LOL: Behind the Scenes by Stephanie Rothenberg and Jeff Crouse/ Ten years AFTER by Franck Ancel
Friday, 16 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:45
Chair Person: 
Sue Gollifer
Søren Pold
I-Wei Li
Anton Koslov Mayr
Marie-Michèle Cron
Stephanie Rothenberg
Jeff Crouse
Franck Ancel

Digital Art and Culture After Industry?

by Soeren Bro Pold

When art and business or economy is related it is currently often through the concept of experience economy (Pine & Gilmore), however, such concepts of aesthetics and art often borders on the escapist and argues for an aesthetic harmonizing of contradictions. This paper will suggest that the ruptures, disruptions, clashes and breakdowns of contemporary art are more valuable contributions.

In the 1930’s materialist theoreticians such as Georg Lukács and Walter Benjamin were discussing how the change in the “Unterbau” of reproductions technologies affected the “Überbau” of culture, economy and thinking and how art could respond to this – either by submitting to it unconsciously (e.g. as a consumer good, “Zur-Ware-Werden”, (Lukács)) or by taking it up and exploring it as a conscious, dialectical “Tendenz” (Benjamin), which entails a critical exploration of how the art work is part of the production process, technology and economy.

The thesis I would like to put forth and test is that art has the potential to critically probe new media economies. Probably art can even be seen as a key developer of new economies such as we have seen earlier with the addressing of industrial production of the historical avant-garde leading to Bauhaus and modern design or with the 1960’s avant-garde addressing the tertiary sector (creative industries, mass media, advertisement, etc.). The question at the end might be what happens when this artistic exploration gets recuperated, if it is good or bad for art and artists and if there are opportunities to change this?

The paper will discuss its idea with examples from digital art, where the production, distribution, showing and selling has become part of the artistic work. An example will be Electroboutique (Chernyshev, Shulgin et al.), a series of works that address the current value of critical art, relations between software and objects and develops its own artistic economy.

Welcome to ARTOUT - the first artist escort service in the history of art!

by I-Wei Li and Anton Koslov Mayr

”No Soul For Sale” was printed on Tate Modern’s invitation for its 10th anniversary. Perhaps we are not selling our ‘immaterial labour’ (Maurizio Lazzarato) so easily yet we often treat our life as creative projects (Luc Boltanski). Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern, describes creative practitioners today as zombies and vampires due to the precarious working conditions we face and endless free services we are willing to offer.

When self-exploitation seems to be the norm as a survival strategy, how is it possible for cultural workers to say ‘no’?

Without existential security, what about our ability to challenge?

The law of the capitalist market with its emphasis on the ever-narrowing specialization of labor and maximization of profits invites artists to reinvent themselves over and over in order to escape  the market-imposed limits to their identity. This limited identity confines artists to seek satisfying the ruling class demand for the special commodity fetish known as Art and reproduce institutionally-defined ideology of culture. In both cases the producer and the consumer of Art are limited in their freedom by the traditional modes of material exchange.

We, at ARTOUT, believe that art is an open concept and artistic praxis is the process of becoming that corresponds to the totality of individual temporality. Artistic creativity results from the dialectical relation between the acceptance of the market as the underlying principle of social reality, and the need to escape its imperatives of obedience and consensus; its locus is the individuality of the artist. The artist plays the messenger and the message, the self-medium that finds its legitimacy through the charismatic negation of conventionality.

We believe that the individuality of the artist is far more significant than the material end-product of the artist's labor. We are extending the limits of the traditional market-model to recognize the artist as the self-defined commodity whose value resides in the immateriality of artist's creative becoming.  Spending time in the company of the artist is a new "creative" commodity exchange; it reveals power relations within the existing artist-patron paradigm and leads to the mutual liberation of both artists and art patrons from the condition of simple material production and accumulation to the next level of the direct creative exchange within the dominant capitalist art market paradigm.

For more information:

Workers of the Future at the Frontier of a Pivotal Work: Innovation at Work

by Marie Michele Cron

Behind the issues the complexity of their practice raises, the artists approached for this inquiry, unravel this Ariadne’s thread woven out of inventiveness (technology), sociability (networking) and otherness (integration, simulation, immersion). In the digital arts, work is carried out in a rhizomatic, intersectorial and intergenerational manner: it is a winning combination that heightens the innovation potential of the discipline and of the artists who are the node connecting heterogeneous activity zones between each other. A “laboratory artist”(JP Fourmentraux)  or worker of the future, a researcher-expert in his chosen field, the digital artist is changing the face of art by overcoming the physical obstacles which may arise when art meets technologies based on constantly renewed and fluctuating data. The digital artist possesses mixed and non-conventional skills in combination with a very open mind and professional flexibility: he is versatile and knows how to renew himself. By way of science, technology and art as generators of new expressive forms, he can thus exert an influence on the world of affects and the sensible, and but also on the dissemination of new theories and new concepts. In the digital arts, innovation is exercised in the invention of dissemination platforms and interactive extension prostheses; the spatio-temporal involvement of the other in the new discursive and textual spaces; architectural reconfigurations by way of light and sound;  reactive textiles; new scenographies which fuse real and virtual beings; synesthetic audiovisual projections and performances; the détournement of the functionality of everyday objects; novel and poetic combinations between high and low tech. If innovation is generally associated with the world of industrial research and the emergence of new products and methods revolving around competition and profit seeking, paradoxically, this notion is less present in the art world: yet, aren't values such as self-reliance, freewill, originality and risk-taking not also its raison d’être? How do the digital arts metabolize the innovation that influences both the creative classes and the companies linked to the new economy?

Laborers of Love/LOL: Behind the Scenes

by Stephanie Rothenberg and Jeff Crouse

For this paper, Jeff Crouse and Stephanie Rothenberg will discuss the critical issues raised in their crowdsourcing project "Laborers of Love/LOL" created in collaboration with Michael Schieben. The project explores how sexuality and desire are mediated through new technologies, specifically new models of global, outsourced labor. The project takes the form of an Internet service that uses anonymous online workers to create “customers” video fantasies.

Utilizing Mechanical Turk, an online job engine created by, LOL leverages a global online workforce of workers that are not specific to the sex industry but rather a diverse group of home/computer based workers. In an assembly-line fashion, Mechanical Turk workers collect images and video related to the fantasy from a variety of websites. A real time data visualization is then presented on the website consisting of worker locations (Waco, Texas; Bangalore, India; etc) and IP addresses of the mined content (images and video). This visualization maps the process and “production” of the video fantasy. The final product is a short video mashup, more funny than sexy and explicit, where 1970’s experimental cinema meets canned Photoshop filters, and ultimately reflects on how desire and pleasure are represented, fragmented and abstracted through the consumption of online digital media.

The project evolved from Crouse and Rothenberg’s 2008 project, "Invisible Threads", a virtual designer jeans sweatshop created in Second Life (SL) that explores the growing intersection between labor, emerging virtual economies and real life commodities. Using “just‐in‐time” telematic production, avatar workers paid in SL Linden dollars operated virtual textile machines that manufactured real world, wearable, blue jeans.

Critical issues the paper will address include: outsourcing and the precarious/flexible virtual workplace with concern to ethics and worker alienation; the shifting role and definition of "sex worker"; sexual identity and preference; relationship of fantasy as a social construct and how fantasy functions behind the screen space of the computer. A brief overview of the technical side of the project including the custom software utilizing computer vision and advanced graphics techniques will be also discussed.

Ten years AFTER

by Franck Ancel

If one of my pictures of Shanghai has illustrated the ISEA's coverage book 2006 in San Jose, and with one text, in 2008 for ISEA in Singapore my text only was present, I canceled my trip after that I did not found funds for my travel.

Also today, the global economic crisis, ten years after the world political crisis following the attacks in New York in 2001, should not be a border for the creators and theorists of electronic art.

For ISEA 2011, I propose to think concretely through four elements that are a paper, an artwork, a workshop and a panel in Istanbul to open the world across the borders of a Global Village, 100 years McLuhan after.

If there is now a virtual museum of 9 / 11 in New York but nothing has really changed since ten in the way of thinking about architectural place to imagine a planetary network with or without the 27 countries of Europe.