DON'T HATE THE BUSINESS, BECOME THE BUSINESS!

The panel investigates some of the interconnections between art, activism and business. “Don’t hate the media, become the media”, was one of the slogans of Indymedia. We are applying this critical hands-on perspective to the business framework.
Dates: 
Monday, 19 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Geoff Cox
Chair Person: 
Tatiana Bazzichelli
Presenters: 
Dmytri Kleiner
Presenters: 
Elanor Colleoni
Presenters: 
Christian Ulrik Andersen
Presenters: 
Søren Pold
Presenters: 
Maya Balcioglu

Chair: Dr. Geoff Cox
2nd Chair: Tatiana Bazzichelli

The panel investigates some of the interconnections between art, activism and business. “Don’t hate the media, become the media”, was one of the slogans of Indymedia. We are applying this critical hands-on perspective to the business framework. Presenters examine how artists, rather than refusing the market, are producing critical interventions from within. As the distinction between production and consumption appears to have collapsed, every interaction in the info-sphere seems to have become a business opportunity. Therefore, the creative intersections between business and art become a crucial territory for re-invention and the rewriting of symbolic and cultural codes, generating political actions or social hacks that use a deep level of irony, but also unexpected consequences. The tactics demonstrate the permeability of systems — that these can be reworked — and more so, that radical innovation requires modification of the prevailing business logic.

The backdrop of the Istanbul Biennale makes a useful reference point here as one of the markers along with art fairs in general for the commodity exchange of artistic production. We are not suggesting these are new issues — as there are many examples of artists making interventions into the art market and alternatives to commodity exchange — but we aim to discuss some of the recent strategies that have emerged from a deep understanding of the net economy and its markets.

The panel explores some of these contradictions: that on the one hand, there are alternative or disruptive business models that derive from the art scene, often as critical or activist interventions, but on the other how these practices can be easily co-opted by proprietary business logic. This is perhaps exemplified by the business idea of 'disruption-innovation', where disruption is considered to be a creative act that shifts the way a particular logic operates and thus presents newfound opportunities. Does this mean that well-meaning critical strategies of artists and activists are self-defeating? How do we develop disruptive business models that do not simply become new models for business that ultimately follow capitalist logic?

We maintain there is nothing wrong with doing business as such.

Paper Abstracts

Venture Communism

by Dmytri Kleiner

In the age of international telecommunications, global migration and the emergence of the information economy, how can class conflict and property be understood? Drawing from critiques of political economy and intellectual property, The Telekommunist Manifesto is a contribution to commons-based, collaborative and shared forms of cultural production and economic distribution.

Proposing "venture communism" as a new model for workers' self-organization, Kleiner spins Marx and Engels’ seminal Manifesto of the Communist Party into the age of the internet. As a peer-to-peer model, venture communism allocates capital that is critically needed to accomplish what capitalism cannot: the ongoing proliferation of free culture and free networks. 

In developing the concept of venture communism, Kleiner provides a critique of copyright regimes, and current liberal views of free software and free culture which seek to trap culture within capitalism. Kleiner proposes copyfarleft, and provides a usable model of a Peer Production License.

Encouraging hackers and artists to embrace the revoluty potential of the internet for a truly free society, The Telekommunist Manifesto is a political-conceptual call to arms in the fight against capitalism.

The Values of Online Social Relations

by Dr. Elanor Colleoni

The development of an information economy, and in particular its more recent 'social economy' phase, has seen the pluralization of conceptions of value (Stark, 2009). The rise of brands, the growing importance of reputation, both for individuals and for companies, the need to attract affective investments and in general to establish a positive large-scale recognition for companies are all manifestation of this.

While companies have clearly identified the strategic importance of these “intangible assets”, an adequate and broadly accepted interpretation of how such immaterial wealth is transformed into tangible monetary value still lack. The issue of the new forms of value creation has grown in importance with the diffusion of online social media. This is because social media, such as Facebook and Twitter allow these subjective perceptions of “value”, like the experience of or affective ties that people can construct with a company or a brand, to acquire an objective existence as observable and measurable forms of value.

As a consequence, several new data mining techniques, such as opinion mining and sentiment analysis have emerged in the last few years. Among other things, such as marketing and profiling, these algorithms are aimed to create a common “measure” of social affective investments around a brand or a company which can serves as a base to establish a new "general equivalent", i.e. general sentiment (Arvidsson, forthcoming).

My presentation will try to disentangle how the online social relations are integrated into the process of value creation and in the monetary circuit.

A Conceptual Gap Between Art and Business? 

by Dr. Christian Ulrik Andersen &  Dr. Søren Bro Pold

What does the capitalisation of art mean? Joseph Beuys declared that “the silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated.” It is up to us to put value on this silence. How can you make art out of the convergence of the aesthetic field (and aesthetic judgement) with that of political economy? 

In the history of art, artists have often addressed this relationship both speculatively and critically. Andy Warhol went shopping. At the same time, the Beatles made their own record label to assume full control of the production process (and almost went bankrupt). What seems to be the case is that not only affirmation but also critique of the relationship between art and business develops new kinds of businesses. After all, where would design be without avant-garde (and Bauhaus)? Where would fashion be without punk? 

Artists often critically interfere and play with the convergence and transaction between aesthetic capital and financial capital. The paper will present key examples of this (from Marcel Duchamp to Christophe Bruno), and argue that the best critical artists also potentially propose the best and most innovative business models.

From Turkey With Love

by Maya Balcioglu

When Wen Jiabao visited Turkey in October 2010 (the first Chinese premier to do so) a bilateral agreement to triple trade to $50bn within five years was the most significant outcome.  Also in October Turkish newspapers reported that Chinese warplanes took part in a military training exercise at an airbase in central Turkey, in what is a first involving China and a Nato member country. As one of the world's fastest growing economies, Turkey has been positioning itself to boost economic and trade relations across the region as well as globally. The cultural discourses encouraged in Turkey today should be seen as part of the central plank of the Turkish foreign policy: economic development and culture as part of a package of trade and investment portfolio. As state funding for the arts in Turkey hardly exists and what there is has historically been understood in nationalist, heritage and tourism terms, my presentation will contextualise the business arm of the arts and the almost exclusive private patronage that is the contemporary arts in Turkey today. 

Bios of the Participants

Christian Ulrik Andersen

Christian Ulrik Andersen, PhD, is Associate Professor and chair of Digital Aesthetics Research Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark. He researches within digital aesthetics, software cities and computer games. Together with Søren Pold he is the editor of a new book Interface Criticism – Aesthetics Beyond Buttons (2011). He is also a researcher in Centre for Digital Urban Living, Aarhus University.
http://darc.imv.au.dk

Maya Balcioglu

Maya Balcioglu was born in Istanbul in 1955, and arrived in London in 1977. She studied at Brighton (because it was by the sea) and the Slade School of Fine Art, London, supporting her own education by working in factories, night shifts and catering jobs. She collaborated with Stuart Brisley on The Cenotaph Project (1987-1991) and edited the publication for this project.

Decided to mirror a business and set up a shop as an experimental space and a proposal to test ideas in public with an immediate and unambiguous risk element. This space was established within the commercial paradigm, failure was real and meant serious losses. It had a core identity established by presenting certain 'goods', other than that it had no ambitions as a business and its purpose was kept deliberately unclear. The flexibility of the speculation proved to be a light footed success. The "shop" was voted as one of the best 50 in the world. At the height of its success the business was no longer relevant. It became a model for others to follow, and therefore was closed.

Maya Balcioglu is part of the curatorial team of the Museum of Ordure.
http://www.mayabalcioglu.com/pages/11

Tatiana Bazzichelli

Tatiana Bazzichelli is PhD Scholar at Aarhus University. She is board member of the Digital Aesthetics Research Center in Aarhus and visiting scholar at Stanford University (2009). She has been active in the Italian hacker community since the end of the ’90s and is the founder of the AHA: Activism-Hacking-Artivism project (http://www.ecn.org/aha), which won the honorary mention for digital communities at Ars Electronica (2007). She wrote the book Networking. The Net as Artwork (Costa & Nolan, 2006/DARC, 2009).
http://www.networkingart.eu

Elanor Colleoni

Elanor Colleoni is a Post-Doc Researcher at the Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, Copenhagen Business School. With a background in computer science and sociology, she is currently working on the project “Responsible Business in the Blogosphere” (RBB). Elanor is investigating the relationship between information diffusion and emotional content in social media and the impact of social relations on brand and corporate reputation in new media.
http://uk.cbs.dk/staff/eco

Geoff Cox

Geoff Cox is a Post-Doc Researcher in Digital Aesthetics as part of the Digital Urban Living Research Center, Aarhus University (DK). He is also Associate Curator of Online Projects, Arnolfini, Bristol (UK), adjunct faculty, Transart Institute, Berlin/New York (DE/US), Associate Professor (Reader), University of Plymouth (UK) and treasurer of the Museum of Ordure (UK). He is an editor for the DATA Browser book series (published by Autonomedia, New York), and most recently co-edited Creating Insecurity (2009).
http://www.anti-thesis.net

Dmytri Kleiner

Dmytri Kleiner is a software developer working on projects that investigate the political economy of the internet, and the ideal of workers’ self-organization of production as a form of class struggle. Born in the USSR, Dmytri grew up in Toronto and now lives in Berlin. He is a founder of the Telekommunisten Collective, which provides internet and telephone services, as well as undertakes artistic projects that explore the way communications technologies have social relations embedded within them, such as deadSwap (2009) and Thimbl (2010).
http://www.telekommunisten.net/

Søren Bro Pold

Søren Bro Pold, PhD, is Associate Professor of digital aesthetics at IMV, University of Aarhus, Denmark, part of DUL (http://www.digitalurbanliving.dk/) and founding member of DARC (Digital Aesthetics Research Center, http://darc.imv.au.dk/). He has published in Danish and English on digital and media aesthetics – from the 19th c. panorama to the interface, e.g. on electronic literature, net art, software art, creative software, urban interfaces and digital culture. Together with Christian Ulrik Andersen he edited the anthology Interface Criticism - Aesthetics Beyond Buttons (2011).