Urtica, art and media research group (c) 1999 and Beyond
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Value Quest Bourse—The Value is Here

Installation, Print, Internet platform at https://valuequest.info

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  • e-magazine
    “Propeler” (eng)
  • e-magazin
    “Propeler” (srb)
  • Art and Economy

    An art-allegory
    of socioeconomic cycle

  • Keywords / Tags

    • Art,
    • Economic crisis,
    • Bankruptcy,
    • Greed Economy,
    • Labour,
    • Morals,
    • Profit,
    • Quest,
    • Responsibility,
    • The Indices of Fortune,
    • The Wheel of Fortune,
    • Value
  • Art-Bio:

    “Value Quest Bourse—The Value is Here,” 52nd October Salon, Belgrade. Curators: Galit Eilat and Alenka Gregorič
    Festivals and Group Exhibitions
    Canarias (Canary Islands), Spain, ESPACIO ENTER - International Festival of Creativity, Innovation & Digital Culture
    Montreal, Canada, “Affaires à Risques // Risky Business,” Festival The HTMlles 10
    New York City, USA, dystoRpia Project, Place: Queens Museum of Art, Outpost Artists Resource and Local Projects, Curators: Arlan Londoño and Gabriel Roldos
    memefest.org (Brisbane), “Debt,” Festival of Socially responsive communication and art

Copy of text originaly published at e-magazine “Propeler,” Belgrade 2011

Value Quest Bourse: Value Is Here?

by Tijana Jovanović Petrović, Belgrade, 2011

ARTIST: any person who creates or gives creative expression to, or re-creates works of art, who considers his artistic creation to be an essential part of his life, who contributes in this way to the development of art and culture and who is, or asks to be recognized as an artist, whether or not he is bound by any relations of employment or association. UNESCO, 1980.

An explanation of the artist’s decision to launch liquidation, which was conducted as part of the work Value Quest Bourse of the art group Urtica, presented at the 52nd October Salon, states that “the artist is launching the process of liquidation of the valuable activity of art, due to the disappearance of natural conditions for carrying out that activity.”

The point is – society must change in order for conditions to be created for carrying out a certain activity. The problem is that the environment has changed to the point of unrecognizability in the meantime and no longer notices any activity not closely tied to the production of economic capital.

Through the artist’s own call for the liquidation of art, Urtica’s work refers to the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist*1 from 1980 (proceed in Belgrade), which based on the importance of an artist in society, acknowledges their “freedoms and rights, including moral, economic and social, with special focus on the revenues and social security the artist should enjoy.” In contemporary time that security is non-existent, which raises the issues of immaterial work, search for value that is slowly vanishing in various layers of modern media culture, the position of art, but also of its relation to the economic conditions of production.

One of the current social phenomena brought about by the increased flexibility of capital, in the transition from the so-called industrial to post-industrial production, is precarity which leads to the restructuring of the organization of work and production relations. This term (which, in a wider sense marks current living conditions, and in a narrower sense marks work inclinations and survival tactics) can encompass and explain the complex changes of the position of workers and their work, the circumstances under which the macroeconomic conditions of production have led to a state of permanent working and living insecurity of a growing portion of the population, as well as increase in structural unemployment at the microeconomic level.

In the beginning, precarious forms of work provided an illusion of strong emancipation potential, embodied in greater work mobility, flexibility and personal control over different working models, allegedly stimulating work motivation and creativity, whereas today it is clear that precarity is an economically and socially exploited model of work.

In other words, you wanted greater flexibility and creativity at work, but what you got are unstable jobs. You demanded the lifting of the ban on enjoyment – what you got is regulation and commercialization of enjoyment.

American sociologist Leslie Sklair*2 singles out as an important link in this new fluctuating work force the transnational corporations which use a transnational capitalist class to solidify the culture and ideology of consumerism. In perfect symbiosis with consumption is the commercial – advertising, which, according to media theorists Francis Balle*3 and Philippe Breton,*4 today imposes its own logic (on the press, radio, television, publishing, film making and video game production). Consequently, all the information carriers that shape the modern media culture use the “advertising approach” as the dominant strategy, the end goal of which is seduction, i.e. the communication of “non-news” or “McNews” (as a consequence of the McDonaldization of society, about which sociologist George Ritzer writes), which is perfectly faceless, light, seductive and – empty. Hence the erasure of lines between entertainment, information and culture and their pouring into a new irritating assembly – “infotainment.“ The reception of messages delivered through mass media can be achieved only if the messages are symbolically organized in such a way that they can provoke the homo ludens in man. At the root of these, no longer so “hidden persuaders,” which is a phrase introduced by Vance Packard,*5 are control and supervision (Virilio, Foucault), which are today carried out through the new, increasingly fast, accessible and cheap technologies that we accept as inevitability.

The post-industrial context of western states leads to the redefining of the term culture and cultural production: culture becomes a source of creative production, and the transfer from cultural values to creativity is backed by the development of new technologies. Creative economies are the main inciter of social and economic changes at the beginning of the 21st century, and Richard Florida*6 even idefntified a new economic class – the creative class that will be the pillar of society, just as the working class dominated the early decades of the 20th century. The starting point for re-examining the attitude toward this new market logic are the works of Jacques Ranciere, Richard Florida, Bertolt Brecht and Slavoj Žižek.

The concept of creative industries is the product of symbiosis of two older terms – creative art and cultural industry,7 which puts art in direct contact with large-scale industries, such as entertainment media (i.e. with the market). This overcomes the division into the elite and the masses, art and entertainment, high and low (culture), i.e. the final confirmation that the appearance of postmodernism leads to the drastic dissolution of precise borders in all social spheres.

The attitude of culture toward the new market logic, enables us to shed light from a new angle on the functioning of the contemporary art scene. Its core characteristic is not only the largerly criticized commodification of culture (creation of artistic products for the market), but rather – and which is less noticeable but perhaps even more important – movement in the opposite direction: the increasing culturalization of the market economy itself, through a turn toward tertiary economy (cultural tourism, the publishing and film industries, festivals), thus becoming not only a sphere of the market, but its central component (from the software entertainment industry to other media products). This short circuit between the market and culture carries with it the disappearance of the old, modernist, avant-garde logic of provocation, of shocking the establishment. Today, in order to reproduce in conditions of market competition, the cultural-economic apparatus increasingly has to not only tolerate, but also to directly stimulate ever more shocking effects and products. That may be one of the possible definitions of postmodern art as opposition to the modern one: in postmodernism, exorbitant excess loses its shock value and completely integrates into the established art market.

In this kind of frame, the current moment is marked as a mutation in the structure of capital, which also implies transformations in the field of art. Drastic shifts are occurring in contemporary art, given that art has lost the autonomy as understood by high modernism, i.e. art is today forced to look elsewhere for a place for subjectivization, and the aforementioned media culture is in fact the only foothold, because that is the only place where art recognizes itself as a subject who thinks and acts in a significant and subversively critical manner.

Value Quest Bourse is seemingly also founded on entertainment, since it is based on a board game inspired by the mechanisms of an economic system grounded on greed, where the final objective is to reach a high index of luck. The reference to the ongoing and overflowing economic crisis is clear. The central metaphor is roulette, a chaotic non-linear system that, through a simulation of the game as a system of rules, reveals primarily a simulation of reality and the disbalance between the certain and uncertain state in which the artist operates. The gaming process itself often results in the making of unexpected, occasionally new fields of possibility and (micro) changes to the environment in which the game takes place. However, its point is actually the recuperation of artistic space in a subversive way, by using the terminology and elements of the dominant economic system.

The term art practice as research was articulated in the article of the same title*8 by Giulio Carlo Argan in the 1960s in the field of visual arts and over the last few decades has become an unavoidable part of artistic and cultural work, at least of the kind that aims to be critical of the inherited paradigms, although research practices have been present in art in different ways since historical vanguards. Argan creates a methodological distinction between research and non-research art when he writes that “a conspicuous difference lies in the fact that non-research art starts from established values, while research art aims to determine values and itself as a value.”*9 Members of the Urtica group have positioned themselves as researchers seemingly outside of the art system, using a pseudo-scientific approach to produce new narratives, i.e. to deconstruct the existing ones that are made in the suffocating framework of media culture. Their strategies also lean on Bertolt Brecht’s idea that art should review the world around it, that art and science have the same tasks, as well as that there is no such thing as the essence of eternal art, rather that every society must create its own art works that will best reflect the state it is in.

*2Ritzer George, Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots, (2009) Belgrade: Official Gazette, p. 422
*3Balle Francis, The Power of the Media, (1997), Belgrade: Clio
*4Breton Philippe, Manipulated Word, (2000), Belgrade: Clio
*5Rowland Lorimer: Mass Communications, (1998), Belgrade: Clio
*6Hartley John, Creative Industries, (2005), Belgrade: Clio
*7This term first appears in the work “Dialectic of Enlightenment“ by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, and indicates the symbiosis of culture, society and market
*8“Art Practice as Research“, in: Studies on Modern Art, Denegri Ješa (editor), Nolit, Belgrade, 1982, p. 153-161

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