The Market of Values - Dortmund Proposal
Critical Practice is a cluster of artists, researchers, designers, academics and others hosted by Chelsea College of Art and Design, a constituent college of the University of the Arts London. We have a long-standing interest in art, public goods, spaces, services and knowledge, and a track record of producing original, participatory events, such as PARADE in 2010 (discussed below).
In response to the question, 'What are the effects of art?' we would like to focus on the political economy of value. For us, registering any ‘effects’ requires that these 'effects' be located in a particular place [where], a particular constituency [whom], a particular moment in time [when], and mediums for recording the 'effects' [what]. Simply, effects (of art or otherwise) need to be situated.
All values are temporal, propositional and relative. Like prices in a supermarket, volunteering, or respect circulating in social networks. Therefore values are perfect for exploring any possible 'effects of art'. The wide spectrum of plausible economies and values are currently dominated by exploitative and competitive markets. Enthusiasm-based initiatives, like Critical Practice, are constrained by capitalist labour relations and systems of commodity exchange. We intend to creatively explore, and implement, different systems for producing, distributing and exchanging values.
Market of Values
For the Berlin Biennial we would like to propose a Market of Values.
Markets are good at evaluating values, and communicating the results of those evaluations. While the idea of values distributed by competitive market penetrate all aspects of contemporary life, other kinds of markets and economies exist, even flourish. Our market will be inspired by the ancient agora - a site of economic transaction and a space of political discourse. We will propose, explore and implement various economies and structures of exchange, for example, these might include: a casino, a blood donation bank, an auction, a derivatives market, various currencies, voting systems, gift economies, waste, and many others. Some values and economies might benefit everyone, like a commons (a blood-bank for example) and not just those who are the fiercest competitors, or start with the largest assets. We imagine a flea-maket type assembly of structures, with stalls hosted by artists, economists, academics, ecologists, anthropologists, civil-society groups, pressure groups, activists and others to explore existing evaluative structures and produce new ones.
The Market of Values builds on Critical Practice's ongoing interest in market structures and their self-organization. In 2008, we facilitated a Market of Ideas as part of the Festival of Europe (London, UK). A cross between a trade fair and flea-market, this one-day event addressed the question, 'What is cultural about economics?'. The effectiveness of this platform for assembling and interfacing diverse practices led us to organize a second version in 2010. This market was part of PARADE, a three-day exploration into what it means to "be in public". PARADE'S market sought to better understand the production of 'a public' in a public space, through a distributed event consisting of thirty-five stalls, each one featuring a different approach to 'being in public'. Practitioners, families, art-worlders, civil servants, passersby, etc. - the public produced through PARADE was as diverse as it was temporary. Simply put, this public was an event, a process. The experience of all those involved as they moved between stalls confirmed the market's event structure as uniquely suited for mapping complex and often elusive relations. Like 'the public,' 'values and evaluation' may be familiar aspects of everyday life. But they can also be mysterious. What are values? How are they made manifest? How are they exchanged?
To address these questions in a Market of Values we will meet with diverse communities, inhabitants of particular districts, specific cultural groups and representatives of particular professions to encourage broad participation in the co-production and distribution of values. Through exploring these webs of exchange, the Market of Values will address Sarat Maharaj and Susan Kelly's question (following Marcel Duchamp), 'How do you make a work of art, that's not a work of art?'. (1) This event will evaluate the effects of art through the market's interdependent systems of exchange.
The Market of Values will be convened in a prominent public place [perhaps added to an existing flea-market?]. Specifically designed 'flea-market' structures will be constructed (perhaps using recycled materials?) consisting of various stalls, and other spaces of assembly - agora, cinema, public restrooms, etc. The very process of building the structures (we estimate 14 days) will be part of the evaluative process mixing wage labour, volunteerism, co-production and the gift economy. We intend to experiment with different ways of evaluating and remunerating labour, stallholders and participants. Some of the stalls will be occupied by individuals and initiatives related to thriving Berlin cultural scene.
The market would have multiple currencies circulating, of course not all of them monetary, and as an example stalls might include:
Theory goes under the Conference in Dortmund:
The Market of Values would be convened to explore the distribution of value as public knowledge, embody peer-2-peer exchange, and build communal resources. Our market as an artwork would explore the effects of art in the most vital space in culture, in the production and circulation of value.
(1) Kelly, S. (2005) ‘The Transversal and the Invisible: So how do you really make a work of art that’s not a work of art?’Re-Public Art eipcp web publication, http://www.republicart.net/disc/mundial/kelly01_en.htm, re-printed in Pedro Barateiro and Ricardo Valentim (eds.) catalogue Temporary Collaborations, published by Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon.