The Market of Values - Proposal

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Critical Practice is a cluster of artists, researchers, academics and others hosted by Chelsea College of Art and Design, a constituent college of the University of the Arts London. We have a longstanding interest in art, public goods, spaces, services and knowledge, and a track record of producing original, participatory events, such-as PARADE in 2010

In response to the question, "What are the effects of art?" we would like to focus on the questions of value and economy. We do not want to limit ourselves to narrowly understood economy of art, but rather to use artistic methods and tools to experiment with different ways of fabricating values. Faced with financial crisis and austerity programs the wider public start to realize inherent problems of capitalistic, competitive markets, currently organized according to the regimes of capital accumulation. There is a pressing, political need to reflect and practically test alternative systems of production, distribution and exchange of values, which would be beneficial for wider communities and not only for the small, privileged groups of capitalists.

In doing so we want to refer to the problems that Critical Practice has experienced as an open organization, similar in its functioning to other initiatives dependant on the enthusiasm and volunteer engagement of their members (like art collectives, free software movement, or Wikipedia). They do usually fabricate various valuable resources (like free software, knowledge, experiences, social relations, emotions, meanings), which have intrinsic use value, but on themselves they are bound by the rules of the capitalist economy. In order to survive they have to sell their labour, turn either their skills or products into commodities, exchangeable to money in the competitive capitalistic market (like artists selling their art in art market or teaching at art academy). As many economists suggest the only way to support these complex networks and communities is to find out alternative ways of measuring and exchanging values. We should invent more complex evaluative horizons, transgressing the limitations of exploitative commodity markets.

Critical Practice would like to commit itself to this cause, driven by the believe that artistic methods have great potential for experimenting with different ways in which values can be produced and exchanged.

If we reflect deeper on the very meaning of "value", we realize that it has only relative significance. If an "effect" describes a difference or change in something (i.e. the devastating effects of the economic crisis on funding for the arts and education) "values" are more actively relational. A value is defined in relation to something else, beyond itself but occurring in proximity. To give an example familiar to the practice of art and design, we can speak of colour value being the relative degree of a colour's lightness or darkness: purple is a darker colour than yellow. Critically, yellow in isolation has no value. It is only recognizable in relation to purple. Extrapolating only a little, colour theory as a system of relative values indicates art's social value as operative across virtually infinite expressions of content and form: art's capacity to draw out and/or map complex relations that may otherwise be taken for granted, be they aesthetic (colours), economic (worth), affective (emotional intensity) relations and so on.

Art also has the potential to produce value--or rather values, in the plural. Identifying these values can be complex because in contrast to art as mimesis that shows relations between values, these productive values are often highly resistant to representation. Consider, for example, the embodied knowledge produced through encountering an artwork. How can this be measured and this measurement be shared, after the fact? How can it be qualified--let along quantified? Significantly, the value in this example may be produced by the artwork but it does not reside therein. Instead, it resides in the encounter. It is distributed amongst interrelations: artwork, visitor, physical context, socio-political context, relations between content and form, etc. This returns us to the significance of value as relationally produced.

Market of Values

Critical Practice has significant experience in creating participatory platforms intent on aggregating diverse approaches, sensibilities, practices, outcomes, etc. As Critical Practice we want experiment with variety of formats of assembling publics and organize exchange between them in more distributed and horizontal manner. For example, in May of 2010, we facilitated the Market of Ideas on the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London. A cross between a trade show and an ancient bazaar, it brought together thirty-five stalls to explore what it means to "be in public?".

Markets are good at convening and distributing resources, while competitive markets penetrate all aspects of contemporary life, it is important to envision alternative ways of organizing exchange so that it will become beneficial for wider communities of practice. For the Berlin Biennial we would like to convene a market, or markets, based on the model of the ancient agora. We propose a Market of Values in which 'stalls' staffed by economists, artists, academics, ecologists, anthropologists, pressure groups, activists and others explore existing evaluative structures, and propose new ones. Traditionally the agora or bazaar was the place where things get their price our market would evaluate different evaluative structures, like: competitive markets, derivatives, currencies, voting, gifts, waste, commons, etc. We will pay special attention to involve variety of economic agents, representing different areas of social life, encouraging them to experiment with range of alternative ways of arranging production and exchange of values. The Market of Values would be convened to explore the distribution of public knowledge, embody peer-2-peer exchange, and build communal resources. We will also experiment with different ways of remunerating labour and involvement of stall holders and participants. We consider establishing alternative currencies which will be nominal means of payment in the Market.

Referring to the double meaning of Agora - as site of economic exchange and space of political discourse and democratic governance - we would also like to experiment with alternative systems of assembling political constituencies. We will convene series of meetings to which diverse communities will be invited, defined according to changing criteria: like wider public, inhabitants of particular districts, specific ethnic groups or representatives of particular professions. We would like to provide them with significant amount of resources (big enough to make it worthwhile), which use will be collectively decided, following different methods of democratic governance (rough consensus, representation, majority vote). We will try to foster agonism and debate, but also encourage cooperation, by insisting that the use of the budget has to be decided during current session or it will become obsolete. The decisions taken will be binding and guaranteed by the contract between members of constituencies and producers of event (either mediated by Critical Practice, or directly executed by Berlin Biennial). The decision upon budget will be left to participants, Critical Practice will only facilitate the discussion and set its rules.

The Market of Values will be held in the specifically designed architectural structure which will support different systems of exchange. The very process of building the architecture will be planned as an experiment with collective labour and economy of gift, similarly to the case of Parade. Process of assembling 4320 milk crates by members and supporters of Critical Practice was in itself an exploration of different ways of being in public. The Market should be held in the public space of Berlin. The very Market is envisioned as series of activities, like talks, agoras, workshops, and construction in itself (happening over 7-14 days), accumulating in the final market. Market structure could encompass physical stalls around the agora, amphitheater, cinema, public restrooms, dining areas (perhaps as part of particular stalls) etc.


We imagine stalls to include:

Christian Nold whose work has included installing a local currency, the Bijlmereuro in Amsterdam
David Graeber, anarchist anthropologist of Debt
Cinema Values the screening of relevant films and documentaries on value and different modes of economy.


The Market of Values would be convened to explore the distribution of public knowledge, embody peer-2-peer exchange, and build communal resources,


Cut off: Friday, April 8, 2011 - 5:00pm


Return to 29 03 11 Art/Value Meeting Mins * Art/Value * Main Page

Comments:


Sharon 3.4.11
I would like to contribute today by sharing some of my thoughts on the Tokens/CP bank idea. Perhaps some of the following could be incorporated more formally into the final proposal document.

I think that art has the capacity to help us to increase awareness and thus create the possibility for change to take place. As a group Critical Practical can facilitate this process and create opportunities for us, the collaborators and the audience to have a dialogue with each other and with the work and to possibly experience something outside of our routines. It is through this escape from our usual habits that I think gives the viewer and artist the opportunity to reassess our routines and change the quality of our experience.

At the meeting, we discussed the idea of working within the biennial system to highlight tensions rather than going against it. One idea was having a token system where participants were given a token when they purchased a ticket for the Biennial (potentially a limited edition Critical Practice token) which they then could choose to donate or contribute to a scheme where the token goes on to have a social effect or charitable contribution in some way. We used the Waitrose charity token scheme as an example.

I have already discussed with some of you my attempts to define the criteria that an artwork of a participatory nature needs to meet to be able to have the potential to create possibility for change and to have an effect on Everyday LIfe. At the moment I have the following thoughts:

- include an element of generosity

- encouraging awareness through the interruption of routines

- collaboration with individuals or a diverse group of people

- working outside of a gallery environment preferably in a local community

- sharing knowledge and skills

I think that the token scheme successfully incorporates some of these themes.

Include an element of generosity Personally, this is an important element. Generosity has a way of subverting recognised systems because on the whole people don't expect it, thus generosity is a good way of interrupting a routine. By giving the token we are giving away an object that has an assigned value (as an art object) and then inviting the receiver to reconsider that value and transform it from an artistically valuable artifact to an item with an intrinsic value that can be donated to create/have an effect on something or someone else.

Encouraging awareness through the interruption of routines

- we are challenging the 'normal' idea of the museum/art institution as keeper of valuable art objects by giving away limited edition "art"

Collaboration with individuals or a diverse group of people - We discussed the fact that potentially a certain type of person goes to an international art event such as the Biennial but we could also work with those who are involved in working within the Biennial. The people whose work goes unnoticed, ticket sellers, cleaners, invigilators, cafe staff etc. We could also take the Biennial out of itself and find ways of taking the Biennial to those people who might not, or can't buy a tickets or who wouldn't necessarily think of visiting the Biennial. This also ties in with the other points of working within a community, sharing knowledge and skills and working with each other.


Metod 3.4.11
We are talking about agoras. I guess this is again a terminology use, but I was thinking about forums. The two terms are very similar first Greek, second Roman. Though as I understand they both had a market function (a place to meet, trade, and debate), but Forum seems more accessible as a term because it is widely used online today. Is this terminology a concern at all?

Here you can read more on Agora and Forum.