The Effect of Contemporaneity – II


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/ developement


Before we go any further, let us ponder a bit on what could possibly be implied by this overused and hyperinflated term ‘development.’ Surely we can rely on an almost instinctive understanding of what the term means whenever we use the distinction developed/underdeveloped, and, perhaps, we also instinctively position ourselves within this distinction by favouring development over underdevelopment because it is a ‘right thing’ to desire growth, advancement, and elaboration. Perhaps, it might also be a ‘right thing’ to expect that this very argument—just as any other argument—is marked by the same desire to develop.

By facilitating the growth of its own rhetorics, networks, and business models, global art market stalls and inhibits the development of the models that precede or contradict it.

While development can be recognised as universal because it pertains to every process either animate or inanimate, material or symbolic, symbiotic or parasitic, it is clear that the particular instances of development are always relative and the conditions of one process do not necessarily apply to another process: for example, a successful development of malignant cells stalls and inhibits the development of an organism; or the development of a sterile environment inhibits the development of an immune system; or the expansive development of shopping malls disrupts the development of local businesses, and so on. There is no reason to doubt that the development of a ‘global art market’ relates to other possible developments in a similar fashion—by facilitating the growth of its own rhetorics, networks, and business models, it most surely stalls and inhibits the development of the models—possible or actual—that precede or contradict it.

Alternative models of artistic and critical involvement take an unusual amout of care and attention in order to struggle, negotiate, and deliberate our migration into the world of ‘global concerns’.

“So, what are those models?”, we might ask. Perhaps, we could already imagine them if we would only try to acknowledge that there is a frontier—a shock wave, if you will—that is formed by the proliferation of this seemingly alternativeless reality of a global market. What defines those alternative models of artistic and critical involvement is an unusual amount of care and attention to this frontier of struggle, negotiation, and deliberation—the procedures that take time to think about how we accept or reject the migration into the world of ‘global concerns,’ how we become empowered or disempowered by the trends. Emphasising and questioning the relation between art and its contemporary conditions will inevitably reveal something—for example, a suspiciously totalitarian necessity to self-impose the logic of the market according to which an artist either participates in it or she is not considered adequate and relevant, which amounts to nonexistence as such. Can such questioning turn into a productive tendency to think about the qualitatively different relations between artists, galleries, and critics? Indeed, it is a very much a political question about the relations that would need to abstain from a demand to keep up with the forms and trends of the ‘already developed capitalism of the West’ as if it was the most obvious and natural thing that escapes reflection.

“As far as the value of exchange is concerned, it will always subject itself to the forces of markets, which also means, speaking broadly, that art can turn into an ‘aesthetics of capital.’ ”

Of course, it has already become clear that ‘West’ itself is no longer a usual geopolitical West, and given the proliferation and continental trans-migration of the ‘Capitals of the World’ it becomes increasingly harder to understand what this post-geographical signifier stands for. Today it has simply become a synonym for the areas and localities (and not even countries) of ‘advanced capitalism.’ By the same token it is not only the usual suspects—Eastern/Central Europe or Asia—that are labelled ‘East,’ but Africa and Latin America are part of this ‘East’ as well since it is now a general denominator for the areas of an ‘economic lag’ where the capitalism is still underdeveloped. All these distinctions work with an important condition: the necessity to see ‘Western capitalism’ as an advanced and almost perfect form of economic and social organisation that must be aspired to by all those who are still in the ‘barbaric’ stage of capitalist development. However let us not forget that one thing is to talk about capitalist economics (which revolves around things like management of a surplus or exchange value), and another thing is to conflate the economical terms with those of art—a conflation which results in a situation when we are unable to distinguish between the value of use and the value of exchange and when the former becomes subjected to the latter. And as far as the value of exchange is concerned, it will always subject itself to the forces of markets, which also means, speaking broadly, that art can turn into an ‘aesthetics of capital.’

Continue to Part III >


“The Effect of Contemporaneity” is a series of reflections that problematise the notions such as the emergence of an artist, cultural developement, artistic value, global art market, and colonialism.

Tomas Čiučelis
July 31, 2015
Published in Tribune
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