Location Livorno, IT
Juan Pablo Macías
September 12, 2019

art magic and capitalism 2019

art magic and capitalism - September 14, 2019
art magic and capitalism - October 26, 2019

[Text written in 2019 in ocassion of the first edition of art magic and capitalism, a program of encounters, exhibitions, performance and screenings on the relation between art and capital.

Organized by Carico Massimo

With the participation of:

Katia Anguelova, Zbyněk Baladrán, Federico Cavallini, Federica Giardino, Marlene Hausegger, Maurizio Lazzarto, Jiří Kovanda, Juan Pablo Macías , Alessandra Poggianti, Massimo Ricciardo, Pedro G. Romero, Iacopo Seri, Hans Schabus, Angelika Stepken, Andrea Wiarda, Vermeir & Heiremans, Hannes Zebedin.]

”Europeanization does not constitute a becoming but merely the history of capitalism, which prevents the becoming of subjected peoples. Art and philosophy converge at this point: the constitution of an earth and a people that are lacking as the correlate of creation.”1

In art magic and capitalism we want to hear about unprejudiced conceptions of economy, of capital, of art, that could broaden our understanding of our material culture and move beyond the ideological constraints of our actual economic system.

The relationship between art and capitalism is a troubled one if we take into consideration the tending ethos in artist’s worldviews, being at the same time free and subject to the market. We’ve seen examples of art and labor negotiating with its surplus in many ways, proclaiming freedom, conceiving possible futures and new relations.

We like to think in Salvator Rosa, Napolitano artist from the seventeenth century who refused any kind of commissions, and Gustave Courbet who started creating in disregard of conventions, canons or patrons,2 as two key figures, at least for our own genealogy of an art practice autonomous to institutional and commodified modes of production.

These examples are not exclusive, nor mirror entirely the troubled relation between creation and patronage/private property, but we normally take for granted the tight and twisted relationship art and labor had had with capital. More, in a time when the art market rules art’s landscape, but also the grammatical and conceptual constructions of its practices.

Some think there is no possible artist without a patron emancipating her, thus, that this patronage makes intellectual labor possible. Others that art can sustain itself, as if the entire base of the art population wouldn’t feed off the general providers of production and distribution. It’s an ecosystem, a complex one, that is always present in the out-of-field of our practices as artists, critics, curators, gallerists, collectors, institutions. And as an out-of-field –further beyond the frame, the wall, the urban space, the institution– it must be conscientiously assimilated in art’s practice, in conscious mediations.

The opening quotation by Deleuze and Guattari from What is Philosophy? seems a big of a task for what our art and academic thinking produces today. The intrusion of economicism into all human spheres, marxist’s ideologism that has jeopardized a radical left wing worldview, science, technology and the state as services, that have clear-as-water owners, have inaugurated a plane from which it’s difficult to escape: social, political, economical, ecological and a worldview crisis are Capitalism’s production.

Art, that implies us all in this context of art magic and capitalism, would serve as a case study to analyze the history of art’s becomings until now –that has been sucked up by the market, by economicism’s ideology, by its communiqués (order-words3)– and start wondering about what goes wrong with creation, with resistance.4

We’ve all been here, fantasizing about resistance. As rhetoric, it is embedded in the last art-and-politics trend and its commodity products. But resistance is not a figure of rhetoric, it is not a commodity nor a slogan, it has an ontological value, it has the form of existence. We resist gravity, we resist weather, we resist hunger, we resist by creating platforms for becoming, for changing nature, for readapting always to the real, for composing and recomposing our bodies to resist death, and instead we’ve been paving the highway to stasis.

Probably the management of conceptual and perceptual tools, of technology, of the many forms of knowledge, of coin, of affects, has to do with an economy of means for survival, for living life at its maximum potential along friends, but the term ‘economy’ has been hijacked by the all intrusive drives of economicism to mean something else.

How to escape from these drives? How to give back to the body, its natural production of surplus in a non capitalistic way? Everything in nature produces an excess, how to share it? How to rescue economy from economicism? How to change our conception of the system of things that is governing us? that is condemning us? How to recover the original notion of market as a form of mutual aid? How to reconfigure our institutions to foster, nurture and protect creation and its correlates?

We would like to open up the discussion guided by two considerations. One has to do with Boris Arvatov’s concept of material culture,5 that requires the elimination of that rupture between Things and people that characterized bourgeois society. And second, a thorough consideration of creation and intellectual work as something that implies intimacy and solitude –the only work is moonlighting and is clandestine (Deleuze)– the worker that works in the context of the sacred, that of nature, of the cosmos.

On one hand, a social consciousness that understands the entire world of things as the material form-creating basis of culture, that is aware of the processes of production, consumption and distribution of the things we create and through which we relate. On the other hand, an understanding of creation as something realized in solitude, unstructured, that deals with the cosmos, and consecutively, enters into several social mediations in order to be shared, in order to effectuate becomings.

We believe it is in this convergence between the individual’s sacred work and society, that economicism introduces itself and outspreads all-over, that codifies and assigns exchange value to processes, individuals and things, and consequently puts into circulation this value alone, not as a shared excess that subsists after creation,6 but as a mere profitable abstraction.

Arvatov’s essay, that entailed a critique against Marxist’s ideologism and a very lucid analysis of the bourgeois system of objects, proclaimed a new companionship between man and things that required a full immersion (of the earth-and-peoples-to-come) into the processes of production, consumption and distribution. In Deleuze and Guattari’s production of concepts, these processes, in the relation of man with nature, are linked to the flow of desire as one. (José Regalado, an indigenous from Mexico, that happens to be also an agronomist, states that matter, when transformed, involves sharing. Aren’t these words soaked in desire? in friendship? in companionship? aren’t these words primeval?)

In art magic and capitalism, we would like to draw a distance from the realm created by economics to get closer to a wider understanding of our relations with objects; or lower our flight and land on a living ground that can permit us to re-appropriate labor’s capital and imagine new horizons, new objects, new behaviors, new economies, new ecosystems, new lines of flight.

These two terms, Art and Capitalism, trigger a plethora of questions that are pledging for answers. Although we have some certainties, or better, intuitions, we have no formulated answers. A certainty we do believe in, is that creation is not equal to the apparatus that manages and regulates art (Jean-Luc Moulène says plainly that culture fucks art!). Art realizes itself despite the cultural system, and preparing a plane for the production of an earth-and-people-to-come as the correlates of creation, implies an epic effort to analyze the current economic system that has relegated people to exist only through the sphere of consumption, and still further effort to create new concepts, new percepts, for new becomings.

So, what we are interested to listen to in these talks, besides the questions we have already formulated, is about the status of the work of art (the intellectual aspect of art practice) understood as something intimate, clandestine, realized in solitude, but that consecutively enters into several mediations in order to be shared. This probably could be asked as, what is an artist? what does an artist do? what is her field of work? is the artist of today only an economic actor and the cultural managers brokers? what happened with creation? does it subsist in art? If it does, what subsists after creation hits the market? What subsists after this passage from solitude to reception, if still, something passes?

  1. Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy? 

  2. Courbet had a very clear left wing orientation seen on his participation in the Paris Commune or on his friendship with the french anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. 

  3. “I consider that having an idea, in any case, is not on the order of communication. This is the point I was aiming for. Everything we are talking about is irreducible to any communication. This is not a problem. What does it mean? Primarily, communication is the transmission and propagation of information. What is information? It is not very complicated, everyone knows what it is. Information is a set of imperatives, slogans, directions—order-words. When you are informed, you are told what you are supposed to believe. In other words, informing means circulating an order-word. Police declarations are appropriately called communiqués. Information is communicated to us, they tell us what we are supposed to be ready to, or have to, or be held to believe. And not even believe, but pretend like we believe. We are not asked to believe but to behave as if we did. That is information, communication. And outside these orders and their transmission, there is no information, no communication. This is the same thing as saying that information is exactly the system of control. It is obvious and it particularly concerns us all today… Let’s say that is what information is, the controlled system of the order-words used in a given society.” Gilles Deleuze. What is the Creative Act?  

  4. “What relationship is there between the work of art and communication? None at all. A work of art is not an instrument of communication. A work of art has nothing to do with communication. A work of art does not contain the least bit of information. In contrast, there is a fundamental affinity between a work of art and an act of resistance. It has something to do with information and communication as an act of resistance. What is this mysterious relationship between a work of art and an act of resistance when the men and women who resist neither have the time nor sometimes the culture necessary to have the slightest connection with art ? I do not know. Malraux developed an admirable philosophical concept. He said something very simple about art. He said it was the only thing that resists death. Let’s go back to the beginning: What does someone who does philosophy do? They invent concepts. I think this is the start of an admirable philosophical concept. Think about it… what resists death? You only have to look at a statuette from three thousand years before the Common Era to see that Malraux’s response is a pretty good one. We could then say, not as well, from the point of view that concerns us, that art resists, even if it is not the only thing that resists. Whence the close relationship between an act of resistance and a work of art. Every act of resistance is not a work of art, even though, in a certain way, it is. Every work of art is not an act of resistance, and yet, in a certain way, it is.” Gilles Deleuze. What is the Creative Act?  

  5. “The material culture of a society is the universal system of Things, i.e., the socially expedient material forms created by humanity through the transformation of so-called natural forms. Material culture is both the production and consumption of material values. From the point of view of material culture, any machine represents both a technical, productive form and an everyday, consumer form. Technology as a whole is both the instrument and environment of social labor, its formal-everyday condition.” Boris Arvatov. Everyday Life and the Culture of the Thing. 

  6. “To my mind… the first essence of creativity… is the creative process of sharing…what really interests me is the shared experience of life…and how to express that in some way… and huge amounts of work that we did as a band (Crass) was simply an attempt to share our life…” Penny Rimbaud from Crass.