September 2, 2011 - e-flux journal - Issue no. 27 “Alternative Economies”
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September 2, 2011

Issue no. 27 “Alternative Economies”

Issue no. 27
“Alternative Economies”

e-flux.com/journal/issue/27

“Alternative Economies”

We can now say with some certainty that one advantage of the Cold War was that it placed many of the complexities and contradictions of economic problems within a clear and singular binary between capitalism and communism. On top of that, arguments in favor of one or the other had massive geopolitical blocs backing them, and the sheer scale alone was enough to draw any economic argument into the tide of one side or the other. This made it only natural for dominant narratives following the dismantling of communism to profess the triumph of capitalism. However, it is only now that the logic of global capitalism has begun to collapse from within that we are forced to consider the fact that economic value and actual worth have actually been floating on parallel tracks this entire time.

Of course, in the field of art as we know it, easy solutions for this tension have never been an issue. On the contrary, the field has always been subsidized by public funding, wealthy patrons, and personal assets precisely on the basis that art surpasses clear and straightforward valuation in economic terms. On the one hand this has made for a strange hybrid economy where a humanist tradition also has its own commodity market, while on the other it has managed to remain a sphere in which a lack of faith in any terms for clear economic validation has somehow managed to remain intact. Even officially in many cases, public and private funding alike would flow to art precisely because art was understood to provide an exception to the geopolitical rule.

Now, all the signs say there is a good chance much of this support will dry up, and that before too long we will all be poor. But at the same time, this likelihood is not the result of a single political agenda (though many politicians in places like the US and the Netherlands welcome the cuts), but a much broader series of collapses in a global economic system that by now eludes the possibility of identifying clear ideological friends and enemies. The problem really affects us all.

Still, the sources of art’s livelihood have always been dispersed, somewhat self-serving, and partly non-existent. This means that survival will probably not be a problem, and furthermore that the terms for that survival will be extremely interesting—even transformative. Art has always been made in a ghostly and somewhat treacherous economy built on solidarities and speculations, piracy and ideals: an alternative economy par excellence. As Lawrence Liang writes in his essay in this issue,
“Alternative economies are alternative not just because they are quaint, but because they have figured out a way of being in the world that extends the limits of what they can know by drawing their own boundaries of the knowable. If we are to face up to the challenge of the crisis of the arts, it would be through a recognition that our potential lies beyond the threshold of the possible.”

Now that the threat of imminent poverty is shrinking the field of available possibilities, it seems to be the opportune moment to consider how the incredible resourcefulness of artistic work can be deployed towards a more general reformulation of its terms for survival. In issue 27 of e-flux journal, essays by Paul Glover, Elizabeth Povinelli, Raqs Media Collective, Franco Berardi, and Lawrence Liang begin to address the question through concrete strategies for gaining economic autonomy, the anthropology of the gift, our time spent on earth as part of a commons, capitalist hyper-acceleration in the absence of any future worth looking forward to, and a “pirate” sense that defiantly demands access.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Lawrence Liang—Is it a Bird? A Plane? No, it’s a Magic Chair
An alternative economy would have to seek a language that does not just name a different economic process, but names different psychic energies amidst the prediction of gloom that normally accompanies the retreat of capital from all forms of life, including creative life. And yet it remains important to maintain that the mere presence of healthy public institutions does not guarantee a richer cultural life, just as their absence does not necessitate a poverty of cultural life.

Raqs Media Collective—Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time
Our mortality should be the gold standard of our life’s transactions with other lives. It is the metal to which we can peg all our currencies, all our instances of giving and taking to each other. Once we die, we can neither give nor receive, and all attempts to evade this fact, whether through inheritances or estates, are basically arbitrary attempts to pretend that death had in fact not occurred.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli—Routes/Worlds
Before banks, before currency, valuable things were placed in circulation as lines of credit whose ultimate end was to return to the sender having accumulated surplus value. In short, participants gave in order to increase their holdings, but this interested act created something more than the interested rational subject-it created moral obligations and social worlds.

Franco Berardi (Bifo)—Time, Acceleration, and Violence
Also in 1977, “competition” became the crucial word for the economy, whose project was to submit human relationships to the singular imperative of competition. The term itself became naturalized to the point where saying “competition” was like saying “work.” But competition is not the same as work. Competition is like crime, like violence, like murder, like rape. Competition equals war.

Paul Glover—Anti-Monopoly Money
Just as artists are essential to the movement of armies, which gather around music, uniforms, flags, so does the artist have a pivotal role in determining the future of money, and the future of the economy. So why shouldn’t artists create their own money? It will not be Monopoly money, but anti-monopoly money. It will be real money to the extent that people trade with it.

The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
Amsterdam: De Appel / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Andratx: CCA Andratx Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Athens: OMMU Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Baden-Baden: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Monica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Belgrade: Cultural Center of Belgrade Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall / Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / do you read me? / NBK, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Pro qm Berlin and Zurich: Motto Bern: Kunsthalle Bern Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefeld: Bielefelder Kunstverein Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: Wiels Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) / Townhouse Gallery Calgary: The New Gallery Cambridge: Wysing Arts Center Castello: Espai d´art contemporani de Castelló (EACC) Chicago: Graham Foundation / The Renaissance Society Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Copenhagen: Overgaden Dubai: Traffic Dublin: Dublin City, The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Łaźnia Genève: Centre de la Photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / Kunsthaus Graz / para_SITE Gallery Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Hamburg: Kunstverein Helsinki:Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Istanbul: BAS / CDA – Projects / DEPO / SALT Innsbruck: Galerie im Taxispalais Johannesburg: Center for Historical Reenactments Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandet Art Museum Kansas City: INKubator PRESS Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Caribic Residency / Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija London: Architectural Association/Bedford Press / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery/ The Showroom / Visiting Arts / Zabludowicz Collection Los Angeles: REDCAT Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / Pensart Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art Mexico City: Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture Moscow/ Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop, Haus der Kunst Munich New Delhi: Sarai CSDS New York: e-flux / Independent Curators International (ICI) / Printed Matter, Inc Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary Omaha: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Oslo: Kunstnernes hus Oxford: Modern Art Oxford Padona: Fondazione March Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers / Palais de Tokyo Philadelphia: Bodega Pori: Pori Art Museum Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, (PICA) / Publication Studio Prague: Dox Centre for Contemporary Art Prishtina: Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina Providence: AS220 Reykjavik: Reykjavik Art Museum Riga: Kim? Rio de Janeiro: Capacete Rome: Opera Rebis Rotterdam: Witte de With Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, Centre D’art Contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace São Paulo: Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art Seoul: The Books / The Book Society Sherbrooke: Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery St Erme Outre et Ramecourt: Performing Arts Forum St Louis: White Flag Projects Stockholm: Bonniers Konsthall / IASPIS / Index / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Sydney: Artspace Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia / Fillip / Motto / READ Books, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC, Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zacheta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki / Zacheta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art, NPAK Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, DeLVe Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space.

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