– Autumn/Winter 2006

Your Art World: Or, The Limits of Connectivity

Lane Relyea

For starters, consider the lounge. What exhibition today is complete without one? A good example was provided by 'Be Creative! Der kreative Imperativ', a show that opened at Zürich's Design Museum in late 2002. Participating artists, designers, architects and theorists contributed projects devoted to the themes of neo-liberal economic policy, flexible business management and immaterial labour.

To get a sense of the show's layout, think hip dot-com startup. Or, in the words of its curator, the Swiss artist Marion von Osten, 'a modern space for living and working, ranging from the loft to the open-plan office, alternating production and regeneration, and using game tables, advisory literature and chill out zones'.1

Now compare this to the more recent 'Make Your Own Life: Artists In & Out of Cologne' at the Philadelphia ICA, a show with a similar sounding title, also phrased in the imperative - only, rather than 'be creative', its command, following the marketing trend ignited by the popularity of websites such as MySpace andYouTube, was to customise and personalise, to be self-creative. ('"Our", "my" and "your" are consumer empowerment words', notes Manning Field, Senior Vice President for brand management at Chase Card Services.2) Whereas the Zürich show openly worried over the post-Fordist production protocols it critically mimed, the Philadelphia show stressed the liberating promise the creative personality holds out to society. Rather than flexibility, it talked about autonomy; rather than fret over neo-liberal appropriations of the artist as an idealisation of entrepreneurial subjectivity, it

  1. Marion von Osten, 'Be Creative! Der kreative Imperativ: Project Summary',  http://www.k3000.ch/becreative/summary.html. Last accessed 2 July 2006.

  2. Quoted in Stuart Elliott, 'Advertising: Nowadays, It's All Yours, Mine or Ours', The New York Times, 2 May 2006

  3. Bennett Simpson, 'Make Your Own Life', Make Your Own Life: Artists In & Out of Cologne (exh. cat.), Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2006, p.11.

  4. Gary McWilliams and Steven Gray, 'Slimming Down Stores', The Wall Street Journal, 29 April 2005; Jane J. Kim, 'A Latte with Your Loan?', The Wall Street Journal, 17 May 2006.

  5. Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, 'Culture Clubs', Mute, vol.18, September 2000, pp.23-24. See also Carol Kino, 'It's Time For Artists To Give Till It Hurts', The New York Times, 28 May 2006; and Eric Wilson, 'Using a White Shirt As Their Canvas', The New York Times, 11 May 2006.

  6. M.v. Osten, op. cit. See also Andrew Ross, No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs, New York: Basic Books, 2003.

  7. Besides the projects and writings of Osten and others involved in the 'temporary coalition' k3000 (www.k3000.ch), see Jan Verwoert, Die Ich-Ressource: zur Kultur der Selbst- Verwertung, Munich: Kunstverein München, 2003; Angela McRobbie, 'Everyone is Creative: Artists as New Economy Pioneers?', open- Democracy, 30 August 2001; and Aleksandra Mir (ed.), Corporate Mentality: An Archive Documenting the Emergence of Recent Practices Within a Cultural Sphere Occupied by Both Business and Art, New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2001.

  8. Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction, New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002, p.7.

  9. Quoted in Tim Griffin, 'Cabaret License', Artforum, January 2006, pp.94-96.

  10. Jacob Hale Russell, 'The Invisible Artist', The Wall Street Journal, 31 December 2005-1 January 2006.

  11. N. Bourriaud, op. cit., p.7.

  12. Ibid., p.12.

  13. Ibid., p.22.

  14. Ibid., pp.11 and 13.

  15. Douglas B. Holt, 'Why Do Brands Cause Trouble? A Dialectical Theory of Consumer Culture and Branding', Journal of Consumer Research, vol.29 no.1, June 2002, p.88. See also D. Holt, How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004. For a history of the decline of authoritarian mass-marketing practices starting in the 1960s, see Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997

  16. John Jurgensen, 'Record Labels Say: Mess with Us', The Wall Street Journal, 31 December 2005-1 January 2006. Even Charles Saatchi has caught the wave, 'subverting' the dealer system by launching the website YourGallery.com.

  17. Gilles Deleuze, 'Postscript on the Societies of Control', October, vol.59, Winter 1992, p.4.

  18. A single-functioning social network, excluding the other various networks it links to, supposedly includes on the average 125 members; the maximum is around 155. The introduction to the novel Reena Spaulings reports that '150 writers, professional and amateur ... contributed to' its writing. See Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings, New York: Semiotext(e), 2004; R.A. Hill and R.I.M. Dunbar, 'Social Network Size in Humans', Human Nature, vol.14, no.1, pp.53-72; and Mark S. Gronovetter, 'The Strength of Weak Ties',  American Journal of Sociology, vol.78, no.6, May 1973, pp.1360-80.

  19. John Kotter quoted in Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, p.25.

  20. Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, 'Art Capital', Art Monthly, vol.213, February 1998, pp.1-4.

  21. Brian Holmes, 'The Flexible Personality', Hieroglyphs of the Future, Zagreb: Arkzin, 2003.

  22. Kimberly Lloyd, 'Interview: Aleksandra Mir', M Publication, vol.3, 2004, p.166.

  23.  'The End of the Social' is famously the name of a chapter in Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, New York: Semiotext(e), 1983. For more upbeat formulations, see Jacques Donzelot, 'The Promotion of the Social', Economy and Society, vol.17, no.3, August 1998, pp.395-427; Nikolas Rose, 'The Death of the Social? Re-figuring the Territory of Government', Economy and Society, vol.25, no.3, August 1996, pp.327-56; Miami Theory Collective (ed.), Community at Loose Ends, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991; and Bill Readings, The University in Ruins, Cambridge and London:Harvard University Press, 1996, especially chapters 10 and 12.