Beyond Material Worth: Session 2


Peter G. Brown

Author and professor of geography at McGill University


Martha Buskirk

Author, editor, and professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art

Juliet Schor

Author, professor of sociology at Boston College, and co-founder and co-chair of the board of the Center for a New American Dream

Simran Sethi

Award-winning journalist, author, and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications


ESther T Thyssen wrote :

I just checked the conversations-- and wish I could see the exhibit! In the meantime I am in Italy, where it is awfully difficult to deny the materiality of art that has accrued over the centuries; and both the abundance of documentation and contracts (also accrued over the centuries) support art as a commodity. I am wondering though what the role of art could be (should be?) as we are attempting to reduce the focus on consumerism, and produce, use, and waste less.
ESther T Thyssen posted on 02/25/10
Emily Votruba wrote :

Artworks require feats of deep attention on the part of the maker and the witness. How can artists and witnesses devote attention when they are scrambling to deal with their most basic material needs? The notion/goal of "making a living" as an artist in our current society may demand a capitulation to the market and the production of commodities. On the other hand, many artists I know struggle against this state of affairs, until their work becomes quagmired in it; it becomes their subject, the problem of the commodification of art, as monstrous a subject as the robber baron's child sitting for her portrait. "Making a living" as an artist today necessitates "productivity," professionalism, careerism, self-branding, even and perhaps especially if one is not producing readily commodifiable objects. Perhaps the answer, in the absence of government or other public funding, and I know this sounds too cute by half, is to stop trying to make a living from art and instead make art a way of life, however infrequently one can actually make the work one really wants to make. Then maybe more of what one does make, in one's truly free time, will draw on visions of possibility or idiosyncratic insight rather than reify and reinforce the supposed state of the world. Artists like Tino Seghal, in his refusals, which have the effect of exposing and wrenching the works, may show us all how to do this, or at least show us that we can. Still, "valorizing the immaterial" may have limited utility. I personally would like to see more things made by humans--more different things made by more different humans, working in conditions of freedom and fearlessness. Currently only a relatively few people have enough room, broadly construed, to make things, and in securing that room for themselves, no matter how seemingly benign the means, they take it away from others. We have to examine the ways in which a full-time artist like Tino Sehgal, who doesn't even make objects, takes time and space away from others. In the future, perhaps, *everyone* will have enough room to make *some* kind of art.
Emily Votruba posted on 02/25/10

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