27 November 2011

Quote of the day, yay!

"Events like biennials, art festivals and buildings like a theatre, a Kunsthalle or a museum are ideal semi-public venues for the art scene around which creative ideas can circulate. You could say they form the concrete infrastructure. Or rather, they make the scene more visible - the non-seen scene becomes a seen scene. That primarily applies to artists whose work is displayed by the organizations in question or is on display in the buildings. The concrete infrastructure literally scenarizes the art scene thus making of it a more or less lasting artistic scene. And, incidentally, the displaying of the scene takes place in complete accordance with the rules of post-Fordist art.

The consequence is that someone works with a temporary contract or, in the art world itself, often without a contract - in what is always a vitalistic, project-based setting and of course with flexible, invariably night work, and irrepressible creative enthusiasm. In short, it involves a work ethic in which work is always enjoyable - or should be; in which dynamism is boosted unconditionally by young talent; and in which commitment outstrips money. That is what determines the spirit of the artistic scene. If you try to rationalize this great, spontaneous desire and freedom to work (for instance, by means of rigid contracts or labour agreements), bureaucratize or reutilize it, you are in danger of letting the metaphorical creative genie out of the bottle, or rather suffocate it.

However, we should not forget that creative work like this is always a form of cheap instable [sic] work - something that makes the art scene of great interest to outsiders like company managers and politicians. Not only does it boost the local economy and introduce the city into the world market. It also, and especially, reveals a biopolitical ethic that nowadays benefits the economy. The protagonists of the creative scene and economy appear not to believe 'Arbeit macht frei', as in the Nazi concentration camp, but 'Freiheit macht Arbeit' (freedom makes work).

The willing acceptance of flexible work in an artistic operation would make gratifying advertising for a temp agency. It is better to offer no opinion as to whether, with that rhetorical reversal, the concentration camp has become the central social matrix of all society as Giorgio Agamben claims. If the crossover between professional, public and domestic activities - but especially, on the one hand, the interplay between formality and informality, and, on the other, seeing and being seen - is exploited on the basis of economic rationalism, the cultivated freedom of the art scene gets uncomfortably close to the inhuman confinement of the camp. To make this link between scene and camp is no doubt carrying things too far. However, the point is that the freedom of the art scene within the capitalist mis-en-scène can merely provide a false autonomy, because it always stems from a well-defined (un-free) finality, primarily the pursuit of profit."

-- Pascal Gielen, 'Art Scene - Control Machine', Art and Activism in the Age of Globalization, NAi Publishers 2011

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