Living in the Art-Like Reality: Trading in Derivatives vs. Derivative Writing

Living in the Art-Like Reality: Trading in Derivatives vs. Derivative Writing

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3835-7.ch003
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This chapter aims to address the artification of financial markets and politics in a way of researching art-like procedures in both areas. The events and processes on financial markets resemble art in the sense of unpredictability, disruption, and flexibility; in this, art does not turn out to be an area that would be endangered or even destroyed by neoliberal capitalism; on the contrary, it also applies capitalist logic, in particular when it comes to accumulation, ideology of growth, and the surplus-value making. Art is a machine that consumes and totalizes all available components. There is nothing that could not enter into its drive. Contemporary activist art can also act as an explicit political force. It develops devices to achieve political goals, thereby completely abolishing artistic and aesthetic functions.
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In contemporary art, the artistic autonomy gives way to interactions between the contemporary art and various fields of non-artistic reality. There is an intense two-way traffic between art on the one hand and politics, economy, science, lifestyle, popular culture, social media, and the science on the other. Art is being politicized, economized, mediatized, commercialized, however, on the other hand, politics, economics, and media are becoming art-like, which means that either they accept artistic procedures, techniques, tools, and strategies, or they themselves produce similar zeitgeist shaped tools. Especially when it comes to cognitive labor in knowledge society the differences between artists and non-artists are increasingly being erased. Both artists and non-artists function in a world of unpredictability and risk, all trying to be creative, often using the same tools and producing new ideas. In doing so, they are limited by precarity which requires considerable flexibility and is also a 'companion' of workers in creative industries. In spite of problems, which mainly accompany deprivileged artists and art theoreticians, critics, and curators (postcolonialism, machismo, academic fascism), art even plays a pioneering role, as it generates procedures that can later be applied in other fields.

Contemporary art is defined by a strong tendency towards conceptuality; such tendencies, which presuppose the dematerialization of an object, also accompany the economy of financial markets which is connected to contemporary art with branding and trading in derivatives, while also being marked by extended accumulation and new production modality. Following the example of Beuys' expanded concept of art, we can talk about the expanded concept of economy as well as the expanded concept of politics. In both areas, we also encounter disruptive innovation (Bazzicheli, 2013).

For a greater part of the 20th century the political engagement of art had a bad reputation (for example, Soviet socialist realism and German “Nazi-Kunst”), because it was understood as propaganda art which tried to elevate and popularize the ideas of the political mainstream within its medium. On July 19, 1937, Degenerative art exhibition with more than 650 pieces of modernist and avant-garde art intended for ridicule was not the only one seen in Munich, as a few weeks later in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (Museum of German Art) the Grosse deutsche Kunstaustellung (Great German Art Exhibition) opened, presenting an exhibition of works by artists favoured by the German National Socialist state whose works were intended to glorify the German race and corresponded to the criterion of blood and soil. In the Soviet Union, as a socialist superpower during the two world wars, a special art was considered as the state representative, namely the socialist realism. The books of certain writers of this movement were mandatory reading for loyal citizens. Both Nazi-Kunst and socialist realism were therefore in bad books of the art theory and criticism after World War II. Only with contemporary art and its institutions (curators, theorists, museums) was there a paradigm shift in the sense that also the art that is functioning politically started to be regarded as a relevant part of contemporary art and its development in the direction of social interventions was even encouraged.

It is essential to realize that art intervening in the broader social reality is not one, but that we are rather contemporaries of a noticeable turn in this very art, which encompasses everything from utopian projects and related movements to purely political art, committed to exclusively social, humanitarian, and political goals. As an example of the previous, the utopian artistic orientation, let us mention the Joseph Beuys' concept of social sculpture, as the examples of the latter, include projects that are explicitly political and only slightly visionary, intervening in an extra-artistic reality in a way that has little to do with art (e.g., the Electronic Disturbance Theater and The Yes Men). Both artistic orientations coincide with two fundamentally different social contexts; the first corresponds to May 68 and the manifestation of new sensibility in terms of a political and liberating factor (from the hippie movement to counter-culture), while the other corresponds with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the rise of neoliberal capitalism, as well as nationalist right-wing movements in Europe and the United States.

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