Thursday, 29 September 2011

On Value at Seventeen Gallery: 12th Oct - 12th Nov 2011 London

Curated by Gil Leung with artists:  Stuart Baker, Andrea Buettner, Liang & Liang, Charles Lofton, James Richards, and Ben Vickers

ON VALUE looks at the highs and lows of value's fluctuating cultural and economic form through the problem of judgment. Between use-value, value for money and moral values, the term remains ambiguous. The process of exchange is itself based upon a propensity for error and difference of opinion, where even currencies are dependent on their commodity status(1). Such vagueness around how and what we value spurs speculation as well as abuses of labour. This is particularly prevalent in cases where self-subsidised labour is traded at a loss for some form of exposure and theoretical appreciation in value. That value is so unstable and affected by judgement means that the current worth of something is generally either referred to a past market verifier or deferred to a future speculative one. Valuing anything more indeterminate that cannot be measured in some way against these referents becomes a risk. In this sense, how and what we value could be considered a problem of judgment rather than measurement - how we judge ourselves and other things.

From consensual verification to dissenting opposition, fashionable reference to obsolete currency, there is a constant fear of being judged and at the same time a fear of judging. Yet, judgement itself, having an opinion, is also having a voice. Resignation - the giving up of opinion or avoidance of judgement - does not necessarily change conditions for the better but rather perpetuates existing ones. To value without pre-validation, is, in some sense then, to take a radical and also potentially shameful position. One that is less about being right or even wrong but more about speaking up for something that speaks to you.

All works courtesy of the artists. With thanks to LUX, London.

(1)Ricardo, David., On Value, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, sourced from,'for from no source do so many errors, and so much difference of opinion in that science proceed, as from the vague ideas which are attached to the word value.'

Infomation from Seventeen Gallery.

Monday, 19 September 2011

terms & conditions with Margareta Kern and contributors presented by Iniva at Rivington Place

terms & conditions :  Who are the migrant workers?

The first session of the ‘terms & conditions’ series focused on the question ‘Who are the migrant workers today? (mapping precarious labour)’ using it as a way into opening up a complex landscape of increasingly precarious labour market, where the most vulnerable are exposed to abuse, de-skilling, low pay, under employment and dangerous working conditions.

The session opened with Dr Faiza Shaheen, who is an economist and a senior researcher with the New Economics Foundation, whose work is specifically focused on economic inequalities. She is the author of the report on the effect of the immigration cap ‘Why the Cap won’t fit’. Faiza brought really important stats into the picture –starting with the pay gap which is still present, male £8.56 and female £7.66 per hour, and then I was particularly struck by the two charts shown here (image 1 and 2), where we can see how the labour market is deeply affected by gender as much as by migration. Through her stats Faiza showed how the high salaries are getting higher and for those already on the low pay, they are getting even lower, the effect of it being, as Faiza used the term hollowing out of the middle.

Kevin Ward, Professor in Human Geography at the University of Manchester, and director of cities@manchester charted ways in which the labour market in the UK has changed in the last thirty years, with the restructuring of the public sector, expansion of low paying, poor quality private sector industries, and the turn towards contract and temporary labour market through the formalisation of informal internal arrangements, ‘contracting-out’, all this resulting in an increase of ‘non-standard’, often insecure or precarious employment forms, which affects those on the lower end of labour market, such as, but not exclusively, the migrant workers. The term that Kevin used particularly stuck with me – workplace/out of place.

Jose Louis Sanches, from the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS) who firstly introduced us to the work of the association –a migrant-led, self organising group of Latin-Americans working mostly in the service sector especially cleaning. Through self-organisation, education, collective actions and campaigns, the association’s mission is to expose and challenge exploitation and victimisation at the workplace. Jose Louse spoke of his own experience of working in the service industry, for employers such as west-end theatres and hospitals, who were paying below minimum wage, and would not meet the basic standards of health and safety. He also spoke of the deeply unjust practices of blackmail and threats of deportation by employers, using the precarious immigrations status of their employees would lower the wages and health & safety conditions. Jose Louis was part of the group of migrant workers who were detained, and six of his colleagues were deported, but with the support of LAWAS, other groups and IWW, he managed to get a solicitor and was released from detention.

To find out more about LAWAS visist, they organise language exchange classes (English-Spanish), so if you are interested you can join in every Saturday, from 10am to 12pm, Room L123b, London Road Building, 100-116 London Road, London South Bank University, SE1 6LN.

Precarious Workers Brigade, a UK-based growing group of precarious workers in culture and education, after a brief introduction, proposed to use the remaining time to create three working groups, to discuss and organise a campaign around three issues/questions. One group worked on a response to the new troubling development of aspirational border control, with the Arts Council becoming a ‘Designated Competent Body of the Home Office’, with the power to ‘assess applications from artists applying for Tier 1 visas to enter UK on the basis of their exceptional talent’.
A second group talked about ways in which cultural sector workers can forge solidarity links and campaigns with workers in other sectors, and the third group discussed ways in which ‘embarrassment’ can be used as a campaigning tool.  To find out more about the collective visit Precarious Workers Brigade and to join in. 

The combination of talks, discussions and workshop shifted the event into more of a hands-on session, with the issues we started mapping turned into questions around how do we address these unjust conditions and how do we build solidarities and networks that go beyond our immediate concerns, but are linked by the ever deepening precarity of working conditions.

This event opened up and addressed also the questions that are preoccupying me more and more, and which are obliquely behind the whole series ‘terms & conditions’: What moves us into action? What is the relationship of knowledge and action? What is the role of art(ist), art production, and an art institution in present moment of crises?

All the way through the series, in each event, I think there will be this inherent movement between mapping and understanding the ways in which terms and conditions in which we live and work are changing and becoming more precarious, but then also articulating how to re-claim those terms and conditions in which we want to work and live in.

Blog post by artist Margareta Kern, to find out more:  terms & conditions at Iniva for future events.

Friday, 9 September 2011

ARE YOU AN ARTIST IN NEED OF FAST CASH? Pawnshop at Thessaloniki Biennial

Forget gallery hassles GET CASH NOW! High! Fast! Immediate cash payments!  Come on down today! 
Pawnshop at Thessaloniki Biennial with e-flux
18 September–18 November 2011

Established by artists Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle in New York in 2008, PAWNSHOP went bankrupt at the beginning of the world financial crises, only to re-open successfully in Beijing and, most recently, at Art Basel.

Structurally, a pawnshop is a short-term loan business, which retains a collateral object (a camera, a ring, a guitar, a gun, and in this case an artwork) in exchange for a cash loan—a small fraction of the object's value that needs to be repaid with interest within a one-month period. If the owner of the pawned object does not return to collect it and repay the loan + interest within 30 days, the pawnbroker has the right to sell it.

What is of particular interest in pawnshops is the peculiar mixture of the illicit and the desperate, futurity and anticipation. The idea that the object is collateral for cash that might be traded back for the object during a set duration, could be put in other words, that works of art and money are just dancing in a choreography in which they might just circle back and meet again, and cancel each other out, but in fact rarely do.

All profits from PAWNSHOP have been donated to Doctors Without Borders.

PAWNSHOP Inventory:
Lucas Ajemian, Armando Andrade, Florian Aner, Artemio, Michael Baers, Christin Berg, Bik Van Der Pool, Julien J. Bismuth, Chloe Briggs, Mike Bouchet, Svetlana Boym, Francois Bucher, Andrea Büttner, Etienne Chambaud, Herman Chong, Branka Cvjeticanin, William Diaz, NICO DOCKX, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Annika Eriksson, Köken Ergun, Jakup Ferri, Jean-Pascale Flavien, Harrell Fletcher, Iris Flügel, Egan Frantz, Peter Freidl, Jaime Gecker, Carmen Gheorghe, Barbad Golshiri, Sara Greenberger-Rafferty, Antonia Hirsch, Klara Hobza, Ralf Homann, Sejla Kameric, Matt Keegan, Christoph Keller, Staš Kleindienst, Runo Lagomarsino, Andriana Lara, Annika Larsson, Sebastjan Leban, Kit Lee, David Levine, Liz Linden, Nuno daLuz, Rodrigo Mallea Lira, Lucas Moran, Gean Moreno, Shane Munro, Sina Najafi, Trine Lise Nedreaas, Carsten Nicolai, Lisa Oppenheim, Ernesto Oroza, Bernardo Oritz Campo, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Marion von Osten, Olivia Plender, Bettina Pousttchi, Khalil Rabah, Manuel Raven, Fay Ray, Joseph Redwood-Martinez, Anri Sala, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Julia Scher, Jessica Sehut, Matt Sheridan Smith, Aaron Simonton, Shelly Silver, Lucy Skaer, Michael Smith, Nedko Solakov, Francesco Spampinato, Peter Spillman Franz Stauffenberg, Eric Stephany, Martin Stiehl, SUPERFLEX/ COPYSHOP, Jalal Toufic, Andra Ursuta, Gabriela Vainsencher, Costa Vece, Lawrence Weiner, Ana Wolovick, Haegue Yang, Florian Zeyfang, Andrea Zittel

New works by:
Andreas Angelidakis, Uri Aran, Athanasios Argianas, Manfredi Beninati, Carolina Caycedo, Christina Dimitriadis, Jimmie Durham, Irini Karagianopoulou, Apostolos Kotoulas, Nikolaj Larsen, Carlos Motta, Theofanis Nouskas, Angelo Plessas, Mathilde Rosier, Tayfun Serttas, Socratis Socratous, Chryse Tsiota and others.

Forget the market! Forget the fair! Dollar is Low! Recession is Back!
It's time to shop… PAWNshop!

All information from

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Imaginary Economics: Contemporary Artists and the Big World of Money

A British artist who destroys all of his belongings, a Dutch artist's initiative that charts organization cultures, a Swiss artist who sells his right to participate in an exhibition via an online auction, an American artist who prints his own money and then succeeds in spending it . . . . This book examines the ways in which contemporary artists represent economic processes--no longer merely express their ideas about the market or subsidy systems through the media, but analyse and offer parodies of economic mechanisms in their work. (Information from Amazon).

Artists included in the book include:  Joseph Beuys, Christine Janowski, Meshac Gaba, Mark Lombardi to Santiago Sierra, Michael Landy, Maria Eichorm and others.

The book was published in 2005, however it resonates even more with today's implications of the financial economy and economies we experience in our everyday lives.  Art historian and Economist Olav Velthius provides a good starting point in understanding how artists engage with the subjects of economies and translate them into visual formats and for physical experiences.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Informality - art, economics, precarity

SMBA (Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam)  14 August - 2 October 2011

Jose Antonio Vega Macotela, Time Exchange 108, 2007

The exhibition ‘Informality’ arises from the increasing attention to banking economy and the interest in alternatives to that, an interest also expressed within the arts. The most recent example of this is TimeBank, by Anton Vidokle and Juliete Aranda. The work involves a network of bank branches in art institutions – including Stroom, in The Hague – for which the central ‘currency’ is not money, but time, in the form of ‘Hour notes’ that circulate among the bank’s clients. The artwork, functions as a commentary on a form of capitalism directed (and misdirected) at the banks, here it becomes a form of alternative economy in and of itself. 

Specifically, the exhibition ‘Informality’ focuses on the concept of the informal economy. The informal economy is part of the commercial and service sectors that operate outside the circuit of formal financial transactions –and therefore outside normal banking channels – and is thus hidden from the oversight of the Revenue Service and other governmental institutions that control business and economic affairs. In the West, the informal economy makes up a relatively small part of the total economy: in The Netherlands it is estimated to be about 11%. That is not insignificant; one can think, for instance, of illegal or semi-legal work such as prostitution and domestic help, criminality and fraud, traffic in drugs and people, but also flea markets, EBay, volunteer work and bartering. On other continents, such as Africa and Latin America, but also in former East Bloc countries, the informal economy often makes up the largest part of the total economy.

Artists include:  Marc Roig Blesa, Rogier Delfos, Domestic Workers Union, Matthijs de Bruijne Detour (Marnix de Klerk / NinaMathijsen), Doug Fishbone, Kaleb de Groot, Jose Antonio Vega Macotela and Senam Okudzeto.

Information from the SMBA website and newsletter.

Friday, 12 August 2011

EVERYTHING MUST GO with artist group Foreign Investment

Everything Must Go with artist group Foreign Investment, 2011

Everything Must Go is a playful project by the artist group Foreign Investment. This commissioned project for Chinese Arts Centre, takes a highly engaged approach to connect the Centre and the public. Everything Must Go offers a unique experience for visitors to actively involve themselves as suppliers, producers and investors throughout the different stages of the exhibition.

In the first instance, members of the public are invited to participate by donating unwanted consumer objects for an 'upgrade.' Then a group of volunteers recruited locally will work with the artists to gold-gild the objects. The final upgraded product will be available for public to purchase in the art sale at the end of the exhibition.

Information from the Chinese Arts Centre website. To visit project information: Everything Must Go or information on Foreign Investment.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Post-Fordism and its discontents

Post-Fordism and its discontents publication

How to rethink the recent transformations of global capitalism in the light of its manifold internal fractures and contradictions? The book Post-Fordism and its discontents addresses complex connections between culture and economy in order to scrutinise what underpins the logic of late capitalism. Post-Fordist theories have offered a very provocative and illuminating slant on the developments within the new regime of capitalist accumulation. In many ways, this theoretical research challenges mainstream economic and cultural theories.

Contributions by Sergio Bologna, Katja Diefenbach, Gal Kirn, Zdravko Kobe, Gorazd Kovačič, Sandro Mezzadra, Rastko Močnik, Ciril Oberstar, Igor Pribac, Jacques Rancière and Marina Vishmidt.

Editor:  Gal Kirn

From the Jan Van Eyck Academy