Art After Neoliberalism

In “Count Zero”, the 1986 sequel to his genre-defining cyberpunk novel “Neuromancer”, William Gibson described a gallery system based on ownership of shares in unimaginably expensive artworks circulating in the market.

Gibson’s Reagonomic future is almost our present. Pension funds for artists leverage collections of artworks, loans are offered against artworks by banks, and the super-rich use artworks as market-index-beating commodities. But in Gibson’s future the artwork was still a painting, and the market stopped at the frame.

Neoliberalism’s “market” is an indexical environment, the “information” it contains is linked to real-world effects with ethical import. Like the representations of art, market information is based on “figures”, and like art those figures can be positive and negative and create meaning by interrelation. Leverage is a form of abstraction. And financial vehicles are compositions of abstracted figures.

This isn’t to say that the FTSE 100 creates a line so economics is a form of drawing. It is to say that the market has form and aesthetics.

Leveraging the value not of artworks but of classes of artworks is simple. Create an Impressionist fund. They already exist. But this stops at the frame. If the market is truly the undeniable gravitational rule of the age, it should reach into the artwork.

An artwork consists of figures and their relations with aesthetic properties and iconographic qualities.

Leveraging the value of aesthetic properties or iconographic/semiotic entities is simple once it is recognized that the economic and art historical value of an artwork can vary based on their relative cachet. Aesthetic financial instruments/vehicles can reach into and across artworks, collaterolizing changes in the value of their form, content and subject.

This raises the possibilities of shorting, asset stripping, penny shares, spam, gold farming and other exploits within the market for aesthetic/semiotic/iconographic vehicles. Since these economic developments are tied to the artworks, they will be developments within the artworks as well.

This means that the vehicles will affect the artworks as well as the artworks affecting the vehicles. I don’t mean that the artworks should be visualizations of the figures of the vehicles. I mean that the artworks will be affected by these. This is a particularly pure representation of the neoliberal fantasy. Art is the place for such things.

Art shows things as they are known to be rather than as they actually are, whether the mediaeval end of the world or individual liberty. Jeff Koons’s carefully priced sculptures and Danica Phelps’s money stripes are precursors to an art that does not represent the aesthetics of neoliberal economics but is represented by them.

Hot stock, blue on gold…

[From notes made while on holiday earlier in the year and a comment at Art Fag City.]

Posted in Aesthetics