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The False Calculations Presidium

flsclcltnsprsdm.cc



,
,
15 21 2012

The book is published on the occasion


of the exhibition
The False Calculations Presidium
Museum of Business and Philanthropy, Moscow

The False Calculations Presidium

/ Moscow, 2012

February 15 April 21, 2012

C ATA L O G U E

Editors
Anastasia Ryabova
Dmitry Potemkin

V-A-C
(
)
,



,

,

textandpictures

THE EXHIBITION
I S O R GA N I S E D BY:
Curator
Anastasia Ryabova
V-A-C Foundation,
(Victoria
the Art of being Contemporary)
Teresa Iarocci Mavica, director
Katerina Chuchalina
Maria Mkrtycheva
Olga Sharkovich
Anna Bogdanova
Museum of Business
andPhilanthropy
Elena Kalmykova, director

BodoniGlobal
PragmaticaC

Texts by
Irina Alexandrova
Daria Atlas
Alex Buldakov
Sergey Guskov
Olga Zhitlina
Nicolas Audureau
Adam Leeds
Nikolai Ridnyi
Anastasia Ryabova
Maria Chekhonadskikh
Translations
Carleton Copeland
Inna Kushnareva
Vera Akulova
Lilia Lyubarsky
Design
textandpictures
Photography
Anastasia Ryabova
Photo editing
Maxim Gudkov
Proofreader
Larisa Zvyagintseva
Fonts
BodoniGlobal
designed by Elena Novoselova
PragmaticaC
Printed by
UP-Print

-
ISBN 978-5-4253-0351-6

/ Contents

10

17

26

68
M U S E U M O F C A P I TA L I S M
Anastasia Ryabova

72
LIVING WITH THE ECONOMY
Adam Leeds

78
T H E VA L U E O F A R T
Nicolas Audureau

86

RAMEAUS NEPHEW

AND HIS MODERN BROTHERS

Maria Chekhonadskikh

38

96

A SOCIETY OF GARDEN PLOTS

Nikolai Ridnyi

43

61

50

WORKS

57
ARTISTS

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Paris: LArche, 1994.

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56

ARTISTS

Ivan Brazhkin
Born in 1985 in Rostov-on-Don.
Lives and works in Moscow.
Ivan Brazhkin works in the genres of
sculpture, graphic art, video and artistic
actions. His work critiques the period of
capitalisms normalization, when new
market values cultivating individualism
and consumption were superimposed
on the old ways of life. A Soviet rug
(adust catcher in popular humor) is
turned from a symbol of petit bourgeois
comfort into a banner (Shame on the
Bourgeois Louses! a collaboration
with Anastasia Potemkina), while a
chest expander, formerly popular with
Soviet workers, becomes an expression
of strength (Fucking Strong). An urban
context is of paramount importance
for many of Brazhkins works: his
sculpture Sniper is left in a half-ruined
building near the fashionable art center
where the exhibition is being held, and
Homeless Person, asculpture in the
style of a bourgeois garden gnome,
sleeps in the bushes of an officially
refurbished Gorky Park. Brazhkin
demonstrates the schizophrenia of
post-Soviet consciousness: trendy
places for the leisure and cultural
pursuits of Moscow youth and the
middle class are cleansed of the
dclass majority. To live in such a
society, the majority have to act like
German garden gnomes. Brazhkins art
lays bare the absurd logic of life under
capitalism, where extreme poverty
coexists with cynical opulence, and the
remnants of Soviet aesthetics are found
alongside the post-Soviet nouveau. In
this new dialectic, the artist takes the
side of the oppressed. MC

historical experience of art with the current context, and the current context
with philosophical analysis. For a better
understanding of his work, we must turn
to the artists focus of investigation: the
phenomenon of error, regarded ontologically. The human being is a kind of
machine, but one that functions properly only when it doesnt work. This malfunctioning, this failure to work properly,
is sobering, shocking or disturbing. In
the video series Excess, ordinary Moscow cityscapes are turned into a surreal
nightmare: from his car window, a driver
sees a man hanging from a billboard. An
aerial view of standard high-rise buildings evokes monstrous futuristic forms.
In the project Design Correction, the
artist discloses the unbearableness of
being in a quiet, cozy world of offices
and bedroom communities. Standardized furniture a table, a chair, shelves
filled with binders is violently broken,
scratched, cracked and punctured.
Buldakovs restructuring of human life
begins with an aesthetic protest against
capitalisms petit bourgeois routine. In
his ontology, a mistake of nature (Urban
Fauna Zoo, a collaboration with Anastasia Potemkina and Dmitry Potemkin) or
a breakdown in communication (Mute)
is in the vanguard of subversive activity.
And the artist invites us to join this new
avant-garde. MC

Zachary Formwalt
Born in 1979 in Albany, Georgia.
Lives and works in Amsterdam.

Central to Zachary Formwalts work is


an exploration of financial processes
and the Western economic tradition as
these relate to the historical evolution
of technical media and photojournalism. Formwalt strives for a minimum
of artistry in his works, gravitating
toward a dry, documentary aesthetic.
Alex Buldakov
His works are rooted in a study of
Born in 1980 in Kostroma.
archival documents on the history of
Lives and works in Moscow and Vienna. economics and journalism. He often
returns to the same theme in multiple
Alex Buldakov works in the genres
works. For example, the worlds first
of animation, video, graphic art and
magazine photograph is the point of
installations. His aesthetic predilecdeparture for a film (Through a Fine
tions include abstract painting, design,
Screen), a photo history (Vanderbilts
architecture, the Soviet avant-garde
Wants) and a book created by the artand conceptual art, to name but a few.
ist (Reading the Economist). Formwalt
Buldakov feels cramped within the
visits sites of the concentration of capilimits of any tradition. He connects the
tal and subtly critiques the system from

57

an economic perspective. The artist


focuses on stock exchanges, the works
of Marx and books on economic theory.
One work is a series of photographs
taken in Amsterdams business district,
where many streets are named after
famous economists: John Maynard
Keynes, Karl Marx, Adam Smith. All of
Zachary Formwalts art is an attempt
to trace the immaterial (economic processes and the movement of money)
through the prism of material photo and
video media, to penetrate the invisible
by gazing intently at the visible. DA

Alice Joffe
Born in 1987 in Tashkent.
Lives and works in Moscow.
Today, when the means of producing
images have long since gone beyond
simple photography and incorporated
such notions now intrinsic to the
analysis of images as authenticity,
instantaneity (of production and dissemination) and ubiquity, Alice Joffes
decision to paint is practically a form
of resistance against contemporary
aesthetic criteria and the time and
ease of production. This can be seen
as a choice in favor of autonomous
production with its own economy, like
that of an artisan. From an aesthetic
point of view, Joffes pictures reveal an
affinity for the material of painting, an
approach always oscillating between
being and representation. It could
be called organic abstractionism or
geometric matierism. The corporality
of her painting comes through in the
human figure, in painting itself, in the
depiction of sexual organs and the color red. Female and male genitals, the
eroticizing of color and material, and
figurative abstraction suggest interlocking bodies: black in red on white, a
red vertical element on a curved white
surface against a black background,
etc. Her partiality for the body or a hint
of its presence is also apparent in a
series of corpses lone, motionless
bodies in abstract surroundings. Again
material takes the place of landscape.
But Alice Joffes canvases reveal many
aspects in addition to painting per
se, including dtourned motifs. The
artist restores an aesthetic dimension to administrative motifs used for
official documents watermarks on

banknotes or passports by combining them and simultaneously rendering


them abstract. This series of pictures
and installations is united by the symbol, passage and rite of initiation.
Our stubborn gaze wants desperately
to cling to figures of thought, but all
of Alice Joffes work poises on the
edge between being here and not
being here. NO

Irina Korina
Born in 1977 in Moscow.
Lives and works in Moscow.
Irina Korina is one of the most recognizable artists of the early twenty-first century. Her monumental works have been
represented in every important exhibition in the last decade. This should be
a sign of fantastic commercial success,
but in fact the reverse is true. Her works
remain outside market relations, acting
as pure Platonic forms. Its frightening
even to think of the dimensions they
would have assumed, had they been
commercially successful. The scarcity
of means for their reproduction and dissemination is a kind of natural barrier,
and it may be that to cross that barrier
would mean the collapse of the contemporary art market itself.
In The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque,
Gilles Deleuze says that the characteristic of the baroque is the fold that goes
on to infinity. So it is with Irina Korina:
her works take the form of folds and
bulges that she tries to transplant to the
external world, but they only multiply
and overlay each other, reflecting an
infinity of internal curves.
Her shift in recent years from explicitly
artificial materials to the most purely
organic branches, leaves, logs
hints at mysterious internal processes in
Korinas work. Or perhaps its a personal obsession expressed in the perennial
struggle between nature and culture. IA

Camille Laurelli
Born in 1981 in Montreuil-sous-Bois,
France. Lives and works just about
everywhere.
Camille Laurelli fits the definition of an
artist as an unproductive investigator
and amateur. He is unproductive
mainly because his activities dont

58

require great effort. They could even


be called lazy. He has no monumental
works, nor does he attempt to
revolutionize the consciousness of his
colleagues. Its common knowledge,
after all, that the fundamental limits
of art were probed inch by inch in the
twentieth century, making any revolution
today impossible a priori. Laurellis
laziness recalls Paul Lafargues book
The Right to Be Lazy, which dispels
the myth of work as a value. On the
other hand, Camille Laurellis pursuits
demand our attention not to their
aesthetic markup, but to its antithesis
the poetry of ordinary objects.
If he isnt productive, Camille Laurelli
is unquestionably an investigator. He
studies odd and at times disturbing
situations in ordinary life: sunlit hair,
chess pieces on the sand, an hourglass
made of cigarettes ... An ordinary
oddity is a saving contradiction
that the artist cultivates to refresh
our perceptions and confront us
with practical questions of the
phenomenology of perception.
Finally, Laurelli the amateur stands
over against professionalism, which
requires a productive practice. Hes an
amateur in the sense that hes always
reinventing his practice, in which each
act (gesture, photo, poem or installation) is an unexpected occasion for
doing or redoing what he doesnt know
how to do in the first place. NO

designers of movie theater ads, beach


changing rooms and cafe interiors. In
the peculiar archaeology of the visual,
the capacity to love an ordinary thing
(alost mitten, for instance, that a
passer-by has fitted on a branch for its
owner to find) exhibits both a therapeutic autism and a complete denial of the
things proper function. In Alice Nikitinovas works, a thing has only form and
content, thus verging on abstraction,
and this precludes our determining the
artists degree of emotional involvement in the theme of the exhibition. IA

Anastasia Potemkina
Born in 1984 in Moscow. Lives and
works in Moscow.

An architect by training, Anastasia


Potemkina gave up her profession for
the subversive practices of contemporary art. This trajectory from construction to deconstruction might be seen as
decadence, as backing down without
a fight, if Potemkinas artistic gestures
didnt raise questions about the rights
and means of existence in an urban
environment. She tries, for instance,
to circumvent rigid city plans by luring
ducks onto the road to block traffic in
a sudden incursion of nature. Or she
creates an Urban Fauna Zoo to tell the
history of mans long cohabitation with
rats, sparrows, cats and other companions of civilization, illustrating the
dramatic roles theyve played in social
Alice Nikitinova
and political conflicts (a joint exhibition
Born in 1979 in Zhatets, Czechoslovawith Alex Buldakov and Dmitry Potemkia. Lives and works in Prague.
kin). The unexpected way in which the
theme of existential rebellion is turned
Ozhegovs Dictionary of the Russian
in the direction of cultural and historical
Language defines thingism (veshreflection and paradoxical gestures sets
chizm) as a predilection for things, for Anastasia Potemkinas work apart from
material values to the detriment of spir- the Russian protest art that has become
itual values. Alice Nikitinova is infected virtually an export brand. OZ
with just that, but without finding it
detrimental or discomforting in the
Dmitry Potemkin
least. If anything, its viewers who may
Born in 1989 in Moscow.
feel uncomfortable or awkward when
confronted with a naked object brazenly Lives and works in Moscow.
demanding their attention, whether its
In recent years, Dmitry Potemkin
a road sign or a found piece of pipe.
has been prominent among the new
The idea of seeking unusual objects
generation on the Moscow art scene.
in everyday surroundings and capturHis role, however, is hard to define in
ing them on photographic paper or
the art systems commonly accepted
canvas is characteristic of the eightterms. His translations, criticism, edities ageneration poor in glossy ad
language, but abounding in anonymous ing and involvement in exhibitions and

public discussions defy notions of neatly bounded professional activities. In


2009 he began writing for Moscow Art
Magazine and a year later became one
of its editors. Concurrently, he collaborates with the Free Marxist Publishing
House, working with the texts of Terry
Eagleton, Michael Lowy, Slavoj iek
and others. Texts led to his involvement
in exhibition work. Urban Fauna Zoo,
a collaboration with Alex Buldakov and
Anastasia Potemkina, develops Michel
Serress reflections on the phenomenon of parasitism. The caged animals
are neither domestic nor wild, and
the artists try to situate each species
in world history. In Forms of Kinship,
Potemkin pairs philosophers with cartoon characters and pop culture heroes
solely on the basis of external features.
In another work, books by popular
theorists have formed a Critical Mass
and are spilling out of a shuttle traders
bag. Potemkin takes the most diverse
approaches in his statements/explorations, never getting caught up in a specific genre, and pursues his interests
both inside and outside the art community. OZ

Nikolai Ridnyi
Born in 1985 in Kharkiv.
Lives and works in Kharkiv.
Its no exaggeration to say that Nikolai
Ridnyi has been a formative influence
on the Kharkiv art scene in recent
years. In 2005 he and Anna Kriventsova opened the artist-run space
SOSka in downtown Kharkiv a site
and environment for experimentation. Later they were joined by Sergey
Popov. Thats how the SOSka Group
was formed.
The theme of environment (or its
absence) and of contemporary art as a
universal export commodity is central
to Ridnyis work. In the Barter project, Ridnyi and other members of the
SOSka Group drove from village to village in a car packed with reproductions
of classic contemporary art. The artists
staged exhibitions for elderly villagers,
their dogs, chickens and other charges
and offered to trade prints for fresh
produce. Video recordings of how the
villagers made their selections suggest
an alternative system of evaluation and
pricing unobscured by convention.

59

In many of his projects, Nikolai Ridnyi


sorts things out with the authorities.
Under the Cloud consists of pseudo
intelligence materials filmed at demonstrations, with the faces of suspects
outlined in red. In a street installation,
the artist places concrete letters spelling
out the word Authorities in front of Perm
City Hall. By using the conveniently sized
letters as benches, visitors can put pressure on the authorities with their weight
alone. Years from now, the concrete may
give way under this human weight, and
the issue of relations with the authorities
will be settled once and for all. OZ

Vladislav Shapovalov
Born in 1981 in Rostov-on-Don.
Livesand works in Moscow.

Vladislav Shapovalov comes from


a family of physicians. In 1998 he
became editor-in-chief and publisher
of the Radek Communitys bulletin,
HandRadek, which he formed to collect the sediment of thought that
built up in the heated discussions of
young nonconformists. Shapovalov is
a typical postmodern of the nineties.
He makes no distinction between high
and low: poststructuralist film criticism, medical jargon and letters from
perverts in the gutter press all this
Anastasia Ryabova
is fused together in the blast furnace
Born in 1985 in Moscow.
of his paraliterary inspiration. He never
Lives and works in Moscow.
set out to be an artist. On the contrary,
he shuns the categories of official culArtist, gallery owner, curator, author of
ture, treating them as might Melvilles
projects and theoretical platforms and
Bartleby the Scrivener. Shapovalov
pioneer in opening up new exhibition
uses his sophisticated verbal and
space Anastasia Ryabova combines
textual constructions as a means of
all of these identities. Her capacity for
breaking down communication barriers
meticulous documentation and output
in real time. Under such an onslaught,
of catalogues and other information
even the most formal conversation
products make her an archivist and cus- threatens to wind up in the gutter.
todian of the visual. It was this passion
Anecdotes, a collaboration with Valery
for endlessly reshuffling images and the Chtak, is a rare case in which one of
quest for formal/schizoid connections
his improvised verbal creations was
that gave birth to the project artistsprimade into art. The rest circulate as
vatecollections.org, an archive of works folklore among close friends or evapofrom artists private collections.
rate without a trace. Another anecdote
The lightness of Ryabovas painting
underlies the grandiose performance
is counterbalanced by the weight of
Theoretical Airborne Operation: whiteobjects. Painting is incorporeal, can
clad paratroopers caught in the trees
exist in computer files or catalogues
in a wood outside Moscow. Dangling
and has an unvarying symbolic value.
from their parachutes, these agents
An object, by virtue of its materiality,
of enlightenment use loudspeakers
itsweight, must claim as much territory to shout excerpts from Deleuze and
as it can not by intruding but, on the Guattaris Capitalism and Schizocontrary, by repelling potential owners. phrenia. Having dropped from the sky
Another distinctive feature of Ryabovas without reaching the ground, they look
work is its seamlessness. Her projects
comical and incongruous. But at least
are impossible to periodize; most of her
they tried. AB
exhibitions look more like reports on work
completed in a specific calendar period.
Maxim Spivakov
Nor can a neat line be drawn between
purely virtual projects and wholly material Born in 1984 in Moscow.
Lives and works in Moscow.
artifacts that cant be captured on film
or video. Her work with artistsprivatecollections.org, supostat.org, megazin.biz, Maxim Spivakov, like so many reprecuratorial and printing initiatives, objects sentatives of the Moscow school of
and paintings is all under way simultane- conceptual art, is a graduate of the
ously on a single conveyor belt. Ryabova University of Printing Arts and works
uses all of these projects to rethink insti- on books in parallel with his explorations in contemporary art. In the sixties
tutional conventions and shake up the
and seventies, an artist could work on
status quo. IA

books to avoid being sucked into Soviet


official art, but today book design is
part of the official market culture, while
the territory of art remains more saturated with meaning.
Spivakovs aesthetic views are
influenced by the Russian Itinerants
(Peredvizhniki) and the Soviet avantgarde. But where the avant-garde went
from art to the restructuring of human
life, Spivakov works with design,
critiquing it from the perspective of a
contemporary artist. His art intrudes
into everyday life (One Hand Giveth,
the Other Taketh Away), rethinking the
key design issues of circulation, reproduction and the relations between text
and image (Copies).
The oppositional currents of modernist
aesthetics (and politics) have become
part of a creative economy (advertising, marketing, political strategy). Narrative banners and posters made by
Spivakov for street protests divert the
viewer from simple cliches about the
consumption of a political message that
are so entrenched in both commercial
and protest rhetoric. The artist tries to
disrupt the common sense of visual
iconography, statements and gestures,
insisting on an alternative program for
the restructuring of design. MC

plays on the Slavonic word supostat,


meaning the Adversary, or Devil. There
is also a reference to the tradition of
Soviet newspeak, in which supostat
could be a contraction of super statistics. If we recall Soviet antireligious
propaganda, then supostat becomes
a contemporary equivalent of young
atheist. Project participants thus
understand their mission as being
antireligious propaganda in contemporary art. They root out the spirit
ofcapitalism that opium of artists
exposing its cults and strategies of
deception. MC

Anna Witt
Born in 1981 in Wasserburg.
Livesand works in Vienna.

Anna Witt works in the genres of performance art, living sculpture and urban
interventionism. Her works are most
often documented in the form of video
installations. But this genre classification is more conventional than anything
else, since the borders between the
media she employs are always open.
Each of Witts projects is an aggregate
composition. The artist seeks new
forms of social performance, combining choreography and the plastic arts
with the canonical methods of social
Alexander Verevkin
and political art: activist explorations,
Born in 1977 in Togliatti.
work with urban communities and
Lives and works in Samara and Togliatti. historical reconstruction. She tries to
involve various social groups in a perAlexander Verevkin is the embodiment formative act capable of deconstructof Joseph Beuyss idea that everyone ing stereotyped behaviors, gestures of
is an artist. Completely cut off from
violence and control, social rituals and
the contemporary art milieu due to the habits of everyday and professional life.
time and place of his birth, in the late
Witt has worked with security guards,
1990s Verevkin managed to carry on
soldiers, immigrants, women, blue-cola productive correspondence with the lar workers and people from rural areas.
majority of large Western museums
In her interventions, the artist tries to
and galleries. He sent out letters tellovercome the loss of public spirit and
ing a little about himself and including the retreat into private life, to open
a couple of his works and in return
up professional and ethnic ghettos.
received packages of catalogues with Her performances are often based on
encouraging comments. Perhaps that simple gestures that privilege nonverbal
supostat.org
was how he formed the conviction
language and body contact. Witts perthat an artist could be self-taught and formative interventions diagnose social
Supostat is a media project launched
didnt need anything else. He didnt
problems, but above all they transform
in 2011 by Anastasia Ryabova, Alex
need favors from the art scene
the subjectivity of their participants. MC
Buldakov, Sergey Guskov and Vladislav either.
Shapovalov. Supostats members
Verevkins graphic work is stylistiinitiate discussions and programs of
cally akin to early twentieth century
collective exploration involving artbook illustrations, and this conveys
ists, theorists, curators and cultural
acalm, contemplative mood, a sense
activists. The goal of this initiative is
of cool precision. The artist himself,
an understanding of the machinery
however, is extremely dynamic and
behind the Moscow art system, whose verbal. He lets his words flow as freely
workings remain veiled and obscure
as the originators of Zaum, mixing
due to a web of informal relations.
autobiographical elements, bizarre
Project participants are interested in
theories and striking observations on
cultural producers themselves, in the
the processes taking place in the art
sociology of the art environment and
community. Dismissing the very idea
the nontransparent, corrupt schemes
of financial dependence on cultural
of institutional politics. Supostat was
institutions and galleries, Verevkin
formed to battle the corporate style
experiments with how art can function
of post-Soviet cultural politics, to
outside of monetary relations, using
extirpate cabals and overturn the hier- the service getartworks.org, where any
archical pyramid in the art community. who wish can order free copies of his
Supostat functions as a discussion
work. Or they can simply take someclub, a laboratory, a kind of collective
thing of his at an exhibition and walk
research institute. The projects name out with it. IA

60

WORKS

Ivan Brazhkin. Words of G o l d , 2012 [8, 98]


Interactive object, 1722727 cm

by turning critical theory into a commodity. By opposing this way of capitalizing on Marx and by critiquing
critical art, the artist deliberately steps on his own tail
in a sly maneuver, a tour de passe-passe. DA

Alex Buldakov, Anastasia Potemkina, Dmitry Potemkin


, 2012. [29, 80] Installation

Think back to that famous scene in Jean-Luc


Godards Alphaville where the director mocks the
absurdity of forced consumption: the films protagonist, private eye Lemmy Caution, passes a vending
machine that invites him to insert a token. By force
of habit, he drops in a coin, only to get a thank-you
note in return.
Ivan Brazhkins Words of Gold is built around a
similar technique. As with other works in the artists
series of broken devices, he brazenly wrecks the
inner workings of an object, transforming its functions and meaning in the process. At base is the situationist technique of dtournement, which involves
re-coding the objects of mass culture. This technique
lies at the root of another of Brazhkins works, Protest
Karaoke, where the artist takes a different object of
mass culture, karaoke, and turns it to his purposes by
violating its logic.
The same is true of Words of Gold: a primitive shoecover dispenser is mercilessly dissected on the operating table of art. The artist leaves the machine itself
untouched, but replaces its innards with quotations
criticizing the ideology of consumption. The result is
an absurd device selling unneeded goods.
Our lives are permeated with disciplinary rites that
we dont even notice: dont walk on red, no smoking in the subway, pass through the metal detector,
and so on. Approaching Words of Gold, we again find
ourselves under compulsion: the work can be understood only by engaging with the mechanism of consumption, now reduced to absurdity. Ivan Brazhkins
device, a comment on our disciplinary day-to-day
routines, invites us to yield yet again to the habit of
forced consumption, to satisfy our anxious curiosity
and drop in a coin.
At the same time, the work criticizes the commodification of the critique of consumption itself when
symbolic and at times very real capital is made on the
thoughts of others. Artists make thousands of dollars

61

Were all familiar from childhood with the alternate


images of a single bird. The first is an image were
used to encountering, culturally and symbolically,
in art, mythology and world literature: the dove that
brought Noah an olive branch, signaling the end of the
Flood; the dove of the Gospels; the slender contours
of Picassos Dove of Peace; the dove as a symbol of
love; and so on But is there a city dweller anywhere
who hasnt given thanks that cows dont fly? The
second image is the pigeon the profane bird that
shits on our cultural and symbolic shrines, our war
memorials and monuments to peace, on our heads
and our coats, on pairs of lovers kissing in the shade
of infrequent city trees the freeloader that grows
fat off of urban civilization. These two contradictory images converge in this work by Alex Buldakov,
Anastasia Potemkina and Dmitry Potemkin, artists who
have made a study of urban fauna and include it in
their installations.

All but earthbound from overconsumption, waddling


pigeons, like the human residents of a megalopolis,
have become indirectly involved in a complex system
of socioeconomic relations. They are simultaneously
a curiosity and a menace. Nonchalantly shifting their
weight from foot to foot at outdoor cafes, claiming
their percentage of each dish, pigeons stimulate
additional consumption. They additionally consume,
then additionally shit, creating additional work for
cleaners who stream into large urban centers, stimulating additional consumption, and so on ad infinitum In the artists installation we see how consumer
societys inexhaustible horn of plenty suddenly starts
to emit pigeon droppings, tracing out the symbol of
infinity. Such are the doves tidings in the twenty-first
century. OZ

Zachary Formwalt. Unsupp o r t e d Trans it , 2011


[24, 84] Single-channel HD video, sound, 1425

is only a temporary support for the circulation of


virtual flows of capital. It cant exist on its own. The
artist reminds us that unsupported transit only
takes place for an instant. DA

Alice Joffe. S a y I m t he M a s t e r, S a y Yo u Lo v e M e
2012 [19, 87] Oil and acrylic on canvas, 200300 cm

The film Unsupported Transit is set in Shenzhen,


the city that became Chinas first special economic
zone. The artists focus is a site where the new
stock exchange designed by Rem Koolhaass Office
for Metropolitan Architecture is currently under
construction. The film begins with an account of
the early photographs that Eadweard Muybridge
took for the American industrialist Leland Stanford.
The photographer was hired to prove that there are
moments when all four hooves of a trotting horse
are simultaneously off the ground and it essentially
floats while still in forward motion. At first, viewers
have the impression that the works visual content
is entirely disengaged from the artists audio
narrative. But at a certain point, Friedrich Engels
comes into the picture with his analysis of the stock
exchange, and the connection between such seemingly remote subjects as the construction site and
Muybridges work finally becomes apparent. The
film illustrates the Marxist vision of a new era in the
development of capitalism when the financial sector
has become almost fully autonomous: money circulating on the exchange reproduces and multiplies
itself. Unsupported Transit is a metaphor linking
the horses of Muybridge and Stanford with stock
exchange capital. The artist seems to slow down
time, turning the construction workers in the video
into disembodied shadows, specters. Against the
background of the immense stock exchange building, they are but a technicality, unimportant and
ineffectual. Workers vanish forever from the stage
of world history. But the artist doesnt rush to conclusions, since what appears as capital now is the
accumulation of past labor. When this is detached
from the living labor of the present, future economic
growth becomes a fiction. The stock exchange

62

Say Im the master, say you love me is a conceptual and graphic synthesis of the history of painting.
Above all, its a history of paint. On a canvas of three
by two meters, red rectangles ascend stepwise from
lower left to upper right against a white background.
These rectangles were formed by applying oil paint
to a canvas coated with acrylic paint. The picture is
then unified and composed. But we notice subtle
differences between the ten red rectangles. This is
because the artist has used ten different tubes of
the same color, cadmium red light ten different
brands of paint, whose manufacturing quality and
price differ accordingly. The ten strokes of the same
shade of red are thus not identical and are ranged
from the least expensive brand (lower left) to the most
expensive (upper right). But this gradation isnt visible
yet and will take time to reveal itself.

If the paints correspond in quality to their price, the


light red cadmium in the lower left corner may crack
or turn orange in ten years time, while the other nine
rectangles remain red. In twenty years, the second
rectangle may deteriorate. And so on in the paints
race against time.
The artist blurs the boundaries between manufacturing quality, the physical qualities of paint and the quality of the gaze. Our aesthetic pleasure has a price that
confronts us with ethical questions. What is the price
of Christs blood in Matthias Grnewalds Crucifixion
or the Phrygian cap in Eugne Delacroixs Liberty
Leading the People? NO
The canvas displays ten oil paints
(color: cadmium red light) ranged in order of price.
Paint manufacturers and numbers:
Podolsk-ART Center #311
Gamma, Old Master #201

Nevskaya Palitra, Master Class #302


Winsor & Newton #094
Talens, Rembrandt #303
Maimeri Puro #226
Sennelier Extra Fine #605
Schmincke Mussini #356
Old Holland Classic #021
Blockx #823

Irina Korina. Wrinkl e, 2012 [41, 70]


Installation

Irina Korinas work transports us to a dream space.


Imagine a winter garden or at least a greenhouse
whose condition is a measure of the owners prosperity. Were presented with a hermetic world that is
tended but a little unkempt. You dont have to be Marcel Broodthaers to see in this a declining bourgeois
sensibility that, like a comatose vegetable, has been
on deaths door for decades, but refuses to die.
Imagine a pleated curtain behind the seating area on
a stage the backdrop of official speeches, Stagnation Era aesthetics. Or the no less stupefying performance of mainstream comics during the years of
Perestroika, but with the same shabby material behind
them. No matter what words are spoken or what
changes the speakers urge, the motionless pleats only
grow heavier under the thickening layer of dust. This
is the flesh of time a time that, contrary to normal
laws, is slowing down and on the verge of stopping.
How, then, do we wake up? In any garden the unexpected can happen unexpected for the gardener
and owner, that is. Theres always a chance that,
among the pruned and approved flora, something
unexpected will grow. Of course, the machinery of
repression is ever ready to uproot any unidentified
object and smooth over the soil. There are many ways
of keeping ones cozy garden under control. But you
cant keep track of everything.
The curtain may grow so old and decayed that stopping time wont help. Through the curtain we can
see unfamiliar terrain at first indistinct, but then
clearer and clearer. These new sights dont disturb the
pleated fragments that form the background. New and

63

old dont negate but complement one another. The


accretions of dust and dirt are transformed from an
immobilizing force into a source of unrest and partisan
activity, and the sinuous pleats give them cover. Heavy
objects are hard to budge, but once in motion they
cant be stopped.
And suddenly we leap to our feet. SG

Camille Laurelli. In fl a t i o n , 2012 [35, 74]


Internet auction
A banknote is a negotiable instrument, valid in a
specific jurisdiction, with a unique, fixed value that
can vary only within that jurisdiction. The value of one
currency may vary in relation to another, but in itself
it remains constant. In the terms of Marxs Capital,
its exchange value coincides with its use value. A key
principle of developed capitalism, however, is the
ability to speculate on goods of any kind, including
life and health. Thus, by auctioning a hundred-ruble
banknote on molotok.ru a venture that should in
theory be meaningless and unprofitable Camille
Laurelli, acting as both artist and seller, thematizes the
perversity and absurdity of the principle of speculation. Anonymous bidders incrementally bid up the
price, and the note, as a result of these onanistic exercises, will sell for more than its absolute price.

The bidding will open on February 15, and auctions


will continue as long as there are buyers until the
exhibition closes on April 14. By that time, all the bills
will be displayed, and well be able to see how many
banknotes have been sold and at what prices. But
the buyer will get a hundred rubles and nothing more.
Atfirst glance. Here it should be noted that the bidders will presumably get as caught up in the game as
the artist. Inflating the notes price will require both
a taste for the game and a desire to undermine the
system. The project is thus implicitly collective.
Symbolically, though, something else is going on.
Weare given a physical description: The hundredruble banknote is printed on high-quality cotton paper
of a light pink hue. The banknotes predominant colors

are brown and green. Size: 150 65 mm. Froman


artistic point of view, this is the crucial moment.
Camille Laurelli, in a thoroughly conceptual move,
neutralizes the note by recalling its aesthetic value.
Atthis point, the banknote becomes a readymade that
belongs to everyone. NO

Anastasia Ryabova. Tr i l l i o n s , 2012 [23, 83]


Series of 10 elements. Plywood, acrylic enamel,
marker, sizes varied

Alice Nikitinov. Fal l en No. 1, 2009 [30, 73]


Mixed media on canvas, 60200 cm

The absolute model of Alice Nikitinov s cosmos


is the indefinite pronoun several or some. The elements making up that cosmos are comical. An
everyday item painted with a quick, light hand in
simple colors elicits a good laugh as well as discomfort at the distortion of painting tradition. Alice
Nikitinov is a master of color with the ability to create new forms out of the most varied textures. The
original object is virtually impossible to identify. In
her series The Poster, for example, the artist used
acrylic paints to create a trompe-lil of colored
tape stuck to a piece of paper.
Seemingly filled with exuberance, Nikitinovs
works fit well not only into the local tradition of Czech
artists like Pavel Brzda or Ji Kovanda, but also into
the larger modernist tradition with its imperative of
endlessly renewing the internal means of production.
An overturned number one, resembling a harpoon
or erect penis, arrests the viewer not only by being
colorful and textured (occasionally, instead of a canvas, you find a crescent roll stuck on the wall, like an
obscene gesture), but also by presenting an interpretive impasse. What system of coordinates should
be used to determine the figures symbolic value?
Though a one is the worst possible grade (equivalent
to an E), number one is also the first, the leader, symbolically the best.
The act of overturning is an effective way of thwarting the objective description of the world. Figures
plunge headlong, dragging exchange rates, stock
exchanges and commodity prices down after them.
But to no avail: the world of discounts only reassures
consumers that overspending is justified if you get a
good deal. IA

64

Slogans on walls and fences rarely make economic


demands. Anastasia Ryabovas graphic series Trillions, imitating the aesthetics of street vandalism
(marker pen on cheap plywood), becomes a metaphor
for such slogans as well as testimony to their absence.
The artist draws astronomical figures with a tired hand,
reducing their value to abstraction. Inspired by the
2008 economic crisis, this series also recalls the 1998
default in Russia and the dizzying inflation of the nineties an era when your monthly salary wouldnt fit in
two bags, but would buy the same two bags of groceries and nothing more. Multiplied beyond meaning, the
zeros in Ryabovas Trillions turn into indistinct swirls
and squiggles eliciting nothing but bewilderment.
Can mathematics be spoken of in the language of
aesthetics? In her attempts to feel what she calls the
plasticity of the crisis, Ryabova reduces numbers to
a state of primitive (or revolutionary) pre-digital chaos.
And chaos is of course pregnant with possibilities.
Exactly what possibilities cant be discerned in the
works. The charge that the artist levels against the
current economic order also remains abstract. The
basic question posed in these works is: how effective is
the strategy of declarative protest? Is this the laziness
of an artist who cant be bothered to delve seriously
into all the intricacies of the economic system, to offer
a reasoned critique and conceive an alternative? Or
a principled refusal to address the enemy in his own
language? Could it be that to answer economics in the
language of aesthetics is just such an irrational, but
strategically effective, hysterical gesture? OZ

Nikolai Ridnyi. Ze ro . M e m o r i a l Pl a q u e , 2012


[7, 100] Granite, 701303 cm
In the popular consciousness, art is something made for
the ages, even though this sphere of fragile items and
barely perceptible motions generally leaves little for the
ages. Still, the desire to touch the monumental, no matter how unattainable, is a powerful motivation for many

who turn to art, incorporating it in their everyday delusion of grandeur. Well aware of this, the institution of art
does all it can to let the illusion of ars longa spread like a
toxic agent through exhibit halls designed to capture the
imagination. Artists always keep this in mind.
Over a decade ago, Maurizio Cattelan inscribed all
the defeats of the English national football team on a
granite plaque. This is a blatant sacrilege, a parody
of a monument similar to the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial in Washington plus mockery of something
that may even be more sacred: football itself. Nikolai
Ridnyis Memorial Plaque would appear to deal with
less explosive themes. Currency exchange is hardly
the emotional bomb that a football match is, and monetary transactions lack the tragedy that is so palpable
whenever one takes up the matter of war. But Ridnyis
work is also more obscene, sneering at conventions
that have long been immune to criticism. The demonstrative nullification of currency values is an assault on
the very logic of the modern economy.

Every epoch tries to present its passing contingencies


as timeless, universal categories. Currency fluctuations would seem an eternal and elemental flux, as if
there never was a time when currency speculation and
money itself did not exist. Like the terracotta army
a signifier of Asian despotism that lasted so much
longer than its short-lived state Ridnyis granite
plaque with its inscribed exchange rates will recount
the ambitions and financial appetites of our time in all
its ephemeral grandeur. SG

Vladislav Shapovalov and supostat.org


Ta lent Cal cul ator, 2012 [36, 79]
(Software development: Valentin Fetisov)
Ten or fifteen years ago, there were few who knew
anything about contemporary art or the freaks that
were behind it, but this situation changed in the

65

middle of the last decade. Everyone understood that


contemporary art was a fashionable and promising
enterprise. In addition to the various galleries and
factories in the capital, there are now evening
courses for would-be artists, where the young precariat and refugees from the humanities line up to
express a sudden inspiration or simply try their luck
in the field of art. But since a full-fledged system of
art education hasnt formed in Russia, and people
continue to make up the rules as they go along, the
fledgling artist finds himself in utter chaos. To help
him get his bearings and weigh his chances, Vladislav
Shapovalov and supostat.org have launched their
Talent Calculator, an art market simulator that can
help determine what genre or medium to select at the
outset of an art career or how to successfully reboot
a failed career. You can find out which strategy will
bring money or fame and which offers a chance of
going down in art history. Points are awarded in three
categories: money, fame and aesthetic value. Scores
increase or decrease depending on the direction you
choose and even your sex. This exercise ridicules the
logic of gallery owners, curators and institutions that
mold artists in line with their ideas of market trends,
and it also derides artists who have no professional
skills and nothing to say, drifting from genre to genre
and theme to theme. The irony of the work is not
that it distorts the real situation, but that it may give
an accurate picture. Subjects may learn that their
fantasy career in the coordinates of money, fame and
aesthetic value is attainable or that it is beyond their
grasp. And its unclear which is less traumatic. OZ

Maxim Spivakov. Py ra m i d B a g .
M e rc ha n d i s i n g S c he m e , 2012 [13, 97]
Print on plastic bag, 306020 cm,
www.flsclcltnsprsdm.cc/online-store
In this work, Maxim Spivakov draws on the classic
illustration Pyramid of Capitalist System, published
in 1911 in the Industrial Worker. The artist graphically
depicts the final victory of the workers movement by
turning the pyramid upside down on the outside of a
plastic bag. Thus, with a minimum of intervention, the
image is turned into an illustration of the victorious

revolution: We have been naught, we shall be all!


But the artists gesture remains within the symbolic
space of cognitive production. And sure enough, this
venerable symbol of the workers movement has been
employed by the society of spectacle. Today anything
is possible: revolutionary consumption and consumption of the revolution itself. Symbols of protest are
appropriated by advertising corporations, which purge
them of any sense of resistance and play on their history, giving them a speculative value on the global art
market.

Plastic bags, generally provided free of charge, are


rarely traded as commodities in their own right. But
the Pyramid Bag is the only item offered by the online
gift shop on the exhibitions website the only item
and yet an extra item. Customers may purchase the
desired number of bags at the listed price (0 rubles)
and collect them at the exhibition during regular
hours. The bag is free, but as in real consumer situations, its price is included in the cost of the basic
commodities. What then is the exhibitions basic
commodity? The free bag somehow accumulates
the artists symbolic capital, which is sooner or later
turned into real capital. Maxim Spivakov poses fundamental questions about arts ties to the structures
of todays consumer market. He seeks to understand
how the economy of images functions in the world of
financial capitalism. MC

Alexander Verevkin. Work, 2012 [42, 69]


Mixed media, murals
Alexander Verevkins Work is bound to a specific
location and cant be transferred to the movable surface of a canvas. It involves space, the rhythmic fragmentation of an interior with its architectural flaws
aradiator, windows and ledges seemingly thrust
into the foreground by the color black. Verevkins

66

suprematist graffiti confines itself to simple forms.


It bleeds out of the room, attempting to occupy the
adjoining space. In breaking the composition down
into its constituent elements, the artist fills the gaps
with emptiness. We cant reconstruct the original
image. The room has become a canvas for a fractured picture.
Verevkin is unhappy with the commercialization of
street art. He criticizes graffiti artists who exhibit copies of their work, transferred to canvas, in galleries.
The artist deliberately creates a work that cant be
converted into a cash equivalent, a work whose preordained fate is to be buried under a layer of new paint.
This lends it an added air of fragility: its aura will evaporate immediately after the exhibitions official closing
to be endlessly replicated in photo documentation.

Verevkins Work imposes a certain pace on the


viewers perception: we skim along the ceiling, then
gallop over the walls, tripping over natural barriers,
get stuck in the streaks of aerosol paint and finally get
bogged down in a mess left on the floor. This thickening of space, with its blind spots, is a metonymy, a substitution for an unreadable text that puts linguistic or
stylistic barriers in the way of cognition. We can enter
into the Work only by submitting to its internal logic. IA

Anna Witt. M o n e y t o F i n d , 2012 [20, 88]


Action, installation
Courtesy the author, Michael Wiesehfer
Anna Witt has created an installation resembling a
typical post-Soviet office with fifteen thousand rubles
hidden inside. Visitors are invited to hunt for the
money and can keep whatever they find. Naturally,
the participants in this art experiment radically alter
the installations aesthetic appearance. Central to the
work is the process of destruction. Thanks to visitors,
the installation is turned into a heap of wrecked office

furnishings, as if ransacked by dismissed employees


or the police. The hunt for hidden money brings out
a rage and passion that most people dont show in
everyday situations. But Anna Witts work has more
than an emancipatory and psychotherapeutic force;
itreduces the destructive logic of capitalism to absurdity. In their pursuit of easy money, participants wreck
the installation. Their motives may vary, but the odds
are that they really need the money. This need, however, should also be understood as the lust for money
so typical of contemporary capitalist society. In this
process work, Anna Witt also studies the anthropology of contemporary precarity. One visitor will rush in
and start tearing things apart, another will set about
investigating like Sherlock Holmes, a third will cooperate with others, and there may even be one who
will share his or her gains with another who couldnt
find anything. This research topic can be formulated
in another way as well: is it possible to remain ethically responsible and keep a human face in situations
of dire need? This is the question that Anna Witt
attempts to answer along with the participants in her
interactive installation. OZ

67

M U S E U M O F C A P I TA L I S M
Anastasia Ryabova

What Id like to do one day,


and it may be in a few decades time,
is to go to a museum of capitalism.

There used to be a museum of money in


Moscow near Kurskaya Metro station. Just an
old mansion behind a brick fence; barbwire
on the fence; rotting clothes on the barbwire.
The dilapidated building is hiding behind
a financial center. If you look out from the
Garden Ring Road, there are only glass
skyscrapers as far as you can see. If you ask
a passerby (either an office worker or a local
resident) to point you toward the museum
they would just shrug you off. If you ask what
that building is, they would say: Some kind
of manufacturing, I guess. The Museum of
Money has been closed for several years due
to lack of financing.
Alex Callinicos thought that became an epigraph to this article is simple. He would like to
look at the modern capitalism from the future
where market economy would be found only
in a museum exhibit. There are no such places
in the world yet, maybe they will arise when
capitalism becomes part of the past. Or maybe
it will get an exhibit even before it is extinct
it is a possibility. Sometimes it seems that is
exactly what art is doing. In large modern art
museums, looking around these hollow spaces
filled with perfect artworks, I always think
that maybe they are museums of capitalism.
This sterile environment cannot hide the
absurdity that is taking place inside the museums walls. Some dont have ownership rights
to their creations and have to labor in servitude; others are involved into the unstable
process of acquisition. The game is not worth
it for either group. Although we all have to
believe in it and to play by its rules, only rare
individuals can profit from it.
68

Throughout second half of the twentieth


century, modern art museums, as well as
national galleries, and science and natural
history museums have been changing their
curatorial policies due to the changes in
critique. They became more flexible, so
getting into museum is no longer the same as
getting into a grave. At lease the progressive
museums try to stay away from this analogy.
To a large extent they envision a unity and
coordination of symbolic and real capitals.
Amodern museum is no longer a catalogue of
extinct species.
What is the difference between, lets say,
a museum of money and the museum of
capitalism? Money in a museum is a mere
artifact, changing only its appearance with
time (color, material, size, pictures of important people and remarkable places). It is an
incarnation, a materialization of the system
of human interaction. One could say that a
museum of money is a museum of things; and
a museum of capitalism is a museum of social
interactions. Money is only a tip of an iceberg
of complicated connections, only an instrument. It is also a misleading instrument.
Like in the movie In Time (2011) by Andrew
Niccol, where minutes, hours and years of
human lives naively equaled money. They
are redistributed equally among all by the
main character at the end of the film. I think,
it should mean liberation. But it is obvious
that this redistribution, this revolution
is doomed to fail, to cyclical return to the
start of the film. Money, just like time, is not
a key category that determines the course of
history.

. / Alexander Verevkin. W o r k

Alex Callinicos

69

70

. / Irina Korina. W r i nkl e

In some sense, we all are already in the


museum of capitalism, only it is not confined
to walls of any particular building. It exists in
all dimensions: in time, in space, even in our
minds. I would like once, may be in a couple of
decades, to leave this museum.
Vitality of art is directly dependent of artists ability to understand his or her place
in this world. In order to avoid becoming an
artifact in already-existing and omnipresent museum of capitalism, we are looking
for loopholes that would allow us to leave
its confines: we are trying to create art from
the point of view of possible, to engage in
construction of existential artworks, change
dominating and well-established concepts,
look for new resources, for a new view of art,
for creation of a new me. Artists that do not
want to remain forever being exhibits in the
museum of financial capitalism, that is the
whole world, should start working on a better
future. Otherwise art will be collecting dust
in the hall of History of Alternative Investment Markets.

71

There is a widely shared sense today that there is something false about the economy. What
is not shared, however, are the very meanings of false and the economy. Falseness in the
straightforward sense that we are simply being lied to (by whatever villainous group you
choose or by some less concrete subject) does not hold up very long.
One sense in which it is right is that the global economy has been in crisis for the last several
years because the actions of many of the actors in the financial system turned out to be wrong,
to be based upon false premises, false calculations. The scale of the mistakes has been in some
cases mindboggling. The sharpest sense of falsity here is that of fraud and misrepresentation.
But such misrepresentation in the financial system, while historically large, and a reason why
the crisis was so severe, cannot receive the blame for the very fact of the crisis happening. Most
of the losses are the result of being wrong about the way that the future would go. But one
sense in which this understanding of the intuition can go astray is to take all finance as somehow based on lies. What it is based on is representations of the future, and the future is uncertain. Fundamentally, the distinction between speculation and investment is purely post hoc.
You only know that an investment was speculative after it begins to lose money. This makes it
hard unequivocally to call investment good and speculation bad, and to outlaw or restrict the
latter and not the former. While careful regulatory engineering can reduce risk-taking, and
thus speculation, some risks do in fact pay off and these too might be lost to regulation.
There is a further sense not directly tied to the crisis, but persisting even in times of relative
calm, in which something is felt to be wrong with the economy insofar as the financial sector
becomes more and more important. This is a complex issue. There are historical resonances
that get in the way of thinking about it. Lending at interest has been condemned in Western
culture at least since the birth of Christianity. It was only relatively recently that accommodation began to be made for it, with St. Thomas uneasy attempt to combine Catholic theology
with classical sources that did allow usury. The consequent association of lending with nonChristians persists in the recurrent anti-Semitic association of the evils of finance with those
of Jews. In Russian culture there is also a deeply rooted bias against trading arbitrage understood as speculation and in favor of production, and finance is easily assimilable to trading.
Aside from historical issues, there is a question as to whether the character of the economy
itself changes as finance becomes a larger proportion of the economy and/or as the types of
financial products become more and more abstracted. The basic purpose of finance is intermediation: moving money from savings to investors. The easier that is to do, the faster the
economy should grow, which is why finance is sometimes referred to as the accelerator of
the economy. As financial instruments layer, disaggregate, and re-aggregate into more and
more complex derivatives, this intermediary function becomes more and more difficult to
discover. And it is quite possible that this process facilitates speculation, increases informational problems, and makes crises both more likely and more severe. But it is a jump from
that to saying that it is speculation, that derivatives are in some sense lies (the contemporary
left term is fictitious capital). They are not called derivatives without reason: their value
72

. / Alice Nikitinov. Fa l l e n N o . 1

LIVING WITH THE ECONOMY


Adam Leeds

73

74

. / Camille Laurelli. I n fl at i o n

is entirely derivative of that of the underlying productive asset, and no degree of derivation
ever makes that untrue. Unlike in Muybridges photographs of galloping horses (perspicaciously explored in Zachary Formwalts film), unsupported transit is an illusion. The collapse of the U.S. financial system when homeowners became less able to pay back their mortgages should be sufficient testimony to this.
Denying autonomy to finance also negates grand theories of present that see the post-70s
world order as increasingly founded upon non-material forms of labor and commodification. Beyond being a regression in Marxist theory, reopening debates that date to Isaak Illich
Rubins 1928 statement of the commodity form interpretation, there are obvious metaphysical
problems: what, exactly, can be said to be non-material? Leaving aside spectral speculations,
counting as an object, being able to participate in the logic of commodity production, is due as
much or more to the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern it and the technical systems
in which it is incorporated as it is due to the tactile qualities of the thing itself. And it is simply a fact that our societies are fully able to constitute objects such as interest rate swaps
in such a manner that they can be produced, bought and sold to the tune of trillions of dollars.
What more objectivity does one want? All of this is not to say that the global reach, instantaneous speed, and in some economies preponderant weight of finance does not necessitate
reflection on what is new with our world, but I would argue this newness lies not in ontology,
not at the level of mode of production, but in, for instance, a reconfiguration of class fractions,
the international division of labor, the financialization of everyday life, etc. That is, were still
dealing with the same old capitalism, though it is up to some new tricks. (Without getting too
much into a Marxian analysis, I would argue that most recent transformations have been in
the use value logics of capitalist society and culture, not the logic of value of capital itself.)
What we are taking about now is what the economy is, but also how or by what means the
economy appears. And what is certainly true is that finance is assuming an increasingly
autonomized status as the mode of appearance of not only the economy but the state of society as a whole.
Everyday discourse involves tremendous amounts of discourse about the economy and its
state, its moods and feelings, its degrees of mobility, its desires and urgings. The economy
appears in a variety of guises, in and by a variety of indicators. Let us take some of the most
popular, in progressive degree of fetishization (here I mean the process by which a partial
representation is taken to stand for the whole it represents). We move from a representation
of economic activity as a whole in GDP, to a representation of a portion of corporate investment in stock market indices, to the collective expectations of the progress of growth represented in at once the most fetishized and most real of indices, the interest rate yield curve on
government bonds. Depending on the context, other signs invoke the economy: the inflation rate, the unemployment rate. In Russia, as a legacy of productionist ideology and the
strange (non)functioning of money in the Soviet economy, it is often output figures for this
or that industry. And it should not be forgotten that the construction of these numbers is the
result of massive apparatuses of layered representation-making machinery, which include
things like cadastral surveys and censuses, bookkeeping techniques and accounting standards, transaction and income data, taxation schemes and their accounting and inspectorates, asset pricing formulas, demographic models, etc. An avalanche or cascade of numbers
and institutional means of producing and manipulating numbers.
75

What I am approaching here is the heterogeneous and multi-leveled set of representations


of the economy that delimit in particular situations what for us is the reality of the
economy. This is one of the deeper senses in which our guiding intuition is correct: the economy is made of calculations and many other sorts of representations a complex tissue of
them, but they are not lies. The very nature of macrosocial entities like these is to be representation. This is not a novel thesis in itself. Marxs famous argument on fetishism describes one
such movement, by which the system of social interaction that constitutes a polity become
abstracted into the system of relations among commodities in the market, and then this entire
system is itself elided into price, by means of which each commodity becomes a sign of itself.
Marx himself in his analytical categories does not use the word economy in its substantive
sense. He uses mode of production, composed of forces and relations of production.
The history of macro-understandings of economic life is only beginning to be investigated.
The historian of economic thought Margaret Schabas isolates a number of different such
understandings. If early modern political economists focused on money, interest, trade, etc.,
with Smith the focus shifts to wealth. But the birth of modern microeconomics changes the
focus from an objective definition of the economy some cluster of phenomena out there
in the world to a subjective one the actors problem of choosing among alternatives such
as to maximize utility subject to some set of constraints. This inaugurates a persistent split
between lay understandings, which take there to be some sort of thing called the economy,
and expert understandings, which no longer recognize any such thing. Timothy Mitchell
makes the claim that it was not until the advent of Keynesian macroeconomics that the economy in its modern, nominalized and lexicalized form comes into existence, running parallel to and disconnected from the now economy-less and subjective microeconomics. Before
this point there was economizing, as a verb, as a practice, and economic processes of various sorts, but no economy as an object. While this strikes me as dated too late to be plausible,
there is no doubt that our current sense of the economy is a relatively recent construction.
Given the role finance plays in the everyday lives of citizens of the advanced capitalist countries even before the crisis and the amount of thought, energy and emotion expended
with respect to it, it should not thus be surprising that it is becoming constituted as an object
in its own right, nor that this object is becoming a synecdoche for economic life tout court.
How do we understand these representations of the economy, taking into account their
heterogeneity and historicity? We must understand them as social facts, in the Durkheimian
sense. The economy exists in and by means of the practices, both representational and not, by
which people act towards, about, and in it. Accordingly, it would be possible to do a social
phenomenology of the economy, to trace the way it is made to appear in everyday interaction.
Marx hints at something similar when he links fetishized understanding of social life to the
characteristics of the occasion of commodity exchange. People in the ordinary business of life
talk about the economy, act with respect to the economy, and in general conduct themselves
as if there were things economic. This conduct cannot, however, be taken to be merely representative: it is also productive. Like all social action, it leaves traces in the world, it is effective,
and the combined effect of all this action as if there were an economy serves to set in motion
processes and create institutions such that there really is an order of effectivity corresponding to our discourse about the economy. The objectification of the economy is part of the
way that we live. We live with abstractions, and, in modernity, with such strange ones as this.
76

From multiple philosophical directions whether early Heidegger, late Wittgenstein,


or American pragmatism we have an understanding that representations are not the
detached theoretical gaze at a pre-given world, but rather are orientations for action. (Ifit
is to be distinguished at all, the objectivizing gaze is to be understood as a modification of
the more primordial practical orientation.) As involved in action, representations have
temporality: actions are always directed towards a more or less determinate (represented)
future. This is true as much for the actions with respect to the economy as for those that are
economic.
This representational, actional, and temporal character of the economy is, I think, the deepest insight at work in this exhibition. Just as the economy is made up of action and representation, so are these artworks. In a sense artists are doing what we all do: taking up, making up,
and playing with representations. In playing with these representations, we work with desire,
for not only is the future, as a temporal element of all action, shot through with desire, but in
late capitalist culture nearly all desire has become mediated through representations of the
economy. This is as true of desire as it is its modifications like fear, paranoia and suspicion. In
artworks about the economy, including many from this exhibition, we see this desire figured as
infinite engagement with the economy as the locus of wish fulfillment, as a desire to turn away
from the economy or even a disgust with respect to it, and also as a fear of it, of its unknowability, unpredictability, and great power over fragile lives. In part, these artworks are part of our
continuing work of creating lives, ways of getting on with, alongside, through and in the economy. We do not have a choice in that: that is what is meant by saying that capitalism is a social
formation (or, to use slightly different language, by understanding (post)modernities as the
sociocultural moment corresponding to the capitalist mode of production).
But in another way these artworks open up ways to relate to our own society in a critical
fashion. The truth of our lives and thus of our society, our life in common, is mostly hidden
from us, known but not known in the inchoate shreds and nameless feelings that are only
gestured toward with the word alienation. Art plays a role here in which language in its
analytic function is weak. These artworks manifest the aspects of our lives that are blocked,
diverted, sequestered, enervated, dispersed, repressed and captured and they thus pose
this as a problem, in the hope that we might solve it. Such manifestations implicitly claim
that life could be otherwise, and it is from the place of this implicitly invoked reality, from
this place of life otherwise, that the reality in which we live, with the economy at its center,
appears both epistemologically false and morally wrong. That is to say, as a lie.

77

Lets say right away and without further adue that, as noted by Ernst Gombrich, There
really is no such thing as art1, same as there is no really such thing as money. Definition of
art, similar to the definition of money, has been changing with time: art, just like money,
is constantly benign redefined, reinterpreted, affected by fluctuation, speculation, etc. At
the same time, relationship between art and money has formed quite recently. This is certainly due to the fact that prior to nineteenth century art was much closer intertwined with
power: before the Renaissance with religious and spiritual authority, after with political
power, economic influence of bourgeois and of the free market. With the French Revolution
of 1789 that ignited invention of museum by confiscating cabinets of curiosities formerly
belonging to aristocracy; with first industrial revolution and invention of tubes of paint
by Lefranc in 1859 that allowed the impressionists to come out of their studios; with invention of daguerreotype in 1839; with Lumiere brothers Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat in 1896;
with Marcel Duchamps Nude Descending a Staircase in 1912; with speed and fragmentation
of movement; in other words, with industrialization and arrival of capitalism art acquired
tools for self-reflection and, consequently, for economic and political independence. And yet,
art did not deviate from its context in history, and this uninterrupted timeline stretching
throughout history brings us to reflecting on so-called critical autonomy of art. How does art
interact and interacted throughout the twentieth century with the engine of its liberation
power of capital, i.e. with money and value?
Lets look at the artwork that lays foundation for capitalist understanding of works of
art, Marcel Duchamps Bottle Rack (1914), which is believed to be his first real readymade.
By expanding limits of existing reality, i.e. liberating the artistic gesture and the status of an
artist, Duchamp demonstrates that symbolic added value of an object determines its minimal scientific definition as a work of art. Thus, any object may be elevated to the status of a
work of art. But this is not all. Duchamp also proves that only an artist can attach this symbolic added value to an ordinary object, therefore, only an artist has the magic power to
transform non-art into art.2 Duchamp creates a new paradigm of art, where art itself defines
its added value a priori, independently of esthetic canon. A priori indeed, because creation
of this symbolic added value depends on cooperation of the third party, the viewer, same as
in monetization of capital. The viewer creates a work of art, i.e. validates and gives credit
to the esthetic judgment made by the artist. What are implications of this formula from the
point of view of capitalism? Duchamps work of art is fully integrated in speculative values
of capitalism, which in itself becomes the definition of a work of art. From now on, it is first
and foremost a speculative object in theoretical, esthetical and, most importantly, financial
senses. Obviously, Duchamp himself did not think about financial approach to art, but it is
present in the very definition of readymade.
1 Ernst Gombrich The Story of Art 1950.

78

2 B. Groys, Curator as an iconoclast.


Moscow Art Magazine No. 73/74

supostat.org. / Vladislav Shapovalov and supostat.org. Tal e n t Cal c u l ato r

T H E VA LU E O F A RT
Nicolas Audureau

79

80

, , . / Alex Buldakov, Anastasia Potemkina, Dmitry Potemkin.

In order to understand relationship between money and art, lets try first to understand
what money is. A German economist Rainer Willert gave it following definition in 1991:
Money is everything that fulfils three functions: a means of payment, a means of storing value, and a unit of calculation.3 Similar to Duchamps definition of art, this is a modern interpretation. And, as if to stress the analogy with art, Rainer Willert answered the
questions What is money? with words Nothing, this is the only possible answer.4 Similarly to Duchamps creations, money do not have objective value other than the value that
is assigned to them. Therefore, purchasing and symbolic value of money are one and the
same. Aristotles definition is even more generous: he believed that Everything that has
value of money is money. This is a truly duchampian definition could easily be applied to
the readymade.
Nevertheless, Duchamp is more avant-garde than the economics, which itself went through
a process of dematerialization after 1931 London Economic Conference that obliterated the
gold standard. It lead to self-sufficiensy of finance: bank notes became a legal tender and a
common denominator, i.e. they became self-referential just like Duchamps works. Consequently, for art and for money the question of agreement is at the core of their value. Stability of markets depends on peoples trust in them. The same can be said about art.
Ontological transformation of a work of art and tension between art and money will truly
rise only after the World War II, with Pop art. This tension arose during the Les Trente Glorieuses, The Glorious Thirty, and the second industrial revolution, transfer from tools to
technology, onslaught of mass-produced modern comforts, Andy Warhols Brillo Box (1964),
Claes Oldenburgs The Store (1961), and after art as an object of mass consumption. You can see
here legacy of the readymade an ordinary object intended for mass consumption triumphs
over the original. But Pop art created one important distinction: it is not enough to by a box
of brillo to own a Warhol. Pop art did not critique consumerist values, it just increased them.
Besides, neither the question nor the value of money has been central to Pop art.
If you want to find critical interpretation of the notion of value in artistic work, you should
look toward David Hammons. This African-American artist, born in 1943, his whole life has
been avoiding the system of art galleries. In winter of 1983 he held a performance at the Cooper Square in New York called Bliz-aard Ball Sale: standing among street vendors he was
selling snowballs ($1 each). Hammonss work contains references to perception of blacks in
the US, but it also critiques art market and fetishization of an art object. The object of his art,
the snowball, starts disappearing as soon as it is sold.
Another example from another artist Robert Filliou (19261987). Filliou, a French artist associated with Fluxus movement, had worked for Coca-Cola and served as a UN representative in Korea, prior to becoming an artist, at the age of 34. In his work Filliou was very passionate about Japan and zen philosophy constant avoidance of firm criteria and values. In
1969 he develops Equivalency Principle: Well-made badly-made not-made artwork
with infinite potential, expanding to permanent creation of the Universe, an instrument
that makes us doubt status of a work of art or making it impossible for us to appreciate, judge
or value art. The artist builds his whole work around three principals: Permanent creation,
3 Joseph Beuys What is money? A discussion,
Paris : LArche, 1994

81

4 Ibid.

82

. / Anastasia Ryabova. Tr i l l i o n s

Eternal Network, and Constant Feast. In the same year, 1969, Filliou questions value
through humor in yet another work: a bucket, a mop, and a banner with the works name,
Gioconda on the Stairs.
But lets come back to money. Karl Marx saw in money common denominator. However, today we see creation of monetary products derivative from money that change role of
money from the unique common denominator to a mere product, undistinguishable from
other goods. Since the mid-90s Asian markets crisis, fall of hedge funds and dot.com bubble
this product became volatile, but it still remains a product. Currencies market, derivatives
market, stock and bond markets, labor market, commodities market, annual proceeds from
criminal activities and, to a much lesser extent, art market they are all money, because
they all can be converted to money through market mechanisms.
In the 80s, during the art market boom that flourished in the West because of the idea that
art in the end is a commodity like any other, a French artist Philippe Thomas (19511995)
developed together with group IFP (Information Fiction Publicite) a different approach.
He was engrossed in an unusual activity fictionalization of the art world. He also was
interested in disappearance of the artist. In 1987 Thomas created an agency Les ready-made
appartiennent tout le monde (Readymades belong to everyone) with the purpose of
diffusing the notion of authorship. Everybody who had anything to do with the works gallery owners, collectors, art critics and others were invited to become co-authors of the
works and to become a part of the history of art. They adjusted Duchamps definition of
artwork to the new market realities. Philippe Thomass collective, unlike Andys Warhols
Factory, was interested in presenting art objects as consumer products in part that was
achieved by integrating bar codes, the commercial element of the works, into the paintings.
In the late 90s French artist Matthieu Laurette (born 1970) frequently participated in contests
and game shows, he also created a manual on products that could be returned to manufacturer
for a full refund if you did not like them. Theoretically, it would allow one to live without spending a cent, passing the cost on brands and commercial firms. Thus, the artist turned the culture
of mass consumption against itself, bringing it to a logical impossibility. In 2000 he organized
El Gran Trueque, his own game show broadcasted by a local TV channel in Bilbao, where he was
trading and gradually devaluing objects for several days. For example, a car would be exchanged
for an object of lesser value, and in the end it all came down to objects that had no value at all.
Czech artist Swetlana Heger (born 1968) and Bulgarian artist Plamen Dejanov (1970) cooperated from 1994 till 2003. One of their mail project consisted of finding some work (house
cleaning, dishwashing, etc.) and buying artworks of other artists for the earnings. They would
then exhibit the works at their own shows. By doing this they redefined the process of acquisition and valuation of artworks (Still life Objects of Desire, 1997). They reinterpreted workforce, labor market and, consequently, The Principal of Equivalency of different forms of
labor. This project also reflected on the role of artist as creator of objects.
Nevertheless, these examples did not prevent the phenomena of monetization of art. In September of 2008, right in the midst of the financial crisis, we witnessed that works of a British artist Damien Hirst (born 1965) were sold at the auction house Sothebys bypassing the
galleries at astronomical prices, that had absolutely no relation, either rational or esthetical, to the real object. This is due to the fact that art market does not any longer deal in real
objects, only with symbolic objects, designed for skyrocketing added value, created by the

83

84

principles of algorithm trading, where one can receive unbelievable profits through speculation on microscopic market fluctuations. Pittacus of Mytilene, one of the Seven Sages of
Greece already said this important postulate over five centuries B.C: Gain is insatiable.
Is at this stage speculative value of artworks still a question for artists and art? Yes, to
the degree to which we are planning to understand and change world through art. Yes, to
the degree to which reorganization of artistic activity creating valuables is no longer supported by theoretical instruments necessary for its proper understanding. Yes, to the degree
to which context should not only increase added value to art, but most importantly, should
make the world more valuable. Maybe it is time again to practice economical art (in the original Greek meaning of this word as organization of household) as well as ecological (also
in the original Greek meaning study of household). Maybe it is time to burn art values
again. For art without value!
PS: Come back to this in five years!5

. / Zachary Formwalt. U n s u p p o r t e d Tra n s i t

5 Name of one of the wall drawings by Joseph Beuys


from the series Das Kapital Raum 19701977 that
depicts trajectories of financial markets.

85

R A M E AU S N E P H E W
AND HIS MODERN BROTHERS
Maria Chekhonadskikh

1 Form of life is used here to mean an individuals


social existence, as constituted by the various political
institutions to which he is subject. See Giorgio Agamben, Form of Life, Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential

86

Politics, edited by Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press,
1996, 151156.

. , / Alice Joffe. Say Im the Master, Say You Love Me

I. The Paradoxes of Torn Consciousness

Capitalism is as outdated as the forms of life1 it produces. This is true of the creative milieu
as well, whose genealogy can be traced back to hordes of gypsies, street musicians, actors
and circus performers who migrated from city to city. This form of life was problematic from the point of view of official morality and lacked legitimacy. Those who neither
belonged to the upper class nor worked with their hands, who had no property or permanent residence, were of no use to society, since they produced nothing but their own idleness. Itwasnt until the nineteenth century that the category of city oddballs and social
parasites was labeled bohemian. The means and tactics of survival developed by these
vagrants ultimately crystallized into the way of life of an independent creative milieu that
soon lost all memory of its predecessors.
Diderots philosophical satire Rameaus Nephew, written in the late eighteenth century,
contrasts two forms of life: the asceticism of the philosopher and the bohemian hedonism of
a marginalized musician. Philosopher and musician meet by chance in a caf, and the engaging debate that ensues between these two representatives of what we would now call immaterial labor ranges from a discussion of the nature of genius and the latest works of music to
issues of education and upbringing and the forms of life most appropriate to the free creative individual.
The musician is a prototypical idler, a clown and jester, who plays up to the powers that be.
Hes talented but has no achievements to his name. He frequents the opera, is a connoisseur
of music and a nephew of no less than the celebrated composer Rameau. Marginalized by
class society, he is forced to improvise ways of surviving and moving up the career ladder. As
a witty jester, Rameaus nephew moves in aristocratic circles, ingratiating himself, scheming,
playing to his audience, deceiving and intriguing in the hope of eventually getting ahead and
then devoting himself to music.
His daily routine includes searching for the means of subsistence, and here, it must be said,
he is a true virtuoso: private music lessons, work in minor orchestras, asking for handouts,
service at court these are but a few of the entries in his long rsum. Rameaus nephew
provides a veritable encyclopedia of the odd jobs a bohemian city dweller could do to make
aliving in early capitalist Europe.
His life is unstable, to say the least, and his prosperity depends on the vagaries of
chance virtuosity, wit, a knack for striking up a conversation with the right person
at the right time. He has perfected every imaginable survival technique a beggars

87

88

. / Anna Witt. Mo ne y t o F in d

pantomime2 aiming, however, only at momentary success: how to wear a shabby old suit
to a high-society affair, how to ingratiate oneself with the host at the right moment, when to
laugh approvingly, when to play the fool and when to act serious, at what point to comment
on a joke, tell a sensational piece of gossip and so on.
His portrait illustrates the dialectics of feast today, fast tomorrow and even today describes
the life of the bohemian gentleman of fortune: Sometimes he is thin and haggard, like an
invalid in the final stages of consumption. You can count his teeth through his cheeks. Youd
say hed spent several days without a meal or had just left a Trappist monastery. The next
month, hes sleek and plump, as if hed been eating steadily at a bankers table or had been shut
up inside a Bernadine convent. Today, in dirty linen and torn trousers, dressed in rags, almost
barefoot, he slinks along with his head down. One is tempted to call to him to give him a hand
out. Tomorrow, he marches along with his head high, powdered, his hair curled, well dressed,
with fine shoes. He shows himself off, and youd almost take him for a gentleman.3
On the face of it, we have a classic example of the didactic literature of the Enlightenment,
with the philosopher instructing a degenerate idler who makes the rounds of aristocratic
houses in search of easy money and connections. Moral censure here is supported by a contrast between the depravity of high society and an ascetic and spiritual life. The debate,
however, wont end in victory for the philosopher. It would be more accurate to say that both
sides lose.4 In the end, philosophical axioms about a virtuous life succumb to the beggars
pantomime; they dont apply in a new world where virtue has degenerated into scholastic
disputes on the nature of good and evil, where words dont match deeds, and each merely acts
out his role as dictated by social ritual. The only lesson, then, that Rameaus nephew takes
from the literature of the Enlightenment is the following: So when I read LAvare, I say to
myself: be a miser, if you want to, but be careful not to talk like a miser. When I read Tartuffe
I tell myself: be a hypocrite, if you like, but dont talk like a hypocrite. Keep the vices which
are useful, but dont assume a tone or an appearance which will make you ridiculous. In order
to be sure about this tone and appearance, you have to know them. Now, these authors have
provided excellent portraits of them.5
Diderot ultimately takes a critical view of the philosopher and, more broadly, of the intellectuals of his time, who produce only words, discourse removed from practice and action, and
whose virtue finds no application: The World in which he [the intellectual] lives is a world
where each is dissatisfied with himself and all are dissatisfied with everything; values are constantly revalued. But in the real World, these words change nothing. The object of criticism is
the content of the world, not the world itself.6 Rameaus nephew is a disheartening figure. All
the philosophers attempts to counter his criticism of everyone and everything with the old
morals meet with failure, and the philosopher loses the debate. Vitalism and the truth of the
empty stomach versus the philosophers form of life these are the opposed positions.
2 Denis Diderot, Rameaus Nephew, translated by
IanC. Johnston, released October 2002,
http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700101h.html
3 Ibid.
4 The satire includes a third character, the narrator
(the author of the work, Diderot himself), who sums
up the debate between the lines. See Allen Speight,

89

Hegel, Literature and the Problem of Agency, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 8488.
5 Diderot, Rameaus Nephew.
6 Alexandre Kojve, Introduction to the Reading of
Hegel, St. Petersburg: Nauka, 2003, 165.

The forms of life of musician and philosopher correspond to two types of subjectivity:
bohemian unreason7 and bourgeois rationality. In the Hegelian interpretation of Rameaus
Nephew, bohemian unreason corresponds to a torn consciousness with its characteristic
contradictions and self-criticism: To be conscious of its own distraught and torn condition
and to express itself accordingly, this is to pour scornful laughter on existence, on the
confusion pervading the whole and on itself as well: it is at the same time this whole confusion
dying away and yet apprehending itself to be doing so.8 In this scheme, torn consciousness
is a synthesis of the masters noble consciousness and the slaves base consciousness. One
who is so conscious is critical of himself and others, but cannot recognize himself as a part of
the universal and so remains inactive.9
The instability of his position gives Rameaus nephew a plastic, pliable nature: The man in
need doesnt walk like another man he jumps, he grovels, he wriggles, he crawls. He spends
his life taking up and carrying out various positions.10 It is this plasticity that prevents him
from rising above himself and constituting himself as a subject of history. But Rameaus
nephew leads an unstable life in another sense as well: his life is a thin line between being and
nonbeing, existence and survival, reason and madness. This is the aspect that Foucault brings
out in his analysis of the nephews torn consciousness in The History of Madness: To be
oneself that noise, that music, that spectacle, that comedy, to realize oneself as both a thing
and an illusory thing, and thus to be not simply a thing but also void and nothingness, to be
the absolute emptiness of the absolute plenitude that fascinates from the outside, to be the
circular, voluble vertigo of that nothingness and that being, to be at once the total abolition
that is an enslaved consciousness and the supreme glory that is a sovereign consciousness
that no doubt is the meaning of Rameaus Nephew.11
The nephew says: Id be quite happy to be someone else, on the off-chance Id be a genius,
a great man,12 but in order to become someone else, he has to overcome the tyranny of the
empty stomach. The trap into which Rameaus nephew falls, however, is that he wants to be
an Other (a Master with all the attendant money, fame and comfort) that he negates by his
very existence. That is to say, if he becomes Other assumes a position of power he ceases
to be himself: the fact is that the life Id live in their place is exactly the life they lead.13 Not
only do new conditions of life not liberate him from his traditional mode of subjectification
(identification with the Other, the Master), he regards these conditions as the only possible
road to success for an artist: Its been said that a good reputation is more valuable than a
golden belt. However, the man with a good reputation doesnt have a golden belt, but I see
that nowadays the man with the golden belt rarely lacks a good reputation.14 Rameaus
nephew isnt deterred even by the philosophers penetrating remarks: Im afraid youll never
get rich.15 He sees the attributes of the great man as identical with those of the ruling class
7 Here we use Foucaults concept of unreason. His
analysis of Rameaus Nephew is similar to Hegels
treatment of the torn consciousness, to be discussed
below. See Michel Foucault, The History of Madness,
St. Petersburg: Universitetskaya kniga, 1997, 343352.
8 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Phenomenology
of Mind, http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/
hegel/works/ph/phc2b1a.htm

90

9 See ibid., 25070; Kojve, Introduction to the


Reading of Hegel, 141172.
10 Diderot, Rameaus Nephew.
11 Michel Foucault, The History of Madness, 348.
12 Diderot, Rameaus Nephew.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.

and is unable to think past this mode of subjectification. This is the paradox of torn consciousness, incapable of conceiving of itself as a subject of change and action.
II. The Sense of Idleness

The bohemian lack of self-awareness and inability to act were later examined by Marx from the
standpoint of class analysis. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte begins with a direct
reference to Hegel and Rameaus nephew: Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy,
the second time as farce. Caussidire for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne
of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle.16 In this work Marx
shows how all the buffoons, gamblers, conjurers, rag-and-bone men, organ grinders and hack
writers who had flooded France and that he calls la bohme helped to prop up the reactionary
Bonapartist regime. This motley lumpen proletariat is Bonapartes own mirror that is to say,
it identifies itself with the Master and says, along with Rameaus nephew, the fact is that the
life Id live in their place is exactly the life they lead. Marx depicts this life as that of a comic
actor: he [Bonaparte] conceives the historical life of the nations and their performances of
state as comedy in the most vulgar sense, as a masquerade in which the grand costumes, words,
and postures merely serve to mask the pettiest knavery.17 This passage can be read as an allusion to Hegels analysis of the beggars pantomime.18 Marx and Hegel concur that the affective
and virtuoso game played by Rameaus nephew only strengthens the prevailing order.
This classic critique of la bohme as a class of social parasites would outlive Marx to be elaborated in our own era of immaterial labor, when affect and plasticity have become integral
to the work process. Where the impoverished urban and rural masses are concerned, early
capitalist society recognizes only physical labor. A social parasite is someone who is poor and
doesnt work with his hands, while the aristocracy (and later the grande bourgeoisie) has a
right to idleness and leisure. Where Rameaus nephew only dreamed about upsetting this
scheme of becoming a master and enjoying the right to be idle his modern brothers have
gone further and demanded that right.
Bohemians denounce the slavery of heavy manual labor, demanding autonomy and independence from the world of status, hierarchy and exploitation. That may be why they hail
idlers and loafers as the new aristocrats of the spirit. Thus Rimbaud proclaims his hatred of
the century of hands. He has a horror of all trades and crafts. For him only idleness opens
the way to freedom and creativity.19
Paradoxically, idleness and the refusal to work are allied with the affective labor of the new
creative class labor that recognizes neither bohemians nor their criticism. Better for the
artist to say hes unemployed than to admit that the jobs he has to do from time to time are
16 Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis
Bonaparte, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/
works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm
17 Ibid.
18 On the issue of comedy and theatricality
inHegeland Diderot, see Allen Speight, Hegel,
68117.
19 Quoted in Pierre Saint-Amand.

91

The Pursuit of Laziness: An Idle Interpretation of the


Enlightenment, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton
University Press, 79. See also the analysis of idleness,
laziness and inactivity vis--vis Rameaus Nephew in
the chapter Paradox of the Idler: Diderot, 7699.

really his labor. It is these jobs that have become the dominant form of productive relations
in the sphere of art and culture. Bohemians couldnt conceive of themselves as workers at the
dawn of the capitalist era, but the paradigm they developed of non-action and non-work has
become the prevailing mode of aristocratic conduct in the cynical world of the free market.
Here we should see not only how the beggars pantomime gave rise to the art market, but
also how the artist progressively rejected the burden of manual labor. Rameaus nephew
was concerned about how to find time for his music, how to put his life in order and end
the tyranny of the empty stomach. The only answer he could find was to be the Master.
Hiscolleagues a century later would answer the question differently: Dont make anything; think and act.
Until the nineteenth century, artistic production was regarded as brute physical labor:
sculptors and painters molded, carved and applied paint. Thats why women were long
barred from artists guilds: art was thought of as mans work.20 Artists were equated with
artisans, capable of preserving the secrets of their craft. Out of habit more than anything else, they passed skills rather than knowledge from generation to generation. In an
unstable capitalist world with its demand for novelty and invention, techniques must be
continually updated. Inventiveness and virtuosity become far more important than inherited tradition. Technique is no longer understood as something developed over years, as a
general proficiency or skill, a craft that the artist must learn.21 In the last analysis, it takes
too much time to learn a craft, and the long-term investment doesnt pay off in fast-changing market conditions. Thus, by rejecting brute labor (molding, carving, precise technical
work), the artist demonstrates his readiness to become an aristocrat of the spirit toproduce knowledge instead of skill.
Now we must jump ahead another century to see the extent to which these ephemeral attributes of artistic creation, this beggars pantomime, define the art of our time and how fragile and vulnerable the artist is under its power. How can the secret of Beuyss performances
be passed on to another artist? And what sense would there be in recreating Duchamps urinal? Beuyss performance is a gesture, and Duchamps urinal is an intellectual sleight of hand.
We can speak about the production of knowledge that can be utilized (interpreted, critiqued
and appropriated), but not about the production of skills.
The social marginalization of Rameaus nephew, his insecure forms of life and tragic torn
consciousness, his criticism of everyone and everything, acquire a new social sense when
nineteenth-century bohemia rejects the mimetic function of art in favor of social and political criticism (production of knowledge about society). It should be understood that the
nephews situation also differs from that of his contemporaries in that his status and occupation are impossible to codify, which is why his labor remains invisible.
His nomadism and instability are normalized in modern society, and his way of life rationalizes new techniques of power and control. Rameaus nephew finally acquires a name:
theprecarious worker. The status of worker is his only temporarily, assumed only because he
still wants to eat. The tyranny of the stomach, after all, hasnt gone anywhere. But he knows
20 See Linda Nochlin, Why Have There Been No Great
Women Artists? ARTnews (January 1971): 2239,
6771.

92

21 For John Robertss analysis of the loss of skill in art,


see his Art after Deskilling, Historical Materialism18
(2010): 7796.

that the production of knowledge and affect, like the production of useful connections and
relations, will one day free him from the need for even temporary work. He also knows that
virtuosity and wit are his trump cards on the road to success.
These norms and modes of existence of the independent artist arose along with the very
concept of modern art, which has since been understood as criticism of the relations and
norms prevailing in society: In other words, ... as artists begin to define their interests in
open opposition to the academy and salon when a gap opens up between art as a bourgeois
profession like law or medicine and its nascent, undefined, unofficial social role as a
critic of bourgeois culture. Artists were faced with a crucial choice, then: to continue to throw
their lot in with the official culture and its traditional (although weakening) forms of patronage and, as a consequence, see their art suffer or work independently in alliance with the
newly-emergent private market for art, in order to defend and continue the possibility of the
achievements of the past.22
To be modern, then, also means to establish a form of life that is autonomous and independent of power structures: idleness. The modern brothers of Rameaus nephew are those
very critics of everyone and everything. Except that today this criticism has a specific emancipatory function: to subvert the ruling culture, social relations and in some cases even the
political system. Above all, it is the artist himself who is emancipated, gaining autonomy
from the prevailing order. Artistic bohemia, once it is caught in the cage that the new market
structures have set aside for art, launches a campaign to expand its walls. The logic of expansion doesnt destroy the cage, but only extends it to include all social institutions and structures. The artists unique critical optic links him to the solitary figure of Rameaus nephew
and his closed form of life autonomous and disengaged from the world.
III. Capitalism and Idleness

Bohemian idleness has been transformed into an industry of cognitive production, immaterial labor, of which analysis (intellectual production) and affect (performance) are an
integral part. Flanerie, contemplation, conversation, gesture all this has a direct bearing
now on art. The best example here is the readymade a strategy of the found object and
intellectual choice on the part of the artist, who transplants an everyday object from one
context to another and so problematizes these contexts. Maurizio Lazzarato interprets
Duchamps gesture as a radicalization of the artists rejection of work: he quite literally
does nothing. Duchamp uses things made by the hands of others, by factory workers. His
intellectual trick, or minimum of action, allows him to evade the competence of the contemporary artist, who is embedded in market relations, to avoid producing things (material values) or being forced to work in order to survive. These are equally unworthy, so he
prefers to do nothing.23
Duchamp operated within the old modernist logic, deluding himself that his intellectual
critique could put an end to the fetishism of commodities (i.e., commercial art). Not wanting
to be exploited, he discovered a new paradigm of cognitive production: non-work, non-action.
22 Roberts. Art after Deskilling, 79.

93

23 Maurizio Lazzarato, Art, Work and Politics in Disciplinary Societies and Societies of Security, Radical
Philosophy 149 (May/June 2008): 2632.

But what do we do then with the fact that in contemporary culture, thanks to Duchamp, even
doing nothing is work work that often earns nothing and involves the exploitation of others (workers, managers, assistants)? It means that an artist who cant exploit others has to
exploit himself. In order to feed himself, he has to look for yet another job, and so its time to
revisit Rameaus nephew and dust off his encyclopedia of odd jobs.
Of course, idleness wasnt particularly good at feeding nineteenth-century bohemians.
Wemight say that it amounted to a refusal to eat, sleep and consume. Today, however, even
this emancipatory sense has been co-opted by capitalism. Duchamps project has been
turned into an industry complex, diversified production in which the artists immaterial labor is but part of the production cycle. And so we again find ourselves in the place of
Rameaus nephew, or, to be more precise, his clones, who have populated the expanses of
our global world. They earn a living by producing criticism. The art system has developed
its own hierarchy, its own allocation of roles and obligations. This system is too abstract to
be easily described.
When Mladen Stilinovic extols idleness and inactivity in his manifesto The Praise of Laziness,24 he means the right not to produce anything a right he enjoyed under socialism
and has been deprived of under capitalism. In socialist society there was a strict division
of work and leisure. Anyone could be an idler, an aristocrat of the spirit, but only after
work. Factory workers, engineers, janitors and professors could engage in creative pursuits
without any expectation that their efforts would ever be recognized. Stilinovic stresses
that art is impossible under capitalism, since it has become part of the whirl of production,
the routines of distribution, promotion and exhibition.25 Ultimately, he insists on doing
away with the institution of capitalist production in favor of the non-work and non-action
of a new communist project.
In a museum setting, Stilinovics Artist at Work26 ceases to be a metaphor: a sleeping artist
is also a worker. And so Rameaus nephew gazes at us from the depths of history. Our intellectual tricks no longer work, and the tyranny of the stomach still holds sway. Far from being
subverted by idleness, capitalism is in a sense even strengthened by it. Today idleness is filled
with a new content an endless economy of affect, analysis and reflection.
Intellectual pantomime can only deceive or evade the system. Today there are too many
such pantomimes. It might be said that nothing else remains, but it should be added that
the abstract logic of cognitive production still rests on the exploitation of real bodies. Rameaus nephew returns to the center stage of history not as an exception, but as the norm.
Thearmy of workers engaged in immaterial labor, of which contemporary art forms a part,
are his brothers.
If idleness has been turned into work, what then is creative activity? Today it could probably be thought of as everything that the worker engaged in immaterial labor does: writing,
speaking, moving about, exhibiting, seeking a livelihood the process inevitably leading to
a new round of writing, communication, movement, representation. But do we really want so
much creative activity?
24 Mladen Stilinovic. The Praise of Laziness,
Moscow Art Magazine, no. 22 (July 1998),
http://www.guelman.ru/xz/english/XX22/X2207.htm

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25 Ibid.
26 During his performance Artist at Work (1978),
Stilinovic simply slept on a couch.

Our reflections shed new light on the history of the struggle for autonomous artistic creation. The world today is caught in a logical impasse: liberalism social democracy neoliberalism. The last link in the chain throws us back to the nineteenth century, even though the
world has changed dramatically since then. An insecure life, total exploitation, the transformation of everything into labor this was the lesson of early capitalism and its liberal
doctrine. Modern capitalism uses the main ideas of that time to measure the monstrous body
of our global world. We continue to be squeezed into an old garment that is coming apart at
the seams. Today the key question is how to return to the emancipatory creative potential of
the abstract world of criticism and aesthetic production. How to regain our ability to act, our
right not to work or, more accurately, not to produce anything. And this right should not
be ours alone. We must find a way for everyone to enjoy it.

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The modern economic system doesnt always solve the problem of poverty and so comes into
conflict with the declared principles of democracy, freedom and equality. The injustice that
compels some segments of society to struggle for their very survival is aggravated during
periods of crisis. The impact of a crisis widens the gap between rich and poor, virtually eliminating the small middle class. Such cataclysms, however, have next to no impact on the welfare of the political and business elites that jointly run the economy with the aid of the invisible hand of the market and under the aegis of state authority. The prevailing economic view
promulgated by liberals and social democrats alike essentially reduces any discussion of economic policy to a choice between these two models. The problem is that the advocates of both
models overlook the real existence of moneyless forms of economy.
In the first post-Soviet decade an era of shock therapy and sharply declining production that the state was unable to control the experience of basic survival not only involved
new exploitation and humiliation, but also gave rise to alternative practices of production
and exchange. Barter, as the basis of an alternative mode of exchange, took unethical and
amoral forms. When a brick factory lost a regular customer, for example, wages would be paid
in bricks at market value. In a time of crisis, this was absurd, but the luckier workers managed to turn themselves into private entrepreneurs by selling small batches of construction
materials. There were also more dramatic cases, when, for example, a plant manufactured not
bricks but ballpoint pens. This often forced workers to hawk their wares in subway corridors
and door to door in order to earn their ballpoint wages. Of course, these examples dont
suggest any alternative to existence in the economic chasm of wild capitalism and merely
describe a situation of panic and desperation.
There are also effective economic alternatives involving independent production. Very
instructive in this regard is home food production, which took on massive proportions in
the 1990s. Many blue-collar workers found themselves unemployed after the collapse of
Soviet heavy industry, and those trained in the humanities found their professional skills
devalued. In this situation, store-bought groceries became unaffordable for many, turning consumers into producers. Urbanites streamed into the countryside, where fields left
vacant by collective farms were subdivided into garden plots. As a rule, gardeners joined
together in regional communities, sharing the responsibilities of security and harvesting.
A field of garden plots is the image of a society built on principles of friendship and solidarity, where being neighbors means helping one another. It isnt surprising, then, that people
caught stealing were expelled from these communities. Summer, once a vacation period,
became the busiest time of the year. The quantity of planted and harvested food was calculated by the year, since vegetables were preserved and stored over the winter months in
root cellars. These storage spaces had their own history, often having been built as bomb
shelters during the Cold War. The tension created by Soviet and American propaganda led
to the creation of spaces that would provide shelter in the event of a real war. One social
phobia related to war the fear of hunger was fueled by the historical memory of the
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. . / Maxim Spivakov. Py ra m i d B ag . M e rc han di s i n g S che me

A S O C I E T Y O F GA R D E N P L O T S
Nikolai Ridnyi

97

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. / Ivan Brazhkin. Wo rd s o f G o l d

Second World War and Stalinist repressions. Turning a bunker into food storage thus made
sense from a historical perspective.
In time, independent food production was commercialized and ceased to be an option. Land
prices rose, and those selling produce from garden plots had to compete with stores. Today
only pensioners living outside of town continue to plant gardens. Still, if we make allowances
for the changing times, post-Soviet gardeners communities may be regarded as a real alternative to modern consumer society.
The modern economic system has another area of parallel actions involving the economy of
free. Official statistics dont reflect the widespread transactions of exchange, donations for
secondhand use, voluntary labor and free services based on game principles. One such game
is hospitality exchange, which involves the free exchange of accommodations through Internet communities. In the past, such exchange was widely practiced by hippies and was associated with life on the road. Anyone can register anywhere in the world, provided that he or
she wont refuse anyone else the same service. It should be noted that this system has at times
been exploited for criminal purposes, since virtual communication is anonymous, and anyone can pose as a guest. Also, hospitality exchange is largely a game of the middle class, which,
unlike the proletariat, has something to lose. Its symptomatic that the modern economy of
free is more like a new form of consumption. One way or another, someone always pays for
free consumption. An example is the popular phenomenon of suspended menus at snack bars,
cafes and restaurants, where you can leave an anonymous order to be collected by the next
customer. In such a system, the actors are quickly typecast as givers or receivers and never
plan to change places. Such practices are far removed from the fight for survival and function
more as private compensatory therapy. Retirees get meager pensions, but can still have a free
cup of tea donated by a mysterious stranger. Hospitality exchange through the Internet is
attractive only until guests become too frequent and the host has to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Games dont create solidarity and community in the way that a real social need can,
although, from a utopian perspective, we can posit the convergence of these practices at some
point in the future. Uncertainty about tomorrow, anxiety and social and economic instability have become the existential foundation of modern society. In the capitalist systems permanent crisis, this anxiety gradually pervades all layers of society except for the super-elite.
Thepotential combination of a natural economy with the exchange of accommodations and
food (bypassing the real estate market and value-added tax) could be thought of as a new,
independent system of social relations. But the eternal question as to whether private gain
can be foregone in favor of social equality and justice remains open.

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, 2012
Texts Authors, 2012

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