Re: [Frameworks] Value systems

From: Damon <>
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2011 15:51:10 -0500

I think value is a deeply significant question at this moment. How
do we define value? Where do we find value in works? Is it manifest
in 'significant form'? Is it attached to Art's ability to present
(continuing to trace the Heideggerian concepts) a clearing where we
experience Truth and a fleeting glimpse at World, or more commonly,
do we measure value as commodity exchange value?

Certainly, when we speak of the cinema it is easy to find evidence to
the latter. What is the front line of "film criticism", that initial
pass at value judgment in the media? Certainly we can bemoan
criticism's death rattle, or even wax nostalgic at its wake, but this
may miss the point that it is alive--just not well. Unfortunately, I
think the Box-Office Champion of the weekend acts as our critical
arbiter of value. After the box scores, then the evaluative
apparatus turns to diagnoses of where potential audience was lost.
Art, in this instance, is but an instrumental tool toward the
accumulation of capital, making it a means and not an end. But this
seems to reduce question of value to ideology critique at the
pedestrian level of acceptance/resistance to the commercially popular.

Debating freedom of expression can be of import, for it helps us to
understand value resides in places other than commercial exchange.
But in this light, we must be careful not to equate freedoms of
expression with some form of social justice (I'm not asserting Bernie
was doing this), which may have allowed value to become equated with
commercial exchange. Certainly we live in an era where the
acceptable 'styles' one chooses to work in have never been more vast,
but the freedom of this creative landscape is simply a free-market
principle. What do our works accomplish? So there is, most likely,
a need to tie aesthetics to politics, but also a politics to ethics.

Here I would like Bernie to expand on what he means by "professional
responsibility". I am in partial agreement that this is not a
question of avant-garde relevance, mostly for I believe that any A-G
is difficult to tease out of our free-market setting. How can we
recognize an avant-garde or counter-movement, which has been
historically underappreciated, when our arbiter to recognize value is
popularity? It is difficult to tell the AG counter-movement from the
bad (yes, this a weak assertion). Performance art, in my line of
argument is where we find our rose-tinted glasses. We are reluctant
to admit how lost we are concerning questions of value, and instead
we describe our culture as one of Enjoyment. This enjoyment is
rooted in novel experiences, with novelty being, maybe, the one core
value of the modern, and therefore performance in the gallery is a
novel 'experience' for most. What value do we find in Marina
Abramovic sitting motionless in the chair, or conversely playing
mumbly-peg (The Artist is Present vs Rhythm 10)? Certainly, for
those who commit themselves to a process of interpretation, deeper
meaning structures can be found, but is this interpretive work being
done by an experience culture? And yes, the arts administrators
value this work, because given its 'spectacular' novelty it raises
admissions. Said differently, are Impressionist and Vermeer
exhibitions mounted for the quality of the work, or the block-buster
attendance? Do we attend film festivals for the work, or
participation in a scene? To take the example of Sundance, it would
seem that programming once centered on the work has given way to in
support of a scene (but this may be an ad hominem assertion).

So how do we go about re-valuing our values? Is it in a recognition
that art is an autonomous creative space wholly separate from life,
or rather that it is deeply implicated in how we live our lives? If
that is the case, what would that art look like? Is it possible to
make work that is both political, and/or ethical which is not merely
a comment on its finite contextual moment destined to become dated in
a decade or a generation at most?


The point I was making in my question followed on from Fred’s posting
that included:

It seems to be entirely acceptable and unquestioned on this list to
post that some or all forms of video projection look like crap ... As
a format for presenting film, it is, of course, imperfect, as I
myself argued almost three decades ago, though that was in the days
of VHS, a lot worse than more recent formats.

Assumptions about ‘quality’ need to be challenged. Issues around
‘quality’ are based upon value systems which in themselves operate
ideologically. Can the politics be seperated from the aesthetics?
This seems entirely relevent as we watch evictions of the Occupations
- and that doesn’t mean I’m advocating literalism - just putting my
original question into context.


On Nov 21, 2011, at 10:14 AM, Jonathan Thomas wrote:

> I don't see value as a dated concept, although commodity value is
> irrelevant. For me, a work has value when it provokes thought, when
> it creates a space to contemplate / meditate on (in the
> Heideggerian sense) the world (as experienced, mediated, related,
> etc.). Although personally I find formalist, materialist work very
> appealing, this is contained within an idea of art as thinking tool
> over art as object.
> I do agree, like most people probably, that large galleries and
> museums do play safe, but haven't they always? I always aim for
> artist-run spaces that engender a much more widely critical and
> contextual discourse.
> 20th century theories of art are not yet dated and irrelevant, to
> me at least. There was a lot of it, and we are still wading through
> it all, trying to untangle it and assess its relevance. There has
> to remain a strand of early 21st century art and theory that
> constitutes a critical pause for breath.
> --- On Sun, 20/11/11, Bernard Roddy <> wrote:
> From: Bernard Roddy <>
> Subject: [Frameworks] Value systems
> To: "" <>
> Date: Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 14:06
> Value as a reference today strikes me as dated. It draws on a
> period when art as commodity was an interesting question.
> Restrictions on freedom of expression are back. It's time to
> examine the renewal of conservativism in media art.
> To propose a term for critical study: professional responsibility.
> Not the debate between modernist and post-modernist experimental
> film. Not the relevance of "avant-garde."
> Performance art's history is really to the point. We see a
> transformation of performance art's provocations into not only
> gallery-safe work but a kind of artistic administrator's ideal.
> Apologies for the obscurity.
> Bernie
> -----Inline Attachment Follows-----
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Received on Mon Nov 21 2011 - 12:52:25 CST