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This Is Our Real Job

We can see how the collapse of the economy is affecting everyone. Something must be done. Let’s talk. No, it can’t wait. Things are bad. We have to work things out. We can only do it together. What do we know? What have others tried? What is possible? How do we talk about it? What are the wildest possibilities? What are the pragmatic steps? What can you do? What can we do?

We know that larger numbers of people find themselves increasingly shut out of the American “promise” of wealth and security.

Selected Moments in the History of Economic Art

1924 – Marcel Duchamp issues Monte Carlo Gambling Bond

The Monte Carlo Gambling Bond [Obligations pour la roulette de Monte Carlo] was a small edition Marcel Duchamp made using cut-and-pasted gelatin silver prints on a lithograph with letterpress. The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal (MDSOJ) describes the bond:

A parody of a financial document in a system for playing roulette, this Readymade revolves around the idea of monetary transactions. Giving himself the position of Administrator, Marcel Duchamp conceived of a joint stock company designed to raise 15,000 francs and thus “break the bank in Monte Carlo”. It was to be divided into 30 numbered bonds for which Duchamp asked 500 francs each. However, less than eight were actually assembled[...].

The Boom is Over. Long Live the Art!

Last year Artforum magazine, one of the country’s leading contemporary art monthlies, felt as fat as a phone book, with issues running to 500 pages, most of them gallery advertisements. The current issue has just over 200 pages. Many ads have disappeared.

The contemporary art market, with its abiding reputation for foggy deals and puffy values, is a vulnerable organism, traditionally hit early and hard by economic malaise. That’s what’s happening now. Sales are vaporizing. Careers are leaking air. Chelsea rents are due. The boom that was is no more.

State of the Union

Before an artwork can be exhibited, before it represents or refuses to represent anything, before it can be dealt, sold, or collected, there come research and planning, gathering tools, purchasing materials, and even alerting networks. Whether the outcome is an object, document, gesture, or performance, it is, obviously, the result of labor. When Nicolas Bourriaud describes an artwork as “a dot on a line,” it is this indivisibility of labor and result that he seeks to capture. But it is not the “line” that museums and collectors covet—it is the “dot,” perhaps most appropriately envisioned as a red sticker.

Art Versus Work

In the 1960s art workers theorized how modes of human making are affected by specific economic strictures, the aestheticization of experience, and the production of sensibilities. What makes the coherence of the phrase art worker challenging – even oxymoronic – is that under capitalism art also functions as the “outside,” or other, to labor: a non-utilitarian, nonproductive activity against which mundane work is defined, a leisure-time pursuit of self-expression, or a utopian alternative to the deadening effects of capitalism. While his writings on the matter vary over time and are by no means unified, Karl Marx’s contributions to this subject have been among the most influential.


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