The Inverted Commodity

Currently at the Barbican Centre in London it is on view an exhibition that features the objects that artists like Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Peter Blake, etc, have been collecting through the course of their career. Nevertheless the interesting part of the exhibit is the shop.

By nature I am been always fascinated by museum shops: for their commercial nature that targets museum’s revenues, shops disintegrate the experience of looking at art. By selling representation, imitation and gadgetization of the displayed work – believed to be “original” – shops perfectly integrate artworks in the social paradigm of consumeristic capitalist society. As defined by Marx via the relationship between use value and exchange value, shop items become commodities, as their value is related to the market.

By keeping this in mind I visited the shop. What I saw passed for miles my expectation.

The main body of the exhibitions features objects which are, in the 90% of the cases, kitsch, cheap and, sometimes, ugly copies of “original”; they are items that anyone can find in the little markets on the streets (with few exceptions like Damien Hirst’s stuff animals). If looked from the Marxist commodity’s point of view, the value of this “original copies” is very low. Nevertheless for the artist/collector these objects are very valuable for the kind of meaning he or she gives them under the act of collecting.

In the museum shop there is a completely different scenario, which happens when looking at the price tag of the copy of the copy. Indeed the environmental condition of the shop looks at different parameters; the image and form of the same low value object is on sale with a price which is almost 9 times the original copy’s one.

Visitors’s fetish passion for souvenirs is the trigger of such paradoxical mechanism, by which an original commodity, transformed by the artist in a kind of artwork, suddenly becomes a valuable object. Once the “late commodity” is displayed in the gallery, it becomes “officially” part of the world of art; hence the syllogistic paradox of contemporary society takes shape, by the consumeristic mechanism fed by the cult of the fetish. Indeed the magic operated by consumerism makes the copy of the copy of the original a valuable item, because of the capitalist syllogism based on the narrative conveyed by the exchange value. Suddenly these original copies are portrayed as “unique” and “original”, thus the shop souvenir copy’s value can be sold at gallery price.

At this point I would be curious to see the Dulwich Gallery exhibit, which celebrates the value of the copy, but if it happens to be at the Barbican Centre, please visit the shop of the “Magnificent Obsession: The Artist Collector” exhibit.

Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics (MAP) #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO

The emergence of hybrid realities made clear the problematic condition of public space. Does still exist under the terms we traditionally understand it?

Antonio Negri ‘s Accelerate Manifesto makes some interesting points by looking at the crisis, and evolution, that capitalism is currently facing. Indeed by making labour free, hence creating the condition for cognitive labour, it is triggered an acceleration of capitalism that creates the environment for labour’s territorial re-appropriation by means of networks.

Cognitive labour makes “anthropological economy”, based on human behaviour’s analysis, under control by “means” not production; capitalism then becomes a production of interaction and organisation, network and democracy.

Hence what needs to happen to unfold cognitive labour is the shift from materiality to the infrastructure of communication, that is trigger of production. Under this condition technology is no longer substrata of “anthropologic capitalism” but the infrastructure that allows cognitive labour to create platforms of communication and surplus value, which is product of the cooperation among parts. Under this light we understand how information technology plays an important role, as trigger for these phenomena, and how automation, through algorithms and machines, is vital for such processes.

At this point for social hyerarchies territorial organisation and spatial distribution (or logistic in Negri’s word) of information are pivotal to trigger social relations (then public spaces). The distribution of networks in space are the territorial infrastructure that triggers new kind of spaces capable of supporting the 2.0 society, as much as the market piazza made possible the society of commons during the Middle Age.