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COMMODIFICATION & ART: Hacking Consciousness, Sat afternoon
ADOPTER(S) Josh (jmr59 AT; Dan (d.ashton AT
FACILITATOR(S) it would be good to identify facilitators in advance! enter names here

A few topics or themes which may be interesting to discuss

(Mostly readings are available online and can be viewed without passwords/subscription etc.)

-> Art and the creative industries

The British Council 'Nurturing the Creative Economy' (2004) paper states:

"the creative economy is a continuum or a value chain. At one end there is 'art' (which in the UK is an activity taking place with public sector support) through to, at the other end, an interchange between arts and commerce"

The paper gives examples of this interchange including, J K Rowling as someone who claimed benefits and a grant from the Scottish Arts Council before 'Harry Potter'. The paper goes on to say "we need both in order to have a vibrant creative economy"

Some questions may as to the relationship between 'art' as a source of value and innovation within creative economies; issues of funding; the promotion of the artist as the ideal creative subject; institutional contexts to art.


Creative Industries and the Limits of Critique from Within - Ned Rossiter (

Libre Manifesto (

“A constellation of interests is now seeking to increase its ownership and control of creativity. We are told that these interests require new laws and rights that will allow them to control concepts and ideas and protect them from exploitation. They say that this will enrich our lives, create new products and safeguard the possibility of future prosperity. But this is a disaster for creativity, whose health depends on an ongoing, free and open conversation between ideas from the past and the present.”

-> Art, Commodities, Capitalism

What is the place/role/funciton of art in a society permeated by capitalist social relations? How does the fetishization of an artwork relate to that of the commodity? Can art help us better to understand the commodity? Can artworks carry out or facilitate political action?


Marx's account of the commodity in chapter 1 of _Capital_, online at

Theodor W. Adorno, 'Commitment', in _Notes to Literature_, vol. 2 (New York: Columbia UP, 1991). (Also collected in Bloch et al., _Aesthetics and Politics_ (London: Verso, 1980)) and Eagleton and Milne, ed., _Marxist Literatary Theory_ (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996))

Theodor W. Adorno, _Aesthetic Theory_, transl. Robert Hullot-Kentor (London and New York: Continuum, 1997), especially section on 'Society', pp. 225-61

-> Responses to commodification: Culture Jamming, Toywars,

Potential co-option “even though in theory the culture jammer needs only spend a few dollars on a spray can to at least partially undermine the expense of a whole advertisement, those very campaigns increasingly seek the ‘edgy’ look initially provided by the culture jammer” (Taylor, 2005: 644)

The E-Toys campaign “in which hacktivists responded to a commercial company’s litigious attempts to remove an art collective’s website domain name because they argued that it was too similar to their own” (Taylor, 2005: 635)


‘From hackers to hacktivists’ – Paul A. Taylor (2005) New Media and Society Vole 7(5)

Toywars: Conceptual Art Meets Conceptual Business - McKenzie Wark (

Boxfresh and Zapatista: Boxfresh Zapatista Campaign

Boxfresh Zapatista Rip Off

-> Art and reclaiming urban spaces

-> Free software for art

-> The Uses and Abuses of Art

Was there ever a time when 'art' was not a commodity? Is the distinction between 'art' and 'commodities', between 'culture' (creation?) and 'society' (exchange?) perhaps a false one, or at the least perhaps a misleading one? The Modernists - as self-conscious 'artists' - in common with their Bohemian forebears, amongst others, were on the whole distasteful of the idea that 'art' might be polluted by the 'dirty' world of commodities and the even dirtier one of the nasty 'bourgeoisie'. Somehow art as a commodity became an ugliness best avoided (until you needed to emigrate to Switzerland or fancied a trip to Taos or some other nice place from whence you could consider the follies of the world from a suitable distance: the way to escape this particular trap was to engage the services of a 'patron', preferably an aristocrat, someone untainted by the indignities of a life in thrall to capital - a method much favoured by Guy Debord who, if he wasn't making friends with aristos, seemed to spend a lot of time wishing he was one). On this view art exists in a pure vacuum somehow detached from the world of living - a real fetish object? What role can 'detached' art ever fulfil? Of course some people have sought to reignite the 'power' of art by reattaching it. Maybe we spend too much time looking at the commodity in the art and not enough looking for the art in the commodity? This would have been someone like Ruskin's view I guess. Capitalism conceals the art, or the potential for art, in everyday commodities.

'Art' can be used equally by those one might support - Politically - as by those one might not: an advertisment can be equally considered art as the work which seeks to 'detourne' (see the Situationist International) or simply deface it. And how might a work of art which seeks to persuade be distinguished from mere propaganda?

Is art best left in the unattached world of the modernists (some of them)? Is it simply a superstructural reflection, on a crude Marxist (though not really Marx's) view, of the 'real' conditions of existence? Should it be harnessed for political ends (see LENI RIEFENSTAHL) and is there a point at which such ends turn art into a political commodity?

Two quotes, both from quite some time ago: 'Mankind, which in Homer's time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian God's, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicising art' (Walter Benjamin: Illuminations, p. 235)

“The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.” Mikhail Bakunin.