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Re: <nettime> a free letter to cultural institutions
Jaromil on Mon, 16 Jun 2014 03:06:47 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> a free letter to cultural institutions

dear Florian,

Thanks for your criticism, it helps making this discussion resonate.
Yet I see some discrepancies in your reasoning.

First and foremost there is a confusion between the terms "art" and
"culture", which is created already in Ozgur's open letter and oddly
whipped up by Aymeric. Art production is quite different from cultural
production.  Bluntly put: art celebrates where culture cultivates. Feel
free to demolish this dicotomy with reinvigorating examples, But I need
it now to make my (labour oriented) arguments clear.

Lets focus for instance on art *production* (as in the complex
relationships on which the condition for production of art stands).  At
the entrance is a nepotist labour system sold to art students for their
money. Once adulthood is granted, these official "artists" will face a
huge gap between a few big money-making artists and the vast majority:
something quickly resembling the widening gap of contemporary
capitalism. The liturgic apparatus of proprietary art with its avenues
and enclaves implements a sort of capitalism of attention. It is the
cathedral. To me "free art" just represents the refusal of it as a
whole, rather than an educated proposal for a new system. In this
regards "free art" is really a punk attitude (fluxus?) and I'm
entertained to read you choosing the weakest metaphore for your
arguments to fly. I guess it was intended.

Now lets try to look at the institutional perspective from outside of
this box.  Institutions today aren't what they used to. They are weak
elephants and as a consequence of neo-lib policies even their memory is
collapsing. Not only they cannot impose anything on artists even if they
want, but they are predated by profit-making lobbies for the
increasingly degraded labour they can offer. In such a scenario an
artist within the 99% (which includes most students anyway) is better
off circulating her/his works on PirateBay and on street walls: it will
give way more chances to enter the miracle of reward for art production.
All this because, as they function today, institutions are there only
for the established 1% and as much as they try to open up new offers for
their audience and respect the subjectivity of new artists, they will
just create more demand for the 1% and de-subjectivate new artists into
their own institutional decadence.

"Punks" (lets open it up to emergent, grass-root, controversial,
non-aligned art currents) are just too smart to not understand this.
They'll approach the field in a transversal way and release as much as
possible, free and everywhere, using anything between tapes spray cans
and torrents - and the institutional badge for them is not even
qualifying on their curriculum: to the contrary, it is
counter-productive at the eyes of their audience.  In most cases the
institutional badge on certain (top 1-5%) art productions is bought by
institutions with public (or lottery) money for the preservation of
their own glory and is accepted by artists mainly because of the money,
secondarily because of the popularity of avenues and curators.  That's
how the art funding world is definitely dead if confronted by the
axiomatic rationalism of neo-liberism. This system is a remnance of a
socialist approach to governance for an apparatus that has no more
social function. Institutions today are social apparatuses reduced to an
anti-social function by the neo-liberist narrative - and as such they
are sliding towards reactionary and conservative behaviour. In fact the
very institutions that are admittedly reactionary and conservative are
the ones thriving.

Said that, I agree with you that an institution should not impose any
choice on the way an artist wants to circulate her/his artworks. But I
do believe that such a Foucaultian statement won't solve the
contemporary institutional empasse. To move forward we need to sketch
the creation of new forms of institutions that promote the circulation
of art, or maybe facilitate the birth of new art currents as most
curators seem to try nowadays.

Lets now focus on "free culture". The best definition of it I believe is
given by the charter of the FCForum http://fcforum.net. This definition
of culture is what I've referred to in my previous answer: the condition
for the *production* and *sharing* of narratives, knowledge and
ultimately governance. Culture goes beyond the concept of authorship and
the need to celebrate artists, culture unlocks conditions in which
artists can develop their skills and circulate their artworks. The
notion of free culture is the bazaar. And it is somehow also a neo-lib
mirage when applied purely as a method, as Marc points out.

To conclude: is there a way out for cultural institutions at the time of
the necrotization of capitalism? I'm at least certain that on the
mid-long term that is not the way cultural industries go, it is not the
hipsteria of blinking leds on arduinos, the infantile discovery of
electricity and fiddling on circuits, the mirage of a fluxus in the
electronic age and a bazaar out of the cathedral.  We need a deeper
operation that goes beyond the conceptualization of "free art" (and free
culture and even free software) to connect different contexts and the
dynamics of creation, sharing, appropriation and distribution of
analogue and digital productions. Therefore in Ozgur's open letter I
believe it makes more sense to talk about "free media", as the
Sub-Comandante Insurgente MoisÃs does  https://diasp.org/p/3154068


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