lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Want and Value

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2009 at 11:44 am

Poster5Artists often have experiences of diminishment in a society that does not value what we do.  I take it as a given that many people in the arts do not buy into the dominant culture’s reductivist view that value is based on money, however, it is next to impossible to live in this culture and not be affected by that worldview. That worldview makes money the organizing factor of our thoughts and interactions with the world. It can make money the only way to understand the world. And it doesn’t matter if you are materialistic or have taken a vow of poverty – they are ends of the same spectrum. As my teacher Ken McLeod says, if you take a train and turn it around in the opposite direction, it is still running on the same track.

I was a nascent artist in the time of conceptual art when the rage was to not make objects that could be sold. At one time in my early career, I was “hot”, and I experienced that my work had value because I received lots of invitations to show my work (for which I would receive payment) and my work was written about. My video work was represented by Art Metrople (back in the mists of time) and was sold to institutions including The National Gallery of Canada. But since then, my work has had no monetary value.

In the past couple of years, I have made two large photographs, valued at $1,000, which I have been unable to sell*. I of course have made all kinds of installations in my life, none of which have sold or are in collections. I do not have a dealer and am therefore an artist without value in the art world/art market. Intermediaries between artists and the public – dealers, curators, critics and other power brokers – determine what – wait, let’s call a spade a spade – who, has value. Value is created by the 3 Cs; curators, collectors and critics.Poster1

In keeping with my identity as an artist of no value, I have posted flyers bearing the transcriptions of the audio files from the summer’s three Wants. (My logic being that posters, like my work, have no value – as opposed to fine art prints, for example.) Postering is illegal in this nice, clean city and I have posted neatly on the designated kiosks. Each flyer is titled “WHAT THE PEOPLE OF ST. CATHARINES WANT” followed by a numeral in the series (there are six). They are printed on vellum which I chose both because I expect it to bear up to weather better than plain bond paper and as a marker of the notion of value, being different and more expensive than plain bond.  They bear no identifying mark, in keeping with my value-less identity (since artist signatures are part of the notion of market and value).

 * Recently, I experienced the shock of these photographs being rejected for exhibition in my workplace. My workplace isGrLakesjpeg the fantastic Centre for Social Innovation and its programs and tenants are all about social action. Imagine my surprise when the Guardian photographs, about Great Lakes pollution and land use, were unconsidered inappropriate.  The most literal art I think I’ve ever made, complete with word balloons, was somehow still unread in terms of its content to the selection committee of laypeople. Disappointments of this sort are what feed feelings of worthlessness and the personal work of not attaching to them.

  1. Could you please add a map (or location directions) to the posters? Downtown St. Catharines is a busy place, since traffic became two-way, and it is dangerous to go wandering about looking for art and not watching where one is going.
    Also, could you send the map/directions to the members of St. Catahrines City Council — they need all the help they can get determining what the people want.

  2. Many of people write about this matter but you wrote down some true words!!

  3. […] culminating in a street audio installation (severely compromised by available resources). Then I postered the text on downtown kiosks. I had hoped to mount a larger-scale version of postering but this did […]

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