The entry below revolves around Asger Jorn’s text Value and Economy – critique of political economy and the exploitation of the unique which was originally published in French in 1959 by the Internationale Situationniste. In 1962 Jorn published it as Report no. 2 of the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism. An English version in PDF format, translated by Peter Shield, published in 2002 by Ashgate (together with other texts) can be found here: http://www.generation-online.org/h/fh_situationists.pdf
The first part of Value and Economy is a critique on socialist/Marxist political economy. In this chapter Jorn speaks about the notion of value from the perspective of material/substance, time and space, progress and change including notions of uniformity and creativity in work. In the second and last part of the text the key issue is the proposal for an economically independent international “creative elite”. By adopting typical Scandinavian institutions such as Nikolaj Grundtvig’s ‘Folkehøjskole’ (Folk high schools) to realize “artistic value” for the greater universal good. He also attempts to reconcile the unique and individual position of the “creative elite” with his socialist principles.
To me, there is a connection between Value and Economy, Jorn’s outspokenness about the function of art and the role of the artist in society (which was one of the reasons for raising my interest in his writing and thinking), and the current European political, financial and moral crisis with its populistic excesses, and its thinking in economic/financial terms only. In the light of serious budget cuts and closing down of a variety of cultural institutions (starting 2010 and 2011) many people also came to defend the importance of the arts from the perspective of the economic benefits of what we nowadays call the ‘cultural industry’. It was difficult to verbalize the ideas on the value of art and culture and the role of the artist from the perspective of the arts, or at least to be taken seriously if one would take on a typical Asger Jorn perspective:
“What we are talking about here is art and its justification, its meaning and its place in our lifes and society. Art does not exist simply for the enjoyment of beauty, nor so as to point a moral finger. Aesthetics and ethics are nothing more than play-things for philosophers and theologians. Art is a life and death issue; a human necessity.” (Asger Jorn, ‘Architecture Is Not Art’, in Fraternité Avant Tout, p. 53, ed. Ruth Baumeister, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam 2011 )
In the light of the current crisis it is probably not surprising that Asger Jorn’s text Value and Economy – Critique of Political Economy and the Exploitation of the Unique kept popping up in the various encounters I have had so far. The well-known Danish artists’ collective Superflex were the first ones to bring it up when I visited their studio in Copenhagen. Their projects usually revolve around alternative models for the creation, dissemination and maintenance of social and economic organisation.
The image comes http://www.superflex.net/tools/today_we_do_not_use_the_word_-recession- and is accompanied by a very informative text about their work.
After the meeting with Superflex I brought up Value and Economy to the Belgian artists duo Ronny Heiremans and Kathleen Vermeir, who immediately included a copy of the text in a reader they composed for a public event in the framework of the Brussels Art Fair (2012). In their work, Vermeir and Heiremans create work in various media, usually including video, which explores the entangled web between art, the economy, real estate, and urban development.
When contacting artist, writer and curator Dave Beech I learned that he was organizing the Art and Capitalism conference at the Chelsea School of Art (July 2013), and that one of the three debates would be about Jorn’s Value and Economy. He kindly send me an audio recording of it, and based on that I asked philosopher and artist Martin Wooster if I could publish his contribution to the debate on this blog, as well as a brief converation between us. He generously agreed (see next entry).