Art as product

Product is a word that shifted from being suspicious for triviality to being the confirmation of existence of nearly everything. The shifting happened so easily that whatever did not get the stamp was aborted as not recognizable; in any case as a thing or activity not acknowledged by the connoisseurs of the field. I cannot recall when this word accompanied by the cheering of the conversant first hit my brain. It is sure though that nowadays the word “product” lives glorious moments, rather years I should say. Is it the era of product and for how long is something to be decided later by historians; my concern is art as product: produced, packaged, tagged and sold.

In the same way as the artistic field became part of the culture industry (a product is attached to an industry), the artists are renamed art professionals; however it is not clear if this is just a matter of having a VAT number* or it goes deeper to the substance suggesting that we have to eliminate every amateurish element. Which again brings up a long conversation on how to justify the seriousness of someone who claims to be freed (and by her/his work is stimulating the brain, etc. of the spectator) from the pettiness of repetitive actions (called routine on professional ground) and in the same time is able to push a product in a highly competitive industry which merely targets the petty side of humans. It sounds complicated; and it is. So the curators filled the intellectual gap by letting the artist work at the production level and took over the actual end product, the synthesis of an exhibition. Some of us try again and again to persuade the artists that they can re-position themselves, but naturally we mostly fail, or our success is only temporary and sporadic.

Funny to see this written: the end result is not the final product. I will contemplate on this while putting in words the next article about how the notion of art as product leads to shameless exploitation of the artists.

* European tax number for freelance work, in this case

P.S. The images are from the geborgen kamers no 1, in Brandtstraat 158, Transvaal-The Hague, demolished in 2008. The exhibition itself was titled “geborgen kamers” (secured rooms) and presented as a dark space with objects/ shards. In one of the photos it’s me less than a week before giving birth to Mickey in front of the  “mirror newspaper”, a wall covered by newspaper articles of socio-political nature with small mirror-paper interruptions and the painting “do not press”.

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