The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Game of extensions - m/art - currency and probably not

Consider a work of art as a pure item of exchange, that is, a
form of currency based on an identification between exchange
value and unique object. As such, it participates in currency
exchange, instead of a standardized marketplace emphasizing
commodities. In order of the work to be so constituted, it
obviously must possess unique features, a means of identifying
authorship without question, the potential for investment by
directly entering the monetary system through galleries and
other institutions identified directly as banks, and the ability
- like gold - to be simultaneously currency and substance/
object. It's clear that the ideology of the object is irrelevant
since it is subsumed within the structure of currency, much as
the design on a bill is irrelevant to its purchasing power. But
I do not want to stop here, I want to mention briefly blockages
to this scheme, blockages which exist at the edge of the object
itself, which become dysfunctional within the game-space of
monetary exchange. It's here that another value is generated,
one of unacceptability or waywardness, and I'd argue that this
opens up to other territories outside the commodity system -
most often, territories of the abject which cannot be encapsul-
ated, which remain abject and flooding, which perturb because
they cannot be absorbed. For a long time schiz-thought was
considered as such, but that, too, formed a signifier within
certain kinds of theory. I'm thinking instead of those fluxes
which flood 'out the other side,' which remains broken, or a
form of gravel, which are not only undefinable, but are
incapable of being defined to the extent that their ontology is
also undefined, unclear, scattered, exhausted, disparate at the
very heap of cores and interrelationships which may be hinted
at, at best. I can think of examples, but they are literally
beneath me, and them, and their; the examples are under erasure
as soon as they're considered, as soon as attempts to apply
indexicality to their chaotic territories are underway. The
index itself is false, an illusion; the ghosts in the machine
are dissipated, and what remains are remnants and residues in
unknown tongues, not languages. I'd call this the aporia of the
broken territories beyond the pale, the aporia of edge-spaces
which extend indefinitely, having forgotten the game-spaces and
rules at the core, edge-spaces, in other words, beyond edge-
spaces, elsewhere, 'neither this nor that.' I'd think of this as
a domain of unformed provinces, the game of extensions which
can't be played but which is forgotten, necessarily, the game
which seeps out from currency. So there might not be, and
probably aren't, objects; so there might not be and probably
aren't, flows or chaotic trajectories - there might not be, and
probably aren't.

(Consider the signature on an artwork and on U.S. 'paper'
currency. Currency is backed by governments, exchanges, banks;
artworks are backed by discursive formations. Forgeries are
tolerated by neither; they create a sense of discomfort in
relation to the symbolic; the abject leaks through, even though
the objects remain the same. Substances and age are analyzed by
assay which may be able to detect age and provenance. The thing
itself requires protection within a physical potential well. The
physical gallery is a vault; the gallery system is a banking
system. Everyone knows that currencies and exchange values in
general are subject to wild fluctuations, speculations. What to
look for in any work of art? Signature, rarity, buzz, market
trajectories, real or virtual life-span of the artist. Shock
doesn't hurt but shock may fade.)

(The game of extensions appears to absorb everything, but the
abject may leak elsewhere. To the extent that the abject is
indexical, it functions within the m/artworld; to the extent
that it remains uncategorizable, problematizing the object
itself, its dysfunctionality deflects absorption. How can one
speak about the unspeakable? One pushes it under the rug.)

(Of course, the digital creates a different system altogether,
one based on plurality, pure exchange down to the bit, fast-
forward marketing, the cult and visibility of the artist as
managerial. The abject transforms into glitch, re-enters the
discourse through the front door, not the back. Everything on
the level of abstraction falters on the logic of the copy. I
want to argue that the peripheral, the unspeakable, co-exists
among real bodies tending towards death and dissolution, that
technophilia looking towards the future is in actuality a
rear-guard action. I want to argue this because I want to
consider the possibility of a corrosion which simultaneously
doesn't lead to extinctions, and produces continuously without
demarcation; this doesn't go anywhere

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