Art, Commodification and Refusal

The project explores the relationship between artistic and political practice, in partnership with the Tate Exchange Programme, the Live Art Development Agency (LADA), and Sidney Cooper Art Gallery, Canterbury.

About the project

The project focuses on artistic practice as a form of resistance to, and transformation of, relations of power and oppressive modes of social stratification. This is part of a wider ‘fairground of attractions’, which explores the idea of exchange in the context of the refusal of commodification. 

Conceptual background

There has been something of a return to the Victorian idea of the ‘dangerous classes’ in recent times. The language adopted by the media in the London ‘riots’ of 2011 could quite easily be transposed onto the popular press in the nineteenth century. As the state is ‘rolled back’, and social welfare provision is cut, it becomes increasingly necessary to instigate a process of ideological ‘Othering’ of those on the receiving end of this process. Think of the current tabloid media content (programme titles such as ‘Benefits Britain’) which involves a type of reimagining of the Victorian Freak Show for the multi-media age.

If the above points to the emergence of a dominant ideological narrative, this project refuses this narrative. The project is based around a politically focused artistic exploration of the idea of exchange. The project responds to Etchells' provocation ‘The most important exchange is economic’, but it turns it inside out, pointing to the fact that capitalist exchange produces (human/social) waste. While that ‘waste’ is commodified through the XXI-century versions of Victorian Freak Shows (once again becoming material for exchange), our project aims at a radical view not on the ‘waste’ but from the perspective of the ‘waste’.

The work produced as part of this project will result from the creativity of the groups identified above, and will invert this idea of the wasteful margins. Key research and practice questions include:

  • How do people at the margins, considered society's waste, understand their role in capitalist exchange?
  • How do they challenge it?

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Last edited: 15/12/2018 12:53:00