“Lotus Petals” for the Brooklyn Rail



February issue of Brooklyn Rail, guest edited by Martha Schwendener.


“We’ll witness the colors of a beautiful new art bloom soon after we revolutionize the markets. Art schools, artists, galleries, fairs, collectors, auctions, museums, and the corporate media have lined up to manufacture a compelling narrative about value, circulating the same artists worldwide as currency and multiplying their value via speculation. This same assembly line also chains most artists into debt and freezes or hides away much creative practice. But we are already seeing experiments, hacks, and technologies that point to what lies beyond. I imagine the blooming of the art market into numerous small-scale systems (lotus petals), each proposing heterogeneous models to value and exchange and understand art. Together, these will bring creative practice into contact with many lives and unleash optimism and power into the world.

Digging out of the financial debt-hole many artists find themselves in today will be a first order of business. I imagine experimental economies where art objects trade as a “bailout currency” against shares of student debt. This will collectivize remaining debt loads (admitting we’re all in this together) and convert economic and social negativity into a catalyst for good feeling and flow. Artists will be challenged to scramble the 1 percent aesthetics and prices coded into their work; to open up their craft and their politics; to be humbler and more generous. Other models will remove the links between art and money altogether, developing barter and skill trading, and nourishing an open source conceptual art market that injects playful inquiry and transgression directly into popular culture.  We will see a widespread hacking movement to hunt down loopholes and blind spots in the corporate (art and non-art) market and insert beautiful modules that promote equality. Additional economies will connect people into energized social nodes that experiment in public space, taking on the behemoth of corporate advertising to re-fashion the skin of cities and streets among which we live our lives, with non-messages much more interesting and unexpected than “buy me.” We’ll see open source projects with multiple authors, spinning off a web of outcomes temporarily capable of operating across the globe on the scale of the U.S. military or energy multinationals, leaving definitions of art far behind in favor of whatever is necessary to enact needed creative work and play.

The potential energy is here. As we continue to break through fear and cease praying to the market’s invisible hand and use our own to begin these experiments, the lotus will bloom.”