Capitalism and its primary medium——money——have their maximum effectiveness when monetary value becomes moral value and both blend into one another.

How beautifully that can be shown through art! Examples in the visual arts are obvious and need not be mentioned again, but even New Music gathers its qualitative advantages through quantities. How?

One example is Google’s search algorithm. It favors quantities: a web page will appear well in the search results if it is linked to other websites that are well linked. What counts is the linking, but not the content of a link. Wikipedia explains:

Link popularity is a measure of the number and quality of hyperlinks pointing to a web page. The more frequently a page is linked, the higher the link popularity of this page.

Quite unabashedly, quantity is equated with quality: we are talking about the quality of (hyper) links, which is measured by the frequency of their linking.

The result of this logic then leads to more and more communication, that nothing is communicated (Georg Seeslen in stupid machines). Or, as Jean Baudrillard in the 80s aptly sums it up: Wherever there is nothing, there arises a kind of overabundance (the fatal strategies).

Of course, the creators of New Music and their works are in the sphere of influence of this logic. I cite Wikipedia’s description of Google’s link popularity and replace the terms:

The relevance of contemporary composers (and their works) is a measure of the number and quality of their contacts, which point to new contacts. The more frequently a composer is contacted, the higher the relevance of this composer.

Or scientific essays:

The relevance of scientific papers is a measure of the number and quality of citations that refer to new quotes. The more frequently a scientific essay is cited, the higher the scientific relevance of this essay.

Of course, that’s nothing new, that’s always been there. However, authors like Baudrillard show that in the state of total unleashing (that is, when qualitative measures have become empty), quantity turns into quality without resistance. That would be the total rule of hit parades, ratings and market economy. But also the total rule of the corrupt gentleman.

Of course, a rethinking slowly takes place. Crises help heal. But not as neo-liberalism argues, without reflexive action. Paradoxes are to be unfolded.


Isabelle Graw: Der grosse Preis

Isabelle Graw: Der große Preis. Kunst zwischen Markt und Celebrity Kultur, 256 pp., DuMont Verlag 2008, €19,90

Because they have a price, artworks are no different from canned fish - or dental treatments. At first, one could find the thesis of Isabelle Graw’s trivial—that art and the market are interlinked, without merging into one. Because this is also true for the mutual relation of fish and market or professional work and market. Markets are created by competition for payments. The objects that can trigger such payments are never economically interested in all their properties. Compared to other goods, some art is part of the luxury segment of the consumer durables market where it competes with, for example, horses, boats, furniture and jewelery. It is always clear that you can do different things with boats than with pictures.

Der grosse Preis

Caleb Larsen

Caleb Larsen built a black plastic cube with Internet connection in 2008 and a script through which it sells itself on Ebay. As soon as it is bought, it automatically creates a new auction with the last sale price as the new starting price. The current auction stands at more than $7’500.

Artwork Sells Itself on eBay

Wolfgang Ullrich

Marktkunst Über eine zeitgenössische Erscheinungsweise des Erhabenen

If there’s one thing that cultural activities rely on the most, it’s criticism of the market. Ever since the Romantic era, it has been standard practice to express the concern that art can be damaged by commercial interests, by commodity-economic mechanisms, by the pragmatism of a trade relationship. So it is feared that in the market only has success, which also a majority like - which is so conventional and harmless, perhaps even trivial and cheesy, while the new, unfamiliar - and therefore first strangers - finds little resonance. Do not most people just buy what they already know? And is not the market thus a conservative body that harms the further development of art? Which, above all, runs counter to the claim that art must be distinguished by originality - by distance from already existing, established works? So is not the market the adversary of art?

Entire text (German), Download: Wolfgang Ullrich – Marktkunst.pdf

Kunst im Netz: große Quantitäten.

Lecture by Johannes Kreidler, given 12 February, 2011 at the conference “Der Kongress bloggt”, Kunsthaus Rhenania, Cologne (in German).