Art, Production and the Subject in the 21st Century

Value: Art: Politics, 11


April 1st, 2015





What happened in art following the consolidation of capitalist globalisation after 1989? Drawing on work in art history, curating, critical theory, political economy and sociology, essays in Economy: Art, Production and the Subject in the 21st Century frame and substantiate the increasing attendance to economic relations as a defining trend in contemporary art’s history and one that brought to an end the hegemony of the cultural subject encountered in postmodern discourse. Contributions include reflections on art in its relation to property as well as to speculation and finance, immaterial labour and the avant-garde, the lessons of the past in pursuing an aesthetics of the economy, the ethics of care and the role of the art document, queer politics and class, the new feminist critique of economic subjects, migration, precarity and empowerment, the ambivalence of the commons, and a range of perspectives on the possibility of opposition, in the art world and beyond, to the biopolitical rule of global capital as the arbiter of human relations. Building on, extending and querying the curatorial project ECONOMY (Edinburgh and Glasgow 2013), the book puts forward a proposition that cuts across a number of ‘turns’ in the art of the past two decades, including socially engaged practices, seeking to connect localised approaches with the broader organisation of production and the unprecedented apparentness of the economy in the passage from the 20th to the 21st century. Contributors: Massimo de Angelis, Angela Dimitrakaki, Melanie Gilligan, Kirsten Lloyd, Renate Lorenz, Dimitris Papadopoulos & Vassilis Tsianos, Andrea Phillips, John Roberts, Alberto Toscano, Gregory Sholette, Marina Vishmidt. Editors: Angela Dimitrakaki is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Edinburgh Kirsten Lloyd is Teaching Fellow in History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and Associate Curator at Stills, Edinburgh

1. The book proposes a new understanding of contemporary art. It is one of the few books actually seeking to explain what replaced the hegemony of postmodernism (which had deflated by the mid-1990s). The hypothesis explored in the book is that from the mid-1990s to date the economy has been art’s new focus. 2. The book reflects on and substantiates the main thesis underwriting a major art exhibition curated by the editors in 2013. Please see 3. Through its themes, the book reframes and re-energises current debates in the field of contemporary art concerning: labour, ethics, gender and sexuality, migration , the crisis of neoliberalism, the commons and creative economies. 4. We highlight the fact that the volume is one of the few to bring feminist and queer perspectives to a central position in broader debates on production and the economy, while addressing art from the West and Eastern Europe. We explain why these perspectives are central. We are not aware of other books on contemporary art attempting this. 5. The book offers a genuine interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art: Essays are contributed by range of authors, not just drawn from art history.

Massimo De Angelis is Professor of Political Economy at the University of East London. He is editor of the journal The Commoner ( His most recent book is The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital (London, Pluto 2007). He is also the author of Keynesianism, Social Conflict and Political Economy (London, Macmillan 2000). He directs Montagna Viva, an association operating in the Appenines in Italy promoting commoning. Angela Dimitrakaki (Editor) is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Edinburgh. Her books include Gender, ArtWork and the Global Imperative: A Materialist Feminist Critique (Manchester University Press 2013) and, in her native Greek, Globalisation and Contemporary Art (Athens, Hestia 2013). She is also co-editor of Politics in a Glass Case: Feminism, Exhibition Cultures and Curatorial Transgressions (Liverpool University Press 2013). She is Corresponding Editor of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. Together with Kirsten Lloyd she curated the project ECONOMY in 2013 in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Kirsten Lloyd (Editor) is Associate Curator at Stills Edinburgh and an AHRC-funded PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research examines the turn towards documentary modes in contemporary art, linking it to the demand for the circulation of social knowledge and the increasingly urgent questions of representation and realism in the 21st century. Her most recent curatorial project was Social Documents (2010 – 2013), a trilogy of exhibitions examining artists’ mediation of social, political and economic realities, including ECONOMY with Angela Dimitrakaki. Previous projects have included Nicky Bird’s Beneath the Surface/Hidden Place (2006-10), charting the effects of economic change and regeneration in Scotland and Anton Vidokle’s Martha Rosler Library (2008). Recent publications include ‘Endgame? Reconfiguring the Artwork’ (Third Text, 118, 2012) and ‘The Caress: Intimate Transactions in the Video Art of Dani Marti’ in the artist’s monograph (Hatje Cantz, 2012). In 2013-14 Kirsten was a Curatorial Fellow at The University of Edinburgh’s History of Art department. Renate Lorenz is an artist, curator and writer. She is Professor of Art and Research and Head of the PhD in Practice Programme at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Her recent artworks, made in collaboration with Pauline Boudry, use methods such as ‘queer archaeology’ and ‘temporal drag’, referencing sex and gender discourses as well as ‘queer becomings’ in historical portrait photography, film and dance. In 2009 she curated the exhibition and workshop Freaky: Queer Art Conference. She regularly contributes to journals and edited volumes and is co-editor of and contributor to Copyshop – Kunstpraxis und Politische Öffentlichkeit [Practices of Art and the Counter-public],1993, a foundational publication on art and politics in the 1990s. Dimitris Papadopoulos is Reader in Sociology and Organisation in the School of Management, University of Leicester. His work in cultural studies of science and technology, experience and subjectivity, labour and transnational migration has appeared in various journals including Boundary 2; British Journal of Social Psychology; Culture, Theory & Critique; Darkmatter; Deleuze Studies; Ephemera; Social Studies of Science; Somatechnics; Theory & Psychology. He is a co-author of Escape Routes: Control and Subvesrion in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 2008) and Analysing Everyday Experience: Social Research and Political Change (Palgrave, 2006). He is currently working on the Politics of Matter: Ontology and Justice after Constructivism, a study of matter, materialism, and alternative interventions in technoscientific culture. He is co-editor of the journal Subjectivity. Andrea Phillips is Reader in Fine Art and Director of PhD programmes in the Art Department at Goldsmiths. She lectures and writes about the economic and social construction of publics within contemporary art. Recent and ongoing research projects include: Actors, Agent and Attendants on the role of artistic and curatorial production in contemporary political milieus (in collaboration with Fulya Erdemci and SKOR 2009-2015); The Aesthetic and Economic Impact of the Art Market, an investigation into the ways in which the art market shapes artists’ careers and public exhibitions (in collaboration with Suhail Malik); Public Alchemy, the public programme for the Istanbul Biennial 2013, in collaboration with Fulya Erdemci. She is the author of A Space Called Public (Koln: Walter Koenig, 2013) and co-editor, with Fulya Erdemci, of Social Housing-Housing the Social: Art, Property and Spatial Justice (Berlin/Amsterdam: Sternberg Press/SKOR, 2012). John Roberts is Professor of Art & Aesthetics at the University of Wolverhampton and is the author of a number of books, including Philosophizing the Everyday: Revolutionary Praxis and the Fate of Cultural Theory (Pluto Press, 2006), The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade (Verso, 2007) and The Necessity of Errors (Verso, 2011). His Photography and Its Violations (Columbia University Press) and Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde (Verso) are forthcoming. Gregory Sholette is a New York-based artist, curator, writer, and an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Queens College: City University of New York (CUNY). He is a founding member of Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D: 1980-1988) and REPOhistory (1989-2000). His recent publications include Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (Pluto Press, 2011); Collectivism after Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1945, co-edited with Blake Stimson (University of Minnesota Press, 2007); and The Interventionists: A User’s Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life, co-edited with Nato Thompson (The MIT Press, 2004). Together with Oliver Ressler he curated the group exhibition It’s the Political Economy, Stupid! in New York City in 2010 and touring since. He is co-editor of It’s the Political Economy, Stupid! The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory (Pluto Press, 2013). Alberto Toscano is Senior Lecturer at Sociology, Goldsmiths. He has published widely in journals such as Parallax, Third Text, Angelaki, Historical Materialism and others. He is the author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (Verso, 2010) and The Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation between Kant and Deleuze (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). His edited books include Edinburgh Critical History of Philosophy, vol. 6: Contemporary Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming); with L. Chiesa, The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics (, 2009); with R. Brassier, Alain Badiou, Theoretical Writings (Continuum, 2004); with N. Power, Alain Badiou, On Beckett (Clinamen Press, 2003). He is an Editor of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. Vassilis Tsianos is Lecturer at the University of Hamburg, where he teaches theoretical sociology, migration studies and labour studies. He is Senior Researcher with the EU FP7 project MIG@NET: Transnational Digital Networks, Migration and Gender investigating the digitalisation of border regimes in Europe. He is co-author of Escape Routes and co-editor of Biopolitik - in der Debatte (VS, 2011); Empire und die biopolitische Wende (Campus, 2007); Turbulente Ränder. Neue Perspektiven auf Migration an den Grenzen Europas (Script, 2007). His publications on the autonomy of migration, critical urbanism, antiracism and transnationalism have appeared in European Journal of Social Theory, Peripherie, Multitudes, Boundary 2, 1999—Zeitschrift für Sozialgeschichte and Texte zur Kunst amongst other journals. Marina Vishmidt is a London-based writer and critic occupied mainly with questions around art, labour, materiality, feminism and the value-form. She co-edited Uncorporate Identity (2010) with Metahaven, and Media Mutandis: Art, Technologies and Politics (NODE. London, 2006) and is currently writing a book with Kerstin Stakemeier on the politics of autonomy and reproduction in art (Hamburg: Textem, forthcoming). Marina completed a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London on 'Speculation as a Mode of Production in Art and Capital' and holds an MA from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. She has held posts including the DAAD Research Grant at the University of Hamburg, the Montehermoso Research Grant, critic-in-residence at the FRAC Lorraine and a fellowship at the Jan van Eyck Academie. She has taught at Central St Martins, ArtEZ, Goldsmiths, and the Universität der Künste. She is a regular contributor to catalogues, edited collections and journals such as Mute, Afterall, Parkett and Texte zur Kunst. She also takes part in the collective projects Unemployed Cinema and Cinenova.


'Fascinating, extremely well-written and absorbing - this book targets effectively today's urgent debates.'
Esther Leslie, Birkbeck University of London

Author Information

Angela Dimitrakaki is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Edinburgh. Kirsten Lloyd is Teaching Fellow in History of Art at the University of Edinburgh and Associate Curator at Stills, Edinburgh.