The art market has always faced accusations of being over-inflated and reducing the subversive, political, ethical and perhaps spiritual potency of art in favour of pure profit. Banksy’s ‘Girl With Balloon’ piece pictured above – where a stunt to shred an artwork didn’t go to plan and as a result, actually increased the value of the artwork – is testament to just how divorced artistic and monetary value are from each other. The mechanisms of capitalism in the twenty-first century, i.e. of the intense and deepening financialisation of everything from housing to education, has seen art become an exchange currency that is of more value squirreled away in freeports than on display in the Louvre.
But with the advent of so-called Non-Fungible Tokens (or NFTs), the financialisation of art will obliterate any remaining integrity from artistic endeavour. In the same way that the price paid for Banksy’s failed prank has nothing to do with the politics of the piece, the eye-wateringly high prices being paid for digital art are nothing to do with the appeal of the piece, but because of the infallible copyright accuracy of the blockchain. NFTs essentially do away with the ambiguity of ownership and authenticity and a provide a digitally-encoded and incorruptible proof of ownership. In essence then, all NFTs do is ramp up the privatisation of art; a process that began with patronage, and won’t end until any semblance of social or political utility has been completely removed from the artistic process.
Just a quick note to say that over on the OpenDemocracy website, they very gracefully decided to publish my response to this piece by Adam Lent for the RSA. The headline argument is that the last 250 years has not seen a sudden surge in the creative spirit, it has seen the appropriation of creativity by neoliberalised capital, that is co-opting it for economic development. An old argument, but the continued hijacking of creativity for financial and profiteering objectives seems to be accelerating, and so the argument is worth reiterating. Again.
We are no more creative that we used to be; it’s just that now, hell really has broken loose because people have become very good and channeling that creativity into creating hegemony, centralised power and injustice. Perhaps that is being creative? I sincerely hope not.
Many years ago I coined the phrase Urban Subversion that began as an interest in parkour as a creative act of urban re-appropriation. It soon became apparent as I looked for additional ways in which people were interacting with the city in novel and innovate ways, there was a small, but increasing swath of people who were actively reconfiguring their urban environment for sometimes playful, sometimes anti-hegemonic, and sometimes subversive, but always in creative and innovate ways. Nearly 5 years hence, Maria Daskalaki and I have (finally) managed to get the ideas and musings we had about Urban Subversions all those years ago published. In the intervening period, I have witnessed (first hand through my travels and via the relentless march toward information-domination of Twitter and social media) the boom of these kinds of creative engagements become popularised and in some cases, accepted as legitimate and formal urban development policies. The latest piece to confirm this was the ever-excellent PopUpCity claiming that local cultural and creative urban practices have ‘gone global’ (something which I championed last year).
It is perhaps with a little bit of poetic justice that I saw Mark Brittin of Google speak at MediaCityUK two days before Steve Jobs passed away – the message Mark gave was one that Steve had been actively living and preaching pretty much his whole adult life. I’m not going to eulogize about Apple and Jobs here, there are plenty of other blog posts today that will do that (here’s a particularly good one). Instead, I wanted to talk about what that message was, namely the importance of diverse inter-disciplinarity for creativity and innovation. Read More