Emergent Economies of Art & Technology: Modes of Making, Circulating and Organizing in the Contemporary Condition


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date2 Dec 2020


This research seeks to understand the contemporary economies of art and technology through the practices of artists and organizations. Situated between sectors and disciplines, the field emerges through the process of making, circulating, and organizing art. Drawing from Karen Barad, economies are viewed as an emergent sociomaterial process in time. As artists and practitioners engage in multiple economies in their practices, these economies can be thought of as layered and co-existent in different temporalities in the contemporaneity (Osborne) of the contemporary condition (Cox & Lund). Shifting beyond critique, this thesis takes a post-critical perspective of posthumanist scholars (Braidotti, Stengers, Barad) to present an onto-epistemological approach to economies that is constructive, pragmatic, and open to the future. Through this thesis, I seek to highlight the emerging agencies in different modes of making, circulating, and organizing art and technology.

The “modes” of making, circulating, and organizing are intensive and dynamic processes of developing an artistic practice. Modes are the actions taken in an on-going making and re-making of markets, or economies. Economies are performative, in that they are constituted in the process of their emergence. The economies of the contemporary condition include the means to make art and support one’s living as an on-going negotiation of time and labor in the “modes of making,” which includes emerging infrastructures for supporting artistic production through corporate collaboration. Economies condition the artistic process as well as the form of the work produced.

The “modes of circulating” in the economies of displaying, selling, and circulating art are proliferating. In the post-media condition, art takes multiple forms; thus, artists may engage multiple economies to support a practice. Engaging multiple systems of value and valuation of the art market and mass media in the “cultures of circulation” (Lee & LiPuma), these temporalities and ontologies of artworks are conceived as things (Appadurai) circulating in various forms as commodities, ephemeral experiences, viral media, and financial assets. Not intending to be comprehensive, this thesis presents a multiplicity of practices to open up perspectives on their potential for acquiring differential meanings in situated contexts.

The “modes of organizing” present agencies in the process of organizing as a non- profit or commercial enterprise. Incorporated entities become raw material for experimentation as an “organizational aesthetics” (Goriunova). However, without following the logics of profit and growth, organizing can be considered a part of the artistic process as a “form-of-life” (Agamben). As an experimental platform for art and technology, my own company, MetaObjects, draws from an understanding of the needs of artists, including access to resources, skills, and technology, so that we might assist in the navigation of economies to open up possibilities for art and artists in an “ecology of practice” (Stengers). Practices are situated and contingent on a changing environment, remaining open to future re-configurations. In an ethics of “response-ability” (Haraway), an emergent practice enables possibilities for the self and others in a dynamic and open-ended relationship to the world.