Welcome to the fourth issue of Meta Mag [the zine within a zine]...because every zine should have even more zine; because Charleston's creativity should be flaunted...creatively. Every month. One theme. Writing. Art. Photography. The talent of Charleston in one collective.
Derivative Work by Austin Heustess
I was talking with a friend who works at different art galleries around town and she was telling me about this group of guys who have started coming in all the time. They’re dressed in these nice suits and ask her all sorts of questions about the artist and their career and a thousand other things. Every now and then they’ll buy something, but more often than not they just write down a bunch of the stuff she said on a bit of paper and stick it in their vest pocket. It was only when she was walking down near the banking district and saw them coming out of a big office building that she put together what they were doing. She talked with a couple of the gallery owners and found out that they were scouting the art as potential investments for clients looking to diversify their portfolios away from the derivatives after the ‘08 meltdown. They were going from gallery to gallery across the city looking for the artist they thought might be worth something someday, speculating on the art market in the same way that they did the housing market in past years.
To some degree this is a good thing, people supporting art and all that, patronage(patronizing?), but what I wonder is the effect this might have on the art itself. There is a word that comes up whenever I look at freelance artists or online blogs—"content". This is the idea that art, writing, movies, whatever it is, is another sort of commodity that can be traded, that you can value it in the same way you might be able to value a car or a watch (or a mortgage). Large entertainment businesses like publishing houses have always done this, betting on best sellers with advances and having production schedules which focus on tent-pole franchises to pitch to movie studios interested in low hanging fruit for a summer release. This structure of investing in art is not new. What I think is new is the type of people doing the speculating. The financial gambler who is willing to bet the farm (not his farm) is a very different thing than a studio head looking for the next Hunger Games. There is an abstraction to what these financial guys do that’s divorced from the sorts of easily looked-to numbers of that of a traditional media outlet. Losses obfuscated behind towers of words and, now, these words are being used to speculate on the work of untested artists. Numbers attempting to quantify the fullest potentiality of self. A kind of derivative work meant more to show output than to actual value.
The more I think about it though, there is a sort of kinship between these speculators and the artist. Between the post-meltdown derivative artist looking for a new graft and the Post-Post modern artist whose work sometimes looks like a line drawing of a cashew and other times is a human head made from soiled tampon strings. Both groups are maligned by the general public. Both subverting what historically their profession has done. In a way these speculators are a kind of artist: able to gloss themselves with a thin veneer of mathematics and theory. Theories whose base are much more similar to fuzzy art theory than anyone would like to admit. They paint on a canvas the size and shape of the thousand lives they effect with their decisions, use materials not even Jeff Koons could hope to afford, and when the exhibition ends, they seamlessly move on to their next piece without looking over their shoulder to see what the critics thought. Now they have turned their minds toward something even more abstract. To speculate like this on art is like placing bets on a snake swallowing its own tail.
After the massive devaluation of Chinese yuan (which I don't fully understand) and the collapse of Greek banking (which I think I do, but probably don't) fiat currency is something that is in major flux. People are looking for something of value. Something tangible, something they can cling to. Economics is built on the premise of "great" men who have the right to choose which way the wind blows even if it blows smoke. They aren't concrete, they aren't scientific, they aren't real. They aren't a painting. They aren't a song that moves you. They’re derivative and I think it’s time for some new work.
Currency by Lee Davis
I am counting on it
to keep me alive
to keep me in control of my life
to buy me time
to buy the time of others
to find me a place to reside
to find me reasons to take pride
to look after my children
to tuck them in at night
to replace nature
to replace failure with salvation
to replicate emotions
to replicate what we once had
I am counting on it to give us value