Your Art World: Or, The Limits of Connectivity

Originally published in Afterall, Issue 14, Autumn/Winter 2006, pp.3–8, http://www.afterall.org

“Best of Chicago Art Magazine” re-post. Appeared in Chicago Art Criticism on 3/3/10

Lane Relyea

For starters, consider the lounge. What exhibition today is complete without one? A good example was provided by “Be Creative! Der kreative Imperativ,” a show that opened at Zürich’s Design Museum in late 2002. Participants ranging from artists and designers to architects and theorists contributed projects, research data, software and commentary devoted to the themes of neoliberal economic policy, flexible business management and immaterial labor. To get a sense of the show’s layout, think hip dotcom startup. Or, in the words of its curator, the Swiss artist Marion von Osten, “a modern space for living and working, ranging from the loft to the open-plan office, alternating production and regeneration, and using game tables, advisory literature and chillout zones.”1

Now compare this to the more recent “Make Your Own Life: Artists In & Out of Cologne” at the Philadelphia ICA, a show with a similar sounding title, also phrased in the imperative – only, rather than “be creative,” its command, following the marketing trend ignited by the popularity of websites such as MySpace and YouTube, was to customise and personalise, to be self-creative. (“‘Our,’ ‘my’ and ‘your’ are consumer empowerment words,” notes Manning Field, senior vice president for brand management at Chase Card Services.2) Whereas the Zürich show openly worried over the post-Fordist production protocols it critically mimed – “this idea of economics,” according to Osten, “based on talent and initiative, [in which] cuts in social and cultural spending are legitimized under the paradigm of the self-sufficiency of (cultural) entrepreneurs” – the Philadelphia show stressed more the liberating promise which the creative personality holds out to society. Rather than flexibility, it talked about autonomy; rather than fret over neoliberal appropriations of the artist as an idealization of entrepreneurial subjectivity, it pondered “the possibilities of artistic agency…artists creating themselves.”3 It, too, featured a lounge.

Who relaxes in these things? Who doesn’t instead feel a strong ambivalence, if not irritation, when happening upon the lounge? Of course, the irritation is the best part. Contradictions bottleneck here. Whether lounge, reading room or “chillout zone” (the one in Philadelphia came outfitted with turntable, CD player, library of choice recordings and couch), typically such a place is meant to signify a progressive artistic or curatorial approach to exhibitions, one that privileges context and process over discrete objects, that turns away from static commodity display in favor of a more dynamic environment of ongoing, interactive meaning production. The lounge demonstrates how “meaning is fugitive…beyond the object or image as such…complexly wound up with social dynamics,” to quote curator Bennett Simpson from the “Make Your Own Life” catalogue. Or, as phrased in the press release for the group show “When Artists Say We” at New York’s Artists Space last spring, “art – made individually or as a collective – is constituted from within such exchange.”

But the lounge as organic social oasis sprouting in the middle of the staid institution answers other agendas as well. With the spread of instrumentalized and instrumentalizing communications technology, social exchange is increasingly ensnared within the logic of commodity exchange. The lounge descends from that hybrid architectural offspring of the New Economy, what Starbucks founder and chairman Howard Schultz famously calls “the third place,” a casual multi-use site mixing home and office, business and leisure, private and public, production and consumption, a space equally amenable to group brainstorming, websurfing and poetry readings. Businesses adopt it as workspace as do retailers for peddling goods. Ample La-Z-Boys, errant reading material, background tunes and palpable ambiance now come standard in not only the new project-oriented office configurations but also in what’s called “community-centric retailing” – from the small lounge-ish satellites of big-box outlets like Best Buy to redesigned bank branches that serve espresso drinks and offer yoga classes.4

This isn’t just a matter of conjuring “parallels” between superstructure and base. As surplus value grows frothier around such intangible and instantly obsolete commodities as events, services, affective experiences and word-of-mouth buzz, and as business practice increasingly relies on networking, on the accumulating and maintaining of contacts and the ability to access and move nimbly between myriad social circles, art institutions as well scramble to find ways, in the words of Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, “to formalize informality…[to] provide what are essentially convergence zones for corporate and creative networks to interact, overlap with one another and form ‘weak’ ties. The prominence that events such as charity auctions, exhibition openings, talk programs and award dinners have attained demonstrates how central face-to-face social interaction is to the functional capacity of these new alliances.”5

No question the lounge is part of a trend – but toward what? More creative social spontaneity or more chronically intermittent employment with longer “immaterial” work hours and no benefits? Are we witnessing the fulfillment of that long-sought avant-garde dream of merging art and life, or is this merger more corporate than utopian, more the implementation of neoliberal strategic goals for a fully freelance economy, one staffed by highly motivated, underpaid, short-term and subcontracted creative types for whom, in Osten’s words, “artists and designers are taken as the model?”6 Is the public sphere being refashioned in the image of intense and intimate artistic collaboration, or is it being further fragmented by the narcissisms and nepotisms of ego-casting and in-clubbing, paved over by the privatizations and exclusions of controlled-access cyber-socializing. Given the business class’s new mantra of “network or perish,” is the lounge a glorious expansion of freedom or the new key to capitalist survival?

As the Zürich and Philadelphia shows illustrate, discussion of this topic appears to have unfurled somewhat asymmetrically on the two sides of the Atlantic. Many artists and critics, especially in Europe, do in fact pay heed to the emerging characteristics of the New Economy, or what ex-Al Gore speechwriter Daniel Pink envisioned as “Free Agent Nation” and the Tony Blair government pithily calls “The Talent Economy,” although little analysis has been devoted to how such macro-trends specifically interact with developments internal to art practice.7 On the other hand, when focus stays trained on such art innovations as service-oriented projects and relational aesthetics, or the re-emergence of collectives and multiple or fictive identities, these developments tend to get talked about as if they were transpiring under the Old Economy. Despite vague references to the “chaos of global culture in the information age,” artists still garner applause for the sheer feat of avoiding categorization and not making objects.8 But given the contemporary art world’s complex realities, with its vast institutionalization, its more diverse, “collaborative” forms of patronage, its mixed public, private and corporate revenue streams, and its decisive influence on the global jockeying of municipal and even regional economies, critical reckoning has more on its has hands than just finger-wagging at the cash purchase of stretched canvas. Mobility, fluidity, flux and unpredictability have been catechisms of corporate managers for at least the past decade. And yet these very same words were used repeatedly to not only pitch this year’s Whitney Biennial but vouch for its “criticality.” Curators Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne likened the show to a big “cabaret,” as if to suggest a kind of mega-lounge, the “third place” writ spectacularly – but of course their intended point of reference was instead Cabaret Voltaire and the avant-garde interventions of nearly a hundred years ago. The other Biennial theme, about collectives and pseudo-identities, the curators described as “a way of creating a space outside the market: a space where things can’t be pinned down so easily and exchanged…so that the artist isn’t directly accessible.”9 Tell that to John Kelsey, a critic for Artforum and, as co-founder of the Bernadette Corporation and director of Reena Spaulings, a Biennial participant twice over. “In part because of ‘this mystique around the collective,'” the Wall Street Journal quotes Kelsey in an article on the Spaulings Gallery’s part in the pseudonyms fad, “at a recent show, works sold quickly.”10

Staking a position outside and opposed to “the system” is definitely no cinch these days – especially when the system feeds off segmentation and diversification (if not diversity), collapsing a sense of inside and outside, as attempts to participate result in isolation while renunciations and refusals are recouped as participation. Nor is mounting some purge of all forms of artworld complicity a solution – if only because not much of interest would be left. What would help, though, is a thorough transvaluing of critical art discourse and its objects, starting with a reassessment and reproblematizing of the current situation and its determinants from a more up-to-date and relevant perspective. This at least would overcome the hypocrisy of basing claims for the superiority of relational and performative art forms on a static, reified caricature of their conditions. At the same time, analysis needs to go beyond general social processes, beyond even such artworld infrastructure as kunsthallen and galleries and their mixed economic support; it needs to engage art practice itself, its material, structural and genealogical specificities, so as to avoid the kind mechanistic account of cultural forms as pre-destined by causes firmly planted elsewhere. The point is to not reduce art but hopefully lay some necessary groundwork for elaborating whatever options it may still have available.

Only the briefest attempt at such a genealogy is possible here. To wit: Much art practice today can be seen as developing from an apparent reconciliation of two separate but related trends that dominated the 1980s. On the one hand, there was the prevalence of art rooted in the street cultures of hip-hop, punk and new wave, as well as in DIY and activist politics, all of which conformed to the sociologically grounded, Gramscian arguments about signifying practices and bricolage put forward by people like Stuart Hall, Dick Hebdige and Michel de Certeau. At the same time, much art production and reception was also framed within a more philosophical-minded, totalizing Frankfurt School portrayal of culture as monolithic, dictatorial and pacifying, according to which floating signifiers, usually in the form of glass-encased media images and isolated statuesque commodities, colonized and privatized social relations within an industrially-produced mass spectacle.

By the end of the ’80s, this latter trend seemed to recede behind the Cultural Studies paradigm and its focus on everyday practice, as well as what Hal Foster has called “the return of the real” – the re-emergence, that is, of the situated and material body, of Otherness and abjection. But interest in the body didn’t so much reject as make more material the previous notion of media, thickening it and also making it more local. Media came to reference as much fanzines, protest flyers and other empowerments of the corner copy shop as it did multi-million-dollar Madison Avenue propaganda campaigns. Appropriation was folded into bricolage, or what Claude Levi-Strauss called “the science of the concrete”; it entailed handling, adapting and piecing together things. Heterogeneity, which signaled channel-surfing schizophrenia in David Salle’s paintings, a decade later stood for a healthy and welcoming capaciousness in Laura Owens’s canvases – as if she undertook painting the way one might collect records, as a (sub?)cultural practice. Or compare Richard Prince’s early-’80s media appropriations with Elizabeth Peyton’s later renderings of celebrities, or Barbara Kruger’s media scripts with the handwritten pedestrian communiqués facilitated by Gillian Wearing. Or, more simply, juxtapose Peter Halley quoting Baudrillard in 1983 and publishing Index magazine in 1996. In the work of Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, shopping segued into thrifting; with Wolfgang Tillmans, thrifting turned fashion into street fashion. What seemed at the beginning of the ’90s as an opposition between the apparitions of spectacle and the opacities of embodiment and trauma soon disappeared as artists instead embraced a middle ground between the two – the realm of everyday life and common cultural exchange. Not superstar celebrities or abject flesh but people wearing clothes, eating food and hanging out with friends.

Such a synopsis hews closely to several accounts already written of the ’90s, especially the one canonized by Nicolas Bourriaud in his books Relational Aesthetics (1998) and Postproduction (2001). The notion of artistic practice that comes to the fore here has supposedly little to do with the stereotype of the lone genius who transmutes raw matter in the isolation of the studio. Rather, it’s about intervening in everyday materials that are themselves continuous and interwoven with larger communities and cultures; and it’s also about identity as an ongoing construction always inclusive of and open to larger systems of exchange. Under these terms, subjectivity is shown to be performed rather than accreted individually or adopted and reproduced passively. At the same time, “artists who insert their work into that of others,” as Bourriaud explains, “contribute to the eradication of the traditional distinction between production and consumption, creation and copy, readymade and original work.”11 The antithesis pitting creative hero against conformist consumer is thus transcended in the figure of the bricoleur – or, to list Bourriaud’s favored exemplars, the DJ, programmer and web surfer, all “‘semionauts’ who produce original pathways through signs.”12 With the appearance of the programmer or semionaut, consumption is no longer seen as such an evil, or even much of a problem. Indeed, it suddenly becomes redemptive, not just a part of practice but a special labor in itself, a providential skill, a form of artistic know-how that encompasses the whole of daily activity, the cobbling together of the information bits that temporarily constitute one’s “self” and one’s “community.” Signature style gives way to signature code.

As described by Bourriaud, signifying practices grow more general and abstract during the course of the ’90s, less anchored to the specific politics of local semiotic skirmishes. Instead, “the market become[s] the omnipresent referent for contemporary artistic practices.”13 In Bourriaud’s christening of the market as master paradigm, it’s possible to recognize the return from exile of forces that had formerly gone under the names of spectacle and culture industry. Sign production now back peddles away from Levi-Strauss’s bricolage to approximate more closely than ever Baudrillard’s simulation. The “homologies” artists string together are less about the coherence of subcultural politics than about the aesthetics of integrated end-to-end product design – design as a “total way of life.” And while practice remains beholden to an additive rather than subtractive mode, it’s less about reckoning with sculptural materiality than about sequencing articulated differences so as to manipulate and exploit signification. “Artists today program forms more than they compose them,” exclaims Bourriaud, “they remix available forms and make use of data…[they] surf on a network of signs.”14

This is where activity in the arena of art begins to produce certain unquestioned analogies with developments in other spheres, to affirm and be affirmed by, say, official economic and political policy. During the ’80s, Thatcher and Reagan provided art with plenty of handy tropes about the tyranny of the all-powerful image, while Evil Empire foreign policy and culture-wars domestic policy were met with what many worried was an over-politicization of culture. In the ’90s, however, as much post-Cold War politics encouraged instead the economization of culture, an oppositional art becomes harder to discern. Or at least as portrayed by Bourriaud, ’90s practices – in which resourceful DIY artists nurture myriad forms of convivial exchange – can be seen to complement the euphemisms of entrepreneurial initiative and individual responsibility used to sell the agendas of the Clinton and Blair regimes, namely their placating of business and financial markets by rolling back state assistance programs and “ending welfare as we know it.” The recent “social turn” in art has had as part of its context neoliberal policies that are at base anti-social.

In terms of economics, another change in the surrounding context of art production is the revamping of business models in response to the impact of new information technologies on marketplace dynamics. That consumers have grown less passive with the replacement of television’s few big networks by desktop interface and the web is certainly not headline news anymore. Marketers have long turned their gunsites on their own version of the bricoleur, what they call the “prosumer” – customers who no longer feel hostage to standardized commodities, who instead customize the design specifications of online merchandise, who invent their own idiosyncratic flavors at DIY ice cream parlors like Cold Stone, who subscribe to cable rather than watch ad-based broadcast television, who even subscribe to ad-free satellite radio; customers who download and sort through MP3s and personalize TV programming using TiVo, who publish writing, photography and more on blogs and personal websites. “The market today,” writes Douglas B. Holt, Professor of Marketing at Oxford’s School of Business, “thrives on…unruly bricoleurs who engage in nonconformist producerly consumption practices.”15 Product differentiation is no longer purely a manufacturing and retail strategy, a staple of planned obsolescence and the staving off of overproduction – rather than forced on consumers, it’s now demanded and implemented by them. Increasingly value is encoded in practices not objects, and it’s consumer practices that take over much of the value-adding for the market. That this is very much still a matter of highly structured markets, not some romantic form of off-the-books subcultural barter, gets harder to deny everyday. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, for example, has redrawn its entire corporate strategy around its recent acquisition of MySpace, while such music behemoths as EMI and Universal now debut CDs that include software encouraging customers to remix tracks (the recent Billy Joel $60 box set comes encoded with a program called UmixIt).16 It’s as if the pronouns Barbara Kruger assigned to authoritarian media images in the ’80s had switched sides. Give credit, then, to Sony BMG Music Entertainment for “challenging authorship.” Even Charles Saatchi has caught the wave, “subverting” the dealer system by launching the website YourGallery.com.

All of which is to say that, as with every other form of labor under the New Economy, so too has value production in the consumer marketplace become relational, dialogical, networked. The commodity, like the postmodern artwork, has relaxed its former pretenses to autonomy. The bricoleur, or what Bourriaud fancies the “programmer,” encounters a landscape of ever more responsive, yielding, programmable commodities. Fewer and fewer objects appear as if fully formed on supermarket shelves, where they lie in wait for a mass audience to which their mass-produced, prepackaged meaning can be dictated. Now the meeting between product and customer, entertainer and entertainee, creation and connoisseur happens as if directly and individually, one-to-one, with each side demanding immediate interface and feedback. Outright acceptance or rejection may have been options appropriate for the closed object, but what’s required now is constant negotiation, vigilant involvement. In other words: consumption as a more dynamic environment of ongoing, interactive meaning production. In this way, contemporary market transactions find a quite suitable counterpart in those artworld forms that are said to supercede the studio and museum – namely, all those laboratory-like kunstverein, those project rooms and, yes, ubiquitous lounges, as well as all the prosumer art that appoints them.

If the studio and museum stood for the lamentable division between the spheres of production and consumption, the lounge counters this with a space of fluid interchange between objects, activities and people, a connectivity to mend the split. What the lounge “exhibits” is networking itself. And yet this too can be seen as a conciliation to the New Economy. The network is, after all, the exemplary figure of post-Fordism, compared to which all the former static, box-like arenas – the factories and unions, disciplines and vocations, parties and ideologies, all the bounded forms that had mediated the space between subjects and objects, securing the sense of stable interiority required for the projecting and investing of meaning from the one onto the other – have proven not nearly flexible enough. Such former “molds” of enclosure now give way to what Gilles Deleuze has called “modulation, like a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point.”17 Ergo the network, with its one-to-one connections and additive, combinatory logic replacing the organization’s former pyramidal hierarchy and hard external shell. The network privileges casual, weak ties over formal commitments so as to heighten the possibility of chanced-upon associational link-ups that lead outward from any one communicational nexus or group. As dot-com startups were among the first to prove, this is the new formula for success, in business as in culture: namely, a loose collection of intimates whose cryptic projects attain global buzz, thus optimizing the structural capacities of constellated, overlapping networks, where production of authentic intensity is always already exteriorized as signification within the sprawling exchange system that motivates it. Or, put another way, practice as no longer isolated but always inclusive of and open to larger systems of exchange. Think of the YBAs and the “Swinging London” phenomenon, or L.A.’s fabled Chinatown art scene, or the Cologne milieu adored by “Make Your Own Life,” all examples of how the production of localness that such place-names imply is dependent upon its exportation for international consumption, and thus upon the abolition of the local as such. The same with fictive identities or other alluring logos – all gain definition only as functions within a larger, comprehensive set, as values emanating from a system.18

Here again the rage for conviviality in art gets expressed in the face of a larger crisis concerning social cohesion. As network connectivity obliges that objects lose their set boundaries to become more responsive, so too do subjects shed long-term loyalties and identifications to become better operators who mesh transparently with the system’s mobile operations. With the rise of the network, the labor market fills with its own version of responsive commodities, as across-the-board pay scales are replaced by more personalized jobs – that is, by differentiated contracts laden with incentive clauses and bonuses based on individual performance expectations (much like insurance contracts that set premiums by tabulating a spectrum of personal data – credit rating, driving record, family health history, etc.). One competes against oneself. To work at home and be your own boss means setting not only your own work hours and dress codes (like an artist!) but also performance criteria and production levels. The result is that the definition and value of labor becomes less social and more private, more abstract and intransitive. The goal of work is now to bulk-up one’s resume and gather more contacts in anticipation of the inevitable layoff and need to once again find new employment.

Given this context, it’s hard to see how the networked forms of recent art, from relational aesthetics to multiple and fictive artist-identities, can be taken as inherently oppositional. On the contrary, at least on the level of form, they seem to not oppose the dominant system but “surf” its leading edge, where they romanticize and idealize current conditions and thus serve as an ideological asset rather than a critique. Indeed, to claim the authenticity of a position “outside” no longer automatically translates into resistance. As with subjects and objects, so too does the distinction between inside and outside get voided by the network structure. To be “inside” the network already means being outside – or, as Harvard management guru John Kotter advises his students, it’s now better “to be on the outside rather than the inside” of organizations and institutions.19 It’s better, that is, to be a business consultant, or perhaps an “infomediary” like Martha Stewart or Oprah Winfrey. Likewise, Anthony Davies and Simon Ford note the emergence of the “culturepreneur” – “a new ‘artist’…that claims professional status as a ‘broker’; a mediator rather than producer.”20

Is this what’s become of the bricoleur? Has that “jack of all trades” matured into a fragmented, maneuverable subject able to flit from one job or social circle to another, adopting whatever called-upon behavior the situation requires, the self as diversified portfolio, as corporate enterprise? Is the bricoleur now merely a euphemism for today’s “flexible personality,” the name Brian Holmes has coined for the form of subjectivation mandated by the New Economy – “a new form of social control…a distorted form of the artistic revolt against authoritarianism and standardization”?21 Holmes quotes Paul Virno on the cynicism and “unbounded opportunism” that characterize this new subject, “who confronts a flux of interchangeable possibilities, keeping open as many as possible.” An ornithologist among birds, the flexible personality is “into” many things, but refuses to say what exactly he or she “is” or “does.” Identity itself is approached opportunistically. Calculation becomes the practice of everyday life, and social life becomes yet one more object of practice, a constantly recoded network of potentially valuable contacts and associates, so many articulated differences to exploit for signification. One vigilantly works the scene. “The true opportunist,” Holmes concludes, “consents to a fresh advantage within any new language game, even if it is political. Politics collapses into the flexibility and rapid turnover times of market relations.”

All of the above should not be taken as an argument against the need for artists to adapt to changes in their lived situation, for them to learn how to work the new terrain and expropriate its resources. In a recent interview, the New York-based artist Aleksandra Mir, who has tracked aspects of the New Economy in her own work, summed up many of the practical issues confronting artists today. “Only the last two years of my 15 years of practice,” Mir says, “I have developed relationships with galleries, museums and the art market, but I still don’t depend on it. I still use the basic entrepreneurial skills I had learned from earlier practices: How to do something from nothing, how to drum up resources on sheer enthusiasm, how to find exchange values in everything from favors, swaps to corporate sponsorships, how to execute a ton of various tasks single handedly…. There is no clear-cut formula ever of what will happen, but there is a steady continuum in this incoherence.”22 What I’ve tried to add to such a description is simply a vantage from which to problematize this terrain to a degree appropriate to the aims of art. That recent expressions of those aims – fluidity and indeterminacy, shared creativity, freedom within community, utopia – often get phrased in the transactional terms and figures of market relations proves just how boundless is the current reach of economic reasoning. Once we’ve completely disabused ourselves of the fiction of artistic autonomy, is the market really the only arena imaginable in which to enact “free” subjectivity? Does the entrepreneur only model subjects who “freely” instrumentalize themselves? If so, which artistic acts are still able to ground themselves in a recognition of such conditions?

Perhaps it’s true that, as has been argued from different political corners of late, what most characterizes our historical moment is nothing less than the end of the social.23 If so, this itself could open certain opportunities – specifically, a chance to rethink the meanings and possibilities of community over society. In such a project the role of art, especially certain developments associated with relational aesthetics, could be incalculable. But given that such work has hardly gotten off the ground, and that, until it does, the grip of the market continues to tighten, many of the values currently promoted by the art world – spectacular but hollow identity, loose and numerous affiliations, hyper-mobility and circulation, opportunistic interventions as if in any situation or ensemble anywhere, the recombining of “data” indefinitely – all these risk romanticizing the reigning logic of exchangeability and the very real dangers of our increasing vulnerability to the moment-to-moment fluctuations of global capital. “Do you have a corporate mission for the company ‘Aleksandra Mir’?,” interviewer Kimberly Lloyd asks at one point. A bit baldly put, perhaps, but not a bad question. And questions like that are not a bad place to start.


1. Marion von Osten, “Be Creative! Der kreative Imperativ: Project Summary,” http://www.k3000.ch/becreative/summary.html, accessed: 2 July 2006. Osten’s title recalls Christopher Dreher’s review in Salon (6 June 2002) of economist Richard Florida’s popular book The Rise of the Creative Class (And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, and Everyday Life), which details the dire economic consequences for cities that are unable to attract young technology workers. The title of Dreher’s review? “Be Creative – or Die.”

2. Quoted in Stuart Elliott, “Advertising: Nowadays, It’s All Yours, Mine or Ours,”

New York Times (2 May 2006) Section C: 1. “A turning point may have come in 1996,” Elliot writes, “when Yahoo introduced a personalization service called My Yahoo. It has grown to about 55 million unique users each month.”

3. Bennett Simpson, “Make Your Own Life,” Make Your Own Life: Artists In & Out of Cologne (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2006), 11. Both Business Week and Wired magazines have recently reported on the popularity in U.S. policy circles of Joseph Schumpeter, a contemporary of John Maynard Keynes who developed and advanced theories of entrepreneurialism along with the view of capitalism as a process of “creative destruction,” a less sanguine description than Adam Smith’s stabilizing “invisible hand.” Frank Rose, “The Father of Creative Destruction: Why Joseph Schumpeter is suddenly all the rage in Washington,” Wired 10 no. 3 (March 2002): 93; and Charles J. Whalen, “Today’s Hottest Economist Died 50 Years Ago,” Business Week (December 11, 2000): 70-72.

4. Gary McWilliams and Steven Gray, “Slimming Down Stores,” Wall Street Journal (29 April 2005), Section B: 1, 4; Jane J. Kim, “A Latte with Your Loan?” Wall Street Journal (17 May 2006), Section D: 1, 3. On trends in workspace design, see Malcolm Gladwell, “Designs for Working,” The New Yorker (December 11, 2000): 60-70; and Warren Berger, “Lost in Space,” Wired Magazine 7, no. 2 (February 1999): 76-81.

5. Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, “Culture Clubs,” Mute 18 (September 2000): 23-24. See also Carol Kino, “It’s Time For Artists To Give Till It Hurts,” New York Times (28 May 2006), Section 2: 1; and Eric Wilson, “Using a White Shirt As Their Canvas,” New York Times (11 May 2006), Section G: 6. Countering Robert Putnam’s alarm in Bowling Alone about withering “social capital,” Richard Florida argues in The Rise of the Creative Class that the young creative types hotly sought by the New Economy favor weak over strong social ties; see Florida’s essay and Melinda J. Milligan’s response in City & Community 2, no. 1 (March 2003), 3-26.

6. Osten, “Be Creative!.” See also Andrew Ross, No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs (New York: Basic Books, 2003) and Richard Lloyd, Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City (New York: Routledge, 2006).

7. Besides the projects and writings of Osten and others involved in the “temporary coalition” k3000 (www.k3000.ch), see Jan Verwoert, Die Ich-Ressource: zur Kultur der Selbst-Verwertung (Munich: Kunstverein Munchen, 2003), with english translations available at http://www.kunstverein-muenchen.de/?dir=02_archiv_archive%2F2002%2Fexchange _transform; Angela McRobbie, “‘Everyone is Creative’: Artists as New Economy Pioneers?,” openDemocracy (30 August 2001), http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts/article_652.jsp: accessed 2 July 2006; and Aleksandra Mir, Corporate Mentality: An Archive Documenting the Emergence of Recent Practices Within a Cultural Sphere Occupied by Both Business and Art (New York: Lukas & Steinberg, 2001). Tellingly, volume 5 of the British journal de-, dis-, ex- devoted to the theme of “immaterial labor” had been compiled and edited by Melanie Gilligan and Marina Vishmidt in 2004 but never made it to press due to lack of funds. In the U.S., it was a British critic, Claire Bishop, who greatly expanded discussion of this trend with the publication in October 110 (Fall 2004) of her “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics” (although, other than a passing reference to B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore’s The Experience Economy, Bishop’s argument fails to mention rising entrepreneurialist propaganda and policy and worries that the socializing currently fetishisized by the art world is overly homogenous, its ties too strong rather than too weak – which, however, interestingly does not invalidate antagonism as a counter-measure).

8. Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction (New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002), 7.

9. Quoted in Tim Griffin, “Cabaret License,” Artforum 44, no. 5 (January 2006): 94-96.

10. Jacob Hale Russell, “The Invisible Artist,” Wall Street Journal (31 December 2005 – 1 January 2006), Section P: 3.

11. Bourriaud, Postproduction, 7.

12. Ibid., 12.

13. Ibid., 22.

14. Ibid., 11, 13.

15. Douglas B. Holt, “Why Do Brands Cause Trouble? A Dialectical Theory of Consumer Culture and Branding,” Journal of Consumer Research 29, no. 1 (June 2002): 88. See also Holt’s How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004). For a history of the decline of authoritarian mass-marketing practices starting in the 1960s, see Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

16. John Jurgensen, “Record Labels Say: Mess with Us,” Wall Street Journal (31 December 2005 – 1 January 2006), Section P: 3.

17. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October 59 (Winter 1992): 4.

18. A single functioning social network, excluding the other various networks it links to, supposedly includes on the average 125 members; the maximum is around 155. The introduction to the novel Reena Spaulings reports that “150 writers, professional and amateur…contributed to” its writing, while most of the works exhibited in the exhibition “When Artists Say We” at Artists Space were wall diagrams charting roughly a hundred or so names. See Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaulings (New York: Semiotexte, 2004); R. A. Hill and R. I. M. Dunbar, “Social Network Size in Humans,” Human Nature 14, no. 1: 53–72; and Mark S. Gronovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” American Journal of Sociology 78, no. 6 (May 1973): 1360-80. Could this help explain the current fascination with MFA programs, which systematically churn out such networks, collections of young artists who share not a common cause or ideology or even cultural obsession but are only always loosely affiliated by weak ties? Of course, the contradictions of this situation are figured acutely every year in end-of-the-term MFA thesis exhibitions, for which students who’ve mortgaged the future on loans invariably stage clever twists on relational art’s free-wheeling utopias while expressing anxiety about landing teaching jobs immediately upon graduation, no doubt for the security and health benefits.

19. Kotter quoted in Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998): 25.

20. Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, “Art Capital,” Art Monthly 213, (February 1998): 4.

21. Brian Holmes, “The Flexible Personality,” Hieroglyphs of the Future (Zagreb: Arkzin, 2003), online at www.geocities.com/CognitiveCapitalism/holmes1.html. Andrew Ross in No-Collar (152-53) presents the example of Vivien Selbo, a digital artist as well as web designer and consultant who carries with her eight different business cards to choose from when pitching clients.

22. Kimberly Lloyd, “Interview: Aleksandra Mir,” M Publication 3 (Frankfurt) (2004): 166.

23. “The End of the Social” is famously the name of a chapter in Jean Baudrillard’s In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton and John Johnston (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983). For more upbeat formulations, see Jacques Donzelot, “The Promotion of the Social,” Economy and Society 17, no. 3 (August 1998): 395-427; Nikolas Rose, “The Death of the Social? Re-figuring the Territory of Government,” Economy and Society 25, no. 3 (August 1996): 327-56; Miami Theory Collective, ed., Community at Loose Ends, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991; and Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1996), especially chapters 10 and 12.