Art, Inauthenticity and Poverty

From a recent trip to the National Gallery of Australia.

Art requires inauthenticity just like wealth requires poverty.

The issue is that wealth and all associated power is of necessity a narrowly-focused exclusive, dissipative system that, like a tornado, maintains coherence and continuity through offsetting its own cost and entropy to an environment composed of poverty and disempowered, disenfranchised multitudes. Wealth foundationally depends upon the existence of a poverty that it creates. You are unlikely to encounter that fact in any political science or economics textbooks at University.

In regards to art, again, the notionally beautiful or valuable is only what it is in distinction to what is not – by some relatively arbitrary definition – considered valuable. It is quite probable that the accumulation of value as aesthetic merit both relies upon and inadvertently constructs the less valuable and more common objects we experience. Notice, also, that any object can be asserted as a “work of art” and this, if nothing else, indicates precisely the contingency and ultimately fictional essence of all narratives or systems of value.

The irony here is that value asserts interest, significance and presence in direct and inverse measure to the extent to which it itself – and inversely so – depends upon the commonplace and uninteresting. This means that what is interesting about art is a function of the displaced interest that it has in the continuing devaluation of the commonplace, the uninteresting. This also means that the uninteresting is interesting to art as being that distributed fact and counterfactual upon which it depends.

To extend the symmetries (and logical consequences) here – the “value” of wealth is counter-intuitively stored in poverty, as a semiotic and as a causal property.

2 replies on “Art, Inauthenticity and Poverty”

Thanks for the interesting post Daedelus, but please, you can’t stop there. Surely, your statement now demands another statement from an ethical perspective. If the value of art (wealth) lies in the vulgar, unartistic (poverty) what does this say about the ethical value of art? At first glance it seems to say nothing, but by relating it to wealth and poverty you have uncovered the idea that it should say something … because a wealth sustained by poverty is, ethically, a very bad condition for the poor and is a totally exploitive condition. Are you implying therefore, that the value of art is also exploitive? A more equitive balance can be perceived in the relationship between wealth and poverty, but can this same equitive balance be conceived in terms of art and the vulgar?

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Great questions. It is a deep rabbit hole, as I am sure you recognise. We might speak in terms of necessary asymmetries where central, privileged positions are only what they are by virtue of their relationship to all those related and causally interdependent (peripheral) entities that they (inversely) *are not* but by and through which their own meaning (or being, existence) is acquired.

Should we assert or seek to uncover similarities of quality and affective experience or exploitation here? Potentially, but the underlying symmetries interest me more. When we get stuck on the instances, we might miss the underlying ontologies, patterns and relationships of which those instances are contingent examples, corollaries. Let’s debug exploitative frameworks (of wealth, cultural value or meaning), certainly, and in all their manifestations but to do so effectively we need not become fixated on the instances but seek the underlying principles and symmetries they derive from.

I could answer your questions, extensively, but to do so would invoke so many more in a hyper-inflating referential space of loose threads and information entropy that we would not arrive anywhere, or at least not ever attain anything even vaguely resembling a closure which I dare say is always only fictional, asymptotic, anyway. I was thinking out loud, daydreaming, when I wrote the original post. Cultural value is indeed relative but I think there is an identifiable and underlying logical pattern here that provides us substantive leverage into ethical questions and associated (if aspirational cultural, political or other philosophical) metamorphoses. An indirect assault on iniquity, you might say, because this is a problem that runs very, very deep as discontinuity in logic and can quite plausibly *not* be engaged in any orthodox manner.

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