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Art & Economy

by Marina Landia

In my artistic work I investigate various phenomena and changes in the Western economic system and their social consequences. My approach is based, amongst other things, on the ideas and principles of the Artist Placement Group, a group of British artists who, in my view, created with a ground-breaking system of artistic work within the context of the 1970s business world.

The artists selected by APG were placed, for a limited period, as so-called “incidental persons” in various commercial enterprises and later in public institutions. “Context is half the work” was APG’s programmatic axiom. The objective: to produce artistic reflections in response to the given context within the organization in question during the “placements”. The purpose of such reflections was to influence the thinking and decision-making processes in these “centers of power” and thus to be able to make a contribution to social change.
“The Artist Placement Group seeks to develop a new professional being whose knowledge and skills extend across disciplines so that he can make connections between the various specialisms found within organizations,” wrote art historian John A. Walker. Here, we are talking about an “artist” who is capable of recognizing reciprocal cross-category and interdisciplinary effects and of making the necessary connections.
For APG, artistic work is not so much manifested in a concrete work of material art as in the processes that the artist is trying to influence and in the overall “attention units” that can be marshaled for one idea or another. In every context, the artist works in a largely autonomous and self-motivated way, “defining” his purposes himself and taking his principal orientation from long-term social goals as he understands them.

In his theory of systems, Niklas Luhmann talks about the relationship between art and other social subsystems such as politics and the economy. From a systems theory perspective, the self-contained subsystems perform a certain function as far as the overall system is concerned. Luhmann uses the term “interpenetration” to describe a situation where the relevant subsystems make reciprocal demands on one another. The point here is to create relationships between different subsystems and to investigate their ability to reach a consensus.
(Niklas Luhmann: Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt/Main, 1997.)

For me, the APG’s “incidental person” is somebody who moves between the subsystems but whose ultimate concern is the system as a whole.
  Rather like an “incidental person” I try in different ways to gain access to and insight into the global economic system. I communicate the resulting reflections internally (within the economic system) as well as externally.

 
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