Hosted in the Museum Der Dinge (Museum of Objects), Berlin. The 2 day event brought together economists, artists and educators to discuss their work investigating Time and Value.
In our current industrialised lives our body clocks are aligned to the beat of the machine, and even our lifespans can be measured in terms of financial liabilities. What does this measurement depend on, what is the scale we are measured by, how did this come to be, and what impact does it have on our creative practice and understanding of our current age?
Speakers and artists presented, and the setting further enhanced the experience: To reach the symposium we walked among the cabinets and exhibits of the museum, like time travellers through the 20th centuries’ design evolution.
Having been invited to attend this symposium in Berlin, I got the opportunity not only to attend the talks, but to talk to individuals there. Berlin and London are obviously very different cities. Time seems to flow at different speeds in different locations anyway. Contrasting two capitals, and the experiences of two sets of residents added another dimension to thinking about time. Value and values vary from place to place too. The way time is spent, adhered to. Things start on time, time is made for coffee and cake, time is made to visit exhibitions, time is wasted waiting for buses (or is it well spent in conversation?)
There follow posts on my notes from the various presentations which were in English and German, so pardon any translation errors:
Dr. Andreas Bödecker, banker and professor.
Time Is Money
Talked about historical exchange and value of labour beyond financial. When all labour was regarded as equal (ancient south American civilisations) was everyone happy whether. Baker, medic or cleaner? I more recent history more dangerous jobs were paid more. Now value is judged on how much wealth you can generate.
This was one perspective, which was challenged, or rather alternatives were explored during the following days presentations. Marina Landia’s work is directly related to this I think.
Konstantin Adamopoulos Economics and philosophy.
Heads up the Bromburg Scholarship project in Köln. Produces workshop sessions with Marina Landia bringing together artists and post grad economists for meetings, cognitive exchange questioning economic and creative thinking.
Talked about the ‘time is money’ presentation by Bödecker, suggesting it prevents an oversimplified view of money. Adamopoulos asks ‘why does no one want to be a cleaner?’. It is the egos role in this which is problematic, and his program further examines this.
‘Sinns und Geld regelt die Welt’ (knowledge and money rule the world, quote from Bödecker yesterday) is too simplified. What of the human role, autonomy, the unknown and strange?
If Bödecker talked about belief and law (the church) ruling, then the renaissance introduced personal choice. We must make our own story.
There are many steps between, including the war between individuals (egos). The ‘nature made me superior’ explanation.
John Locke wrote of his birth, which came about early due to his mother suffering extreme shock at the Spanish Armada attack ‘My birth was twins. Myself and Fear’ [translation tricky. Is this perhaps an example of a linear/literal reaction to a trauma] . An artistic response to feelings of confusion and alienation during that period, the renaissance, was to begin to place towns and forests in the middle and far ground, as strange, ‘I am not in it’.
In the post grad ‘Bromburg’ program the economists are interested in the personal views and opinions of the artists, rather than expecting them to answer for the whole demographic!
Referenced writings from Stich(?) and Kräftig Kunst (?)
This practice facilitates Lathams Incidental Person theory, and being placed within an educational institutional context sows the seeds for positive future development.
Marina Landia The Art and Economy foundation
Marina Landias work engages with current affairs and their effect on the economy and art. She looks at all systems of culture and society from an auto poetic and inner logical based point of view. This is complex- society depends on all systems functioning properly.
(Lehrmans) theory proposes that problems arise because these systems are often closed to each other. But they do reach their limits, moments where consensus cannot be reached internally, so they spill over out of necessity and touch other systems
E.g. The economic culture may may sense witthin that system, but may haves negative impact on other systems (e.g. politics/art)
Latham proposes the Incidental Person who is able to transcend systems. Lehrmans proposes that this is the role of the artist.
Can this active penetration into other systems can even influence decision makers?
Marina Landia’s work involves interviewing economic leaders, penetrating the system to see what is inside. Quotes from some of these films included “Money is the goal”, and “It’s all about the return”.
These people work within financial capitalism, credit capitalism. It’s a volatile system. In dealing with the time/money relationship the fact is that currency fluctuates, time does not.
Within the economic system, unhappiness seems to come from no knowing how to change the speed of work and workload.
Despite the impartial stance taken by Landia, the bleak reality in these films is unavoidable. There is a uniformity to the phrasing and the emotional involvement of the subjects, and very little passion. Occasionally they seem to be struggling to believe their own pronouncement, but mostly they appear to acting in the way which is expected of them. I tried to imagine how I wold feel about the works if I was still working in that world. Would I be bemused by the fact that these statements were out of the ordinary to the rest of the world? Would I be inspired? Or is it impossible for me to imagine this now, as I have crossed over into a different system in my chosen path as an artist.
In the Bromburg workshops, Marina Landia and Konstantinos Adamopoulos bring their two groups together and set goals for discussion. The sessions begin with the chaotic formation of groups within each other, then 5 mins silent/ non verbal communication.
Then, using collage they create displays looking at what interests them personally, what makes a successfully economy/ world. How to balance risk vs. desire.
Risks are acceptable if discussed and agreed on, but there are always personalities which are more risk averse or risk happy. A big discord is that todays risk takers are less often affected by negative outcomes.
The create games. Looking at choices and paths through life as a game helps to see what your priorities and goals are. Are the rules already set or can they change? E.g. By starting with using a dice you are already subscribing to something. There is always space for interpretation- can this space be filled with ethics?
We all have the ability to change these decisions.
The way these workshops are structured is admittedly in the style of economics, eg spokespeople for the groups etc. They try and find neutral ground to avoid too much hierarchy. The aim is that they all leave with a positive impression of the experience.
One thing that is emerging is that both parties deal with uncertainty.
‘Earning money, for economists, is all about resources for uncertain outcomes. Nothing is known or certain.
Ref. book: Time Parodox. private vs. public. ‘Happiness is achieving in all your roles and aspirations’
David Cross. How much time do we have?
David Cross presented a new work comprising a film exactly 29 minutes and 59 seconds long. To shoot it he rented a professional camera for a fee which worked out to be more per hour than his own labour, which was a chilling reminder from the off, of societies’ hierarchy of possessions and objects, technology versus human.
The camera could only shoot films that length, as a second longer would qualify it as a ‘video’ camera and it would fall into a different tax bracket. These minute bureaucratic adjustments have real financial implications.
The film was shot from the observation deck of London’s new ‘sundial’, the Shard building. It is shown in real time- from this height few moving details are visible bar the riverboats going about their daily routines. The clouds shift, and the narrative David Cross presented follows the sunshine as it moves across the cityscape, following the route of the Thames.
Cross reminded us the the screen is not a window, it is opaque, and referenced Brecht’s writings which discussed that ‘a photo of a factory shows us nothing of the social relations of production.’
He went on to talk about how scientific findings are subject to such a rigorous peer review and publication process, that by the time they are released to the policy makers they are outdated and can be dangerously misleading. This is particularly pertinent when dealing with climate change. Especially where all stories are constructed to represent the interests of one party.
‘We live in a ‘special time’ where change rampages. This vision of London’s abundance is also a portrait of excess’
The metropolis of the city reached out to the Thames estuary, a glimpse of space and possibly of nature beyond the constructed mass. The history of the buildings, both genuine and presumed in architectural terms, documents the institutions and constitutions which govern the capital, and therefore us. They are so set it seems almost impossible to question them, which is one of the points David Cross is making. This inaction is short sited. It has only one logical conclusion if played out according to the current rules of engagement . Growth is not sustainable. Metals, minerals, ice, all resources will eventually run out. Time is running out. Inaction is suicide.
Michael Fehr. the Museum as time Machine.
Michael Fehr introduced his involvement with the Museum Der Dinge, and specifically the current exhibition, which was heavily inspired by HG Wells book The Time Machine. In this exhibition ,curated by Alexis Hyman Wolff, objects from the archives have been selected and presented within brackets of representation of time. These include nostalgia, memory, measuring, marking and recording time. Despite the extensive collection, which begins in the 1920s, the most current additions to the collection allow it to successfully avoid nostalgia. The implications however, are inescpabale: for each of these preserved objects, countless more have been discarded. Produced and trashed. Burned for energy or left in landfill for someone else to worry about.
Steven Grainger. Equity Release Scheme.
Steven Graingers current project involves his Will. As a participant, you are required to offer something of your choice in exchange for the sole rights to his Estate for the 15 minutes following the signing of his Will.
To help with the decision of what to offer, Grainger has calculated his worth for us, based on weighing up his financial assets and liabilities (current account, student loan and life insurance policy)
The grey area is his non financial value, this is not universal. It is based solely on the unique relationship between the valuer and the person being valued. This proposes the equation that time spent with someone = direct correlation with value. How can this ever be calculated?
Steven Graingers work questions the economic model of valuation, and successfully straddles economic, artistic and emotional systems, making him the archetypal Incidental Person John Latham proposed.
The absurdity of this intimate legal relationship proposed between relative strangers led rather too easily to speculation on whether it would be ‘worth it’ to murder him, and the influence on his worth of the potentially expanding collection of objects or artworks that the exchange might yield.
After seeing his presentation, having spent time with him, he then became ‘of value’ to us, and whether we sign the will at some stage or not, we are all now implicated as part of his estate. As are you, the reader. This is such an limitless proposition. This is art living on and growing in our minds, and makes me think of the works of Nauman and Beuys among others.
Karl Thorburgsson. Apples in Iceland: a new way out
Karl Thorburgsson dressed in a suit and gave us a presentation, pitching a business proposition. The irony and humour in the presentation was really engaging after a day of challenging wider issues of climate change and politics/society. His quest to become Icelands first apple farmer was poignant, as the current climate there does not support their growth. The underlying pathos was brought home by his final appeal that we all get involved in the campaign to help his project, all he needs is a one degree rise in temperature. And all we have to do is nothing, just like we are already.
Peter Alasztics. Intertechnika
Peter Alasztics family industry of laser cutting gives him first hand experience of the leaps made in technology and engineering in his lifetime (he can only be in his 20s)
His hypothesis that as the machines have evolved, their capacity for cutting has increased whilst their footprints have decreased. The machines get smaller but their hearts get stronger. He delivered this news in a very partisan way, leaving us to draw our own conclusions. The logical suggestion seems to be that the machines evolve, their hearts become more powerful, might this lead to autonomy? They can cut a much wider range of materials and thicknesses since they first appeared in the Alasztics factory, might these capabilities one day be turned on us and chop us to matchstick, or etch their wills onto our surfaces?