Businesspeople talk about art like artists talk about money: gratuitously, without compensation. Hired to talk about money, an entrepreneur will speak in terms of art. Put an artist on a panel and you will often get disquisitions on exchange, capital, and commerce. Both constituencies are compelled by what lies outside their professional responsibility, and the response to this compulsion vibrates between veneration and contempt. For every Übermensch crypto-expressionist billionaire patron, there is one who sneers at the foolish valuelessness of art history and its scribes. For every dedicated anticapitalist artist, there is one who happily understands themselves to be making money. This tension is inherent in professional life, which promises to transform our spontaneous, effortless attractions into a pleasant but endless labor of necessity. For the money-professional, art presents like money does for the art-professional: an opportunity to misrecognize diligence as transcendence. In “The Perfect Con,” Mari Bastashevski encounters the limits of this mutual misrecogntion during a residency on a container ship. What is the fate of (the critique of) institutional critique in the age of the containerization of art? What still holds water?
-Stephen Squib E-Flux
ZIMtm is a reflection of the labyrinthine conditions and shape-shifting definitions of its own production. It was made within a framework of contractual obligations that make this project a sub-form of another art project, The Container Residency 01. In it, the artist is a project participant, as well as raw material, and an actress playing multiple roles for PR. The sponsor of the project/s, on the other hand, is not only a shipping company but a curator, critic, a collector, and a legal authority who sets the state of play and rules of engagement. The artwork, ZIMtm, is a stand in for the artist. It performs art labour in a form of taking photographs of whatever is in front of it every five minutes throughout its lifespan whenever it’s switched on. It then automatically posts them on Twitter. It begins to take photographs during test phase in the studio in Switzerland, it continues taking them during its artist-in-residency trip aboard a container ship, the Zim Qingdao. It then persists in taking photographs at its own exhibition, and eventually at the auction where it’s contractually obligated to be sold. The artwork is filled with ocean water from the Suez Canal. The viewer of the work in the gallery as well as the viewer of the work on board the ship is a participant in of each of these processes, and he or she may or may not choose to acknowledge that. This chain process concludes with the buyer, who is tasked with breaking the the artwork, the stand-in-for-the-artist, during the acquisition with the tools provided by the author.
Read an essay on e-flux.
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