notes on 'The Gift' economy in art

Thoughts on The Gift by Lewis Hyde and economies in art practice.

The Gift In The Gift Lewis Hyde chronologies a history of gift exchange in different cultures. From Tribes to traditions Hyde identifies categories of gift exchange. Natural (when gifts are alive), Spiritual (when gifts are the agent of a spirit that survives consumption) and as social fast (gift as social production and community). These gift economies are at play in the creative spirit, the artists publish or perish mentality is a need for the creative s gift to be passed on I their different forms. There are some tendencies that help identify and establish a gift economy, but most importantly it must always move and be in circulation. If a gift is not passed on then it ceases to survive, specifically highlighting early interactions between white colonists and Indian natives where gifts were received as market value. Social gift as commodity Hyde looks at specific attempts to commodity the gift (value acts of gift as a commodity and capital measure). In the examples below the attempt to value these gestures are amusing because they appear so inappropriate. The work I make is trying to explore the inability of valuing these gestures with figures, asking how can we measure wellbeing. For example The ford pinto story, Ford, upon discovering one of their Vans had a major fault and was causing X amounts of casualties per year, worked out it was cheaper to pay the bills from peoples causalities than to recall and correct every model. In this instance financial cost had been compared to life to further profit for a company. Hyde also discuses the conditions of Doner transplants, a girl in America asking here mother for a new coat in exchange for her donating her kidney organ. The application of market value in these circumstances creates an obscene circumstance. How capital value is so inappropriate in these circumstances? Commodity has value and a gift has worth. Such worth people prize and reply you cant put a price on that? Worth for use-value and value for exchange value. Their relationship to each other and art If you imagine market exchange commodities and gifts as two different territories. Commodities and items with capital value can cross between these two territories without transformation. A gift however, ceases to be a

gift when sold or suffers from being transferred for its market value. To highlight a commodity can both be valued for its financial significance and its emotional worth, while a gesture or expression is tarnished when valued financially. You can t put a price on that It will be of interest to apply this notion to recent art works that are based around free exchange and a service based economy . Rirkrit Tiravanija, celebrated by Nicholas Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics (2002), displays gestures of gift exchange by cooking for his audience in a public gallery. These acts of giving and customising of private gallery space caused a stir of controversy by actively challenging the art market. It can be contended, however, that Tiravanija is a highly payed touring artist putting on shows on the mainstream gallery circuit. In this case, the artist has transformed the capital investment into a gesture representing free exchange. Going back to the mobility of different types of exchange, Tiravanija s gestures of free exchange do not appear to be affected as capital value (investment) is converted into emotional worth through his art practise. The Emotional Stock Market In the emotional stock market I transgress emotional worth into capital value. How much is are wellbeing worth? By creating a system for valuing and trading emotional wellbeing I am emphasising this difference between value and worth. Instead of implementing a free exchange economy the emotional Stock Market creates an economy based upon wellbeing. Although it operates in the same ambiguity as ford evaluating the cost of lives, this piece has further connections than the amusing contrast between gift and commodity economies. The system reads Twitter posts for real time information on how people are feeling, raising issues about internet privacy and use of digital devices to convey social expressions. The stock market is set up to parody the Governments and London School of Economics research into a General wellbeing index influencing the GDP. There are more topical concerns to this piece than the complex relations between emotional worth and financial value systems.

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