Donnerstag, 31. Oktober 2013

art+argument at 'This is the house that Jack built' - What happened !

On 29th October a crowd gathered on the second floor of a villa in Zurich’s Allenmoos district to find out whether art is, or is not, a luxury. Opening the debate Brigitte Dätwyler based her argument – that art is a luxury – on the hard facts of art. Given the nature of art spaces and the kind of branding associated with art, it is clear that art is something for the wealthy 1% in the world. She continued: “On a more personal level it may be considered a waste of time and money. It is something that artists cannot afford to do, many times, but still they do it. It is a luxury for them – they choose to live on the brink of poverty just to have self-fulfilment. Self-fulfilment is the luxury.”

Nadja Baldini represented the opposite thesis. She presented an alternative view of art to one dominated by the trio of artist – gallery or museum – and collector. Art is not only the art market. Instead there are other forms of art making that do not result in a product. This artistic research generates knowledge, which cannot be sold. And art as a part of education is no luxury: “I believe art has a transformative potential and that it can act as questioner, can activate what we think, or can be a critical instrument in relation to a culture. I don’t see how it can be a luxury.”

Stefan Wagner referred to Bertold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera in defence of his thesis that art is luxury. The little-known version Wagner cited went:

"Ihr Herrn, die ihr uns lehrt, wie man brav leben
Und Sünd und Missetat vermeiden kann
Zuerst müßt ihr uns schon zu fressen geben
Dann könnt ihr reden: damit fängt es an.
Ihr, die ihr euren Wanst und unsere Bravheit liebt
Das Eine wisset ein für allemal:
Wie ihr es immer dreht und immer schiebt
Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Kunst.
Erst muß es möglich sein, auch armen Leuten
Vom großen Brotlaib sich ihr Teil zu schneiden"

[You gentlemen who think you have a mission

To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position

Then start your preaching, that's where it begins
You lot, who preach restraint and watch your waist as well

Should learn, for once, the way the world is run

However much you twist, or whatever lies that you tell

Food is the first thing, art will follow on
So first make sure that those who are now starving

get proper helpings, when we all start carving]

Continuing in this vein, he asked if the people of in Spain, Portugal and Greece want museums. “Art is just about making more money. This is maybe not the way we need to support the arts... Art is a private thing – we don’t have to think about art politics. Art is like luxury – if you’re going to buy a soap, a really expensive soap, say – it’s a private thing. Art, too, is luxury.”

Stefanie Herrmann’s viewpoint was quite different; she acknowledged and embraced the art market, “because it’s a job creation programme for inadaptable individuals of all disciplines. Which means that it’s a melting pot for several evil energies, and a kind of re-integration into society for lateral thinkers, people with a particuar useless talent, players, gamblers, corrupt people, psychopaths, terrorists, losers and so on.” With these people gainfully employed making art, all of society will profit. “We profit from it because we have less unemployment, less of a financial burden, fewer handicapped people, because we no longer view them as handicapped, fewer patients, fewer critics of the system and fewer demonstrations. And fewer criminals, because they are embedded in another system. Legal corruption, a higher GDP, a legal black market and an ideal market for money laundering. And – an important point – more attractive living rooms.”

Jonathan Meese and Yoko Ono - well integrated criminals?

This was just the beginning of a rambunctious discussion that became increasingly heated as the night went on. Before pistols were drawn, the audience voted that the proposition – Stefan and Brigitte – had won the debate.

Many many thanks to our hosts and to the very spirited participants: Nadja Baldini, Brigittte Dätwyler, Stefanie Herrmann and Stefan Wagner.

Donnerstag, 3. Oktober 2013

art+argument @ 'This is the house that Jack built', 29th October 2013

Is art a luxury?

In the context of 
a temporary exhibition in a villa built in 1908
by Helmrinderknecht contemporary design gallery, Barbara Seiler Galerie and friends,

Nadja Baldini, Brigitte Dätwyler, Stefanie Herrmann and Stefan Wagner debate whether art is a luxury or a necessity.

7pm, 29 October 2013

Allenmoosstrasse 112, CH-8057 Zürich
(Tram 10/14 to Salersteig)

Four cultural experts in two opposing teams debate and discuss a motion that they have been assigned. Each participant has been given a position opposing or defending the motion, and each has five minutes to argue their case uninterrupted. Thereafter the speakers challenge each other, and the audience may in turn question the speakers. The event ends with a vote for the more persuasive team. 

This is a forum for discussing culture where the unspeakable may be said. Each speaker must play his or her assigned role, regardless of whether they agree or not. Speakers benefit from temporary immunity: what they say during the debate is not necessarily their opinion and they cannot be held to their word afterwards. 

Art + Argument is an itinerant event bringing together exciting minds from the Swiss art scene and beyond. To know more, write to aoiferosenmeyer (at)