“Grr!” – John S. x Walton Ford x City Hunter (2012)

I’ve been reading a bit on German Dada and their early use of photomontage – in particular, their interest (which they shared with early cubists) in the mixture of language fragments into works of art. While reading around on the internet, I came across this paper by David Galenson entitled Language in Art: The Twentieth Century on the site of the National Bureau of Economic Research. I certainly didn’t expect to find an article on art and language sitting among hard-core economic research papers such as: “Support Substitution and the Earnings Rebound: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity in Disability Insurance Reform“, and “Estimating the Economic Impacts of Living Wage Mandates Using Ex Ante Simulations, Longitudinal Estimates, and New Public and Administrative Data: Evidence for New York City“.

Galenson’s argument centres around his thesis that the use of language as a specific conceptual component of art in the early twentieth century was part of a process of semiotic and conceptual distancing of “new” ways of producing art from “old” ways of producing art. So far, so art-history. But interestingly, he also seems to argue that: “… the increasingly extreme practices of conceptual artists […] freed them from the constraints that had been imposed by governments and other powerful patrons.” In other words, that the fertile cross-overs between language and conceptual art in the early twentieth century created not just a new direction for artists to explore, but a new set of markets to exploit as well.

As we’ve been talking some over the past few days about connections between art and music, art and language, art and culture – it struck me that we might not just be talking about creative opportunities here, but economic ones as well. It’s perhaps axiomatic these days that each artistic generation reacts against the creative practices of the preceding – but should we also look at how one might react against the economic practices of previous generations too? As places like Oswestry struggle to figure out how to make best use of art and culture as a resource in the future, perhaps artists and the other cultural practitioners should also look at how they define their future economic roles, too.