Students discuss art, media in a globalized economy

Jamie Quail's "Free Ideas" collection examines cultural value of art

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Friday afternoon at Western’s John Labatt Visual Arts Centre, a group of visual art students came together at a conference entitled “I Don’t Care To Discuss It... Art, Media & the State in a Globalized Economy” to, coincidentally, discuss art, media and the state.

The conference is a component of a masters level art class “Modern Art " Economizing Culture: Globalization, Art and the Creative Industries,” in which each student conducts research on a topic pertaining to globalization and art. The course is formed around the important question: is culture and creativity the site of new global politics?

The conference featured a collection of six master students’ research covering a wide range of topics from Jon Sarma’s “(Re)you-uniting the rainbow: the ‘coming out’/’falling out’ story of the global queer community on YouTube” to Jennifer Orpana’s “Waking up to balloon dogs and counting the Blue Chips: The economic hangover from 10 years on the contemporary art market.” All presentations looked at art, the economy and society in addressing a wide range of research topics.

The entire conference posed many riveting questions such as: what makes art and what value does it have? The conference focused on the interrelationship between art and the economy.

The one presentation during the conference that really stood out was by visual art masters student Jamie Quail. Quail began the conference with the sale of pieces from her collection entitled “Free Ideas.” The collection was a variety of abstract sculptures, all of which had a socially related title, such as “a world of riches,” “you could get a disease” and “save our lakes and rivers.”

The pieces in the compilation ranged in price from $2.50 to $55. Along with the art collection hung a sign that read, “The artwork in ‘Free Ideas’ has been priced according to a $14 an hour wage. No cost has been added to account for the informational or cultural context or for the art for its market value.”

Unlike many art exhibits, this conference was not about the visual aspect of art, but rather the social and economic factors and art’s impact on those areas.

Following the sale of pieces from “Free Ideas,” Quail gave a talk entitled “Immaterial Labour and the Value of Art.”

“I picked the title ‘Free Ideas’ to refer to the cultural context of artwork. By pricing the work strictly according to the manual labour I put into it and explicitly stating that the cultural context and the ideas involved with the work are free,” Quail explained. “Art has been adopted as a political and economic resource capable of improving economic conditions or escalating economic growth.”

“I Don’t Care To Discuss It... Art, Media & the State in a Globalized Economy” gave a whole new outlook on visual art. Its focus on the cultural and social component of art, rather than the aesthetically pleasing aspect, was enlightening and socially important.

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