The Subjective Objective

The research project investigates the passage from “private” to “imaginary” property, a radically different understanding of the self and how this relates to new divisions of labor in digital, networked image production. It sets out to reevaluate of a number of specific techniques of the self that have been relevant in the history of art in the 20th century as a series of continuous engagement with the provocations, ruptures and threats of mechanisation and industrialisation: the genius, the flaneur and the dilettante; narcissistic and cynical models of a degenerating self; the artist as producer and the auteur concept; do-it-yourself and relational art.

The project is confronting these traditional concepts with an analysis of the ethics and aesthetics of new divisions of labor in creative industries, when the artist is no longer placed in a position outside of production. Furthermore, today’s knowledge production is characterised by key features that so far have been reserved to mark the peculiarity of the privileged working methods of artists.

What seems to be at stake are new, hybrid divisions of labor, which actively involve the self of the user in the actual creation of code; that combine algorithmic and poetic work, disciplined and undisciplined activities, deterministic and precarious states, paid and unpaid labor.

The artist appears as a role-model for a self-managed entrepreneurship that is supposed to constantly question the apparent division of labor and to reformulate the division between manual and intellectual labor.

The research project is based on the following hypothesis: Hybrid divisions of labor require a different conception of the self. It is not the mirror image of a subject that owns itself and through that acquires the capacity of ownership as such. It is not the creative self that mirrors its imaginative power in the product of its labor. It is a charismatic notion of the self that is characterised by a permanent sense of crisis and the resulting need to perform itself in real time.

What could that mean for the understanding of contemporary art and the role of the artists in today’s society? The mythology of networked automatisation has estranged creativity from the process of creation. In order to generate value, the image becomes valuable in an alienated context—one other than its own. Against that backdrop, the charismatic self of the artist might be condemned to a terrible task: It has to reconnect the image and a self, which does not necessarily have to be the original creator or an authorised owner.