There was a time when pigment or stone were sovereign mediums in art production, when the tangible market was the dealer’s business and when every role was well defined, as value was established upon tangible goods like gold. Worth dematerialised, however, after the collapse of the gold standard in 1971, leading to the speculation we currently accept as part of our existence. Not few artists started exploring new tactics ever since, through which to transcend limits in terms of roles, realms and materials, getting away from the physical commodity as a medium to establish value in their work.
The exhibition Neoliberal Lulz at Carroll/Fletcher enables artists Constant Dullaart, Femke Herregraven, Jennifer Lynn Morone and Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion to laugh out loud about the new paths markets have been taking since their detachment. The show is just an insight of some projects that are much more complex than what is materially exhibited at the gallery space. Tightly packed in an irregular and overwhelming display, the works are covering a huge amount of research, which keeps spreading and circulating through other distribution channels, such as, obviously, the internet.
In the front room a sleek display composed of two TV screens, a series of portraits and a hanging sculptural work, greets the visitor. The videos are a manipulated hacking team commercial titled Galileo, by Constant Dullaart, and a promotional induction to Jennifer Lynn Morone’s corporative product: herself. The persons depicted in the blurred portraits, titled “Most likely involved in sales of intrusive privacy breaching software and hardware solutions to oppressive governments during so called Arab Spring 1” (2014), are anonymous spyware sellers. Each portrait contains an encrypted message, which tackles questions very often discussed in art, such as of authenticity and integrity. Femke Herregraven’s “When you startle awake at four in the morning it’s not because you’re feeling happy” (2016) refers to high frequency trading and the theory of the black swan.
Lynn Morone’s video work “Inc behind the scenes: Meeting minutes” and Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion’s documentation “Les nouveaux chercheurs d’or” show the insights of value generation process in the gallery corridor, which leads to the middle room. The space is covered with wallpaper depicting slogans and skies, and flat screens playing DullTech TM’s promotional video “Neoliberal Lulzzz”. DullTech TM is a company “placed to cash in on any commercial success” of which Dullaart is the creative, developer, marketer, and venture capitalist, and it offers stress and drama-free products, such as “smart, hassle-free, plug-and-play USB-friendly media player that works on screens and syncs without problems or cables”.
Finally, the rear room is devoted to the bureaucratic side of projects by artists Lynn Morone, Brout & Marion and Herregraven. Documentation is shown as a testimony of how their corporative attempts came true through exploitation and speculation of the self and the immaterial. Untitled SAS (Société par actions simplifiées) (2015) is a project by duo Emiliie Brout and Maxime Marion, which exists only in its documents. Those legal procedures, which take over the front wall, aim to reflect the art market. Lynn Morone decided to turn the dominant data slavery into a new business model: the commodification of her own persona. In the room, some forms and folders bear this turn, in addition to a series of videos that advertise with no less irony a few products tailored out of the artist’s invisible features, such as her smell or her hormones. The videos are followed by Herregraven’s tax evasion fantasy Taxodus (2012-2013): a trailer presenting an online game through which to test how it would be to become a global citizen. Other works by Herregraven, like the video installation Infinite Capacity AI13 (2015), the aluminium sticks “Rogue waves” or the series of light boxes and drawings “A timeframe of one second is a lifetime of trading” (2013-2015) evidence the aesthetic dimension of some speculation tactics by investment banking and high frequency trading, while materialising a dissemination of time and space, as a second can mean a long time in trading and a storage can mean high assets for banks.
In sum, either as a product to be exploited, as an entrepreneurial trigger, or as a platform to uncover the dark side of the volatile reality driving our economy, the figure of the artist has reached an ambiguous and undefined status in the neoliberal age. According to the urban dictionary, Lulz is a written expression of laughing about funny internet content. The artists’ laughs might not be loud, but are nevertheless determined, embracing with irony an era where the rules of art production are set by the powerful and non-sense markets.
Gabriela Acha is an independent curator based in London. She will soon complete an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths University of London and is running the project space Green Ray in Deptford since December 2015 –together with Nathalie Boobis and Katy Orkisz. In the past she was running collectively the Berlin-based multidisciplinary space Altes Finanzamt. Gabriela is interested in current emergent practices that deal with temporality, networks and materiality.