placing a value on art and our environment

Beijing International Art Biennale, exhibitions, writing

‘Vegeterian dog’ on the wall of the Modern Art Museum in Beijing

Before sending my work to the BIAB, there was a question from the shipping company, how much should we insure your work for? How much? the material and time, the effort I put into the painting. How much is my emotional value?
How much?
Once I had a painting caught up in an explosion, it flew up into the sky and was gone.

Both our environment and art could be considered as priceless. Priceless as in worthless or as unaffordable. On the internet we can find out what is the price of one m2 of a painting, a kilogram of sculpture or one hectare of virgin rainforest. But what if the forest, or artwork is destroyed and lost to us? With what standards do we measure this loss? In my talk, I shall take you through several examples and will point out methods of placing a value on art and our environment without having to use the monetary system.

Needless to say, money is rather handy, it fits your wallet and you can exchanged goods with them. The value of the products that you buy go up in price or down, depending on demand and supply. And the value of money goes down, like having a hole in your wallet. As an artist, you want there to be a demand for your artwork so that the price goes up. As an art collector you have a good art investment if the price of the work goes up. The emotional value of the art work stands loose from art prices going up or down.
Have you ever noticed that on the news bulletins, art is always mentioned with how much it cost, or how much it was bought for?
This is the same for the environment. The oil disaster in the gulf of Mexico, immediately had a price tag on it. As if money will fix the ecological disaster?
We have fallen over a trivial matter, namely money. Money is a side issue, not the main issue. When money comes into play we play by certain rules. In todays culture, we have excepted the rules as being the only rules. As far as our environment is concerned, we think we can trade our carbon emission credits. But does our environment what to play the game?

In 1998 I came into contact with 3 artists, we were young and angry and we were all ready to break the rules. We wanted to break rules that compelled us to think in terms of the art market. The commercial rules that hindered us in our thinking and painting. Together with 8 artists we formed an art group, Gaidaro, and we set ahead planning an exhibition of black and white paintings. Further more we wanted to make our own book.
Not more that an year later our first exhibition opened in Amsterdam, black and white, with no titles and no names next to the paintings, and no prices. We wanted the public to look at the art works, not at the price, or the maker. This exhibition went on to Madrid and Athens bringing our ideas to different art cultures in Europe (and we also got feed back from the 3 different cultures).
In all three cities we had reactions of fascination, a breath of fresh air, people were in awe , people saw colours in the black and white work, they felt something new and they came to look at the work.
And at the same time there was confusion. People felt awkward and disorientated not being able to find the labels and were afraid to comment on the painting, and no prices? Did that mean we were amateurs?
It meant our paintings like our environment is priceless.
Further some of the artists where not comfortable with the idea of turning our backs on the art-market, and they felt it would endangering their art career.

the second exhibition.
The Dutch ambassador in Greece Paul Brouwer, came to our first exhibition in Athens and liked what he saw and liked our spirit. In 2000 he invited us to take part in the Holland festival and organized the best exhibition space in Athens.opening

The other-self project was initiated. We painted together, one after the other on the same canvas, or even simultaneously on the same work. We were destroying the other and ourselfs, but pushing towards new boundaries. It was a challenge to let go of our emotions. Our ego’s were roughly stepped upon. But our work released us from the ownership of the painting, and passed into something we could not own, yet we had full responsibility of each piece of art work as if it were our own.
This exhibition was more difficult for the public to follow, but people picked up the meaning of non commercialism, looking at new paths, interchange and exchange. Working together across a platform. We as artists were making the choices. But the public also voiced their frustration. Why are they not for sale, is my money not good enough?
And the artists where struggeling too. There was no instant pay off. There was no guide. We had to do all the work, we had to redefine our own professionalism.

While we were busy forming our ideas, there was an other great change. The internet had become accessible to us. That meant freedom of information and the access to information. Open access to information. As artists we could get into direct contact with people thinking in similar ways.

Let me come back to the paintings made by several artists. No it is not for sale, but we are fully responsible for it. Just like a litre of air should be, 1000 hectare of rain forest, or the marine life in the gulf of Mexico. No it is not for sale, and yes we are responsible.

Our projects since then have continued, and we have chosen for a wider scope of artists, where art works stand loose from the maker. Like so many art projects around the world including the Beijing Art Biennial, we too place adverts and call for artists on the internet, and people find us. The strength lies in the fact that we can access information and acquire information, without a board , directors, a schoolteacher, or unions filtering a choosing for us.
New art projects nowadays go so far as to say, we are only interested in the image, not the maker and the resume.

How does this tie in with ecology? As I mentioned earlier, natural disasters are immediately linked with the millions of dollars of damage? Will the money fix and replace a species of fish now extinct after the disaster? As in the case of art, money is a side matter. Our ecology does not belong to us, and yet we are fully responsible . By creating an awareness and open access to information we are able to make a step forward
And not through the internet alone. Like the Beijing art Biennial and so many other art projects, the contacts are made through the internet, then the projects and idea have to be materialized and become tangible for both artist and public.

To summarise

Open access to information with support from third parties enable us to materialise projects that will inspire us and the citizens of the world to take responsibility of our destiny.

2 thoughts on “placing a value on art and our environment

  1. Being one of the ‘gaidaros’ of ten or more years ago, I think that the way you explain the connection between what we were doing with the physical world where we are living, makes the whole idea even more worth standing. Then, to surpass (or overtake, maybe better put) the administrators (see curators for art) was unimaginable, the same to exhibit without tags of any kind. The ‘tagging’ has changed form and value through these years and people do become more critical about it. The open access, via Internet, goes even further making us co-responsible if we do nothing to preserve the priceless, the made one as well as the given one.

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