All value is networked value and what we call “culture” emerges therefrom.

I recently had an eminently satisfying exchange with a dear gentleman, the incredibly accomplished photographer Alejandro Cartagena.i He’s an artist, educator, and certainly no intellectual slouch, so when he tagged me in a quote about art making and collectingii on the back of my Gedankenexperiment last Sunday, we dug into a little more depth on the essential relationship between artist and patron/collector.

So that this lovely conversation might be preserved for posterity, captured from the depths of ephemeral feeds and preserved for future reference (and future generations), without further ado, our adnotated thread:

Alejandro Cartagena (AC): “I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger than reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go…” Anais Nin.iii I found this quote to be work for both art making and collecting; as artists we pursue something until it excites us no more and collectors hold on to art until it excites them no more. It’s not all black and white, but it does ring true in most cases. What you think Pete? And is the value also marked by the collectors personal attachment to the work?

Pete D (PD): I find this quote aspirational! But not exactly reflective of (my) lived reality. There are many reasons to collect other than whimsical passion. Passion is certainly one of the factors contributing to conviction but there are social and (whisper it) financial considerations too. The financial considerations are obvious but consider the social implications of selling one’s one and only Punk, Ape, Noun or what have you!iv
AC: Great point and I would have a follow up question. Is the work of art (NFT) then validated also through the series of transactions surrounding it… is it equally valuable as it’s aesthetic value? Is the combination of both the real cultural value of the image?

PD: All value is socially created and determined value. Otherwise a canvas is just a canvas and a jpeg is just a jpeg. What is called “aesthetics” seems to me a momentary capturing of resonance by the yin/yang of patron/artist.v
AC: I agree with you. Ah! Ok, I guess what varies in the value being crated is time. Some art takes time to become valuable, because of the artist, the context, etc, but yes, it is once those interactions between the art and society start happening when the art becomes valuable. No?

PD: Whether the interaction between artist/patron happens when the artist is alive is besides the point, the interaction happens at some point in time, and in doing so “art” is born! Of course the “value” of that art still has to be determined, but that’s when networks come in ;)vi
AC: Thank you for these insights. Food for thought. One last idea to toss around: is there a possible analogy between commissioned art from the 16, 17th century and generative art? There was no art to interact with, yet a value transaction was made and assigned? What you say? How is art done then in this circumstance when the Art doesn’t even exist? Is it the idea what is valuable more then the art or token?

PD: The idea is always what’s valuable, yes! And it’s tough for us to conceive of “art” during the Renaissance because (to my knowledge) there were VERY few museums,vii much narrower access to art history, and basically no secondary market. So “art” of five hundred years ago was barely a distinct thing from the views manifest of the (elite) patron, and would’ve been viewed by the public (in my reading) as a natural extension of the patron rather than a distinct commercial enterprise or endeavour.

AC: Agreed! So then can we argue that art is native to culture and not to specific “mediums” or platforms?
PD: Yes!

Chadwick Tyler: I agree, but can’t some art/artist transcend even beyond culture? Or is culture all inhabiting?
PD: There is only culture, which is just the term we use for emergent expressions of networks. But since there are many networks, there are many cultures and thus many arts!viii
AC: Amazingly put! Thank you Pete!

___ ___ ___

  1. Alejandro is also one of the artists I selected for my “moon bag.” He’s that good!
  2. Not archived as per usual with archive.is because the nesting is horrendous and the whole point of this article is archiving!!
  3. Anaïs Nin wiki, in case you also didn’t know who she was.
  4. This was before Twitter’s announcement of a “verification” ie. “metaverse passport” for NFTs. Watch out now!

    That being said, collectors are first and foremost curators of history, and the hows and whys of what they do very much depends on the shapes and forms of the individual chips on their individual shoulders. Expanding on this latter point, ICYMI be sure to read my 2018 article, What’s a “collector” anyways?

  5. This age-old dynamic between artist and patron is obviously inspired by MP‘s seminal 2013 article What is art? but I’ve continued to digest this idea for close to a decade now, which is what spurred such explorations as my 2020 article But what is power? Yes, art matters. and other that you’re welcome to dig out of the archives.
  6. This is what’s spoken of in such loose yet reverential tones as “community” in the NFT space.
  7. A quick googling reveals that Ashmolean in England claims to be the “first” “public museum” as it was founded in 1683.
  8. This is also echoed by Naval’s point that “There will be as many viable crypto assets as there are online communities.” (archived)

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