“Giving it away, not giving it away, is there any difference. Giving it away, not giving it away.” Gertrude Stein
“The meaning of money lies in the fact that it will be given away.” Georg Simmel
“All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify, all that is solid melts into air.” Karl Marx (on money in its latest incarnation)
“It is essential to the nature of money for the objects into which wealth or value is condensed to be practically useless. . .This theorum is equally true for modern money (gold) and for archaic money (dogs teeth).” Norman O Brown
“To be useless and unprofitable is one of the characteristics of works of genius” Arthur Shopenhauer
“This useless thing we expect civilization to value is beauty.” Sigmund Freud
When Money is Free: I purchased my place in Manifesta 4 as the high bidder in Christoph Büchel’s ebay auction, which he called “Invite Yourself.” Ordinarily, things that confer social prestige must be received (or not received) as a kind of gift. They cannot be demanded or bought or taken by an act of individual will. One is awarded something, or invited somewhere; it is a passive mode. An official place in a biennial is a gift of the curators, a gift which the artist returns with the gift of her or his art. In the marketplace, however, you can have whatever you wish, as long as you have the money. You do not have to persuade or impress someone in order to be allowed to buy what you want (in its higher stratospheres, the art market, interestingly, is an exception to this). Büchel, by auctioning off his participation rights also freed them. Participation, or belonging, is longer tied to the traditional structures of power.
Free Manifesta: “Free Manifesta” creates an unedited and uncurated space within the larger context of Manifesta 4, a space where any artist who wishes can participate. It transforms Büchel’s “Invite Yourself” into “Everyone is invited” As an artwork, “Free Manifesta” is an idea structure, a kind of social architecture. What interests me is how these social architectures are given life by the consensus, the gift, of their participants. An alternate economy is created, based around this gift, which joins both the artists and those who experience the artwork in a new relationship. But it is important not to over-romanticize the idea of the gift. Gifts may be financially free, but they are part of a system of mutual obligation and social hierarchy. The marketplace offers something more promiscuous and libidinal, an exchange based on desire. As we move between the interlocking systems of the money economy and the gift economy we find ourselves exchanging and re-exchanging one kind of freedom for another.
Sal Randolph, June 2002