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The Language of Things

Luigi Fassi, Andrea Phillips, Julia Mortiz and Joshua Simon
4 December 2010

A discussion with Luigi Fassi (Director ar/ge kunst, Bolzano, Italy), Julia Mortiz (Art Historian, Luneburg University, Germany), Andrea Phillips (Director of the Doctoral Research Programme,Goldsmiths, London) and Joshua Simon (Curator and Filmmaker, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel).

Organised by Caterina Riva and Joshua Simon at The Showroom.

When Karl Marx described commodity fetishism in Capital(1867), he mentioned that beyond its exchange and use values, the commodity has a third implied quality, or as he put it: “A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties”. Since the past 150 years the commodity has become the historical subject in contemporary culture. Almost every object enters the world today as a commodity and as such it feels most at home in this world (think of IKEA for example – are we furnishing our world with it, or maybe we dwell in its world?). Through various strategies of composition, appropriation and re-contextualization of different commodities, artists try to make and understand artworks today. From an assemblage of consumer products to an abstract painting, one could argue that some commodities are art objects, but all art objects are commodities. The commodity not only precedes the commodification of artworks in the art market, but it precedes the artwork itself. It is the material that is in all materials. It is the basic technique of every technique, the fundamental medium of all mediums.

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Luigi Fassi is director of ar/ge kunst Galerie Museum in Bolzano, Italy. He was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York 2008–9, and in 2006 he was curator in residence at NIFCA and FRAME, both in Helsinki. He has organised several exhibitions internationally, including ‘Theoretical Practice’, International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York, 2009; ‘Archeology of Mind’, Malmö Konstmuseum, Sweden, 2008; ‘In Search of the Miraculous’, Kunsthalle Helsinki, 2007. Fassi is co-author of Time Out of Joint: Recall and Evocation in Recent Art, published by Yale University Press, 2009.

Julia Moritz is an art historian and critic committed to the investigation of the conditions of critical practice, the art world’s social relations and the possibilities of progressive institutional models. She recently completed her PhD Blurring the Boundaries. Institutional Critique in Spaces of Conflict with Beatrice von Bismarck, Gregor Stemmrich and Tom Holert. She has been a critical studies fellow at the Whitney Independent Studies Program in 2009 and is currently teaching Art of the 21st century at the University of Luneburg, Germany.

Andrea Phillips is Reader in Fine Art at the Department of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Director of the Doctoral Research Programme. From 2006-2009 she was Director of Curating Architecture, a think tank that investigated the aesthetic and political relationship between architecture, curating and concepts of public display, which resulted in an exhibition and a publication. Current research projects include the aesthetic formatting of transnational space and its relation to contemporary art, the future and implications of practice-based research, and ‘Building Democracy’, a set of publications and discussions that forefront critiques of participation in contemporary art and architecture. Dr Phillips is currently developing a series of international symposium for the Dutch Foundation for Public Art, SKOR, and forming a research unit into the Aesthetic and Economic Impact of Contemporary Art, based at Goldsmiths.

Joshua Simon is a curator and writer based in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The three-part essay published on e-flux journal is a section from his upcoming book on Neo-Materialism. Simon is co-founding editor of Maayan Magazine and The New&Bad Art Magazine and he is the editor of Maarvon (Western) – New Film Magazine. Currently, he is a PhD candidate at the Curatorial/Knowledge program at the Visual Cultures department of Goldsmiths. He is the editor of  United States of Israel-Palestine forthcoming in the Solution series by Sternberg Press. Among his poetry projects are Red: Anthology of Hebrew and Arabic Class Poetry (May Day 2007), and Out! Against the Attack on Gaza (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Beirut and Cairo, 2008-2009). He is the co-editor of the book of censored exhibition The Aesthetics of Terror (Charta Art Books, 2009). Select curatorial projects include: Sharon (Tel Aviv 2004), Blanks (CCA, Tel Aviv 2005), The Rear - the first Herzliya Biennial of Contemporary Art (2007), Come to Israel, It’s Hot and Wet and We Have The Humus! (Storefront for Art and Architecture, NYC 2008), Internazionale! (The Left Bank - Israeli Communist Party Culture Club, 2008) The Invisible Hand (Sommer Contemporary Art, 2009).

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closing frame from: Jean-Luc Godard 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d elle, 1967

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Joshua Simon

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Joshua Simon

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Joshua Simon & Julia Mortiz

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Joshua Simon & Luigi Fassi

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Joshua Simon & Luigi Fassi

FormContent: , Joshua Simon, Luigi Fassi & Andrea Phillips

Joshua Simon, Luigi Fassi & Andrea Phillips

FormContent: , Joshua Simon, Luigi Fassi & Andrea Phillips

Joshua Simon, Luigi Fassi & Andrea Phillips