Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

Benjamin, Boltanski, Blockchain

On Art and the Value Form

Nathan J. Taylor, Goethe University Frankfurt

Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI), Raum 106, Goethestraße 31, 45128 Essen

Discourses of art and value tend to imagine aesthetic value as either a bulwark against or concession to dominant economic regimes of value. This talk explores paradigmatic scenes of the loss or capture of singular aesthetic value against the backdrop of encroaching industrial and deindustrialized economies: scenes of a work’s loss of aura (Benjamin), of an enrichment economy (Boltanski), or of a fantasy of decentralized and digital art stewardship (Blockchain). Rather than rehearse arguments about how these scenes figure art’s acquiescence or resistance to capital’s regimes of value, this talk turns to an unlikely alternative in a Romantic literature coeval with the historical emergence of discourses of aesthetic exceptionalism. In imagining art as invaluable – as extravagant and frivolous; both inestimable and worthless by the metrics of a capitalist ‘value form’ to which it nevertheless remains beholden – this literature proffers a different set of questions with relevance for our own moment of accumulation crises: what does art’s unusual and complex relation to the economic have to say about that value form’s own internal limits.