PRINT September 2008


Service Aesthetics

Bert Rodriguez, In the Beginning . . . , 2008, mixed media and performance. Installation view, Park Avenue Armory, New York. From the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Photo: James Ewing.

THE ATTITUDES AND TECHNIQUES of artists have clearly buckled and changed many times over the past century, as industrialism became postindustrialism and first-world enterprise shifted from goods to services while manual production was shunted to outlying zones of cheap labor. The significance of these shifts is a central focus of Helen Molesworth’s 2003 essay “Work Ethic,” in which she describes how artists—in their working ethos, methods, and social legitimacy in relation to other workers—are strapped to the twin engines of the economy and the technologies that drive it. Art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh explored related issues when he formulated the notion of an “aesthetic of administration” in a piece in October in 1990, arguing that the postwar period’s concentration of power in the hands of managers “administering labor and production (rather than producing)”

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