CAPITALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS
In the second half of our course, we have seen how the force of capitalism has shaped the production, sale, and discourse around art and design. Furthermore, many artists and designers have, to varying degrees and in complex ways, embraced and/or challenged capitalism’s power.
Locate a central argument about capitalism in relation to art and design and support it using four material examples (from four different class days):
• In what ways do your four examples engage with or challenge capitalism? What’s the general thread?
• How do your examples express this relationship with capitalism? (For example, a few possibilities: Is it the art market? The desires of the middle class? What the system symbolizes? Governments, businesses, or NGOs functioning in capitalistic ways? Etc.?) How do we see this engagement in the objects themselves? Be specific and get inside the argument.
• And, now, a counter-–argument. Challenge the ideas from the second bullet point above. What might be some of the inherent problems in capitalism, or even some problems within the critiques of capitalism? Why? And, how is this evidenced in your material examples?
• Address the broader context of capitalism. How and why might capitalism (and/or the challenges to it) have given rise to the material examples you’re discussing?
• And… here’s a handy working definition:
o Capitalism: “an economic system characterized by private or corporation
ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision rather than by state control, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly in a free market”
o Citation: “Capitalism,” Merriam-–Webster Unabridged, URL https://www.lib.umich.edu/database/link/8847, accessed March 30, 2016.
+ Use 4 examples from these works
(you can choose whatever you want from here)
— Henry Dreyfuss for Bell Telephone, Trimline Phone, 1965 Herbert Matter, ad for Eero Saarinen’s pedestal furniture, Knoll, 1957-8 George Nelson, Ball Wall Clock, 1947; “Bubble” Lamps, 1952
-Charles and Ray Eames, for Herman Miller, Lounge Chair, 1956
-Debord’s writing: the Situationist International
– Chevrolet Corvair, 1961 Ralph Nader ’s Unsafe at Any Speed exposed the hazards of the first generation (early 1960s). The car was the subject of over 100 lawsuits for safety problems.
– Hans Haacke, Information (MoMA Poll), 1970
Institutional Critique: Emerges with and after 1968. Challenges to museum authority and structures of power in the art world.
Meanwhile… The rise of the Blockbuster exhibition, and especially, the gift shop…
For example: 1977: King Tut
See? Museums are asserting their authority at the same time as artists are undercutting that very authority.
– Photograph of Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, 1978 Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols, version of God Save the Queen, 1976
-Carrie Mae Weem’s The Kitchen Table Series
– Richard Estes, Supreme Hardware, 1973
Milton Glaser, I heart New York logo (NYC ad campaign launched 1977)
New York Daily News, October 30, 1975, front page headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead”