Against value in the arts

Ladkin, Sam (2014) Against value in the arts. Project Report. Cultural Value Project 2014.

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A critical review as part of the AHRC funded Cultural Value ProjectAgainst Value presents a genealogy of value (in Nietzschean terms the value of value rather than the value of morality) in order to disclose the counter-intuitive results of the rhetoric of value, or the potential drawbacks of the setting of value(s) to direct policy. Against Value understands that the auditing of values pervades the fabric of people’s work-lives and increasingly their everyday. ‘Positive’ values (happiness, participation, transparency) become damaging when enforced by audit and the genealogy of value uncovers figures of resentment, disenchantment and alienation fostered by a combination of domination by exchange-value and the complicity in that system of social and cultural values. The harm of ostensibly ‘positive’ values is established, and a number of ‘negative’ (counter-)values (failure, spleen, bathos) are re-valued for their qualities. Against Value argues that the arts can, and perhaps should, be critical of iterations of value, no matter how ostensibly virtuous are those values. It is often the staunchest defenders of art who do it the most harm, by suppressing or mollifying its dissenting voice, by neutralizing its painful truths, and by instrumentalizing its potentiality, so that rather than expanding the autonomy of thought and feeling of the artist and the audience, it makes art self-satisfied, or otherwise an echo-chamber for the limited and limiting self-description of people’s lives. More profoundly irrecuperable expressions against value, particularly as value is manifested in a culture of redemption and by the force of negation, will conclude the project. This critical review report carries out the groundwork for a genealogy of value, provides an overview of arguments around audit and transparency, and offers one example of a critique of the value of participation in the arts. The conclusion proposes that an ethnographic model of listening is preferable to a value-laden audit culture (aims and outcomes) for arts funding in order to maintain the incommensurability of the arts from its host cultures, and culture from society. This is to encourage a critical dissensus from dominant systems of value. The practice to be developed is “being able to pay attention to people who themselves have other things on their minds” (Strathern). The thesis of Against Value will be explored in a brief monograph, and a collection of essays co-edited by Sam Ladkin (University of Sheffield), Emile Bojesen (University of Winchester) and Robert McKay (University of Sheffield).

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Project Report)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: Samuel Ladkin
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2019 15:53
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2021 13:54

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Against Value in the ArtsUnsetAHRCAH/L006022/1