Over the last four decades we have witnessed processes of dematerialization in various fields: Money has been dematerialized with the dissolution of the gold standard, commodities have been dematerialized with the ascendance of brand names, and art practices were dematerialized by the emergence of movements such as conceptual art.
Taken together, these processes can serve as a starting point for rethinking materialism.
Rather than render the concept of materialism obsolete, however, these extended developments force us to ask whether we are finally able to understand what materialism was really about. The conversation between economist Noam Yuran and Vera List Center Fellow and curator Joshua Simon addresses the economy of meaning when we are faced by various symbols that have come to behave like material things and, by doing so, have in effect taken the place of material things. This substitution allows us to reconsider the thing; to ask what a thing is, and what it was all along.
Set in The New School’s historic Orozco Room from 1931—with murals depicting liberation struggles in Mexico, India and Russia—the conversation is embedded in a historic playing field that includes some of the founders behind The New School, among others economist Thorstein Veblen.
Joshua Simon, 2011-2013 Vera List Center Fellow, chief curator, Bat Yam Art Museum, Israel
Noam Yuran, research fellow, the Minerva Humanities Center, Tel Aviv University, Israel
.* Organized and presented by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, as part of the 2011-2013 curatorial focus program Thingness, and in conjunction with the Center’s New School class Art & the Political.
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Image Caption: Elisheva Levy, Paper Smokes, 2010