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Art Stage Singapore's 2017 Southeast Asia Forum: NET PRESENT VALUE: ART, CAPITAL, FUTURES

Art Stage Singapore 2017 will present the second Southeast Asia Forum, which will focus on the theme of capitalism, titled Net Present Value: Art, Capital, Futures. Initiated by Art Stage Singapore in January 2016, the Forum aims to emphasise the balance between art, commerce and content. The Forum is a thematic programme, comprising an exhibition and a series of lectures and discussions that offer more focused and deeper views into global issues that have direct impact on Southeast Asia.

Trong Gia Nguyen, Video stills of Artists Commercials (Nouveau Ghetto), 2017, Three-channel HD video installation. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Quynh.

The late Joseph Beuys (1921–1986) believed in the imaginative potential in each individual and in the power of art to radically transform everyday society. He saw capital as “human dignity and creativity” and championed the importance of developing “a concept of money that allows creativity, or art, so to speak, to be capital.” Thirty years after Beuys’ death, in the age of finance, we reflect on what ‘capital’ means today in relationship to art, society and the present future.  

‘Net Present Value’ is a method commonly used to forecast the profitability of future returns on investments made today. Simply put, it is a future value expressed in today’s terms. The second Southeast Asia Forum seeks to explore the values of art, imagination and progress, and, the price of doing business as usual in the global capitalist system. It examines relationships between money, ideals and some of the fault lines in the present financial age, including the Forum’s immediate sphere of influence — the art market and the value of creativity.  

The Forum’s exhibition surveys impacts of economic development on governance, cultures, beliefs, social relations and daily life, focusing on the milieu of Southeast Asia, as countries race to establish their place in the league of global economies. Through the works of socially engaged artists, most of whom are from the region, the exhibition emphasises the importance of cultivating alternative forms of capital and conditions for the evolution of societies in an increasingly complex global environment.  

Kent Chan, Bright Lights (Better Life Later), 2016, Neon bulbs, acrylic sheet, 122 x 244 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Projects.

Drastic transformations in economic systems or rapid globalisation of economies provoked intense responses from these artists who, through diverse forms of art and design practices, show how processes of capitalisation and globalisation — historic and contemporary — have brought dramatic changes in terms of power relations and social structures, intranational and transnational, and how such processes often lead to the widespread devastation of lived environments and experiences. Several of the artists, in their works, remonstrate against the profound and far-reaching consequences of global capitalism — declining social protection, rising statism, militarised accumulation, forced migration — and commemorate the silent or invisible victims of these processes. A number of works are motivated by questions about contemporary art in itself and seek to trigger discussions on the commodification and consumption of art and the symptomatic portrayal of artists as creators versus artists as capitalists.  

The Forum’s series of lectures and panel discussions will bring together speakers from the art community and the social sciences to examine, through different perspectives, challenges relating to cultures of fnancialisation and their impact on how we consider art and capital in the immediate future. As income inequality — within individual nations and between nations — continues to rise, the escalation of populism, protectionism and jingoism across countries encroaches on the delicate international balancing act of redressing social inequalities. Looking beyond widespread anxiety in response to a tangled state of world affairs that include socioeconomic uncertainties, geopolitical power shifts, international security conficts and technological advances, questions over the future of the global capitalist system are underpinned by broader, deeper forces. 

Jenny Holzer, 常理 : 金錢造就品味 (Truisms: Money Creates Taste), 2013, Sichuan Deep White marble bench, 43.2 x 154.9 x 64.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries.

 

Max Haiven’s writings on radical creative strategies against financialisation are a central strand of the discussions. Haiven argues how the financialisation of almost everything, everyday, everywhere, and the consequential values we associate with money today, have superceded qualities such as empathy and individualism. Decades of emphasising the principles of cost-and-benefit analysis, of decision-making based on evaluating investment and debt, risk and reward, have led governments, businesses, organisations and individuals, to lose sight over a larger and more important picture: a vision for the future of global society.   

Seismic socio-political shifts surging across the world signal that we have entered a new global era; an era in which constant disruption shall be the normal state of affairs. In this time, more than ever, we need a new generation of ‘seismographs’ and ‘design disruptors’ — innovators, thinkers, leaders, socially engaged actors — to remind us of our collective consciousness and agency, and to re-frame the ways with which we — the art community included — have grown accustomed to seeing the world.  

In creating encounters between critics, actors and influencers who will discuss issues relating to financial literacy and the economics of art, the Forum seeks to bring about more inter-disciplinary understanding and collaboration in re-imagining conditions and values for art and capital in 21st-century society.

  

For more information about Art Stage Singapore's 2017 Southeast Asia Forum, please visit the fair's official website here