‘How to Maximise your Aesthetic Capital: Artist Start Ups’
A feature for Feral Horses on a recent series of works using the medium of the ‘start-up’ to question contemporary boundaries between creative practice, enterprise and technology.
The article focused on DullTech™, created by its CEO, artist Constant Dullaart, and New Eelam, an artwork-start-up launched at the 9th Berlin Biennale by artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas.
“Unlike avant-gardism of the last half-century, which pitted the worlds of subjectivity, aesthetics and social life as antagonist to, and ‘outside’ of, capital, our current generation of artists are grappling with the reality that every molecule of life is now produced, defined and parasitized by structures of capitalism. Our bodies, our labour, our emotions and our thoughts. All have been ruthlessly captured and instrumentalised by the territorialising powers of capital. In this context, it begs the question, where left is there for artists to take their refuge? Is it not, perhaps, in the innovative world of capitalism itself? Why not make Art, a Start-up?
DullTech™, created by its CEO, artist Constant Dullaart, is a crowd-sourced hardware start-up producing a media-player that makes it easy to install single and multi-channel video installations. The idea came about after Dullaart started a 2012 residency in Shenzhen, “The Silicone Valley of Hardware”, and wanted to observe the working conditions of Chinese labourers. To do this, the idea of DullTech was created as a foot in the door. However, after international interest from artists about the (fake) product, Dullaart decided to actually go ahead with making it. (It is important to note here, that whilst his motivation was expose illegal working conditions, the company eventually responsible for producing the DullTech media-player was RealTek, which currently has no history of workplace violations.)
What the sleek branding, polished corporate aesthetics and cute, clip-art style animations of the start-up’s Kickstarter video highlighted—when incongruously, yet quite subtly pitted against footage of the Chinese factories, their workers, the Shenzhen smog and its e-waste—was the deep relationship between creatives, digital production, and myriad forms of modern-day slavery; in many cases hopelessly dependent, and at their worst, actively complicit. Perhaps even more perversely, it showed that in order to critique and render transparent the processes of global labour flows, human rights abuses and staggering ecological harm that go into making something like, say, a media-player, you first have to enter into its own systems of production.”