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Capital implications: the function of labor in the video art of Juan Devis and Yoshua Okon

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It is increasingly evident that advanced forms of speculative value that have become the driving engine behind the inflated global art market are nonetheless inextricably bound to and dependent upon more informal market systems that operate through the spontaneous organization of exploitable, precarious, marginalized, and ultimately undervalued forms of labor. This fact makes labor a pivotal site where the linkages between these two purportedly independent markets (and their respective systems of value and exchange) come into focus and can be more tangibly assessed and critiqued. This paper will follow this current by first contextualizing the function of labor within two contrasting historical traditions/tendencies of art and cultural production that explicitly reference labor as an essential structuring condition of the work. It will then develop a detailed case study of a recent exchange between two contemporary media/video artists in Los Angeles that demonstrates the complexities of how the market value of art is implicated within a precarious trans-national wage labor system in the neoliberalist global economy.
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Keywords: Latin America; biopolitics; contemporary art; labor; media; neoliberalism; video art

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Media and Cultural Studies, University of California, Riverside, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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