Economies of Aesthetics

Director: Peter Szendy, David Herlihy Professor of Humanities and Comparative Literature

Economic categories—debt, exchange, value, and so on—have often been dramatized by writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians. Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the Banker in Berg’s Lulu, Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street: many a fictional character has been inspired by the vicissitudes of finance.

But economy is not only present in novels, screenplays, or operatic librettos as an element of their plot: it also pervades their very texture—their textual, filmic, or sonic fabric. After Saussure, who described the linguistic web of significations as a system of fluctuating values between words, Deleuze wrote that “money is the reverse of all the images that cinema shows and edits on the obverse.” In sum, there is an intrinsically economic dimension to the languages of art.

Aesthetic practices thus capture various aspects of economy. They represent them, engage with them. The title of this initiative—Economies of Aesthetics—refers first of all to these multiple facets of economy that somehow belong to the field of arts.

But there is another, more critical side to this endeavor. Aesthetics could also be taken in a Kantian sense: time and space as the conditions of possibility for any experience. Economies of Aesthetics should then be understood in a quite different way: revisiting Kant’s transcendental aesthetics, we will reflect on space and time as subjected to violent appropriations by economic logics and agendas.

The Economies of Aesthetics initiative will host a variety of events: conferences, lectures, workshops, seminars, exhibitions, concerts, screenings, and readings.

Read more about upcoming and past events