What is THE-ICONOMIST? I imagine it as a cross between the imaginary museum proposed by André Malraux and Aby Warburg’s mnemosyne atlas adapted to a post-digital context dominated by artificial intelligence services.
Just as over a hundred years ago the ready-made drew attention to the exchange value of the work of art, the artist-ready-made also warns against the current spectacular condition of the artist. Along with the Duchampian ready-made and the Situationist detournement, it mentions Sergei Eisenstein’s montage as conflict, Walter Benjamin’s dialectical image, and the appropriation strategies of pop artists and artists from the pictures generation. The ready-made is also a way of understanding its name, THE-ICONOMIST is a detournement of the name of the economics magazine founded in 1843, reimagined for a world saturated by images, using the neologism created by economist Gilson Schartz and further developed by philosopher Peter Szendy in the book The Supermarket of the Visible (2016).
In 1921, Duchamp adopted an alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, and thus divided his artistic practice into two parts, sexually and ethnically. In 2021, the creator of THE-ICONOMIST went from an artist to an institution that can operate on several fronts; be a research center, a magazine, a streaming service, a collection, an archive, a portfolio of work or even an art institution.
As an artist-ready-made, then, THE-ICONOMIST exists somewhere between the split Rrose-Marcel and the multiple Deleuze-Guattari, but it is precisely its possibilities of operation that matter. Just as the ready-made is double in principle – it proposes, on the one hand, that art as a commodity is reduced to exchange value and, on the other, that its use value can be recovered (since we can still have a shovel or a bottle rack) – so the read-made artist is double in meaning. On the other hand, like THE-ICONOMIST, the artist is today more often than not “a product and a brand”, with functions that adapt to the cultural industry. The artist is considered the model of the creative type essential to the “new spirit of capitalism”. THE-ICONOMIST in its actions seeks to take advantage of the “empty center” of its ready-made and artist-as-brand status: instead of the old idea of art as a place of heroic individuation, it should become a space for the defunctionalization of subjectivities, that is, a space for refusing the scripted roles that alienate us. It should even become the place, he speculates, for a “strike” against “the sovereignty of technical and digital images in the iconomic, affective, sexual and emotional positions in which individuals are imprisoned”.