In the Autumn/Winter 2007 issue of Afterall, Anthony Huberman shared a manifesto of sorts against information. Here is an excerpt:
In art, what matters is curiosity, which in many ways is the currency of art. Whether we understand an artwork or not, what helps it succeed is the persistence with which it makes us curious. Art sparks and maintains curiosities, thereby enlivening imaginations, jumpstarting critical and independent thinking, creating departures from the familiar, the conventional, the known. An artworks creates a horizon: its viewer perceives it but remains necessarily distant from it. The aesthetic experience is always one of speculation, approximation and departure. It is located in the distance that exists between art and life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what this proposition might mean, playing curiosity as the currency of art against speculations of what the currency of other endeavours might be (for instance, is care the currency of social work?), wondering if something about what we understand as currency in our particular fields of work or research prohibit us from understanding one another across disciplines. Taking a note from Luis Jacob’s introduction to Commerce by Artists, “commerce occurs if the identity of some thing has flowed or transformed to become another identity, a different role within a given field… ‘Commerce’ points to the various ways in which entities relate, interact, press upon and transform one another, and thus create networks of exposure and influence” (2-3). On Jacob’s understanding, commerce, in fact, can enable understanding.
So, how does one get from the surety of what they take to be legitimate currency to the “mutual transformation of the things related”? (Jacob, 3). Does it make sense to ask how currency becomes commerce? Taking seriously Huberman’s claim as to how curiosity functions in the art world, the further claim, if commerce is desired, must be that curiosity be not only a framework to approach the world, but also recuperation, somehow, of what is encountered. If an artwork is able to evoke my curiosity, then it is my responsibility to follow that pull. Maybe that looks like further reading. Maybe it looks like sustained relationships with others. Maybe it looks like the work living in my intimate spaces. Maybe it means outrage. As Huberman would have it, “the best art makes us not understand, which corresponds to a state of sustained curiosity that provokes us to change something about ourselves in an effort to understand.” Instead of remaining steadfast to what we feel is sure, we could instead halt the tyranny of information (which is often the ego in pretty dress, no?) by exchanging our currency for commerce, and really commit to feeling the bend of doing so.