It is tempting under the duress of our current conditions to defend the value of the arts, but are defences self-defeating?
Against Value in the Arts proposes that it is often the staunchest defenders of art who do it the most harm, by suppressing or mollifying its dissenting voice, by neutralizing its painful truths, and by instrumentalizing its ambivalence. The result is that rather than expanding the autonomy of thought and feeling of the artist and the audience, art’s defenders make art self-satisfied, or otherwise an echo-chamber for the limited and limiting self-description of people’s lives lived in an “audit culture”, a culture pervaded by the direct and indirect excrescence of practices of accountability. This talk diagnoses the counter-intuitive effects of the rhetoric of value and uncovers figures of resentment, disenchantment and alienation fostered by the dogma of value. It argues instead that value judgments can behave insidiously, and incorporate aesthetic, ethical or ideological values fundamentally opposed to the “value” they purportedly name and describe.
This talk was part of Crossing Borders 2015 and was presented in partnership with London Contemporary Dance School.
Sam Ladkin (PhD Cambridge, MSc Edinburgh, BA Sussex) is a senior lecturer in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, where he directs the Centre for Poetry and Poetics and from where he runs the New York School Symposia. He is currently writing monographs on Clark Coolidge, Frank O’Hara, and a third entitled Against Value in the Arts. His articles have been published in Textual Practice, Journal for Modern Language Studies, World Picture, Blackbox Manifold, Edinburgh Review, Chicago Review, Glossator and Word & Image (forthcoming).With Robin Purves he has co-edited three collections of essays and poetry, Complicities: British Poetry 1945-2007 (Litteraria Pragensia), the ‘British Poetry Issue’ of Chicago Review (2007) and the ‘American Poetry Issue’ of Edinburgh Review (2005).
Adapted from bio published in 2015.