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Provoking Freeport Magic: Art Assemblage in Late Capitalism (Sternberg Press / Experiments in Art and Capitalism)

Provoking Freeport Magic: Art Assemblage in Late Capitalism (Sternberg Press / Experiments in Art and Capitalism)

Current price: $19.95
Publication Date: November 26th, 2024
Sternberg Press


How practices that enact the art of constructing open secrets in markets can be mobilized to unfold magic making.

How is it that we come to not know things? Oftentimes, it has to do with that meticulous work that has been mobilized to keep us ignorant. It is therefore intimately linked to the act of keeping secrets. In this work, Jessica Inez Backsell explores a very particular form of secret keeping which paradoxically does not only require non-knowledge to be produced. Instead, the author looks at a secret whose power resides in its exposure and the fact that it to some extent is known. What Backsell alludes to is the (not so commonly referred to) open secret. These are secrets which have a rather special connection to cognitive judgment. They require us to see while we do not see or perhaps even better—to notice but not openly acknowledge. They in other words hover as forms of semi-knowledge, never fully rescinded yet neither completely present. To explore this, Backsell turns to a contemporary setting that is very apt for studying practices that produce semi-knowledge—the so called luxury freeport. Simply put, the luxury freeport is a warehouse where collectibles, such as art, are safely stored in a legal threshold which makes them non-susceptible to tax liabilities. It is also widely known for being shrouded in a clandestine fog. Backsell argues that this is a status which is enacted through the construction of boundaries that on the one hand sparks frustration yet paradoxically also kindles curiosity. More specifically, it actualizes the effects of withdrawal and displays what practices can be mobilized to produce mysteries from the openly contested. Such practices therefore also reverberate into the broader context of the art market as they presuppose its "mythmaking" to unfold.

About the Author

Jessica Inez Backsell conducts her PhD studies at Stockholm School of Economics where she also teaches matters of spatial and legal construction of markets. She explores the organization of markets from a practice perspective, drawing upon theories from both classical anthropology and postmodern philosophy. She also takes part in spurring dialogues between artists and intellectuals through her engagement in SSE Art Initiative.