120 color plates
9 x 11-1/2
Taking its title from a term Karl Marx used to explain how value is produced in a commodity, Variable Capital charts the strategies that artist have employed in order to redirect attention toward the usually invisible processes of exploitation and alienation underlying artistic production. Examining a range of international artists, including Common Culture, Richard Hughes, Melanie Jackson, Brian Ulrich, and Andy Warhol, much of the work discussed is characterized by a willingness to engineer awkward and embarrassing situations that challenge the viewer with uncomfortable realities. Many of the artists featured achieve this by humorously subverting familiar objects and rituals to critique and emphasize the ridiculous—creating an art that, though not necessarily redemptive, is still a vehicle by which the often absurd and brutal logic of commodification is revealed.