The Economic Chain

April to July 2001

“The Economic Chain” attempts to precisely contour the chain concept and the analysis of flows (flows of goods, flows of materials, etc.) as introduced into modern economic theory by the new economics and ecology for the first time.

In addition to the analysis of the value chain, the chain concept also brings the chain of actors that accompanies a product into the economic calculus when considering the entire product line from raw material extraction through the production and use phases to disposal.

In addition to the ecological impact of sustainable development, the actor-oriented aspect of the value chain is also examined. This creates a new picture of the economic flow. No longer the mere play of supply and demand, no longer the linear sequence of value transformations alone, no longer only labor as the starting point of the product are in the foreground, but also the numerous side chains of the economic chain are shown. This process chain analysis traverses all sectors of the economy, from primary to tertiary, and observes in particular the increasing intersectoral linkages.

The product line wood and its processing into furniture and paper products such as books, newspapers and packaging serves as a model for this investigation, which faces new questions and must first obtain new data. What is only rudimentarily available in ecology, e.g. the identification of the textile chain from the agrochemical chain to the cleaning chain, is to be universalized for the first time as an economic model and exemplified globally as well as locally.

Wood, which passes through all three sectors of the economy from forest to book, is an ideal example of linking ecology and economy. This analysis provides not only a new background for cultural practices, but also a new approach to intervention and critique. In a society where critique is used to optimize the existing system, critique that seeks to resist this form of appropriation must ask questions that the system has not yet confronted.

The white cube of the museum as the apotheosis of a formalistically interpreted modernity, where all social, economic, ecological questions have been excluded, is seen as the end point and farewell. This artistic project focuses on artistic practices that go beyond the crisis of the white cube. The classical crisis of representation, which dominated the 20th century, is replaced by new materiality- and action-oriented strategies.

With Peter Weibel (Karlsruhe)

In collaboration with Beatrice von Bismarck, Diethelm Stoller, Martin Warnke, Ulf Wuggenig.

Guests: Kai-Olaf Bastenhorst (economics), Rolf Großmann (cultural informatics, music), Pierangelo Maset (art theory).