Archive for January, 2019

The Hollowing of Anarchy: Exhibition Value

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

… just as early industrial capitalism moved the focus of existence from being to having, post-industrial culture has moved that focus from having to appearing.” – Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Walter Benjamin developed the concept “Exhibition Value” in his 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” To say something has Exhibition Value means that there is a perceived value or benefit resulting from exhibiting it. The more people that see it, the better. The opposite of Exhibition Value is Cult Value. Byung-Chul Han contrasts the two in his book, The Transparency Society:

…they must be displayed in order to be; cult value disappears in favor of exhibition value…

Cult value” depends on existence, not on exhibition. The practice of locking sacred items in an inaccessible room, and thereby withdrawing them from visibility, heightens their cult value…

Bare existence has no meaning as far as exhibition value is concerned. Whatever rests in itself – that is, remains what it is…possesses no value. Value accrues only insofar as objects are seen. (Han, Byung-Chul. The Transparency Society, Pg. 9)

When Exhibition Value is present, it threatens to take over an object’s existence. Properties seen as threats to increasing Appearance are cast off, and properties seen as promising more Appearance are put in their place. (more…)