Take the new book that was just published by Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre, “Enrichissement. Une critique de la marchandise” (no English translation available yet). They address the phenonenom of the “economy of enrichment” (my translation), meaning how storytelling has become the main attribute of goods in order to be sold.

I can’t stop asking myself if art hasn’t shown the path as storytelling has been one of the main attribute of art practices. It is quite often an object/film/performance that tell a story (and often we need to read it on a piece of paper nearby or on a label on the wall). Are we going in the right direction?

  1. The question of storytelling is very relevant, I believe, as it determines consistently the way in which nowadays our social sphere is constructed, social relationships are informed, and interactions of sociocultural, political and economic nature are intertwined. Storytelling is everywhere.

    Yet, storytelling isn’t but a strategy and a tool and, as such, it can be abused, or used to achieve the most sordid results.

    I remember Yves Citton speaking about storytelling and “mythocracy” (mythocratie) in an interview, and outlining several contexts in which storytelling is employed nowadays as an alienating instrument of power, in order to manipulate, control, exploit. Notably, he refers to ways in which this strategy has been appropriated by politicians / managers / advertisers, respectively to produce consensus and docile electors / obedient and effective workers / greedy consumerists (as you also introduced). It can be a dangerous weapon, indeed.

    However—Citton suggests—it can also be employed by positive forces to mobilise resistance and foster critical thinking. Specifically, in the interview, Citton refers to political activism and the agenda of the French left. Now, leaving “la gauche” aside for a moment, I think that his discourse remains valuable and can be applied to artistic and cultural production, as well.

    My mind goes to discursive/narrative/filmic/speculative/participatory practices resting on storytelling—while I consider its potential to be one of the most effective approaches for encouraging participation and free contribution. That is to say, for reaching and involving people, who are given the chance to intervene in (and even alterate) the course of the narration, and reinvent themselves through their own intervention. Stories are this powerful!

    Could we see them as the place where social transformation is still possible, where political subjects can be shaped and alternatives can be envisioned? Don’t they dispose of the capacity to trigger social imagination, flights of fancy, articulation of possibilities?

    If we want to extend this consideration to artworks in general, and see them as depositories of stories to tell, I would suggest that the discourse remains valid, and charges us with responsibility: that of keeping questioning the way storytelling is employed when making art.

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