Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it. (Vladimir Mayakovsky in Daintith et. al. 28)

Nearly a century after Mayakovsky’s death, when every outrage against bourgeois mores can now be seen at the Tate Gallery, such a sentiment seems more suited for a Quote of The Day calendar than a serious radical manifesto. Art is a hammer alright, a hammer, a box of nails, a six-piece drill set, and a lovely designer display case, all for $29.95 (though most likely $2,995). The very element that is supposed to give art its critical capacity – its irreducibility to political-economic functionalism – is the very thing that actually augments commodification. Art is the commodity par excellence for the very reason that its commodity status is explicitly denied at every turn a fact that is key to understanding whether art can have any real bearing on social change.

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