In 1955, Jean Tinguely developed a machine that could mass-produce abstract expressionist paintings (or at least, believable copies). This work fails on many levels, not least its willingness to point a shotgun straight into the fishbowl-barrel of popular derision. Its attempt to critique fails through its adoption of a set of principles which play straight into the hands of those who wish the Wall-Street gamble-chaos upon the dissemination of beauty. The mass-produced artwork is a critique simply because, to adopt Marxian terminology, the value of art is seen as accruing from the accumulation of labor-hours. If one reduces the labor-hours needed for the production of an item then, subject to the laws of supply and demand, the value of the item decreases. However, this is an economic decrease in beauty and not an aesthetic one.
The work also buys into the crassest form of both human-centricism, seeing the high-value work as a product and reflection of humanity. It invests itself in the myth of genius, which is itself given value through the economics of scarcity, not its aesthetic, “if the same stylistic patina can be created through non-human and non-genius means”, so goes the argument “then the art is of low-value” a lack of humanity results in devalorization.
Yet, art does not, or should not, receive its value solely through the mechanisms of capitalist commodity valorization that allow the buying of chairs, tables, corn and all the other close-at-hand metaphors that philosophers and economists are wont to expand our universe-understanding with. Perhaps now is the time to re-consider mass-production as the mode, not of satisfying demand, or even outstripping it, but a process of ambivalent creation that uses a mechanism of de-valorization to create an art whose value rests solely in the aesthetic.
Our new vision of Fordism is not based on the utilization of tools to improve artistic productivity, but to aestheticize the process of productivity and create an art so detached and unconcerned with any type of idea of supply and demand that it achieves cultural autonomy.
One would think that a 21st Century version of artistic mass-production would solely use machines, yet this is an approach that the New Fordist Organization has eschewed, and has much to do with the differences between the manufacture of a car-part and the manufacture of art.
In industrial production, a deviation in accuracy, resulting from the inaccurate copying of a part, is a reduction in productivity. However, we are not creating industrial parts that must have minimum re-production flaws to function, but art.
People are endlessly predictable, tending to fall back upon instinctual responses in times of stress. In high-stress situations in which there is a minimal number of options for reacting, people are at their most predictable. The conveyor-belt production line is a model of predictability.
Industry seeks to reproduce an object to the highest level of accuracy. In industry a consistent deviation in fidelity is seen as a production error – in an artistic context, a consistent deviation in fidelity is not a loss in productivity, but the manifestation of STYLE.
In controlling the margin of error in production-line settings, style can be manufactured. By using techniques and time-constraints of different levels of difficulty, it is possible to induce controllable deviations in production, or "style", in artistic works - these techniques also allow the control of the level of abstraction of a particular work.
These techniques can be oriented to use production, not as a way of re-creating an image, but through using the inherent, predictable, and instinctual errors caused by people trying to follow a specific type of commands, to create the crystallization of controlled, predictable, and related "style".
In using constraints of "performance" in a production-line setting, a Tayloristic approach to production is finally able to manifest the great theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold's ideas about a Pavlovian theatre and all its worlds of possibility. New Fordism and the manifestation of style through mass-production finally articulates Meyerhold's ideas, not upon the stage, but in the constrained work-place of an artistic factory in which, not only is the process of creation externalized to gain a new, unexploited value, but Pavlovian conditioning is used to manifest a style built into the process of production in which the performer does not articulate the action, the action articulates the player...