The production of immaterial goods today has overtaken the production of material goods. With the immaterialization of objects of exchange in the form of services, knowledge, and cultural products, one might have expected that what is called »fetishism« or the cult of objects (meaning objects provoking our desire) would tend to disappear. Yet a look at the circuits of consumption shows the opposite. The seduction of commercial goods makes one forget consumption is a word that stands merely for an exchange among subjects. Torn between knowledge and the refusal to know, on the one hand, the consumer criticizes lucidly the market’s tricks and, on the other hand, he desires masochistically the marketing’s fairy tales. Everywhere, the ideal reigns in form of icon and design.
Can we do without fetishism? Or rather, is fetish an object? Suppose it were not just an object, but the first image of a transaction, the first figure of an exchange that is as necessary as it is desirable? Would this not provide a whole new fund of nuances and ambiguities for our analyses of goods and consumption?
Consumption is the basis of globalization and the cultural industry its main incitement. In this context, the arts represent a sore spot of the system as they neither generate products in a traditional way, nor could these be placed in the category of merchandise. If art appears as a pure exchange value, it embodies the idea of goods. In practice, art repeatedly succumbs to the fetishism as an expression of desire. To simultaneously express this ideal and material connection is the impossible task which today’s artists are obliged to achieve.