Peripheral Visions: Lecture Series on Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Contemporary Art
Art and Copyright Law

Vertical and Horizontal Value in Economic, Linguistic, Legal, Cultural and Digital Theory: The Limits of Propaganda

Wednesday, 27 November 2013
18.00, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN

Speaker(s): Dr. Jaime Stapleton (independent scholar)
Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission
Organised by: Kaija Kaitavuori and Liz Kim with Prof Julian Stallabrass (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Recently, art world actors have begun to self-identify as ‘horizontal’. But what is 'horizontality' and how is it distinguished from verticality? Why is horizontality now deemed desirable and verticality accorded negative connotations? Is horizontality a cultural, social, or economic paradigm? What is its ideological orientation? Is it pro or anti state? Is it pro or anti capitalist? Is it, indeed, new? Where did such a division come from and is such a theoretical schema tenable as a programme for social and cultural action?

This lecture will examine the vertical-horizontal division from its origin in 19th century debates on economics, into debates in linguistic theory, down into contemporary cultural and digital theory. What is at stake in pursuing the claims of horizontality and why is the abstraction of those claims critical? Why have those claims been pursued so vigorously, and what do they conceal? And, what has this to do with Karl Marx, the anti-communist rhetoric of the 20th century, the cult of individualism, 60s counter culture, the intellectual paralysis in political and economic theory under neo-liberalism and society’s inability to tackle climate change?

…Oh, and what the hell has it to do with art, aesthetics and law?

Jaime Stapleton’s monograph, Vision in Copyright: The Political Economy of Composition (Ashgate, 2014) is a critical examination of the cultural history of the legal and economic concepts underpinning copyright, from pre-Socratic philosophy to present. Jaime has taught widely at universities in the UK and abroad, and has also been an Associate Fellow at the School of Law, Birkbeck; a consultant on copyright reform to World Intellectual Property Organisation and the Royal Society of Arts; and an officer for art and law at Arts Council England. His doctoral thesis, Art, Intellectual Property and the Knowledge Economy, is available at

Series Introduction: Contemporary art extends beyond the visual and aesthetic and operates in multiple areas of human activity. In order to study contemporary art in its multifariousness, art historical research needs to reach beyond its disciplinary boundaries and make use of methodologies of other research traditions.

This series of lectures brings together researchers studying art within other than art historical frameworks. They will present approaches that utilise methodologies pertaining to cultural policy, sociology, law and economics. Together with art historians they will ask what it means to adopt concepts and methods from other disciplines and to engage in cross-disciplinary research.

We anticipate that this series will continue in Spring, with focus on sociology of markets and art and social relations. Dr. Olav Velthuis (University of Amsterdam) and Dr. Nathalie Heinich (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris) are to be confirmed at a later time.

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