— Skills of Economy

To Begin With A New Frame – Conversation with Kristoffer Ørum.

Jussi Koitela:

One of the main starting points in the Skills of Economy project is the discourse and vocabulary produced around economy. This also seems to be the starting point of your work Disbelieving Economy with Anders Bojen. How would you describe your personal experience and/or experience as artist/cultural worker with the discourse and vocabulary of economy?

Kristoffer Ørum:

At the heart of my project with Anders Bojen is the hope of developing new ways of discussing our society including notions of the circulation of goods and production of “value”. Examining The Economists list of economic terms, without a “proper” economic knowledge, we found that they took up a kind of totemic or ritualistic quality. These economic terms seem to feel both familiar, because of the heavy use of these terms in the mainstream media, and deeply alien, because they are used without historical context and outside of their original theoretical background. To us the seemingly endless repetition of these terms in media as well as the mainstream political discourse seem to be blocking any “real” discussion of what kind of society we might actualy want to develop.


In the Idea of Language Girgio Agamben is claiming that:

there can be no true human community on the basis of presupposition – be it a nation, a language itself, or even the a priori of communication of which hermeneutics speaks. What unites human beings among themselves is not a nature, a voice, or a common imprisonment in signifying language; it is vision of language itself and, therefore, the experience of language’s limits, its end.

For me your work created an experience of language’s end, true community cannot be based on markets and language of market’s but on how we experience the limits of the discourse to express about our emotions and feelings. How do you see this?


When you talk about languages end you are so very close to what we were ourselves, in slightly different terms, thinking of. By combining sensory (AKA our  ”primitive” empiric knowledge of the world) descriptions with the magical abstraction of economy it was our hope to bring about if not an end of language, then at least a temporary kind of short-circuiting of language – to create doubt by unmooring or undermining established ideas of economy, in order to make room for a rethinking of society outside the codified language of popular cultural conceptions of economics. To give a feel for where we are coming from, we have taken our cues from George Lakoffs recent writings on the language of economy as well as Thomas C. Leonards writing on the history of economic terms and ideas.


I want to go back to experiences and feelings because often I feel when doing work in the cultural field that there should be something else than economic language to use when creating/producing art works, exhibitions or whatever. Least this “economic language” should be somehow connected to language of emotions and feelings. Could it be that the first phase to get “real” discussions, or putting politics back to economical discussions, is to show how disconnected these rhetorics are from language of emotions and feelings? This is what our work seems to do.


I think at the outset of our project we were more interested in connecting the sensory and the abstract – I guess we find that often societal, or at least our own, ideas of emotions and feeling are as abstract and as caught up in conventional thinking as our ideas of the economy. So we wanted to address the perceived opposition between economy and sensory experiences. From the point of view that reason and emotion are not mutually exclusive, but rather interdependent and deeply related parts of how we function as human beings. So i guess we wanted both to show how disconnected economic language has become from the language of emotions and feelings, but hopefully also vice versa – how the language of emotions and feelings has become fenced off from economic language and removed from its natural entanglement with the intellect.


Lakoff is claiming that democrats haven’t understood that speaking truth is not enough. Democrats should create counter-frames for their political rhetoric. Your work seems to clear space for another frame, how do you see what that counter frame would contain in Danish/European perspective?


Yes exactly – we are trying to create space for a new frame – I think before we can even come up with any kind of durable alternative conceptual frames, in Lakoff’s sense, we need to clear ourselves of the frames we are already embedded within. I would be very reluctant to start constructing any kind of new frame as of yet – I believe that would be preemptive and counterproductive – as it would be based on our existing ideas, rather than those ideas we hope to gain through a new linguistic framing of economy.



Agamben, Girgio: The Coming Community, tr. Michael Hardt, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1993; La communità che viene, Einaudi, 1990

Lakoff, George: Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2004


Kristoffer Ørum was born in Denmark, 1975, he currently lives and works in Copenhagen. Through text, video, computer games, internet projects and events he works to create language and narratives in the hopes that they might be used to rethink the world. During the past ten years he has collaborate with Anders Bojen on numerous projects from self-organised projects such as the internet project radiantcopenhagen.net , to presentations such as A Brief History of Disbelief, at Gallery factory in Seoul and AutoBiography at Flux factory, New York. Group exhibitions include NetSpeicifc, at Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, The Science Class, at SIC in Helsinki, Deconstructing the Habit, at Spattered Column in New York, and Alternativa at Wyspa in Gdansk. More at anders-kristoffer.dk and oerum.org