The Turner Contemporary, a gallery with the largest exhibition space in south-east England outside the capital, opened in April 2011. It gives us an astute lens for the analysis of the relationship between cultural institutions and neo-liberal re-generation imperatives that are operating under the auspices of late-capitalism. Kent Council’s decision to invest in a contemporary arts museum instead of renovating an historic amusement park decisively signifies a shift in the organizational principles that are driving the current phase of the Western political economy. Whereas the beach-side tourist industry is tied to the locality of its natural geographical vicinity and rose to prominence during the early-to-mid phase of industrial/mercantile capitalism, the modern museum offers a strategically uprooted providence that supports the forms of trans-national information exchange, which have become cruxes for a city’s success in the post-industrial social-marketplace. Cultural institutions carry the expropriation inherent in the logic of the social factory, like cargo-ships, to whatever new territories it finds.

Margate’s declining revenues from the transport and shipping industries which once poured capital investments into the Kent coast, were eclipsed by the developments in international travel of the last 50 years, an evolution which draws attention to the way these industries have acted as conduits for the historical migrations and the productive consumption of contingent industries which ran parallel to it. Regeneration through culture in the last twenty years attempted to elevate the tide of capital that traditional industries have washed away.

Reliance on the communicative potential and publicity-generating forms of architecture for institutions such as Turner Contemporary belie the economic process of their creation as eclipsed by the form of their accumulation on their surface of signifiers. Culture is paraded, as instrumentalised as ever, with an obligatory ambiguity as to its role as cipher, as instrument for the wealth of a population. It builds promises, and myths: Turner Contemporary as institution built on the site of Turner’s former boarding house, now emerging as the giant steel wrench meant to tighten the pace of recovery.

The cultural institution appears as the surplus value expanded from state organs- regenerated and integrated within the fabric of exchange relations. it becomes a symbol of exchange value to a local, regional urban ecology and economic infrastructure. It is as if, in our advanced form of capitalism, integrating productive consumption in the social factory, the labour content of (cultural) value is no longer measurable. With the integration of vampiric capital into cultural spheres, labour value is eclipsed by the promise of capital, a paraded surplus-value disguised in human scale, meant to communicate through the channels and ciphers of culture.