The exhibition “It’s the Political Economy, Stupid” at the ACFNY
Money is like a fish. At some point the fish grows legs, steps out of the water, and, eventually, says about himself: "I think, therefore I am."
This is the crude comparison which the employees of an investment bank come up with in Melanie Gilligan's four-part drama series, "Crisis in the Credit System." Their firm has instructed them to find strategies for dealing with the precarious economic situation with the help of role-play and brainstorming exercises in a picturesque rural retreat. The television drama aired in 2008, two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. According to Gilligan, everybody could have known that the financial crisis was imminent. At least it seemed as if the artists who, along with Gilligan, showed their work in the spring of 2012 in the ACFNY's exhibition "It's the Political Economy, Stupid," saw the danger coming.
Virtually all the pieces, which take a critical, mostly actionist and performative approach to corporate finance, came about before the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is hard to overlook a certain ideological kinship with this new protest culture in the works selected by the Austrian American curatorial duo of Oliver Ressler and Gregory Sholette. The video "Money to Burn," for instance, shows the U.S.- performance artist Dread Scott burning a dollar bill in front of the New York Stock Exchange. In June, 2010, he wanted this performance to raise awareness of the bizarre excesses of the financial system. Some stock brokers seemed to have missed the point. Scott states that one of them said, "This guy is burning money! They should arrest him!"
The artists Yevgeniy Fiks, Olga Kopenkina, and Alexandra Lerman made even more direct contact with Wall Street bankers: They discussed texts by Lenin with them in a reading group ("Reading Lenin with Corporations," 2011/2012).
The Spanish collective, flo6x8, takes a more physical approach to the subject: They storm the cash offices of banks on a regular basis to stage and candidly film flamenco-dancing flashmobs ("Body Versus Capital," 2011). Videos dominated the exhibition, since video lends itself to presenting complex connections in an adequate manner. Isa Rosenberger, for instance, showed the link between war, destruction, and capital in a performance documented in film and photography and alluding to performative role models of the 1930s. Other approaches were shown as well. The Austrian artist Linda Bilda tackled greed, competition, and corruption in the financial world in her mural, "The Future and End of the Golden World" (2011). In it, a wolf dressed in a checkered suit says to a young woman, "Modern Architecture is a wonderful thing,"– and thinks: "It will make me rich." (Andrea Heinz)