Show Me The Money:
The Image of Finance, 1700 To The Present

Slazoj Zizek said that forty years ago we speculated about whether we would live in a world of capitalism, communism or fascism. Now we are collectively fixated on what global catastrophe will destroy us all, because the end of the world as we know it is more plausible than a world without capitalism. Show Me The Money aims to lift the veil of the world of finance and elucidate its past and current forms.

This politically charged exhibition comes in the wake of the 2008 economic failures that rather than being the death knell for aggressive neo-liberal practice, merely prompted a revised, but no less ardent approach. Instead of simply being a survey of work evoking aspects of late capitalism, the exhibition delves into the mechanisms and exchanges of global economics. The operational components that often hold a mystical quality to insiders and seem impossible obfuscated to those of us on the outside, are explored in this group show.

Mark Boulos’ All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (2008) juxtaposes militant fisherman local to the oil reserves of the Niger Delta with the Chicago traders dealing in the commodity that both are vying to control. The opposing screens create tension and the Nigerian’s addresses to camera unwittingly become conversations with the traders. The title of this work also acts as a declaration regarding the tone of this exhibition, summoning Marxist theory, the canonical modernist text of the same name and a poetic rendering of our consumption of resources, entwined with our current material/ephemeral modes of exchange.

The intent of Boulos is met with some humour in Bill Balaskas’ The Market Will Save Us (2013). The banner, which was hung from the RCA, was misinterpreted by some of the institutions’ skate-holders from the financial sector. Its perception as a gracious acceptance of the neo-liberal principals endemic in higher education, further illustrates the uncomfortable relationship between education, the art world and the financial sector.

Artists featured such as Geraldine Juarez and Robin Bhattacharya explore the properties of currency whilst Simon Roberts and Immo Klink look to the lexicon, devices and workforces of the financial sector for their subject matter. William Powhida’s Griftopia (2011) is perhaps one of the most honest works in the exhibition when it comes to an outsider attempting to untangle the mess of global finance. Giants of finance hover around strings of text which fluctuate between fact and conspiracy. Any attempt at finding linear narrative is disastrous, but one thing is clear. Looming ominously at the centre of the work is the Randian ogre Alan Greenspan. He may as well be depicted with the third eye of provenance on his head, such is his implied role in shaping global economics.

The fascination with some of the shadowy figures behind the institutions is reflected in some of the historic work featured in the exhibition. A number of prints by Hogarth and Gillray adds some further context to the exhibition and illustrate that the financial world has long held an allure over commentators and artists. As art and finance remain intrinsically linked through collectors such as Deutsche Bank or speculative financial guidance in ArtRank, Show Me The Money acts as both commentary and reflection. The exhibition does not shirk away from this ticklish subject but prompts us to revaluate our relationship with finance, and art’s role in making sense of it.

The exhibition is at NGCA, Sunderland until 30 August and will tour to Chawton House Library, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton and the People’s History Museum, Manchester.

Thomas Hopkin is a musician and writer based in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He works at BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art and is currently studying towards an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at Newcastle University.

Image: Simon Roberts, Let This Be A Sign (2014)

Published 22.08.2014 by Ali Gunn in Reviews

630 words