Here’s an exhibition curated by project “staircase” founder and artist Fabio Santacroce, whose 63rd-77th STEPS usually presents its works on the last 14 steps of an abandoned 20th century building in the cosmopolitan ‘Quartiere Libertà’ in Italy’s Bari. It moved off-site to occupy a deserted bank over three days for AFA, from September 25 to 27, as part of a festival promoting a temporary revitalisation of the defunct businesses on Via Manzoni. The symbolism of reinhabiting a financial institution with art is unmissable, particularly in light of the recent GEC; the ‘occupy’ movements and soft selling gentrification to follow. The result is a dynamic and politically conscious global art community to emerge and the rather depressing awareness of the role these very artists play in the regeneration and corporatisation of online and offline space within neoliberal markets, thus effecting their own eventual eviction.
Hence the temporary positioning of AFA at the center of this derelict monument to late-capitalism as Joey Villemont‘s ‘relaax.in‘ website is projected onto a wall. It promises “a soothing atmosphere” for expelling the anxiety of internet connectivity, without simply disconnecting. Wavy images and soundtracks from artists like Hannah Lees, Rachel de Joode, Joey Holder and Ian Swanson provide a digital remedy for a digital problem, keeping its audience online at all costs. Much like YouTube channel GentleWhispering, a woman exhales “I am creative” over the undulations of a cushion-covered car in Antoine Donzeaud‘s ‘I Choose to Awaken’, mimicking the market-making mechanism of fixing its own malfunctions.
“Create new oceans”, announces the opening voice-over for Daniel Keller‘s ‘Blue Ocean Strategy (Eclectic Offshore)’ mix, playing through an iPhone hanging from a bit of Bari driftwood. It’s financial advice from a disembodied man’s voice that declares companies should be generating “uncontested marketing space” rather than competing head-on in one that already exists. This is no doubt instruction best heeded by a bank’s ‘Triple A’ clients – those ones with the highest credit rating and infinite borrowing capabilities, ensuring a competitive advantage and exponential growth. Thus Santacroce inserts these ‘AAA’s into every ‘a’, of every volume of Karl Max’s Capital with ‘CAAAPITAAAL’, while Carlos Noronha Feio (also of ‘anonymous’ collaborative art project Pelican Haus) materialises bonds as luxury items for the lucky few in ‘Silk Scarfs as Bonds V and VI’.
That’s all while Ilja Karilampi‘s big finance in the labour of fun and frippery comes in android screen conversations-as-window stickers (“Apparently we had 3 way kiss ?”) greets you at the door. It’s data inserted into a display that’s visible from both sides. Filthy-rich though frugal Scrooge McDuck is looking from the “LOBBY”. **
Exhibition photos, top right.