It’s been eight years since the Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, crashing the financial market and propelling us into a global recession. In January 2016, Albert Edwards, the most vocal ‘bear’ — a term for analysts that think shares are overvalued and will fall in price — predicted a second recession in the same decade. It’s unheard of to have two recessions in such a short period, Edwards stated the second will collapse the Eurozone market.
But what is the Eurozone market, what is money, and what is a recession? Has the idea of collapse become so abstract to us? Merely because we have nothing to collapse from, day-to-day we are on our knees wandering aimlessly through austerity anyway. Jan Kiefer’s solo exhibition, HONEYBAKED curated by Samuel Leuenberger and Elise Lammer at SALTS, running February 19 to March 31, explores the psychological space of money as merely a concept and motif. The small gallery situated in a converted garage in Birsfelden, Switzerland is adapted specifically for the show. On the outside wall a slot machine is mounted like a catholic altar, gilded with faux gold. It only accepts Swiss Franc coins, suggesting the device was originally used in State-run casinos; the only place in the country where gambling is legal since 1933 (for city tax purposes). The slot machine, with its garish patterned surface luring in its player, is sheltered under a roof made from 1.67mm of copper sheeting – the exact thickness of a one cent euro coin. Kiefer’s wry humor sits heavy in the pit of your stomach, as you notice the symbolic gesture of the European currency sheltering Switzerland’s economic playdates. As you move around the building you find a narrow human-sized slot, where the door normally is — entering in a squeezed manor, you are transported into a cheap, generic-office-blue-carpeted room. It is empty save for six pig-shaped canvases painted in variations of primary colors — red, yellow, blue and black. The hogs are clearly symbolic motifs of childhood piggy banks, and are about the width of an average human’s arms outstretched — another haunting gesture, as we see that we learn to hug our wealth, learn to love it, from a young age, as we slot coins into that thin slit hoping it breeds inside the belly of the beast.
Kiefer’s surreal articulation towards a social conditioning of cash is both unnerving and laughable — perfectly mirroring the sentient economic climate and her rule on the average citizen. On closer inspection of the piggy bank canvases, which are en masse entitled ‘HONEYBAKED,’ you start to see the artist’s brush strokes. His personal gestures become apparent; the allegorical fingerprint of the artist, unnerved by his rise as entrepreneur, his art as produce. Honeybaked — sickly-sweet and ready for consumption — the art market could very well be the new material stock and shares, the bricks and mortar. If this were the case, the question becomes whether it can survive without complying with the global milieu of capitalism. What will it do to art’s future as a gesture against the market, if it becomes the very chip that market thrives on?**