Around the area that I live I have noticed a few artistic responses to the evaporation of banking confidence. ‘Six weeks that shook the world’, the effect of my exhibition has been far more widespread than I expected.
‘I STOLE YOUR MONEY’ is a small poster that has been pasted on walls, telephone boxes and in this case the post box at the end of my road. Instant and succinct.
Even though I looked at the windows and behind the front door of the alternative cafes and usual dumping spots for political flyers, I could only find a single copy of the ‘Never Mind the Bankers……..’ flyer. This was a bit of a mystery. I thought it would be popular, flyers everywhere, but nobody knew anything about it. One thing I did notice was how the spots for distributing unauthorised publicity are now very limited. Around here it is even illegal to give out flyers on the street. It was raining very heavily on the afternoon of the march. I was working so I couldn’t go. But there were no reports in the national press, no comments on the news, nothing in the Argus.
The picture of the Lehmans mug is from the front page of the Art Newspaper, given away free at all the art fairs in London, a couple of weeks ago. It is a actually a photograph of a painting, ‘Pintura Actualidad’ produced in instant response to the credit crunch by Jorge Diezma, on sale at the Zoo Art fair for $1500.
I also had the good fortune whilst I was in Paris to be staying in the delicious Montmartre Studios, live/work spaces for artists build by the city council in the thirties.
More exciting. The building is on Rue Ordener, almost directly opposite the site of the first motorised hold-up. This happened in 1911, and was carried out by the notorious Bonnot Gang. According to the guide book it was a meticulously planned raid. As well as being hardcore anarchists the gang had a reputation for being sharp dressers and doing things with style. The previous week they had stolen a Delaunay-Belleville limousine from the home of a top industrialist. This type of car was the one favoured by the French President and the Czar, and was capable of speeds up to 125mph, this at a time when police cars had a maximum of 23mph.
On the morning of the robbery, after the gang had sat outside the branch of the Société Générale for an hour the uniformed messenger finally turned up to deliver the banks daily cash and correspondence. Before he could go inside two members of the gang wrestled him and his bodyguard to the ground, shooting him twice in the chest before he was relieved of his briefcase. The get-away vehicle fled north before any of the general public or police could give chase. The aim was to ditch the car over a cliff near Le Havre, but they got lost, ending up on the beach in Dieppe. Nevertheless they calmly caught the train back into Paris. The briefcase contained only 4000 francs in cash, it was mainly bonds. What they did get was an international reputation and a place in the history books.
For the full story and all the politics; The Bonnot Gang by Richard Parry published by Rebel Press. It is an excellent read.
I’ve just come across the brochure for L’Argent, an exhibition of money related art that I visited in Paris during the summer. Pure coincidence, it was useful to see just before showing the cash machine photographs. Most of the pieces on show at Le Plateau were at least fifteen years old, and they did have a Duran Duran Smash Hits old school feel to them. Makes me realize that the bulk of art that involves a political charge is inevitably ephemeral.
There were early works by a lot of celebrated artists including Thomas Hirschhorn, Orlan, General Idea, Felix Gonzalez-Torres et al. Mostly wry comments or critiques of the nature of money; the dominant hold economics has over us all. Sophie Calle had still images from her video of peoples facial expressions and body language when withdrawing money from cash machines. Interesting contemporary portraiture.
By far the most enjoyable and provoking piece was a ten minute video work by Fikret Atay, Rebels of the Dance made in 2002. Two lads, egged on and ridiculed by their mates out of picture, perform a self-conscious dance either side of a cash machine that is located inside a banking hall. The situation is one anyone who uses a cash card must have experienced, loitering youth. For me it illustrates the irony that banks can provide unquestioned 24hour, heated drop in facilities, whilst those without are moved on, forced to seek shelter at bus stops or behind blustery bits of fencing.