For the Museum of Capitalism: A Dissent
When I heard about the competition I sent in a proposal immediately with an email, a youtube link and a request for the check. Frankly I was surprised to get a response. The writer wrote to call my bluff: anti-proposals were welcome, but I needed to register first.
The video link was a few minutes from D.A. Pennebaker's short film documenting Jean Tinguely's Homage to New York, a self-destructing machine installed in the garden at MoMA in 1960 and switched on in a show of discreet catastrophe for an audience of money-men, their wives, and cognoscenti. The low-res video images are horrifying, maybe more so than the film, hinting at the destruction of the 20th century, air-raids and ovens, Hamburg, Hiroshima and Auschwitz. The event itself was a comic and nihilistic theater of anti-Fordism for an audience of Fords and Rockefellers.
If I were a designer or an architect or an artist interested in conceptual games I suppose I could draw up a proposal for a self-destructing building. But this isn't a proposal for a building, or an argument against a building made via the proposal of an impossible one. Anti-architecture, like anti-art, and anything predicated on opposition, is by definition an angry child, its anger predicated on the existence of a parent. Parents have responsibilities that children don't, and children on their own are no longer children; they have no choice but to be adults before their time.
Artists want the luxury to remain children; we’re always looking for indulgent parents to adopt us so that we can be angry with them. It's a new phenomenon over the last two hundred years. Entertainers are what artists used to be and architects still are: tradesmen and professionals who work to pay the bills. But architects are required to be optimists while entertainers have broader options.
Entertainment is the art of bourgeois capitalism. Art in the age of mechanical reproduction began with Gutenberg and the printing press, and includes both Shakespeare and the modern novel. Fine art, the art and craft of high-value commodities is a holdover from the ancien régime, and its partisans now play a role no less absurd than defenders of the eternal verities and the gold standard.
All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.Capitalism, in an irony Marx would have enjoyed, returns us to the ancient past, the Bronze Age: the age of stories. The Golden Age is the age of kings, or at the very least aristocrats; capitalism at its grandest is gilded. Architects now are stage designers. The museum of capitalism is the shopping mall, our greatest art made from the conversations of observers of the scene, sitting and talking under the palm trees at Starbucks.
The designer of your webpage understood this, maybe unthinkingly. A 3D font is an illusion of physical and architectural space, but your designer chose a font that's doubly fictional, a contradictory illusion, the only appropriate form for a museum built to house them. It was a brilliant choice. My only quibble with the design was that reading the words “call for ideas”, my first thought was, “Where’s the number?”
After registering, I began to work on a film, a montage of youtube videos recorded in groups as screen captures (the web is the greatest library since Alexandria). I approached Werner Herzog about a voiceover, but I’ve been told now that you’re only reviewing static documents.
In the absence of that I offer the words above. Once you open, the film will be available for exhibition, as will my appropriation of your designer’s image, which I’m having enlarged to 11’x17’, in an edition of 3.