Supported by NotFair
This project takes place on the traditional Lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong peoples of the East Kulin Nations and we pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.
Visit Das Kapital
236 Chapel Street, Prahran
Thursday 30 November: 6pm to 10pm
Friday 1 December: 12pm to 9pm
Saturday 2 December: 12pm to 9pm
Peter Burke, David Lans and Warlayirti Artists, Anna Hoyle, Benedict Sibley, Masato Takasaka (with Liquid Architecture, Jason Heller, Warren Taylor, Damiano Bertoli), John Warwicker, Amanda Morgan, Liss Fenwick, David Harley, David McBurney, Stephen Haley, Natasha Johns-Messenger, Kieran Boland, Melody Laglína Woodnutt, Darren Wardle, Steven Rhall, Blake Dearman, Craig Easton, EG Productions, directed by Ella and Greg Stehl, Joseph Blair, Janet Burchill, Jennifer McCamley and Robin Hely, Kate Beynon, Rali Beynon & Michael Pablo, Karen Ann Donnachie & Andy Simionato, Hiball, John Waller, Sonia Payes, Martine Corompt and Camille Hannan, Ian Haig, Bernhard Sachs, Brie Trenerry, BOOreaucrats (Benjamin Sheppard & Peter Burke).
By Ashley Crawford
Why call an exhibition revolving around the notoriously non-commercial medium of ‘video’ art ‘Das Kapital’? Karl Marx’s famous 1867 treatise proposes that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labour, i.e. money or the lack of it. Surely a better title would have come from that other philosopher of economics, Groucho Marx in his ground-breaking legal, economical and cultural critique “A Night at the Opera” (1935), thus the show would or should, be called ‘A Sanity Clause.’
Groucho: “It’s in every contract. That’s what they call a sanity clause” proclaimed Marx, whilst his fellow economist, Chico Marx, retorted: “Ha ha ha...You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause…”
All of this is perfectly apt because our venue here is a former bank, a major outlet for the ANZ chain. They no longer need such a grand edifice for business because their tool of trade – money – is changing, just like art. Not so long ago, money was a decidedly visceral thing. It came in sheets of paper and coins of metal, infused with grease from fingers, dirt from labour, sweat, saliva and, on a good day, traces of Columbian cocaine. It came and was stored in bulk and stacked in massive metal boxes. Today we rarely use it, opting instead for the plastic card or… the phone. And the Smart Phone today is not just the bank… it is also the gallery.
Those most visceral of things – money and art – have transformed simultaneously into rays of light and information, numbers and algorithms, codes and passwords. Gone are the hints of sweat and sperm and blood that once linked them. Today the bricks and mortar of the bank and the cool white lights of the gallery and museum simply slide into your pocket, momentarily hidden, but never entirely forgotten.
But to what extent do our tools define us? Today accountants and economists use the same tool as photographers and film-makers and even, increasingly, poets, painters and at times sculptors. The Smart Phone is ubiquitous, bordering on the omnipresent. Does this endanger our creativity? Beats me – better ask ChatGPT…
In essence, one of the claims Karl (rather than Groucho) made in Das Kapital, also known as Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, was that whilst workers produce things for the market, market forces, not workers, control the outcome. Average folk – including artists – are required to work for capitalists who have substantial control over the means of production i.e. the visual software the artists are using which makes the artists in fact beta test grounds for the potentialities of said software. And no matter how radical the outcome may seem in the works of such artists as Heath Franco or Ian Haig, someone – such as the makers and owners of the software they are using – is watching the outcome.
We may be reminded of Dadaist Richard Huelsenbeck’s description in 1918 of art trying to “collect its limbs after yesterday’s crash,” even if those limbs are rays of light and information, numbers and algorithms. Who watches the Watchmen?
But also, who’s watching the bank? After all, they’ve let us in!
Let’s be honest – who hasn’t dreamt of taking over a bank? God knows cinema broils with usually tragic characters trying the Grand Heist. A brief list, from memory, includes The Town (2010) (Ben Affleck’s brilliant sophomore directing effort), Jackie Brown (1997) Quentin Tarantino at his best. Of course, Heat (1995), Michael Mann’s crime thriller and the classic of the genre with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino alongside Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (1975) – also with Al Pacino. The star-studded Snatch directed by Guy Ritchie. And, of course, the time-stopper, Bonnie and Clyde (1967). The list goes on…
But the one that Groucho Marx (and maybe Karl) would have loved is the opening of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) in which The Joker, indeed, many Jokers, pull off a particularly nasty one. So let’s see if the artists and jokers in Das Kapital pull off either a brilliant withdrawal or a decent deposit. Hopefully without limbs involved. Their capital? Culture.