Found object works at Kunsthalle Wien, Project Space. An (unauthorised) pop up exhibition by Scott Hayes and Hannes Schoiswohl, December 2013….photos by Paul Green
LA artist Alex Shaefer’s latest chalking activism brings the criminality and duplicity of the financial sector into sharp focus. Alex was arrested earlier this year for a chalking protest outside of Citibank; he was held for 12 hours, but the case was never pushed forward by the prosecutor and he was subsequently released from his bond. Of course this is a considerable victory and vindication for Alex and for freedom of speech and protest. However, one must also be suspicious that the reluctance of the authorities not to proceed is a calculation that it is better to allow these protests to continue, rather than making the actions of an artist/activist a cause célèbre, which would bring the criminality of a corrupt system under scrutiny and perhaps give considerable impetus to investigation and prosecution. Recently we have seen that contemporary banking practices include tax evasion, rate rigging, market manipulation and money laundering, but we’ve also seen the important report on Tax Haven activity, by James Henry, almost completely buried. Henry’s research shows that the wealthiest people and corporations on the planet are holding US$21-32trn in tax havens and secrecy domains. Further, even a casual look at the data shows a striking correlation between the amounts of sovereign debt and transfers to tax havens. I was quite saddened to see an apparent direct relationship between the amounts of new sovereign debt (created after the introduction of the Euro) and transfers to tax havens in the case of Greece. This is surely circumstantial evidence of a kleptocratic crony capitalist criminality and as such we must insist that it is investigated. But without protest and constant iteration, there will be no desire on the part of compromised parties (legislators, regulators etc) to essentially investigate and/or prosecute themselves and their friends.
If you haven’t seen Alex’s paintings, I recommend visiting his various sites. His images of protest and burning banks are outstanding. These images aren’t a call to violence, they are a poetic that give an insight into the internal decay and destruction of these institutions. Their sentiment somehow reminds me of one of the protest signs from last year : “YOU are the Crisis!” Hmm, let’s not be scared to point fingers.
They wont be coming back….
This year’s protest action has been a bit of a fizzer, the momentum seems to have gone out of the movement, leaving the system basically intact and unchallenged in any meaningful way. The one per-centers wear that tag as a badge of honour.
The most admirable aspects of the Occupy Wall Street movement were its rejection of hierarchical structures, its mutable agenda(s) and its rejection of co-opting by the mainstream left, that was all great, a kind of anarco-syndicalist counter foil to right libertarianism. But where is OWS? It seems that these traits that made it so revolutionary are hampering its evolution, protesters have become fatigued, the power of the idea (of equity, or even change, for example) has failed to go viral and the MSM fed masses have lost interest and returned to their diet of spoon-fed bipartisan politics. While right wing film makers and media portray it as a venomous rabble.
However, there are protests and events planned for September 15-17 in NYC. I’ve always found the media coverage, both left and right, to be pretty inadequate during these events, so I recommend the OWS site, Democracy Now! and Global revolution. Bloomberg (media) runs a flag by reporting the encirclement of Wall Street, blocking of roads and the desire to cause as much disruption as possible, perhaps even make citizen arrests of passing banksters. One protester, quoted in Bloomberg, cited chaos, chaos, chaos as the goal; curiously that behavior mimics the mantra of irrational markets : chaos provides profit opportunities in this terminal stage of financial capitalism. But I suppose the message is to expect the men with the big sticks.
In the meantime there are many direct demands that can be made. An enforcement of tax evasion would be a start and it’s already law. But to change or rewrite law is a different endeavor and an ignominious path at that. Many would agree (at both ends of the political spectrum incidentally) that one of the basic structural reforms needed is that of the monetary and banking systems on national and international levels.* There are a lot of interesting alternative ideas on how money should be produced into and managed within the economy, but that debate, beyond the lunatic fringe, is marginal to non-existent. It seems like the revolution must be eternal, but eternally obscure. All we are left with is the desire for dystopian collapse.
* We have repeatedly witnessed the fallacy of the argument that the private banking system is more efficient in the issuance of currency than governments. This has lead to unprecedented concentrations of wealth and, combined with promiscuous deregulation, the constant threat of systemic failure averted only by the deployment of more “public money”, that is, debt socialisation.