Quantitative Easing (for the street)

was a temporary public installation first presented at the Kunstplatz (Graben) Vienna in 2014. The project was curated by Muntean/Rosenblum and funded by KÖR (Kunst im öffentlichen Raum) Vienna.

In 2016 the work was shown again at the exhibition “Money, Good and Evil. A Visual History of the Economy” at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden in Germany.
 


Text: “Infrastructures of Money” by Joe Deville

Joe Deville, based at the Centre for the Study of Innovation and Social Process, Goldsmiths, University of London wrote this article:
“Infrastructures of Money”
featuring Quantitative Easing (for the streets)


Text: “Europe’s lost Art of money-making” by Alan Shipman

referencing Quantitative Easing (for the streets):

“Europe’s lost Art of money-making” by Alan Shipman – open university


Text: “Participatory art within, against and beyond financialization” by Max Haiven

Max Haiven recently published his text “Participatory art within, against and beyond financialization: Benign pessimism, tactical parasitics and the encrypted common” in the journal Cultural Studies. It features the work of the artists Axel Stockburger, Robin Hood Minor Asset Management and Cassie Thornton. Also, the Yippies.

The pdf is available here


Quantitative Easing (for the street)

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photos: Iris Ranzinger

 

Public Talk: Wednesday, June 18 2014, 18 Uhr, Kunstplatz Graben,  Graben Nr. 21, 1010 Vienna

– Elisabeth Springler, economist, WU Wien, FH Wien
– Andreas Kailich, asset manager
– Beat Weber, economist, OeNB
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What people most long for in times of continuous drought is rain. Yet, what if the drought is not owed to a shortage of liquidity but to climatic barriers in the ecological system itself?

Axel Stockburger’s art project focuses our attention on such a situation. Quantitative Easing (for the street) is not concerned with vagaries of the weather, though. In one of Vienna’s most liquid places, the artist points out a climatic change in the global economy whose present crisis is not characterized by shortage but by abundance.

Quantitative easing is a strategy in an extreme crisis of confidence in which banks restrict their function as lenders and become barriers within their own ecosystem. In order to prevent a collapse of the money circuit, central banks buy financial assets at the public expense and thus introduce new money into the ailing financial system.

Stockburger transfers quantitative easing from the stock market to the streets – to the terrain of the general public whose social climate is reflected in its level of debt. A golden cylinder serves the artist as the “central bank,” which randomly distributes euro coins in the street. While the financial system mainly serves commercial banks, everybody may make a grab and become an agent of distribution here.

Stockburger‘s intervention in the public realm raises the pressing question what money, the creation of value, and distributive justice mean to us. What are their social, economic and artistic fictions based on? Which desires do they fulfil? Quantitative Easing (for the street) reminds us that the streets are the sites of conflict and “social transactions” (Stockburger) where capital is not everything that matters and aesthetic, social and political wealth is realized.

Gerald Nestler

Production Cedits:

Technische Lösung: Thomas Sandri – http://www.sandri.tv/

Apparatebau Markus Bergler

Verkleidung: Barbara Klampfl – http://www.klampfl.com/

Beratung: Monika Trimmel – http://www.werkraumwien.at/:

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Opening

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photo: Gerald Straub

Opening: Tuesday, May 27 2014, at 16:30 pm, Kunstplatz Graben, Graben Nr. 21, 1010 Wien

Opening Speakers:

– Martina Taig, director of KÖR
– Muntean / Rosenblum, artists and curators
– Gerald Nestler, artist and theorist
– Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, city council for Arts and Science


Public Event – Quantitative Easing (for the street)

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A public talk with  Elisabeth Springler  (economist, WU Wien, FH Wien), Andreas Kailich (asset manager) and Beat Weber  (economist, OeNB) took place on Wednesday, June 18 2014, between 18:00 and 19:00 at  Kunstplatz Graben.


Quantitative Easing (for the street) – Text by Gerald Nestler

Gerald Nestler (2014)

If the frequently quoted antipodes of modern economics John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August Hayek agreed on one thing, it was that a lack of trust has a destabilising impact. If, then, as in the financial crisis of the last several years, this manifestation of confidence is bathed in bright light precisely because it lacks, the power of social relations exceeds beyond economic parameters: the lack of trust desiccates the climate of capitalist trade relationships. Axel Stockburger’s intervention in public space draws our attention to such a situation, alluding to a climate change in the mesh of global economics whereby the current crisis is not characterised by scarcity but by abundance. The artist enriches the Vienna Graben boulevard with a sculptural object whose actual inner worth is revealed to passers-by through its performative quality: from 27 May until mid-October an apparently gold-plated vault spits out money in the form of one Euro coins, at one of the flushest locations in Vienna. The horizontal flow of people is accompanied by a flow generated at random for the duration of the intervention that is also an invitation to participate. Quantitative Easing (for the street) does not exclude anybody. On the contrary, it enables people to take the coins and to redistribute them regardless of whether they are flaneurs, tourists, shoppers, business people, beggars, random passers-by or local residents.

The art project, curated by Muntean/Rosenblum for KÖR, engages with the impermanence, the volatility and the inequality intrinsic to an economically defined system of values, at what is probably the promenade and shopping street with the oldest tradition in Vienna. Quantitative Easing (for the street) is part of a long tradition of engagement by artists with the social phenomena associated with economic dominance and its physical manifestation, money. As in earlier works where Stockburger explored contemporary media, like film, video and computer games and their linguistic, gestural and material conventions, his interest lies in social fictions, which in this case are created both by economics as well as by art. Both owe their existence to conventions and are subject to change. They govern our world view precisely because they are constructs of the mind. In this sense the vessel Stockburger has erected on the Graben alludes to the cultural significance as well as to the economical value of gold. This value, among other things, results from gold’s ability to “stay alive” beyond death as both a retainer of value and a raw material for the arts. Gold conserves lifetime achievements and is available to successive generations. Gold was and is, alongside its cultic significance, always also the raw material for the physical manifestation of both economics and art, whereby these two functions are frequently inseparable.

What is, however, literally dropping out of Stockburger’s fictive reservoir of historical value systems — namely money in the form of one Euro coins — is, at present, subject to an unbounded volatility, to shifts in value that are measured in milliseconds rather than generations or centuries. The reality of money is accordingly at least double-edged: on the one hand, it is “the food” of social relationships of exchange, on the other hand it stands for virtual, i.e. fictitious, prices that are set on the financial markets, to an unimaginable extent and at incredible speeds. Economic as well as artistic fictions are fragile and speculative. While art uses existence in the present to reflect reality in its appearances, financial markets produce appearances that have to be realised as future realities in order to stop the house of cards of speculation and investment from collapsing. What we term “economic crisis” occurs in a reality where this contingent “world” perishes into the bottomless pit of austerity measures. Stockburger’s art project enters the arena after the event that defines our globalised world today. It positions itself where a new fiction — that of so-called “quantitive easing” — reconstructs this world, which is now conceived in purely economic terms. Quantitative Easing (for the street) is accordingly an artistic engagement with a financial and political construct intended to save a “world” that has already collapsed. What this means for the resulting social reality, to what extent the fictions of money and art create worlds, and what or whom we can trust, are the questions that Stockburger not only ponders himself but also poses to everybody jostling along the Graben.

 

Quantitative Easing

 

Having already suffered a number of “heart attacks” in the course of the sub-prime crisis from August 2007, with the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in September 2008 the financial markets basically suffered a lethal stroke. In this extreme crisis of trust the banks are restricting their function as providers of credit and so have become barriers within their own ecosystem. To avert a collapse in the circulation of money accompanied by an uncontrollable series of bankruptcies, the central banks bought up loans at everybody’s expense, so injecting new money (by increasing the quantity of money) into the already ailing banking system. This is to be seen, for example, in the total assets of the FED, the US American central bank: having risen from 900 billion dollars (2008) at the outset of the financial crisis to 2,200 billion now. This economic-political strategy is known in its most extreme form as “quantitive easing” (QE). This is the pharmakon – the toxic potion administered as cure-all – that is supposed to bring the market back to life. Following the collapse that put the credit-fed politics of growth into an induced coma, QE maintains and oversees the vital functions of the financial marketplace, which has switched into a kind of neutral gear as the beneficiaries park most of the money shot their way right back into the central bank system instead of reintroducing funds into the economy, for instance by providing loans. The question that QE raises, then, — and in a complex, interconnected derivative system the question means no less than a gamble — is whether the trust in the ideology of the free-market is strong enough as an economical and political project to resuscitate it from its induced coma. QE opens the monetary as well as ideological floodgates of a sheer inexhaustible — one is tempted to say transcendental — source of trust. Instead of channelling money, support and encouragement to the victims of the crisis and allowing the least privileged sectors of society to participate in civic life, however, an enormous effort is made to invest in the same people who caused the collapse while they wield control over vast inactive fortunes. There are not only verbal assurances of unlimited liquidity for the financial sector, but it is also made available in the form of money — with the paradox effect that the markets are flooded with cash to prevent them from going under, from drowning.

 

Quantitative Easing (for the street)

 

Stockburger brings quantitative easing from the stock exchange to the street — and so into the terrain of common interest, whose social climate is reflected in the absolutization of its debts. The coins that Stockburger throws into the casino of the economised public space are not much more than drops falling at random onto the hot stone of a social reality where the basis for ascertaining value relies increasingly upon automated algorithmic transactions and prices calculated on the basis of probabilistic models. However, his artistic gesture goes beyond being a symbolic one to the extent that it supplies that most obvious and yet simultaneously obscure object of desire without insisting on its being earned, or, more akin to financial lingo, on performative evaluations of individual achievement. Disregarding local mindsets, this implies that a social contract based on limited liability has replaced one based on social integration. This is a gamble that constructs a future in order to dominate the present (and not the other way around). There, the potential meaning of wealth, or, in recollection to the first sentence of Marx’ Capital, the “’richess’ of […] societies”. is subjugated by the economy. However, where the future has already been marginalised, the present thins out too, and thus wealth indeed erodes across its entire spectrum of meanings. The sparce sound of the coins dropping leaves space for a thought: What would a social contract look like whose constitution precedes quantified liability and implicit issues of trust? While the financial system serves only the banks, in Quantitative Easing (for the street) anyone can grab a coin and become active in the mechanism of distribution. Accordingly, Stockburger’s source of money and its perhaps marginal but nevertheless practical value alludes to a social body with the intrinsic potential not only for economic transactions but also, among other things, the potential to trigger political action. In this way, Quantitative Easing (for the street) is positioned on the horizon of quality experience, where wealth can be understood as a capacity for solidarity in action, which essentially forms the highly developed foundation of communities. Stockburger’s speculation contrasts with speculations on the financial markets insofar as it uses coins to bet on the wealth of possible contingent events and narratives in public space, instead of profit scenarios based on probability theory and the Ultima Ratio after default of “hedging risk” among the general population. Stockburger is interested in that which seems to be overlooked in the debates about the future, even though it is the core of the social transformation that we are experiencing today: the present as shared experience. It, rather than money, is the true medium for a potential to develop — depending on personal orientation — the capacity to act and reach agreements. Stockburger’s intervention in public space poses the burning question of what money, the creation and accumulation of value, and equal distribution mean to us. What are their social, economic and artistic fictions based on, what desires do they fulfil, what is the significance of participation? After all, it is precisely the street where the coins land that opens up the political horizon: Representative democracies, degenerated into derivatives of fiscal-economic “necessity”, create the climate for what are now political and legal manifestations of quantitative easing to the extent that they conjure up a democratic liquidity that is at once gambled away and liquidated.

Quantitative Easing (for the street) provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the vertigo that has engulfed us and our social reality, pulling us into its wake. Furthermore, the artist reminds us that the street is the space of possibility, of “social transactions” (Stockburger), where not only financial capital counts: it is ultimately a place where aesthetic, social and political capital manifest themselves, generate space.


The relationship between money and art – 1

Max Haiven, who is an Assistant Professor, Art History and Critical Studies, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design runs a very interesting blog entitled Art & Money where he collects examples of artists working in very different ways  with money as a medium:

http://moneyandart.tumblr.com/

also check out http://maxhaiven.com/

Joe Deville just posted an interesting article entitled “the infrastructure of money” here


Article

Gold, Golden, Gilded, Glittering
Representations of Value, or The Unexpected Double History of Banking and The Art World

is an interesting essay by Rachel Cohen for The Believer Mag.


Article

David Graeber’s article at the guardian about contemporary money creation:

The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it
The Bank of England’s dose of honesty throws the theoretical basis for austerity out the window


about Quantitative Easing

A collection of links to articles about QE:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing

funny & simplified  cartoon explanation on youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTUY16CkS-k

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/05/quantitative-easing-explained

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/01/economist-explains-7

http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/80790/qe-for-dummies

http://uneasymoney.com/2014/03/21/the-irrelevance-of-qe-as-explained-by-three-bank-of-england-economists/

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/03/04/quantitative-easing-problems/

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2010/11/richard-alford-%E2%80%9Cquantitative-easing-explained%E2%80%9D-and-its-critics.html