Corrupt and complex, powerful and cruel; capitalism has been the root of many of the modern era’s complaints. This has made it one of the more popular topics to be covered in art thus far. Most recently, Broken Capitalism is a thought-provoking exhibition hosted by Singapore's Hatch Art Project (7 Yong Siak Street, S168644), combining many different views of this topic and the issues surrounding it. With artists hailing from all over the world, it also provides several insightful perspectives on the theme of capitalism.
Dollar bills blown up into colossal proportions on the gallery wall attract the attention of passing viewers as they appear to be recreations from afar, but up close the bleeding nature of watercolour can be seen. UK 5 Pound Sterling and Singapore 50 by Thai artist Tawan Wattuya demonstrate the power and complexity that surround the visual beauty, bringing forth and underscoring the juxtaposing message money often has. His works are recreations of banknotes that have gone out of circulation all around the world. Every detail, from the calligraphic writings to the intricate lines on the notes, is recreated using watercolour and ink. However, the focal point of every banknote is blurred and bled out using watercolour, giving the figures on these notes an uncanny feeling.
The theme of capitalism in Immigrant's Family #10 and Immigrant's Family #11 by Nguyen Quoc Dzung may not be as prominent as other works, but rather the effects of exploitation on humanity is explored. A familiar quality can be found in the Vietnamese artist's work, for some in the setting and for others in the nudity of the figures present. There is also a lack of blending in most of the painting and yet it still feels incredibly realistic. This is partially due to the fact that Nguyen first visited these settings in his paintings and organically got to experience the feeling of being in that particular space. To the artist, it is crucial that his audiences can truly feel the space as in the most authentic way, considering the emotional significance they carry.
American artist Bradley Foisset’s work, Turn On, Tune In, is another piece that may not be immediately recognised as one on capitalism. Instead, it shows the effect of capitalism on culture. The work discusses the eras of culture that were stripped of individuality due to excessive consumerism and capitalism. “This era was the most recent foray into post- capitalism and out of individualism. Born of this echo, a reinvigorated counterculture libido alongside transformative group consciousness has the potential to be rekindled, inspiring and intensifying all manner of new desires and horizons."
TIME! by British-Bulgarian artist Mihov is a mix of the glamorous and the luxurious, yet also a narrative on the shallowness of how monetary value has been placed on things that normally would not carry a price tag. At first glance, it seems excessive and flashy; something certainly eye-catching, since the work can be perceived as a fun experiment with colours and different materials, but ultimately, “the work addressed the fact that our capitalistic society has assigned monetary values to everything and all, including non-monetary concepts such as life or time, which I see as interchangeable.”
“Arguably, time is no longer seen as ‘the form of inner sense’ in the human experience, but as an objective external variable.” - Mihov
Capitalism is something very instinctive to humans. We like to own things whilst boasting of our worldly possessions; we want to have things that others yearn for. On the other hand, it shows humanity’s ugliest feature: greed. The privileges of excessive spending, opulence, and consumerism can only be possible if there are victims of exploitation. Only a few have no worries about money and can spend it however they please. On the opposite end of the scale, many in the world are struggling to feed and clothe themselves. And despite knowing all this, it feels almost too late to turn back or do something about it. We are aware capitalism is detrimental and complain incessantly about it, and at the same time, we do not want to give up our lifestyles because we paid for them.
This is where the essentialness and uniqueness in Broken Capitalism lies. Although it is an exhibition critiquing capitalism, its presence as an art show still an attempt to push for a change. The auction in London, in partnership with Broken Capitalism, provides assistance to charities aiming to aid disadvantaged areas of the world. So while the conversation surrounding capitalism usually takes us nowhere, these beautiful pieces, at the very least, will be making a positive change somewhere in the world.
Hatch Art Project: