Worth its weight in gold
Let me introduce Loophole for All, by Paulo Crio. This artwork was exhibited at Ars Electronica, and was my highlight of the festival. The basic concept was to undermine the idea of having a company “on paper” in countries considered financial offshore centers. The artist unveiled over 200000 Cayman Islands companies and reversed global finance machination through conceptual art.
The website Loophole4All.com promoted the sale of real identities of anonymous Cayman companies at low cost to democratize the privileges of offshore businesses by forging Certificates of Incorporation documents for each company, all issued with the artist’s real name and signature.
Loophole for All is an example of a work of conceptual art that effectively exposes, undermines and critiques an enormous problem of our time. Tax evasion by the super rich, otherwise known as not giving a fuck. The Panama Papers scandal earlier this year, was a groundbreaking expose that showed how the international elite, really really don’t give a fuck. The files show how Mossack Fonseca clients were able to launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax. In one case, the company offered an American millionaire fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities. This is in direct breach of international regulations designed to stop money laundering and tax evasion.
So who cares? My case is that artists care, and there are recognised artists out there doing their thing; shining the light into the world of corrupt politics, defunct jurisdiction and incredible corruption amongst those that have it all. Before the Panama Paper leak in April, photographers Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti made the first trip to the Grand Caymen to begin a two and a half year project to demystify the worlds tax havens. The Heavens LLC (2015) is a project that reveals the inpenitrable swirling mist from the matter, and portrays the banal physical realities of the digital, international business of maximising wealth and optimising entitlement over jurisdiction.
Work such as The Heavens LCC matters like Paolo Crio’s work matters, because the art world is a lynchpin in mapping and making sense of the cartography of corruption. Artists need to be aware and take responsibility for their complicity in furthering the wealth and power of the global elite, and artists who work to expose, critique and challenge these systems help erode the power of wealth through the medium of art. Essentially such artists are pushing from within. It is a cruel irony that the current issue of Frieze includes a progressive article entitled Show me the Receipts which clearly asserts the relationship between contemporary artworks and the corrupt collection of capital assets, yet a few pages before I was offered the chance to snap up a treat in central London, with “nothing else comes close” properties starting at a very breezy £1.25m.
Mixed messaging? What is going on here? I would say double standards, mixed messaging and maybe just turning a blind eye to the contradictions printed all over the page. Or maybe its a nod to the newest on trend philosophical position. A blatant lack of integrity.
Either way, navigating the popularity of conceptual art that sinks its teeth into the political and moral maladies of our time, within the context of the contemporary art scene is contradictory in of itself. Cultural administrators, critics, curators and editors love to demonstrate social and political engagement. Celebrating the dilettantes of our time, yet they bow down to the funding from those they love to hate, and it is done without discretion. The taxonomy of contradiction is the information system that should be written up in a small handbook, for anyone interested in working in the arts, and avoiding the inherent corruption of those individuals and organisations that love to get rich, neglect the poor and flash their wealth through cultural capital. I’m still pondering my practice based response.