Rather than Checking the Dow Every 3 Seconds
"The one thing an investor doesn't want to know is how connected everything is."Racing to the finish line in a mad dash to be the art that life imitates rather than the other way around, Crisis in the Credit System is online now. Created by artist Melanie Gilligan, the four-part video mimics the best of TV drama (it's actually inspired somewhat by our latest Netflix obsession, The Wire), but it seems to be one of the most prescient pieces ever created:--Ian, Crisis in the Credit System, Part I
Parts of it, especially when two characters are brainstorming in rapid fire spurts of abstract ideas, feel just this side of an AbFab skit, but it's chilling to hear some of the scenarios. What's particularly frightening is just how long it takes to get the characters to stop thinking profit, profit, profit. In part I, for example, a character works out an "elegant" way to profit from the anxiety of the credit crisis.
[It's a] 40-minute online drama described by its makers as "bizarre scenarios reflecting the strangeness of our situation today: life governed increasingly by abstract exchange and the accumulation of profit". Confused? You will be, almost certainly.
Divided into four short, free, downloadable episodes designed to resemble, at first sight, a television series, Crisis in the Credit System begins in a (relatively) conventional vein, as five employees of a large investment bank gather for a brainstorming retreat at an elegant country mansion. Their assignment: to find new ways of tackling the credit crunch via role-play sessions.[...]
The stories were devised by Melanie Gilligan, a Canadian-born conceptual artist based in London; she had shows at Tate Britain and the Serpentine Gallery last year. Gilligan started work on this latest project seven months ago in collaboration with financial journalists, economists and City insiders. "The possibility of a financial crisis has been an important topic for me for years now," she says. Even so, she was unsettled at the speed at which life recently overtook fiction.
Racing to complete the final edit of her film this week – it incorporates some of the weekend's headlines and news stories – Gilligan, 29, cites her influences. They include the hit television crime series The Wire, the enigmatic, cerebral films of Jean-Luc Godard, Raoul Ruiz and Jacques Rivette – and Karl Marx's Das Kapital.
"A lot of that helps you understand the contemporary situation," the artist says. By the close of their weekend retreat, her masters – and mistresses – of the universe are left bewildered, exhausted, disillusioned. But Gilligan denies that her message is baldly that greed is bad. "What I'm trying to say is much more to do with the way the whole system works. We are too focused on making money and economic expansion; not on society's needs."
Is this just modish radical extremism? Not according to Willem Buiter, who is a consultant for the beleaguered former investment bank Goldman Sachs and a professor at the London School of Economics. "Marx is, of course, one of the primary prophets of the crisis of capitalism," says Professor Buiter, one of the specialist advisers for Gilligan's movie. "So it's hard to make a film about it and not run into him. As long as we don't run into Stalin as well, it's not a major issue."
I won't offer any other spoilers, but let me just say Kudos to Gilligan for this remarkable project.