MARKET FORCES / Part I: Consuming Territories
"We never know where the consumer is going to be at any point in time, so we have to find a way to be everywhere. Ubiquity is the new exclusivity."
Linda Kaplan Thaler, Kaplan Thaler Group, New York ad agency
Market Forces addresses the euphoric consumer culture of the last decade that manifested itself in a seeming overflow of goods and services and an explosion of luxury housing development that now dominates the urban landscape. The term is derived from laissez-faire economic theory and refers to a hands-off approach to the "natural order" of supply and demand. Used in this context, it is meant to invoke skepticism concerning the almost religious belief in, and militant protection of, our god-given right to consume. This two-part exhibition is intended to be as inclusive as the market is pervasive, with work that addresses the influence of consumerism on personality, labor, politics, and the built environment. Market Forces / Part 1: Consuming Territories will examine the profound effects of unregulated markets on the built environment and the psychology of the individual through their relentless quest to consume ever more territory and "claim" space.
As cities throughout the country "renovate", urban settings begin to look like giant department stores in the midst of changing displays. One familiar structure after another is altered or "disappeared", replaced in many cases by tall, unremarkable steel and glass luxury "lofts". Real estate hysteria induces a frenzied atmosphere as neighborhoods and communities become raw material for a "make-over" that promotes lifestyle culture, a perpetual celebration of leisure devoid of any meaningful connection to place. This displacement of locality parallels larger shifts in the global economy, where capital flows in and out of cities and countries with no connection to the particularities of social or cultural conditions. In the absence of a meaningful connection to place, brands become necessary to (often falsely) identify the product (building) as having roots in the "artsy" neighborhood within which it has "positioned" itself.
While the complex yet freewheeling financial system that brought us sub-prime loans begins to falter, and an atmosphere of wild speculation gives way to concern and misgivings, some parts of the country are suffering the negative results of the excessive risk at the heart of the housing boom. As tent cities crop up in southern California and whole blocks of homes are boarded up in Ohio, the cause-and-effect relationship of the built environment to a free market system deserves some attention, in particular at a moment when it's anybody's guess as to what the current conditions will lead to.
Much of the artwork in Market Forces / Part 1 reflects on the rapidly changing environment an individual encounters in everyday experience, conveying a sense of place that is constantly in flux. Ranging in scale from an installation to an ipod video, and in technique from a hand made tapestry to photography, the work in this exhibition addresses the currently unpredictable nature of the physical spaces around us, which, largely due to their shifting values in the global marketplace, seem to be in perpetual transition.