The Golden USB
Opening Reception: Saturday, December 9 at 8 PM
Reception sponsored by Andrew Hilton Wine & Spirits
The allegation that it is easier to imagine the end of the world that it is to imagine the end of capitalism echoes within the speculative structure of The Golden USB (2014 - ongoing). If it is accurate to assert that our global imagination is enchained in an all-encompassing framework of capitalism, Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens' project executes the next logical step of capitalistic expansion. Contained within the "Golden USB" is the Trade Catalog of Everything; a digital file listing all existing and potential commodities our earth has to offer, making available the necessary conditions for interstellar commercial trade. Beyond our solar system, our imagination becomes inhabited by similar motivations, implying that we are not the only beings longing for the comforts of economic reason.
Designed to be propelled into the farthest reaches of outer space, The Golden USB runs tangential to the specifically cultural purposes of the Pioneer Plaque (1972-1973) and the Golden Record (1977). Rather than highlighting the story of Earth through a diversity of natural sounds, images, music, and inspirational messages, The Golden USB is strictly commerce oriented. No longer offering a confrontation with capitalism as an economic system, the digitized catalogue pre-packages all of the appropriated and inventoried earthly objects for any extraterrestrial "investment opportunities," ultimately resulting in the fetishization of the earth itself.
Ibghy & Lemmens arrived at the Gushul Studio Residency in June to continue work on The Golden USB project. Through the identification and documentation of local commodities, the residency afforded the artists time to develop the Trade Catalog by further diversifying its collections. In this way, elements of our regional terrain have been inventoried, classified, and ordered, to be included not only in the space-bound memory stick but also shown within the exhibition. Amongst other commodifiable interests, the artists have examined how the region developed its cultural tourism by valorising the darker moments of its past, including mountain slides, mine explosions, murders, and suicides.
Through techniques of selection, organization, and systematization, the pair act as ceremonialists of capital realism, converting cultural practices, aesthetic objects, and earthly elements into the purchasable artifacts and services. Each new performance can be read as a rite of passage, stripping objects of any intrinsic worth and converting them into objects of exchange. This is the dilemma; if it is true we have forgotten how to imagine anything beyond the horizon of capitalism, then the logic of late capitalism has successfully aestheticized and commoditized history in its own right. A testament to Schrödinger's famous paradox, the most pertinent question may be whether the vessel is meant to 'find' life forms with similar capitalistic modes of exchange, or if it is contagious in consequence, serving the purpose of cultural conversion.
Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens live and work in Durham-Sud, Quebec. Together they have developed a collaborative practice that spans across multiple media, including video, performance, and installation.
Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the City of Lethbridge.
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