Kevin Bewersdorf, Monument, 2008, installation view, courtesy V&A
Kevin Bewersdorf: Monuments to the INFOspirit at The V&A
London SW7 2RL
September 7 through October 12, 2008
Naked short selling, derivatives, credit default swaps: These days, abstract processes by which money is conjured out of the ether are much on everyone’s mind. “Monuments to the INFOspirit,” Kevin Beweresdorf’s first solo project at V&A, wasn’t made as a response to the meltdown, but its melancholy metaphysics of the marketplace feels very timely indeed.
The exhibit centers on four big boxes of cheesy motivational brochures. “We all live in today’s world. Today’s world is the marketplace” they proclaim. “It is a zone of forces like the ocean. You no more rule the marketplace than a plankton rules the ocean.” What does rule the marketplace? The all-pervasive “INFOspirit” which as far as I can make out is something in between Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand and George Lucas’ “Force.” The concept feels a little murky, but then again so do mortgage-backed securities. For a different path to understanding and accepting the unseen forces that rule our world, the brochures suggests repeatedly chanting sentences such as “I am standing on the edge of an expanse,” and little prayers like “Rejoice! /Everything in the marketplace is a product/ I am in the marketplace/ I am a product” and “Produce, consume, let the info flow!/Flowing from what we cannot know.”
Displayed above the brochures, presumably for purposes of reverent contemplation, are big posters of the “4 Sacred Logos of the INFOspirit”: simple vector drawings of a sphere and upward-pointing arrow against a blue-to-white gradient. It’s the kind of generic graphic that comes with PowerPoint or Microsoft office, but in this context it looks like a diagram for the Rapture.
Except for one over-the-top animation (of a meditating and web-surfing Bewerdsorf, emanating dancing clip-art images of things like hamburgers and dollar signs) the show largely consists of faithful recreations of painfully ordinary corporate artifacts, albeit with a vaguely elegiac twist: a logo embroidered khaki and polo outfit is preserved under glass; the commemorative plaque celebrating the exhibition is so marble-bedecked it veers from pompous to funerary.
As a creepy conflation of spiritual and market values, Bewersdorf can’t really top the real-life sources of his shtick, such as megachurches and “inspirational” business literature. Fortunately his work is ultimately less a satire of a subculture than an artwork that extracts the poetic qualities suppressed by (or is it latent in) the bland landscape and artifacts of the middle American office park. There’s something bizarrely poignant about these sterile surfaces, sub-par graphics and empty promotional jargon; these extremely familiar, supremely inexpressive cultural expressions.
The work also points to a third point where the profit-driven and the ineffable rendezvous: art. As with Bewersdorf’s previous project, GEARt.e.k. Corporation (whose homepage states that “GEARt..e.k. Corporation is caused by terminology, and produces only the experience of quality”,) “Monuments to the Infospirit” employs religious/business hucksterism to get at notions of value and transcendence in art. That these old notions inspire as much longing as irony is the source of the show’s wry melancholia.
Kaveri Nair is an artist living in Brooklyn.view all articles from this author