April 2010, Jan Peter Hammer @ Supportico Lopez

Jan Peter Hammer, The Anarchist Banker, 2010
Courtesy Supportico Lopez

Jan Peter Hammer: The Anarchist Banker
Supportico Lopez
Graefe Str 9, Berlin 10967
5 February through 6 March 2010

Jan Peter Hammer’s single screen video installation restages Fernando Pessoa’s 1922 story of the same name as a television interview, updating the terminology (if not the argumentation) to reflect the circumstances of the current financial crises.

The protagonists, Arthur Ashenking and Dave Hall (played with understated conviction by the actors John Quincy Long and Thomas Spencer) enact a strange dialogue in which the anarchism of Max Stirner and the free market economics of Milton Friedman emerge as complimentary ideologies, at least from the perspective of the unrepentant banker.

The inspiration for Pessoa’s original story was Artur Alves dos Reis (the name of Hammer’s character is a loose translation) a financier whose activities as a currency speculator undermined the credibility of the Portuguese state and contributed to the 1926 coup d'état ushering in Salazar’s military dictatorship, a regime which persisted until 1974.

Ashenking’s relentless and unscrupulous greed is framed by the banker as the pursuit of individual freedom, an attempt to remove himself from the influence of the fiction of money by accumulating vast wealth.

In this pursuit he will not be deterred by consideration of the impact of his actions on others, echoing the twisted logic of a Goldmann Sachs executive who recently embarked on a lecture tour explaining that the company were merely doing God’s work (as, after all, Jesus said, “do unto others as you would be done by’ - which he interpreted, with astonishing sophistry, to suggest divine sanction for self interest).

Ashenking’s logic is a similarly self-serving mess of superficially convincing arguments presented with smug conviction. He deplores inequality and tyranny (and particulary, in an echo of Rand’s obscene apologia for capitalism, the ‘tyranny’ of altruism) yet shrugs off accusations that his actions might exacerbate these conditions.

Hammer’s video provides an apposite reminder of how the pursuit of individual freedom at any and all cost disguises itself in banal and solipsistic rhetoric. Individual autonomy won at the expense of collective slavery is no kind of autonomy at all.

David Selden

Formerly an artist and  gallerist,  David Selden is a freelance writer
living and working in Berlin. He writes about music for dorfdisco.de 
and maintains the blog Unter den roten Geweihen 

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