Transnational Capitalism Examined

Friday, 9th October 2015, 7 PM:
Talk Mike Watson
The Bull Laid Bear, dir: Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler, 2012, 24 min.
Leave It in the Ground, dir: Oliver Ressler, 2013, 18 min.

Saturday, 10th October 2015, 7 PM:
Conversation between Oliver Ressler and Mike Watson
The Fittest Survive, dir: Oliver Ressler, 2006, 23 min.
European Corrections Corporation (Imprisonment in Great Britain), dir: Martin Krenn & Oliver Ressler, 2003, 17 min.
The Visible and the Invisible, dir: Oliver Ressler, 2014, 20 min.

Both events will be held in English, but the films will be screened with German subtitles.

As the economic crisis continues three sectors of transnational capital in particular stand out as the most aggressive and prone to seek neo-fascist political arrangements to force forward accumulation as the crisis continues: speculative financial capital, the military-industrial-security complex, and the extractive and energy sector.

What all of these aspects have in common is their transcendence of national boundaries. Globalization, which once promised unbound freedoms has become a restrictive force as finance capitalism, punitive military actions and commodity extraction operate on a transnational level, unanswerable to individual political subjects or their governments.

On February 15th 2002 the greatest protest of all time, against the proposed invasion of Iraq by US and UK led forces, demonstrated the pitiful state of democratic institutions in those countries which herald democracy precisely as a just cause worthy of going to war for. London saw 1 million people take to the streets. Rome saw 3 million. Yet none of the respective administrations of the 40 countries who invaded Iraq respected the wishes of their electorates. When George Bush and Tony Blair failed to obtain a UN mandate for the invasion of Iraq, they went ahead anyhow. The military machine had been long poised to strike and was not about to turnaround.

This is a situation reflected across the most crucial areas of policy making as ecological issues, finance and immigration are managed according to the logic of profit rather than concern for human or environmental wellbeing. The much promised freedoms which were associated with globalisation in the 1990s have failed to materialise. In their place we find an increased level of competition as governments engage in what is termed ‘a race to the bottom’, whereby governments aim to jettison unprofitable policies in favour of profit. Welfare, healthcare, education, the environment and human rights have all suffered as a consequence.

This situation is reflected legally as supranational entities such as the EU override national law making and fiscal policy, as can be seen in the Greek debt crisis, where the Greek government overrided its electorate’s rejection of its international creditors’ bailout terms. Additionally, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims to ease trade restrictions between the EU and US, potentially creating the largest free trade agreement in the world. Whilst strengthening the strategic US-European axis in a time of intense competition from Asia, critics argue that the agreement will make national governments answerable to big business, while business will be increasingly protected from the wishes of the electorate.

One result of globalization has been the global art market, which also operates on a logic which transcends borders as the artwork becomes more than ever a commodity complicit with the finance system. Similarly, prominent art institutions, such as the Guggenheim and Louvre’s sites in Abu-Dhabi have come under heavy criticism for subjecting migrant labourers to unfair conditions. However, at the same time a global network of politically motivated artists are using art to raise awareness of or to directly engage with political issues.

‘Transnational Capitalism Examined’: presents two evenings of screenings and talks around the film work of Oliver Ressler, an artist who approaches and presents the documentary form via an artistic outlook. Such an approach, which frequently involves collaboration with activist groups aims to concretize arts critical capacity whilst exposing the effects of Transnational Capitalism. Whilst The Bull Laid Bare and The Visible and the Invisible explore the machinations of international debt and finance, The Fittest Survive examines the perverse link between corporations and warfare whilst, finally, Leave it in the Ground examines the politics of fossil fuel extraction.

A talk by Mike Watson – a Rome based critic, theorist and curator – will examine the potential for politically engaged art within the context of Ressler’s work, whilst a dialogue between Watson and Ressler will assess the efficacy of the artist’s approach in critiquing a global capital system.

Mike Watson is an art theorist, critic and curator based in Italy who is principally focused on the relation between art and politics. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from Goldsmiths College and has curated for Nomas Foundation and at both the 55th and 56th Venice Biennale. He is completing a book entitled ‘Towards a Conceptual Militancy’ for ZerO books and writes regularly for Frieze, Art Review and Radical Philosophy.

Oliver Ressler lives and works in Vienna and produces installations, projects in public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, global warming, forms of resistance and social alternatives. Oliver Ressler has had solo exhibitions in Berkeley Art Museum; Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, Egypt; The Cube Project Space, Taipei; Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk; and Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz. Ressler has participated in more than 250 group exhibitions, including Reina Sofia Museum; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; MASSMoCA, North Adams; Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; and at the biennials in Seville (2006), Moscow (2007), Taipei (2008), Lyon (2009), Gyumri (2012), Venice (2013), Athens (2013, 2015), and Quebec (2014). A retrospective of his films took place at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, 2013.