Tim Portlock, CA$H_4_GOLD. Images from the Museum of Capitalism

Oakland Museum explores a post-capitalist world

“Much of the evidence of capitalism is either eroding over time or simply not known or easily accessible to the public.”

This is the parallel universe in which we are placed. In Oakland, California, the Museum of Capitalism looks at capitalism as if it were from a distant, antiquated past. It’s a world where capitalism is dead.

As a recently converted vegan, who spent much of my years as a politics student cursing the evils of the free market, the notion of this world seems awesome. No iPhone hegemony, no conspicuous consumption, no reality TV worship. But as I explore the execution of this post bitcoin world, it seems as idealistic as the liberal left socialism so many of us try to practice.

First and foremost, the Museum, opened in June this year, to oohs and aahs from the international community, was curated by two artists, Andrea Steven and Timothy Furstnau. The pair have been collaborating for nearly 10 years on various projects which question the nature of material wealth, waste and what the future would look like if the world was a little different.

Jennifer Dalton, Ask Not for Whom the Art is Intended, 2015.

And while that makes them experts in terms of putting this together, being two white art practitioners who were able to secure an award worth $150 000 to open the exhibition so obviously smacks of a very present world where capitalism is real, and serves some above others.

But, let’s suspend the politics of art funding, and pretend that the curation process doesn’t matter all that much (wink wink). There is of course the big question of the works which are the pillars of this future world.

One of the most standout features of the work is that almost none of it involves people. We are asked to imagine a speculative space, with the relics of capitalism, with no real engagement about what economics mean for people. South African artist, Callan Grecia, whose most recent works ‘These Aesthetics Are Not New’ touches on the effect of technology on connections and relationship, weighs in.

“I like it but I think it’s kind of hypocritical in some senses just due to the capitalistic nature inherent in the idea of an exhibition which by its essence is a capitalistic device? I still love it but I think we should be aware of that while looking,” he says.

Jordan Bennett, Artifact Bags (The Bay, Walmart and Target), 2013–15.

That said, there are some seriously creative moments held tightly in the space. With the inclusion of a steel container reminiscent of the Vietnam War, and Christy Chow’s treadmill screen which gives viewers a look inside a Chinese factory, there has been some attempt at engagement with the political alongside the historical.

Elsewhere Rimini Protokoll offers a very hands-on engagement with what is (quite highbrow, we are 1%) capitalism. Theatre goers buy tickets in the form of Daimler stock and invited to engage in a meeting, performing the very wheeling and dealing.

Placed alongside Chow’s work, it speaks straight to the heart of accumulation by dispossession – the life blood of the capitalist world. Whether the curators intended this contrast can of course, only be guessed at, and it would be interesting to see whether a real life future audience from 3035 would read it with the same nuance that an audience living IN capitalism would do.

Superflex, Bankrupt Banks Flags.

Cover Features

Latest Posts

Bubblegum Club TV

Get our newsletter straight to your mailbox