Conrad Bakker

(born 1970, Canada)

Conrad Bakker Untitled Project: Commodity Capital 2007

Conrad Bakker
Untitled Project: Commodity Capital 2007

Courtesy the artist © Conrad Bakker

Bakker’s work is a critique of consumer culture, but is also intended to function within it. His Untitled Projects are hand-carved, hand-painted wooden objects, each one a unique work of art.

The roughness of the carving and painting is both a mark of their individuality and indicative of the fact that these are made-to-order, replicas of mass-produced goods, questioning assumptions of what is an original and what is a copy.  Bakker  uses everyday systems of distribution, such as eBay, trade fairs and mail order catalogues to circumvent the gallery system. Bakker’s carved and painted copies of Karl Marx’s Capital (Volume 1) cost £18.99 (the current market value of its Penguin paperback counterpart) and can be purchased by mail order from Irresistible Magazine.

Offer expires 25 November.

Matei Bejenaru

(born 1963, Romania)

Matei Bejenaru Travelling Guide 2005

Matei Bejenaru
Travelling Guide 2005

Courtesy the artist © Matei Bejenaru

Travelling Guide 2005 is an unofficial guide for Romanians seeking to enter and work in the United Kingdom illegally. The guide includes diagrams of transport networks and information about meeting points for fellow Romanians in Milan, Calais, Munich and other points of departure for entering Britain by flight, ferry, freight train or truck. The advice offered in the guide ranges from how to avoid being detained for illegal immigration to acquiring a false National Insurance number. All the information in the guide was downloaded from the internet and became obsolete on 1 January 2007 when Romania joined the European Union, enabling workers to move freely within the EU.

Prior to the opening of the exhibition, Bejenaru collaborated with Romanian community groups to produce Together 2007, a performance in front of Tate Modern which was presented as a video projection in the Level 2 Gallery during the weekend 8-9 September.

Claire Fontaine

(Paris-based collective, founded 2004)

Claire Fontaine STRIKE (K font V.II) 2005-7

Claire Fontaine
STRIKE (K font V.II) 2005-7

Collection Antoine de Galbert, Paris
Image courtesy the artist, Air de Paris, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Reena Spaulings, New York

STRIKE 2005/7 consists of a scaffold structure on which the word ‘strike’ is spelled out using fluorescent tubes in the ‘K. font’. This font was created by the artists in homage to the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s The Castle, a novel about bureaucratic processes and paranoia. The flickering lights evoke the labyrinthine institutional spaces and systems that Kafka describes. STRIKE is installed in the gallery window and the lights can be seen from offices in The City and from the Millennium Bridge. As visitors approach the window, a motion detector switches off the lights. Only if there is no movement do they switch on again. Appropriately, suspension of activity is required to animate the word strike. On the ceiling is the smoke drawing The Educated Consumer is Our Best Customer 2007, written using a cigarette lighter. It is a hybrid of the vandalistic outbursts scrawled in public toilets and aphoristic statements found in conceptual art.

Tim Davis

(born 1969, Malawi)

Tim Davis  McDonalds II (Retail) 2000

Tim Davis
McDonalds II (Retail) 2000

Courtesy of the artist and Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York.
Image courtesy of Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York © Tim Davis

Davis’s Retail Series 2001 examines the increasing presence of commercial interests in small-town America. These images of suburban houses are photographed at night using available light from nearby streetlamps, and without any glimpse of their inhabitants. On closer inspection, the logos of multinational brands such as Shell and McDonalds can be seen reflected in the windows. Although the sources of the reflections are out of frame, in most cases, they seem to be just the other side of the road, reinforcing the idea the inextricable fusion of consumerism and everyday life.

Mika Rottenberg

(born 1976, Argentina)

Mika Rottenberg Mary's Cherries 2003

Mika Rottenberg
Mary’s Cherries 2003

Courtesy of Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York. Image courtesy of the artist and Nicole Klagsbrun gallery

The question of labour and the exploitation of women’s bodies lies at the heart of Rottenberg’s humorous video installations. In Mary’s Cherries 2005 three female wrestlers perform a series of bodily actions in small claustrophobic chambers on successive floors. Two women rapidly pedal exercise bikes to power a UV light that promotes the growth of red fingernails. Each nail is carefully cut and dropped through a hole in the floor where another labourer massages and rubs it, softening it so that when the fingernail is passed to the next labourer it is easily transformed into a sticky maraschino cherry. Rottenberg juxtaposes the depersonalised production line with the individuality of the workers, whose sensually grotesque bodies actively become part of the production of commodities.

Michael Stevenson

(born 1964, New Zealand)

Michael Stevenson The Fountain of Prosperity 2007

Michael Stevenson
The Fountain of Prosperity 2007

Courtesy of the artist and Vilma Gold, London. Image courtesy of the artist and Vilma Gold, London

The Fountain of Prosperity 2007 is a reconstruction of the ‘Moniac’, a machine designed in the late 1940s by New Zealand economist Bill Phillips to illustrate the concept of monetary flow in national economies. A fixed volume of red-dyed water, representing money, is pumped through a system of transparent tubes and sluices into clear chambers representing factors such as ‘surplus balances’ and ‘International Monetary Funds’. Regarded as an extremely developed tool for analysing economic functions, 15 of these devices were built and shipped around the world. Stevenson discovered that one of the machines was acquired by the Central Bank of Guatemala in 1952, and has imagined what it might look like today. His replica is corroding and leaking, and the chamber marked ‘held balances’ is empty, suggesting that the economic model it represents is on the verge of collapse.

Judi Werthein

(born 1967, Argentina)

Judi Werthein Brinco, 2005

Judi Werthein
Brinco, 2005

Courtesy the artist and inSite 05.
Image courtesy of the artist and inSite 05 Photo: Alfredo De Stefano

Werthein’s Brinco 2005 trainers were designed to assist illegal immigrants seeking to cross the Mexican-American border. The trainers include a map of the region printed on the sole, a compass, a mini-flashlight, a secret pocket to hide money and other features to aid migrants in the arduous and dangerous trek north. Approximately 1,000 pairs of Brinco sneakers (meaning ‘to jump’ in Spanish) were produced in China. They were given away for free in Tijuana to Mexicans setting off for the border, and sold for over $200 as a limited edition in a high-end boutique in San Diego, with proceeds going to a shelter in Tijuana. Werthein examines how a simple pair of shoes can be a product of cheap labour in a globalised marketplace, a functional tool and a luxury commodity.

Artists Statement:

Brinco (Jump)

Is an pseudo American corporation that designs and fabricates a sneaker specifically to cross the Mexican /US border. The sneakers were distributed in Tijuana (Mexico) for free to people attempting to cross the border illegally. It includes in it’s inner sole a map, a flashlight, a compass, and pockets to hide money and medicine, also on the back of the sneaker an image of Santo Toribio Romo the official saint of the Mexican migrants recognized as such by the Vatican.

Underscoring the tensions sparked by the global spread and mobility of the maquiladora (factories that migrate in search for low labor wages), the sneaker will be manufactured in China, imitating the same manufacturing strategies and models of exploitation done outside the US in depressed economies by American footwear companies.

In counterpoint to its potential for utilitarian use by Mexican migrants, the sneaker was sold as a one-of-a-kind art object in the US responding to the avid consumerist American culture.

This project intervenes on the flows of labor and goods across the border and addresses the global issue of the inequalities of economies and markets, the contradiction between free movement of goods and trade and the restricted movement of people. Brinco presents the existing contradictions between fashion, competition in the manufacturing industry, and migratory flows, themes that lie at the heart of the dynamics of labor geography in today’s world.

Irresistible Magazine

Eric Gill, ‘Dumb-Driven Cattle’ 1915
Eric Gill
Dumb-Driven Cattle 1915

Irresistible Magazine is a one-off glossy magazine produced for the exhibition that features a selection of commissioned texts and artists’ pages exploring aspects of the economy. Topics covered range from the notion and roots of ‘empire’ to Thatcherite economics. The magazine also includes a response to the exhibition concept by Stewart Home, the Level 2 Gallery’s writer-in-residence for the year. Irresistible Magazine is free to all visitors while stocks last.