Economy and Love
Stefan Brüggeman / Oriol Vilanova
May 20 - July 8, 2023
KOTARO NUKAGA (Roppongi)
KOTARO NUKAGA, Roppongi is pleased to present “Economy and Love”, an exhibition featuring the works of Stefan Brüggemann, a Mexican artist working mainly in London , Mexico and Ibiza, and Oriol Vilanova, a Brussels-based artist who was born in Spain. The exhibition will run from May 20 to July 8, 2023. The two artists previously participated in the exhibition “UNLEASHED SPEED UNLEASHED SPEECH (MISFITS),” which was held in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic at KOTARO NUKAGA, Tennoz. This year, they are joining forces once again to present an exhibition centered around themes that have been chosen based on their respective recent works.
“Economy and Love” refers to two concepts. The first, “economy”, is a system of producing and distributing goods and services within a country or region, while the second, “love”, is a strong feeling or interest towards people or things. At first glance, the two may seem unrelated.
However, the relation between these two concepts can be seen from various angles. Economic stability can have an impact on love in human relationships. For example, money problems can cause stress or anxiety, which could negatively affect a relationship. Conversely, having economic stability can reduce stress, potentially helping to maintain a healthy relationship of love.
Moreover, economic factors often influence choices in love and relationships. For instance, choosing a financially affluent partner could increase one’s chances of leading a stable life, thereby positively impacting the relationship.
Furthermore, the economy and love are both subject to the influence of societal conditions and culture. For example, economically developed countries often undergo a shift in attitudes and expectations towards love and marriage. On the other hand, poor societies tend to place greater emphasis on love and family.
Overall, while there may not be a direct link between economy and love, it can be said that economic factors can have an impact on love within a relationship, and that societal conditions and culture can have an impact on both economy and love.”
The above is the response that was offered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT when asked about this exhibition’s title phrase. ChatGPT, which has recently been drawing global attention, is a chatbot that analyzes and answers questions based on information that can be found online; its responses might therefore be said to represent the “collective intelligence” of our current world, woven out of vast amounts of human knowledge that have accumulated since the dawn of the internet age. The above answer that such an AI gave about “Economy and Love” sheds light on how, with the structure of today’s societies, the economy precedes and influences love.
“Economy” refers to the totality of the acts and processes of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services that form the basis of human communities, and to the resultant social relations between human beings; it has also come to signify the management of limited monetary funds. The dominant economic system in our world today is the capitalist economy, a capital-based and profit-driven system in which commodity prices are determined by market supply and demand. Although precise figures are hard to come by as they change rapidly every year, it has been estimated that by 2021, over 60% of the world’s assets had been digitized and put online. Indeed, capitalist economy seems to have grown to gargantuan scales and become detached from physical reality, reduced to mere transfers of numbers and information; in that light, even our own lives and futures begin to feel as though they are based solely on objective calculations. This is likely why, in responding to the question about the relationship between the two concepts of economy and love, ChatGPT seems to suggest that love, a profoundly subjective concept, is subordinate to economy, an objective concept. To put it another way, one might say this is how the world at large regards the relationship between economy and love today.
Stefan Brüggemann is an artist whose work interrogates the various contradictions of contemporary society, using texts he calls “Hyper-Poems” and incorporating techniques such as appropriation. Back in September 2021, he held the exhibition “ALLOW ACTION (GOLD PAINTINGS)” at KOTARO NUKAGA, Roppongi, presenting works in which he had arranged letter cut-outs to form his original Hyper-Poems on the support, then covered this with gold leaf, his medium of choice. The thinness and sheen of the gold leaf had the effect of throwing into relief the text below, creating works that highlight how today’s social structures are controlled through online connections. In this latest exhibition, “Economy and Love”, Brüggemann once again invites us to interrogate the value of objects in these uncertain times with his new series untitled view, which also uses gold leaf as a medium.
Since antiquity, gold has had spiritual associations, worn for adornment only by the nobility and used symbolically in rituals and burials. It has also long been a highly prized object and symbol of great economic value, as exemplified by UK’s adoption of the gold standard in 1816, which set gold as the basis for the value of currency. Using this medium, which carries such dissonant connotations of spiritualism and economics, Brüggemann forms the surfaces of his works by roughly pasting gold leaf onto the supports. Each work also features a small slit-shaped cutout in the surface that is somewhat reminiscent of a web browser’s search box; this window, this emptiness that lies within the reflective glitter of the gold leaf, is the English letter/word “I” turned on its side. In an era where everything, including economic activities, has become online digital data, the notion of peering through these windows hints at the structures of contemporary society, provoking us to reflect on how each of us is interconnected with the information and objects that together constitute the “I”.
Oriol Vilanova, on the other hand, is presenting in “Economy and Love” some works from his Economical Poem series of paintings that consist of white numbers against a neutral gray background. These paintings are related to the postcard artwork, Mute, a conceptual piece featuring a gallery wall entirely covered with postcards, that Vilanova exhibited in “UNLEASHED SPEED UNLEASHED SPEECH (MISFITS)” in 2020. Critical to this work, which focuses on the nature of the postcard – a medium that carries symbolic and monumental images alongside deeply personal messages – is Vilanova’s research of flea markets and his postcard-collecting there, as he began by visiting markets numerous times a week to purchase postcards that were on sale.
The numbers seen in the Economical Poem paintings represent the communication that occurred between Vilanova and the sellers at the flea markets on his postcard-collecting visits: they are the changing prices that came up in his actual haggling negotiations. Numbers, generally speaking, are merely symbols, and they typically do not signify anything beyond the numerical values they stand for. However, when we learn that the numbers in the paintings detail the marketplace communication that supported Vilanova’s artistic activities, the white numbers against the neutral gray background transform into a code that carries meanings and stories between its lines, just like poetry. We can almost hear the voices of the two people negotiating at the scene.
In this exhibition “Economy and Love”, Brüggemann and Vilanova ask us how we might be able to perceive the economy, a system that forms the basis of our lives and that is most familiar to us, as something emotional. In other words, they reevaluate the concepts of economy and love according to their own artistic grammars (poetry, painting, choice of medium, and so on) and try to tie the two together in ways that differ from ChatGPT’s approach, showing us other possibilities. If we could perceive the economy as having an emotional dimension, then we would be able to place love on the same level as economy, not as its subordinate. This would also provide a way to confront the colossal capitalist economic system, offering another perspective in an era when capitalism’s limitations are being increasingly scrutinized and visions of a “post-capitalist” world are being explored.
■EXHIBITION DETAILS ‘Economy and Love’ May 20 (Sat) to July 8 (Sat), 2023 11:00 - 18:00 (Tue - Sat) *Closed on Sun, Mon and Public Holidays