The financial collapse that hit the world in 2008 may be remembered as one of the greatest missed opportunities for the world’s environmental movement.
The shock waves to the global economy provided a narrow window of opportunity during which, stunned, people questioned for a brief moment the wisdom of our culture of unsustainable excess. But no practical and implementable solutions have been forthcoming.
At Art Basel, Miami Beach in December 2008, Chinese artist Zheng Guogu presented an installation called “Lehman Gate” – a commemoration of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the rapid collapse of the world’s financial system that followed.
A series of images installed as rooms through which you could enter and exit were coupled with a ‘Commemorative Plaque’, to create an installation that made visible the consequences of the arrogance and excesses of unbridled capitalism as epitomized by Wall Street’s institutions and their negligent (and often complicit) regulators.
I remember walking through the hugely popular installation and having the same feeling that one gets when confronted by images of any other major human catastrophe. The images had a powerful effect when viewed in the immediate aftermath of the economic collapse.
I should have realized then that, just as we move past and easily forget other catastrophes, ignoring their lessons and getting back to our usual ways as quickly as possible, so it would be with this economic collapse.
At the time of writing of this post, the S&P 500 has hit its highest point in a year and the start of an economic recovery is visible. People’s minds have turned back to how quickly they can get back to their pre-collapse patterns of spending and consumption. A unique window of opportunity for change is closing.
It also seems ironic that it should be a Chinese artist presented by a Chinese group (Vitamin Creative Space) that should have presented this installation. Here is an extract from the commemorative plaque:
Slippage Gate (Who is picking up the tab for the USA )
Lehman Gate (Who is to be rescued with 8500 hundred million US dollars)
“A Violent cure” Is the commemorative plaque
In the movement of an accelerated history
Sorry, the medicine’s efficacy is difficult to anticipate
We are no longer brothers
If trust is betrayed