In Greater New York at PS1, Ben Thorp Brown Looks at the Toys of Megamoney

THE DAILY PIC: His video reveals the tchotchkes at the heart of global finance.


THE DAILY PIC (#1462): The smartest move that MoMA PS1 made with its latest “Greater New York” – the survey that’s the subject of this whole week of Pics – was to realize that you couldn’t mount a show about culture in New York and ignore the social and especially economic changes that have taken place around it. My single favorite work in the show gets at where those changes have left us today.

The piece is Toymakers, a 2014 video in which the artist Ben Thorp Brown looks at the absurd world of “deal toys”, the ludicrous tchotchkes that get handed around to the principals involved in any of today’s megatransactions. (Click on my still to screen a clip.) When an entity named G8 Education raises $260,000,000 in fixed rate notes, the moment simply has to be commemorated with some gawdawful piece of bling.

Thorp Brown has simply pointed his camera, documentary-style, at the workers who make those ôbjets (not) d’art in a factory in Quebec. Although the factory’s goal is to make the toys look like sleak products of capitalist mass production – gleaming acrylic seems the material of choice – in fact they are the product of laborious high-tech hand crafting, a kind of 21st-century equivalent of the czars’s Fabergé. And those workers, like most of their fine-artist brethren, are indeed at work for today’s czars. The knout has simply been replaced with the promise of a job that won’t disappear – or not at least until there’s money to be made by letting you go.

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