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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MOCA Miami - Claire Fontaine, "Economies"

Last week, I visited MOCA Miami to see Claire Fontaine's exhibit Economies. The works encourage the viewer to think about structured economies, ideas of currency, and aspects of value and exchange within economies that are easily overlooked. The exhibit displayed two-dimensional works, sculptures, installations, and videos.

Change (2006) - Fontaine equips twelve quarters with retractable box cutter blades. This displays the money as a weapon and brings to mind ideas of money as power. 

Untitled (Tennis Ball Sculpture, 2009) is a reaction to the smuggling of contraband into prisons by outsiders throwing "loaded" tennis balls over the fences of prison yards. Tennis balls are littered throughout the floor of the exhibition. They are sliced open to reveal the contents, which range from candy to condoms. Upon entering the prison system these common, everyday items are transformed into currency.

The way the viewer avoids the tennis balls while walking through the exhibition made me think of how the general public avoids thinking about or recognizing the flawed correctional system in this country and others. The first thing I noticed was the large amount of yellow-green spheres scattered about the floor. After leaning over to inspect the contents of the first few balls and taking note of the work's label, the balls became symbolic obstacles. My physical avoidance of the balls while walking through the exhibit looking at the other works reflected my mental avoidance of the prison system throughout my day-to-day life. I am fully aware of the "correctional" system and the fact that it is flawed, but I rarely, if ever, think about it in relation to the aspects of my everyday life. The idealized vision of the prison system that we are taught when we are young is that "bad" people are punished and they go to jail. These "bad" people serve their time and then re-enter the world as productive members of society. This idea leaves out all of the imperfections, mistakes, corruption, shortcuts, wrongful convictions, violence, racism, and other flaws of the justice system. I know that the justice system is flawed, but I also know that Wheel of Fortune comes on the television at 7pm, and those imperfections in the system will not impact my routine of having dinner and solving the bonus puzzle with my girlfriend.

Also featured is a video projection of the manifesto of the late Joseph Stack. A darkened room with some chairs and a screen with scrolling white text are the only components of this piece. Stack was the man who flew a small plane into an IRS field office in Austin, Texas earlier this year out of frustration with the government and the IRS. The manifesto reads as an explanation of his actions and a "suicide note." This piece shows the effects of economies on an individual and the extremes to which people will go to make a statement or have an impact when they feel they have no voice. When this event occurred the headlines were plastered all over the nation's media. When the manifesto is presented in this environment it has a much more personal effect. The quick blast of the media frenzy is absent and the result is somewhat intimate. It felt as if Stack was sitting with you in the dark revealing his inner thoughts, and letting you know how he feels. This piece emphasized the impact of setting, or place, regarding art.


The show was fresh, interactive, and thought-provoking. The effect of making the viewer perceive the individual in relation to economies expands and forces the viewer to think about themselves in relation to society. Economies runs through the 22nd of August.

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