Features

The (Other) C-Word

by John d'Addario on July 9, 2011

(via Steve Lambert/kickstarter.com)

Quick—what’s the dirtiest word you can think of? The one that makes people the most uncomfortable? The one you wouldn’t dare say at a party for fear you’ll spend the rest of the evening alone in a corner with everyone around you doing their best to pretend you’re not there?

Artist Steve Lambert, who was featured here on Hyperallergic last year, is trying to fund a public art project he hopes will foster dialogue about something we all have to live with, but which most of us don’t have much of an opportunity to talk about in a meaningful or constructive way:

Starting a conversation about Capitalism is like walking up to a stranger and asking, “Can I talk to you about Jesus?” The word “capitalism” is a red flag. And for good reason – pretty soon some dude is talking your ear off about “The System, man.” Ugh.

At the same time, capitalism is discussed every day using euphemisms like “jobs,” “job creation,” “the business climate,” and discussing whatever “crisis” is deemed relevant; a housing crisis, financial crisis, social security crisis, tax crisis, or fill-in-the blank crisis. But the whole is rarely a topic of frank discussion – much less alternatives or meaningful reform.

(via Steve Lambert/kickstarter.com)

To fix the situation, Lambert is proposing a mobile polling station, built around one of his signature custom-built signs, that will make appearances in cities across the United States and which will ask visitors to answer true or false to the simple statement “Capitalism works for me!”. An electronic counter will keep tally of the respective votes and the voting mechanism will be programmed with a 30 second delay between votes to allow participants the chance to discuss their points of view and ideas for reform.

(via Steve Lambert/kickstarter.com)

Lambert, whose previous projects include a fake edition of the New York Times announcing the end of the Iraqi War and a Firefox extension that replaces web ads with artwork, is hoping to raise $9500 to make the project happen. He’s also offering all kinds of nifty pledge incentives including original artwork, personal appearances, and even a phone call from his mom and dad (who look like very nice people) thanking you for your support. If that’s not the very definition of a grass-roots project, we don’t know what is.  (And admit it: you’d love to see what FoxNews wil have to say about this, wouldn’t you?)

 

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  • P J

    Interesting idea, yet it comes from the same guy who fakes a major newspaper for instant notoriety, so who is to say he won’t fake these results. (It also seems like he “sold out” his parents too.)
    I’m also guessing that capitalism will work in his favor, as he kisses up to the rich art collectors who feel guilty concerning the contradiction of their wealth and their supposed socialistic beliefs.

    • http://twitter.com/stevelambert Steve Lambert

      Hi PJ. Well, there really were hundreds of thousands of those newspapers. A lot of people can tell you they were real, and this project will be once I can get it off the ground. My parents offered to help and this is what we came up with together. They enjoy talking to people.

      And man, I wish I knew more rich art collectors who I could kiss up to! That would be great. Then I wouldn’t have to spend all this time raising money for the project from so many small donations on Kickstarter. But I’m gonna keep my eye out for rich art collectors when we debut the project at this non-profit space and out on the streets of Cleveland. Eventually I’ll find some!

      • P J

        Steve, I appreciate an actual response from the artist; and a well tempered one considering my initial comment. (To clarify your misunderstanding about what I had said about “fakes”: it was in relation to the paper itself, not in how many were actually produced. Although, “hundreds of thousands”… exactly how many would that be?)
        That being said, I can’t shake the idea that you are a sensationalist. Well, Orson Welles had his start as one, so, you are in good company then. For an even more charged topic, why didn’t you state: “Obama works for me!” Or “Religion works for me!” Then again, actually challenging people with a direct subject that EVERYONE can easily understand is frowned on in this great unseen art world of ours. (And then you can really kiss those collectors away, imaginary or otherwise.)
        I also live in the northeast region, so “non profit” is a joke to me. Such organizations can definitely rake in the cash.

    • http://www.dannyolda.com Danny Olda

      whoops, I accidentally hit ‘like’ when I meant to hit reply.  Anyhow, I wouldn’t be so concerned about voter accuracy – especially if neither choice will when something for most votes.  I think creating dialogue is more the point here.

      I think its a good idea.  In the art world we’re used to talking about capitalism and discussing the hottest neo-Marxist what not.  However in the outside world, people rarely feel comfortable talking about something so basic.   

  • http://twitter.com/timnyc Tim

    I’d definitely fund this worthy project if capitalism weren’t already not working for me. $599 root canal copay, youch!

    • http://twitter.com/stevelambert Steve Lambert

      I know what you mean. $1 gets you connected to the project, receeiving updates as it progresses over the next year and beyond. The project is expensive, but more importantly, great things will happen when we have lots of people connected to it. If you like the project, I’d love for you to come along…

  • Anonymous

    we will now take this opportunity to announce that we think capitalism sucks!  yay!  thank you for giving us an excuse!

    but seriously, if more american persons did not magically and erroneously conflate capitalism with democracy, and thanks, btw, joe mccarthy and ilk for that, but if a serious conversation could actually be had, we’d be all for it, and if this art project does the trick and doesn’t turn into a stunt, we’re all for it!  we like the poll– it seems basic, but if it is untampered-with, it may be quite informative! 

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