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La Ferme du Buisson presents Beyond Growth. An ideal capitalism…

Centre d’art contemporain de la Ferme du Buisson presents Beyond Growth. An ideal capitalism… on view July 22, 2012. Lecture and screening by Simon Boudvin: Sunday, June 17, 3pm.

© Superflex, McDonalds Floaded, 2009

A model farm, La Ferme du Buisson fed for almost a century a model factory, The Menier chocolate factory, which was one of the great industrial empires of the nineteenth century. In 1848, sensing that the industrial revolution would come along with a social revolution, the Menier dynasty attempted to establish a form of “ideal” capitalism, unique in the history of industry. The production of chocolate grew at a spectacular rate due to technical, architectural and commercial innovations, the invention of advertising and a multinational strategy. Concurrently, Menier campaigned for a tax on capital and built a workers housing development for everyone’s well being, including lodging, a cafeteria, free health care, a school, co-op stores, a savings bank, etc. “It is thus that all of us, leaning on one another, will move forward with an undivided driving force towards progress. It is thus that revolutions and revolts will give way to a constant evolution, continuously replacing the good with the better.”

“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad—or an economist.”
—Kenneth Boulding, The Economy of Love and Fear: A Preface to Grants Economics, 1973

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”
—Shakespeare, Hamlet, circa 1599

In the midst of a worldwide economic and ecological crisis, can we still believe in unlimited growth? The notion of growth, inseparable from the ideas, laws and practices of modernity, is generally perceived as positive, associated with prosperity and progress seen from the perspective of Western humanism. Profit, productivity, accumulation, and expansion became established fundamental values and the myth of growth and development spread throughout five continents. But it is interesting to remember that at the same time as the world shifted towards a system founded on productivism and excess, one part of artistic modernity endorsed an altogether different creed: less is more.

A century later, how do artists address this idea of growth? Many artists investigate the idea of growth, whether in relation to economics, urbanism, physics, biology, or botany, but they also use it as a way to question their own working methods. Echoing a series of exhibitions in Switzerland and Germany in 2011*, Beyond Growth brings together artists who explore the ambivalence of this notion through experiments in physics, biological cycles, mathematical formulas, and critiques of the globalized economy.

Watching a famous American fast food chain being gradually swallowed up by water, we catch sight of a boat slowly crossing a lake as it self-destructs; while exogenous plants overrun the ruins of western cities, fishermen in the Niger Delta attempt to protect their resources from the havoc wreaked by oil companies and Danish households invest in real estate thanks to hurricane Katrina…

Recalling what Naomi Klein termed “disaster capitalism,” these works deal with local as well as international crises while simultaneously reflecting on production and artistic productivity. The artists appropriate the rationale of growth, exploiting its possibilities, such as organic processes of mutation, movement, excess, desire for proliferation and self-creation as well as its limits, such as saturation, overflow, pollution, loss of control and alienated work. While neoliberal economics ignore the phenomena of unproductive expenditure and entropy, i.e. the irreversibility of transformations in energy and matter, these artists place them at the center of their preoccupations to raise questions which are as aesthetic as they are economic, ecological and political.

*On the Metaphor of Growth, Kunsthalle Baseland (Basel), Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt), Kunstverein Hannover (Hanover)

Centre d’art contemporain de la Ferme du Buisson
Allée de la Ferme, F – 77186 Noisiel
Hours: Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday from 2–7:30pm
+33 (1) 64 62 77 77
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