Wednesday, 18 March 2009

An alternative to « keep spending and stay in debt »

Multi-disciplinary visual arts exhibition Affluenza is currently taking place in Clerkenwell, London, from 19 to 28 March.

This project intiated by photographer and Samaritan volunteer Hege Sæbjørnsen is a challenging artistic response to the gloomy atmosphere reinforced - if not produced - by the financial crisis. It will not be enough to reverse the trend for sure but this project, at least, raises original questions instead of giving preconceived economic answers. It is opening a dialogue between artists, thinkers and the viewers about money, consumption and anxiety in postmodern societies. Focusing on the destructive impact of greed that explains to a large extent the recent banks failures, Affluenza aims to 'raise awareness and propose constructive solutions'.

The place will be a meeting point for confirmed and emerging artists. Rasha Khahil is one of those. She is currently completing an MA at the Royal College of Art. 'I'm really excited to be a part of this project because it has social implications'. Her work as a freelance designer is photography based and showing people who perform their identity between public and private sphere. Rasha will present an installation piece entitled 'M for Stalking'. She says: 'People spend so much time on social networking. Spying on each other. I'm doing it myself... This piece started when I stalked my boyfriend on the internet. I like this theme of social anxieties in postmodern cities.' She notices that being from a different nationality increases the feeling of strangeness.

Hege Sæbjørnsen, organizer and project manager, explains: 'All in London is about making money but we need to invest emotionally, not only financially'. She thinks that 'although it's a breakdown, the situation we are facing is a golden opportunity for bringing something together.' This project is not only a platform for 40 international artists, it is also a place with teenager seminars. It is willing to tackle what clinical psychologist Oliver James defines as 'the disease of affluence': a contagious anxiety that results from continual insatisfaction.
Affluenza is a pilot project supported by the Samaritans and the New Economic Foundation. A swap party is previewed in addition to talks entitled 'We all make the economy, stupid!' and 'How to de-brand your life'.

Affluenza exhibition
211 St. John's Street, Clerkenwell (nearest tube: Farringdon)

A version of this article was first published on City Online Magazine