The Economy of Modernity
Industrial foam, wood, paint, 240w speakers, table, 24w light, iPod . 1 700 x 500 x 480 mm . 2005


No - o - o - o - o...
Ooohhhhhh... I can’t understand it...
I had an empire in the palm of my hands...
It just slipped through my fingers.
I can’t understand it...
I can’t understand it...


The above is a transcript of a broadcast via iPod on two 250w Yamaha speakers (see image right) of a 25 second sample taken from the film Africa Screams (1949) - starring Budd Abbott and Lou Costello.

"The plan is circular: at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower pierced with many windows. The building consists of cells; each has two windows: one in the outer wall of the cell allows daylight to pass into it; another in the inner wall looks onto the tower, or rather is looked upon by the tower, for the windows of the tower are all dark, and the occupants of the cells cannot know who watches, or if anyone watches." (1)

"…the term proportion, the term mathematics, the term precision… lead to error, for it is not about artistic forms on which mathematical principles are applied, but about obtaining, through fantasy and intuition, forms that in the aesthetic plan, possess similar characteristics." (2)

With The Economy of Modernity, I have tried very hard to poorly epitomize van der Rohe’s belief in an architecture of ‘almost nothing’ - a design much loved at the time by developers, as it was simple, quick and cheap to build. The large mound of industrial foam was built by the ‘empiricists’ – who stressed the importance of basic human needs. The speakers and table were in turn, made by the ‘rationalists’ who followed Gropius’s advocacy of parallel rows of linear blocks. The light was made for purely functional reasons. The artistic impulses I intended to critique with this project are both self-indulgent and self-annihilating - where feeling or rather, acting 'tortured' is understood as having integrity - ultimately alienating and making irrelevant the viewer. While the fact of the monochrome potentially generates a dialogue on the constitutive process of the sovereignty of cultures from peripheral regions in the face of the Eurocentric means: “What if the Company's real objective were wealth derived from a trade in bones? The fragile veneer of western civilisation, the great white lie of the White Man's Burden with its implicit, pseudo-altruism.” (3)

"Whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (4)

“One must desire the ultimate essence even if it is 'contaminated'.” (5)



(1) Victor Burgin
(2) Jorge Romero Brest
(3) Philip Allingham
(4) Matthew 23 : 27
(5) Cy Twombly





David Macauly : 1981
© Hamish Hamilton Ltd.
The Acropolis, Athens

Africa Screams
Starring Abbott & Costello : 1949
© Stone Vision

Whitewased burial cairn at Isandlawana Battle Field
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  Matterhorn Monorail
Disnay World, Florida : 1968
© Walt Disney World
Michael MacGarry