Capitalism Works for Me! True/False
Like it or not capitalism is the economic system that the U.S. government follows. But what does the individual really think about it? Does it work for them? In a twenty-foot-long, attractive, vintage marquis sign, Steve Lambert poses this question, without prejudice, to anyone who is willing to share their opinion. Lambert crafted the sign to mimic the appeal of advertisements and it is familiar enough to attract a diverse group of people. Typically, capitalism is only discussed in academic settings. Lambert, however, has gone out of his way to gather opinions and stories for people all across multiple spectrums; right wing to left wing, wealthy to poor, etc. In Capitalism Works for Me! True/False Lambert disrupts patterns and gives everyone the equal opportunity to share their honest opinion and discuss the question.
The Installation itself consists of the large eye catching sign, with lights lining each letter of the word capitalism, in a way glorifying it’s attractiveness, comparing it to the draws of Vegas, Broadway and theatre. The words “Works for me!” are in the center of the sign in an art deco font. Underneath are digital counters with true and false written over them. There is a podium with a prompt that reads “in my life this is:”. Under the prompt are two buttons labeled true and false for the audience to cast their vote. Rather than leaving the question so black and white, Lambert also stands next to the installation ready to talk to those who have opinions and Interview those who are willing. It is refreshing to see an artist who is making art that is accessible to everyone and has such a strong message that begs for contemplation.
This project is a great example of the way that Lambert represents complex ideas in simple straight forward ways that reference people’s everyday lives. The participatory aspect of Capitalism Works for Me! True/False, is similar to the voting process in America that many are accustomed to. People make a decision, based on their beliefs and their opinion is thrown into a larger collection of “votes”. The difference is the profoundness of the question which people are asked to vote on and the amount of their own personal life experience they are asked to put into their answer. In a nation of people who are all supposedly “created equal”, this project brings empowerment to groups of people that systems like government fail to. On his website, Lambert features a list of all the jobs he has held in his life. Based on the fact that he has worked in over forty different positions, it is not surprising that he can relate to a large variety of the general public.
This installation not only provides a public display and graphing of personal opinions, but also serve as a protest, a visual representation of what the majority (in a certain area) want to see changed. Also interesting is that the “polls” often yielded relatively even results. In this regard the installation was more a “conversation starter”, a way to get people thinking about the system, that has been in place so long many people don’t think about it, or alternatives. By asking people their opinions rather than forcing an opinion on them, Lambert yields conversations ration than conflicts and avoids forcing people into talking about a topic they do not want to discuss. The result is that people are not forced to question or be shamed for their ideals and opinions but are inspired to open their mind to new possibilities and shift their perspective to the perspective of someone with a different background.
Artist’s website: https://visitsteve.com/
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-campbell/capitalism-works-for-me-steve-lambert_b_3052401.html by Phil Campbell