Work on the first component of the Neoliberal Machine began in August 2009. The piece, entitled Faire-Part (“Wedding Announcement”), was created by three members of each collective working in tandem – in person in Kinshasa and over Skype from Brussels, Belgrade and São Paulo. It is a very large cloth banner (1.5m x 5m): a dual play on the history of revolutionary banners and corporate banner advertisements. Thematically and visually, it addresses notions queried (often in a highly critical manner) by French sociologist Alain Bihr in his book Neoliberal NewLingo: “flexibility”, “state”, “human capital”, “public debt”, “equality”, “individuality”, “insecurity”, “liberalisation”, “liberty”, “market”, “globalisation”, “property”, “reform”, “general interest”, “civil society” and “workfare”. Initially produced as a collaged and painted two-dimensional object, the banner was then serigraphed to take on a glossy, mock-corporate appearance.
The banner incorporates several references to bar codes, underscoring its status as a “corporate” product and highlighting a central theme of the Neoliberal Machine project: the disconnect between collective, in situ art production (the method used to create the banner) and the place of art and artists in the neoliberal economy. Also incorporated in the banner is a URL. This is printed on the surface of the banner and on business cards distributed to viewers when the banner is exhibited. In time, the URL will link to a website exploring the complexity of Internet exchanges in, between and about African megacities like Kinshasa. Unlike an ordinary URL, it will not lead into a single website, but will function like a Russian doll, moving users through a series of increasingly intimate spaces. Once “inside”, viewers will be able to access archival data about the Neoliberal Machine: footage, email correspondence, PDF texts and photos documenting (or deconstructing) the project and its artwork components.
Images of the Faire-Part banner in the making, and of its first public appearance at la Friche Laiterie in Strasbourg, France:
Faire-Part, the title of the banner created as part of the Neoliberal Machine project, means “Wedding Announcement”. This points to another key focus of the project. At the heart of the Machine is the concept of marriage, defined by the collectives, on the one hand, as a means of accessing social and economic resources and breaking through boundaries imposed by neoliberal states and economies (borders that stem immigration flows; rules that limit access to affordable health care, housing and education for the foreign poor) and, on the other hand, as an institution that tends to limit freedom (particularly as regards gender roles and identity construction). Engagement with the institution of marriage is structured by the space that calls forth the project as a whole: the city of Kinshasa. It references the importance of marriage as a tool for building social capital in Kinshasa and the place that marriage occupies in the imaginary of young Kinois hoping to wed abroad as a means of acquiring foreign (European or North American) visas and residency permits.
The Neoliberal Machine takes the form of several interconnected components (objects and performances, videos, still images, texts and websites). Among these is a series of still images and web-designed pieces centring on the theme of marriage. All are associated with an elaborate public performance staged by the two collectives in Kinshasa in July 2009: a wedding ceremony officially uniting the two crews, complete with widely disseminated web-announcements (actual faire-parts) and formal portraits of the bride and groom, witnesses, officials, family members and guests. A second wedding ceremony (or is it a first anniversary celebration?) takes place in Kinshasa in July 2010.
Images of the first wedding ceremony, starring EzaOKUP members: Pauline Squelbut as the bride, Androa Mindre as the groom, Christian Botale as a visiting ancestor and, as witnesses, Méga Mingiedi(in blue overalls) and Kennedy Dinanga (white shirt and briefcase).
The collectives are also planning a virtual wedding space. Online visitors will be able to investigate, plan and book “dream wedding packages”, including made-to-order ceremonies and “first nights” in a “dream motel”. The motel will exist in two forms: as a concept online and as a physical space available for perusal by visitors when the Neoliberal Machine is on exhibit. In cyberspace, the motel will contain images of furnishings. On the ground (the physical installation), it will contain an array of objects created by members of the two collectives, positioned like artworks in a Las Vegas or a Sun City hotel suite, atop pedestals recalling art gallery installations.