Prague, the DOX centre for contemporary art and a remarkable installation called the Supermarket of the Dead.
The city itself (Prague) is an architectural timeline of major historical events. Its buildings and monuments chart an often turbulent past and are a major reason for it being one of Europe’s favourite tourist destinations. But the city is very much alive and you can always rely on the Czechs to be at, or not too far away from, the cutting edge of contemporary thought.
The DOX is a fabulous concept. It sees its mission as promoting critical thinking on the issues that are shaping the contemporary world and its motto is:
Today, when more and more people tend to think dangerously alike, art’s capacity to suspend, even for a moment, our habitual ways of seeing may be its greatest value.
The Soul of Money is one of the current exhibitions at DOX and is a striking collection of works by contemporary artists questioning the taken for granted role of money as the bedrock of the global economy. Using images, installations, quotations and written material it presents a powerful challenge to the growing inequalities and unsustainable nature of our global economy based on consumption and reliance on money.
The installation that blew me away was the Supermarket of the Dead. The artist explains that even today in Chinese culture, ‘Paper replicas of money and goods are ritually burned as offerings to win the favours of ancestors, gods and spirits in an afterlife which is thought to mirror the economy of the real world.’ Brought together is a collection of paper imitation TVs, laptops, designer shoes and bags, cans of beer, spirits (the liquid sort), bank notes and, bizarrely, KFC family meal buckets. The artist goes on to say, ‘One becomes aware … of the quasi-religious fetishism inherent in the consumption of branded products, whose benefits for the consumer lie not in their use but in participation in a system of meanings…’. That’s pretty neat critical and theological reflection that applies equally to Western Christianity and raises the question of what exactly is the system of meanings that justifies our obsession with branded products.
Thanks, Prague, for being such a wonderful city; thanks, DOX, for such a great vision and thanks, Katka, for always being out there on the edge!