The secret of the gift: The movement of value in Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska’s Capital


This was an essay commissioned under scrutiny by the editorial board on Canadian journal/magazine Parachute. Among PARACHUTE’s authors are world-renowned theoreticians who have helped define the parameters of postmodernism and understood its ramifications. Other contributors have helped to inscribe innovative critical approaches into the history of contemporary art. Parachute is printed in both English and French. The essay, set out to examine theoretical notions of the gift in the 2001 project Capital, at Tate Modern in London, in which Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska staged an act of gift giving. In an area set aside for visitors to sit, read a selection of books laid out on tables and admire the view across the Thames, gallery staff would select a recipient for the gift, presenting it with the words “This is for you”. This act would be repeated several times a day, not only at Tate Modern, but also across the river at the Bank of England Museum. The act performed a gesture of reciprocity. An institution that relies on money drawn from taxation gave something back, implying the possible need for a subsequent act of return from the recipient. In staging this central transaction within the two co-operating institutions as the central gesture of the project, Capital attempts to suggest the complexity of the relationships that constitute a financial economy and an artworld. Most substantially realised through its most lasting form, that of the book, Capital is able to articulate and sustain a potential comparison between these two systems. Both institutions, it is suggested, underwrite the integrity of two parallel and immensely complicated economies, guaranteeing value and ensuring stability. Within these two economies, there is an ever increasing sense of their immateriality, or at least a degree to which their materiality is perpetually contested and reconfigured

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oaioai:ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk:785Last time updated on 1/11/2016

This paper was published in UAL Research Online.

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