STEVENSON, Cape Town, South Africa 18 Feb 2021 - 10 Apr 2021
Meschac Gaba, Bank or Economy: Obscure Economy, 2016, detail
The works in Money, Money, Money by Meschac Gaba date from 1994 to 2016, and provide an overview of Gaba’s career-long investigation into the systems that create and uphold social, cultural and monetary value. Across installation, sculpture and prints, currency – whether in use, devalued or decommissioned – is used by the artist as a punchline, discursive tool and embellishment.
Informed by his experiences growing up in Benin – a socialist state until 1990 – and living between its capital of Cotonou and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Gaba observes the structural principles that shape relations between Africa and the Western world. His constructions blur the line between art and the everyday to playfully elucidate both the fragility and totalising nature of systems of exchange.
About the artist’s early works, Okwui Enwezor has written:
‘In the context of the cataclysmic neo-liberal economic policies of the 1980s and 1990s imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and through the Structural Adjustment Programs that regulated the policies in African economies, the idea of value became even sharper. In these works of the early 1990s Gaba frames a concise connection between social value and cultural capital. He links devaluation to money, and money with the practical issues of survival in the midst of the chaos of illiberal impoverishment of masses of Africans. Nevertheless, value in Gaba’s framework is not predicated on the factionalised transformation of absence into presence. It has a concrete locus of power relations.’