In September 2009, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hosted the G-20 summit. Fe Gallery in the district of Lawrenceville stages an exhibition at this time called "G-Spot." The artists involved were part of the Visionary Arts Festival, which was organized by Alberto Almarza.
My contribution to the show is a portrait of Milton Friedman. It is a mural, painted directly on the wall, with a sculptural element. This work is part of a series of disjunctive mediation works (social commentaries) aimed at topical subjects. The work contains an acronym, "MF," which can stand for a variety of words. It could be the subject's initials. It could stand for "monetary fund" as in IMF. Alternatively, it could be used as an insult, as in "motherfucker". All of these associations are intended to be read in this work.
The composition is an official portrait (photograph) of Friedman. There is iconography from United States currency, in the form of Victorian-style framing treatments and typography. There is a protruding phallus emerging from the wall and painted splatters in pink throughout the composition. When the viewer observes the entire work, the combined shapes resemble a sperm cell. There is an array of sexual and political messages throughout the painting.
Milton Friedman was an economist and leader of the "New Chicago School" of economics. Recently, much talk has been made about "predatory lending" practices concerning the housing market and the worldwide "economic crisis." If you could extrapolate this phenomenon and apply it to relationships between world economies during the '60s through the '80s, you would have a similar scenario. Milton Friedman's ideas and strategies were at the core.
Economists emerging from the new Chicago school found positions "helping" economically depressed societies to find their way out of the economic hardships they were facing. These were countries like Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Poland, and so on. You might recall that Bolivia's President refused to accept financial help from the United States a year or two ago. Perhaps the forthcoming remarks will shed some light on that situation. At any rate, the Chicago School's method of "help" involved developing an economic "plan" (which was usually described by its proponents as a bomb) to "help grow" the economy of these countries. Here's how it typically worked:
For more details, here are a few good resources:
Milton Friedman has been quoted as stating that "economies flourish when individuals have the freedom to pursue their aims" (very loosely quoted). This statement might make the "free market" sound great. But, we need to pay very close attention to the word "individuals." This statement refers to a time when corporations are legally classified as individuals. Let's get this straight. A corporation is made up of many individuals. If a real individual does something criminal, they might be brought through the judicial system. If that individual claims that one of the other "individuals" within their self told them to commit the crime, they can plea insanity (as in disassociative identity disorder or multiple personality). Therefore, some individuals (corporations included) have limited liability via the insanity plea.
Correlations between sexual reproduction, disease, and the macroeconomic scenarios described previously are made throughout this work. Like a sperm into an egg, the economic "plans" developed by the Chicago School were inserted into these societies and exploded, releasing a whole set of programmatic outcomes, like the genetic code during the reproductive process. The sperm head is the portrait frame from the 1 Dollar Bill with Friedman's head directly in the center.
Emerging from Milton Friedman's nose is a wooden, painted phallus. The phallus is painted with bubbles and wrinkles to suggest disease, warts, or age. The placement also suggests both the subculture of experimental sexuality and circus clowns. These associations are read as being comic, exciting, or disturbing. Depending on whom you ask, people have these mixed reactions to clowns and experimental sex. Therefore, these subjects are generally not addressed publicly in American culture. Clowns tend to be associated exclusively with public entertainment for children. Experimental sex tends to be associated solely with private entertainment for adults - the combination of the two sets up an uncomfortable comparison in our cultural psychology.
There is pink paint, splatter textures cascading down from the portrait. The pink splatters suggest bodily fluids, excitement, celebration, or sarcasm. It's linked symbolically to the head of the phallus, implying disease being spread around and making a mess, very much like volatile economies such as those of the United States.
The acronym "MF" is derived from a 1 Dollar bill. The typography is unmistakable as that which is used in American currency. The "motherfucker" association can be interpreted in a variety of ways. We often use this language to insult someone. Symbolically, one can make the jump to "mother earth," seeing as how Friedman's economics have played a pivotal role in the degradation of human lives in many cultures. Our offense at this term must relate to the archetypal mothers, such as Mother Earth or the Virgin Mary. It points to the absurdity in western culture, where sexual expression is treated with shame or embarrassment. (For further examples of this, Joseph Campbell makes many comparisons between the treatment of natural processes in many different cultures).