‘Femke Herregraven: How much of capitalism can we see from the moon?’
A feature article for Feral Horses that examined the work of Dutch artist Femke Herregraven, in particular their major works from 2015—2017, including Taxodus, Liquid Citizenship and Malleable Regress.
The central themes in Herregraven’s work that were explored include making intelligible the dynamics of global capitalism, the history of financial trading and its contemporary relationship to taxation and geography.
“Following up from this project came a wish to cognitively map this process of tax avoidance for the everyday subject. Herregraven’s 2013 work, an online video-game called Taxodus, gave the player a chance to embody their favourite multi-national, using live statistics, tax treaties and national tax policies to circumvent their capital across the globe in a game to save as much profit as possible. This online-game, as well as later projects like Liquid Citizenship (2015)—a similar project where you are given an arbitrary national identity and net-worth, and proceed to—using real time statistics—browse your various options of buying citizenship across the globe, and where not possible, your ulterior, shadier options—are both novel attempts by Herregraven to meet the calls of thinkers such as Nick Srnicek, as he outlines the revolutionary necessity of “a navigational medium for making intelligible the dynamics of global capitalism.”
More recently, however, Herregraven’s work has become more speculative. In both Malleable Regress (2016) and her ongoing project, Sprawling Swamps (2016—), Herregraven visualises a fictional scenario, where the interstitial cracks of contemporary legislative and financial borders—ice sheets, waves, swamps, shorelines that drift from one place to another—are populated by futuristic, amphibian microplatforms—Test Den, Swamp of Forked Tongues, Bootleg Tribunal for Nonhumans, Empty Cache; Alpha 1, 2, 3, 4. Platforms established strategically in order to wire-up an ‘optimal high-speed planetary-scale trading infrastructure.’
In her work Malleable Regress, Herregraven has crafted a series of 10 polyurethane-rubber tiles from this digital world, each carrying its own microplatform brand indentity. These moulds are taken from the strange appearance of across UK and EU shores over the last few years, of Tjipetir gutta-percha tiles: slabs of tree-gum made on Indonesian plantations in the late 19th century for the production of the worlds first telegraph cables—the same veins of trade and communication that dominate and structure contemporary finance (it is no coincidence that imperial colonies are the major breeding ground for tax havens). This eerie embodiment fills the objects with the ghosts of failed infrastructures and collapsed worlds, pushing our imagination to the next shift-change in speculative finance. A change with which the majority of us aren’t likely to even witness.”