Currently on view at the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria
As SUPERFLEX (Danish, formed 1993), the artists Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, Jakob Fenger, and Rasmus Nielsen produce collaborative projects they call “tools,” suggesting both functionality and the potential for modification by the participant. The group’s works have included video, installation, performance, sculpture, architecture, urban design, and even plumbing. Originally inspired by art collectives of the late 1950s through the 1970s such as Fluxus and the Situationist International (both still influential in Denmark in the 1990s)—as well as contemporary groups like Art & Language, Critical Art Ensemble, General Idea, and Group Material—in the end, SUPERFLEX opted to form a company: a business entity that they consider to be “the most flexible identity you could have in a capitalist society.”1
Practical critique (or detournement) of capitalism is the driving force behind SUPERFLEX’s work. Their projects often offer up a seemingly low-value product, which can be viably inserted into the marketplace, or, alternatively, might remove something of value from the financial system. In Lost Money, 2009, conceived in the wake of the twenty-first century’s Great Recession, two thousand coins of local currency are scattered across the ground by the artists, then permanently affixed to the surfaces where they fall.2 Installed at The Contemporary Austin in a glittering array of U.S. pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, fifty-cent pieces, and dollar coins, the work has particular resonance sited on the patio and around the picturesque fountain of the Driscoll Villa, as the property was constructed with significant wealth in the period before the Great Depression and also overlooks many grand homes to the west. Removed from circulation, this “carpet of non-value,” as the artists describe the work, transforms the currency into “objects of frustrated desire.”3 Playfully resisting visitors’ temptation to gather the seemingly abandoned coins, Lost Money serves as a “tool” for unlocking an alternative, utopian society freed from its fixation on consumption and acquisition.
Lost Money is an addition to the museum's permanent collection, purchased with funds provided by the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation.
1 SUPERFLEX (Rasmus Nielsen), interviewed by Phong Bui, The Brooklyn Rail, February 3, 2010.
2 Lost Money is often exhibited with The Financial Crisis (Session I–IV), 2009, a twelve-minute film in which a hypnotist with an “invisible hand” guides the viewer through stages of economic turmoil, calmly and (un)helpfully pointing out “the system is collapsing and there is nothing you can do about it.”
3 Exhibition catalogue, The Corrupt Show and the Speculative Machine (Mexico City: Fundacíon/Colección Jumex, 2013), 195.