One Economy

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One Economy

Artist statement:

One Economy consists of a combination of four images. The primary images are the portraits of two heads of state: Barack Obama (president of the USA) and Hu Jintao (paramount leader of the PRC) pictured here:

The other two images are of American and Chinese paper currency.

The two portraits are cut up into horizontal strips and combined with one another while the images of currency are layered over top with a low opacity setting. The placement of the layers is significant for the American currency is held over top of the image of Obama for the the top half of the image and over the image of Jintao for the bottom half, similarly, Chinese currency moves from Jintao to Obama from the top of the image to the bottom.

The title of the image refers to the interconnectedness of the American and Chinese economy inasmuch as many of the cheap goods bought in the US market have historically been manufactured in China in addition to more recent investments in American industry by Chinese companies, and the fact that China owns trillions of American debt. China has essentially been the factory where the American dream has been built and manufactured before being shipped to America to be bought and sold to US consumers. Some of these trends can be summarized in the graph below, taken from Spiegel:

Additionally, the title may be interpreted more generally in the sense that with globalization we have tied all the world together into one economy and that where there is resistance, the system is imposed through the influence and clout of more powerful countries and their corporations through the biased arbitration of international economic bodies such as the WTO. For one example, we can simply look at the current issue happening in Greece where its fiscal policy is in large part being determined by the rest of Europe because of the influence it would have on the stability of the euro.

The low opacity of the money over the images of the statesmen and the relative undetectablility of the change in the layer over which the currency is placed is meant to emphasize the underlying importance of such economic issues to other socio-political issues even if it is not a directly visible one as well as the seemingly unnoticed massive trade deficit with China that we now find ourselves in. The idea that he who controls the purse strings is the one who is actually in control (a la Niall Ferguson) has many implications right now as far as US economic and foreign policy goes, and especially because of the cultural and governmental differences between China and the US who have been getting into fights lately about climate change, Taiwan, and the Internet.

As far as the image itself, the combination of many horizontal slices from two images seems to have produced something that is recognizable as a face but because of the different qualities and placement of elements in each image creates an interminable sense of identifying a face without ever reaching the identified face. I found myself trying to gel the elements of the image into a cohesion but found that I could not and was only simply able to extract certain specific elements from it (as I imagine someone with prosopagnosia would). Obama's smile and Jintao's hair are the two most distinctive elements that appear, in my opinion, with the smile being somewhat reminiscent of the Cheshire cat's in Alice in Wonderland.

The horizontal slices also are reminiscent of the interlaced video image which itself can suggest some productive readings for the image. In the video image, instead of getting frames per second, you get fields per second where each field gives you about half of the scan lines of an image. As such, you are never actually seeing a full image in video but only a rapid succession of half images. If we look at this image as if it were a sort of video still, we could say that both Jintao and Obama have wound up being different fields of the image where each one alone gives you only half of the image. As such, what appears is the new neccesity of the Sino-American relationship in order to form the complete image. This, therefore, also implies that each leader on his own is necessarily limited and incomplete vis-a-vis international situations he cannot control that nevertheless affects him. As such, Obama and Jinato are incomplete as leaders, each requiring the other while neither being full on his own, and yet, though both are needed to complete the images, the image is disorienting and bizarre. It may be complete but it is uneasy and precarious and this is why the identification of the face is difficult. It doesn't want to be split, it wants to be unified, as such, you have all the current Sino-American antagonisms as one political entity is seeking to be master of the other so that this picture can be just Obama's portrait or just Jintao's portrait. And this is the historical moment in which we find ourselves where US hegemony is still in full force but beginning to feel worried about its staying power against a rapidly growing China that has already challenged it on issues of the Internet, Iran, Taiwan, and global warming.


Chimerica's Monetary Management: China Has a Plan, America Doesn't (02/16/10)

Interview with John and Doris Naisbitt: China is a Country Without an Ideology (02/05/10)

U.S. Deal with Taiwan has China Retaliating (01/30/10)

The Rise of Chimerica: Two Superpowers Take on the World (01/29/10)

China Rebuffs on Clinton Internet Warning (01/22/10)

Reluctant Partners: Global Crisis Makes US More Dependent on China Than Ever (11/11/09)



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