Money secures domination. Money is anonymous and abstract. Historically, this link between power and quantifiability has changed the world. Money can be accumulated infinitely, unlike commodities or labor services. Money thus made way for injustice on a new scale and continues to secure it today.
Anthropologist David Graeber points out that money is trivialized. He shows that the common narrative of the emergence of money as a simplification of barter falls far short. He demonstrates that the invention of money is essentially about financing wars.
In global capital flows, money symbolically carries every previous transaction. It bears traces of wars, arms exports and slavery. All who use money are implicated – even those who benefit only indirectly from global transactions, in the form of art grants and salaries. No one can locate themselves outside of global connections, even if the comfort of living in a rich country obscures those connections.
Art is a money-laundering machine: money with a long transaction history is fed into the art system and may come out cleaner. Even in a comparatively well-functioning democracy, arms exports to civil war zones and art coexist – with the latter providing basic hygiene.
In the artistic action of money laundering, the artists expose their own entanglement in global capital flows, address their own participation in the perpetuation of global injustice. The project is a symbolic act, 98% desperate and 2% funny. Washing attempts to strip money of its anonymity and remove the patina of oblivion.
Depending on the occasion, new forms and formats are always sought. The first realization of this idea took place in 2019 as an ensemble piece in the Berlin scene of contemporary music theater. The ensemble MaNN AUS OBST#5, at that time consisting of Anton Vasilyev, Edith Steyer, Laia RiCa, Maja von Kriegstein and Wieland Möller elaborated an evening in which elements of sound installation, improvised music and post-dramatic theater were assembled into a plaintive-comic-absurd wash factory. In the characters of the participants, GDR history, revolution in El Salvador and a mid-level position at a German university, improvised music as an often underfunded and new music as the most publicly funded branch of modern art met. The shared longing for an alternative to individualism and turbo-capitalism with simultaneous great diversity of political backgrounds, musical languages and working methods became a productive challenge.
Now Maja vK and Anton X are taking up the idea again as Team Detox and turning it into a long-term project. Money Laundering is designed as an ongoing series of events, the parts of which can take place at different locations. Depending on the occasion and the client, the form of these actions varies: Performance, sound installation, conceptual art, concert, flash mob.
This text was first published in in February 2023 in Positionen. Texte zur aktuellen Musik.