Sometimes the most complex issues hide under the shroud of a simple statement. As an English major in my undergrad and grad days, I was instructed to interrogate the complexity of social issues, or, to tell you what really happened, to go crazy arguing points about topics that never have an answer. That’s probably why I had such a difficult time this past Friday wrapping my head around Steve Lambert’s interactive portable public art piece “’Capitalism works for me!’ True/False Project” presented by Real Art Ways.
But let me back up for a second. Last week, Sarah Brozna, Communications Coordinator at Real Art Ways, invited me to check out Lambert’s project in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square during lunch on Friday (May 11). “Capitalism works for me! True/False Project” presents passersby with the opportunity to vote on whether or not they agree with Capitalism, which it tallies on a digital scoreboard. Given its portability, the art piece can ask the question to individuals in tons of different locations; for example, before its stop in Blue Back Square, the project was placed at Manchester Community College to sample the students’ opinions. In an election year supercharged with economic issues highly publicized by the recession and the Occupy: Wall Street movement, now seems like a particularly poignant time to address the inquiry.
After a quick stroll through Blue Back Square (which is a nice way of putting that I got lost), I met up with Sarah and a few other staff members from Real Art Ways to tackle the complex topic of Capitalism hidden behind big letters and vibrant reds, whites and blues. Although places like Blue Back Square serve those thriving under the system, in the context of the art piece I couldn’t help but think of all the people unable to participate in the cute shops and restaurants of the location, or those who don’t bloom under Capitalism at all.
Existing in that gray area between good and bad, I tried hammering out my thoughts about Capitalism with Sarah and the other Real Art Ways staff members, who offered both helpful advice and more perplexities to the topic. Despite my nature to find a solution that recognizes both the positives and negatives of Capitalism, as I stepped up to the podium to declare a choice, the art piece presented no option for a middle ground—only two buttons: TRUE or FALSE. In a sense, the project forces you to agree or disagree with the project’s statement as it pertains directly to your life in spite of the national and international ramifications of Capitalism. Although I pressed one button in the end, neither option would have left me any more satisfied with my decision than the other.
And perhaps that’s the point of the project—to make people choose when both options don’t entirely feel right, thereby exposing and exploiting a flaw in the system as a whole. Or maybe it’s just to make people think about a topic they face consciously and unconsciously everyday. After all,
Sometimes the most complex issues hide under the shroud of a simple statement.
Much thanks to Sarah and the entire staff of Real Art Ways for inviting me to and helping bring this pensive project to our community. If you want to vote yourself, make some time to visit Creative Cocktail Hour at Real Art Ways this Thursday (May 17) at 6pm, where “Capitalism works for me! True False Project” will be set-up and ready to intrigue you as it did for me.