NHH Norwegian School of Economics is the leading business school in Norway and it is repeatedly ranked among the top 40 business schools in Europe. The school was founded in 1936 and celebrates its 75 years anniversary in 2011.
NHH perceive itself as an institution with long and proud traditions and as a key player in the Norwegian economy both when it comes to educating future economic- and political elite and as an contributor in contemporary societal debates. However, NHH may also be perceived as an intellectual gatekeeper for capitalism and economic liberalism, a conservative environment where debate only takes place within the “safe” boundaries of the institution and as being little accessible for “normal people”.
To challenge this perception of NHH, the school has in collaboration with Stavanger’s Nuart festival invited some of the world’s most renowned street artists to comment on NHHs ideological foundations on the schools huge walls. The artistic comments from the street artists will be supported by an academic program of presentations and panel debates taking place at NHH on September 6th.
The street art scene has a long tradition of commenting on issues related to capitalism. Despite the fact that their comments have been aimed at the economic- and political elite, their criticism has, more often than not, been overlooked this group. One explanation for this is that the critique that usually come from the street art scene too easily can be shrugged off as being too simplified and overlooking important nuances. Capitalism is not all bad. Nor is it all good. Everyone knows that.
“______ capitalism?” may seem like a simple (and incomplete) question, but it is loaded with information about what the Nuart/NHH art-project is all about. First, the question highlights the many facets of capitalism by leaving the first word blank, and invites both the street artists and the economists at NHH to debate the issue. Is the missing word “love” or maybe it is “hate”. If so, when should we love capitalism and when should we hate it? The mere fact that neither the street art scene (which make a living out of capitalizing their art skills) nor the academic economists at NHH (who make a living researching and teaching about the subject) have a simple answer to such a question, highlight the complicated nature of the subject.
Second, “_____capitalism?” make a clear reference to the history of anti-authoritative capitalist critique coming from the street art scene, where the word “f**k” usually has filled the blank. However, the question mark challenge the street artists to raise their comments to an intellectual level higher than the simple “f**k capitalism!” which has been most prevalent up till now.
Third, “___ capitalism?” makes a clear reference to the 75 years anniversary of NHH. Every anniversary includes looking back at your history, making up status and more importantly, look towards the future. NHH has been an important player in the national- and international capitalistic system by educating future members of the political- and economical elite, so the theme also challenge NHH to look at its historical-, current- and future role in the capitalist system. Do NHH love capitalism? Do people perceive NHH to love capitalism? Is the perception of the public consistent with NHHs own views on the matter?
The project offers a unique opportunity to bring the work of often subversive and anti authoritarian political artists into the “lion’s den” of the economic and political elite. It is a rare chance to generate cultural debate on themes often overlooked by more mainstream institutions. For Street Art, location is everything; context and content are ultimately the most measurable difference between what is written on a bathroom wall and what is placed on the street. This project offers one of the most ideal locations to engage with themes that explore the nature between art and economics, NGO’s and business, humanities and science, idealism and the cold harsh realities of some free market economic theories.
“_____ Capitalism?” is set to be the world’s first site-specific Street Art exhibition whose themes are already firmly contextualized by the actual walls the work is to be produced on. The work featured in “______ capitalism?” will be emblematic of a topical shift in contemporary art practice away from the glare of the “White Cube” and consensus based public art, to a more direct interventionist strategy of placing normally unmediated and unsanctioned works in urban environments.
From Ad busting critiques to political and polemical murals, “______capitalism?” aims to present for the wider public, the opportunity to engage with an institution that sits at the heart of most of our futures. Street Art is also ideally placed to question the hegemony of consensus based public art and the cooption of our public spaces, often “public” only in name, for corporate profit.