ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, 09|17|2011 – 02|05|2012
Michael Stevenson
* 1964 in Inglewood (NZ), lives and works in Berlin (DE)

The Fountain of Prosperity, 2006

When in 1949 the New Zealand economist Bill Phillips designed “MONIAC,” a hydraulic device to illustrate national economic processes, globalization in its present form was unimaginable. Thus MONIAC could illustrate export and import only by having water drained from or fed into the hydraulic system. Yet, in its day MONIAC was a success; by means of water levels in the individual tanks, it could directly visualize the relations and workings of investment, taxes, and welfare on the economic system – and soon a dozen such devices stood in educational institutions around the world. Legend has it that in 1953 the Central Bank of Guatemala acquired a model. The artist Michael Stevenson took research about the whereabouts of this model as the occasion to address its mixed metaphors by building a replica of MONIAC. Left by itself in the exhibition space and abandoned to possible dereliction, the old-fashioned machine illustrates the gap between the abstractions of economics and their reality – and the moments in which the economy subordinates reality to itself. When in 1954 the CIA overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala and degraded the country to the status of a “banana republic” for decades, this was done largely at the urging of the American corporation United Fruit Company, which saw its business threatened by the impending land reforms. (JB)


The Fountain of Prosperity,