Whitney Biennial 2017
Audio Guide Playlist


Tal Beery: One of the early decisions in designing Debtfair was that we would show the work not on the walls but inside the walls. For us, this represents a hidden yet pervasive reality that we seek to uncover. Within the cutout shape there are artworks of thirty artists who joined Debtfair. The works are framed between the exposed wall studs. Above and below the artworks are gray boards which serve as placeholders for artworks and symbolize a continuation of so many more unnamed artists who are affected by debt, but whose actual artworks are not present.

In creating this project, our group had to select thirty artists from more than 500 who joined the project, so we acted more or less like curators. However, while curators usually select artworks based on content or quality, we selected these artists based on information relating to the kinds of debts they hold. You will notice that behind the artworks are custom wallpapers of different colors and patterns. These patterns demarcate the different “bundles” that we are exhibiting. The word bundle is not used by accident—it is meant to echo the bundles of debt that are traded by banks and investment firms.

If you look to the left of the wall, the pattern behind the artworks contains small images of the Puerto Rican flag, Banco Popular, and First Bank of Puerto Rico. The artists in this section each have a direct relationship to these financial institutions and to the Puerto Rican debt crisis. In 2015, the U.S. government and large hedge funds signed a deal called Promesa with Puerto Rico that bound the territory with heavy austerity measures. Puerto Rico is effectively a modern-day colony of the United States; its residents do not have full citizenship, its resources have been plundered, and its economy is designed to fill the coffers of U.S. corporations. The ten artists on the left side of the wall have been affected by this situation.


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