The Topography of Economic Power
“What in the end really fascinated and intrigued me was how each of these individuals creates their own living and work space. What objects they collect around them and what colors they prefer. In a global perspective it is really interesting to see how powerful men and women in countries like Japan, Saudi Arabia, the USA, or Switzerland deal with power and how they visualize their position of wealth through objects and spaces.” (Jacqueline Hassink)
What do the centers of economic power look like in the post-industrial age? How do women present the corporate identity of the largest automobile manufacturer? What do dressing rooms say about big fashion designers, and how do they influence their customers?
Conceptual artist Jacqueline Hassink examines questions like these. Her very first project is a key work in her oeuvre: in the 1990s she photographed the boardroom tables at the headquarters of what were at the time the forty largest multinational corporations in Europe. Two years ago, after the financial crisis, she took up the theme once again. Basically, these pictures show nothing more than a deserted room, a large table, and chairs. However, if one connects these scenes with the names of the largest European companies, such as Shell, Allianz, Siemens, or ThyssenKrupp, then one will take a second, closer look. Because it is here in these conference rooms that the CEOs and CFOs, the global players and corporate leaders meet. And they make decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of employees. Here, the prices of gas and diesel are discussed; this is where it is decided which government bonds are worth buying and which are not. Therefore, these are not just rooms with tables and chairs; they are symbols of influence, of responsibility and control, wealth and property—in short, of power.
Hassink calls her two long-term studies The Tables of Power and The Tables of Power 2. In a certain way, they are a double project, about which the artist says, “Every room has its own identity, every detail allows you to draw your own conclusions about how you perceive the company. That is fascinating.”
In a large number of exhibition projects and elaborately designed illustrated volumes Hassink explores other aspects of the world of economics and consumption. Her camera looks into the boardrooms of banks (Banks, 1995/96) and photographs in Japan and the US the screen savers of top engineers, the coffee cups of office employees, and the shoe collections of wealthy ladies who can seldom resist a new pair of Blahniks (Mindscapes1998/2002). She observes the fitting rooms at leading fashion houses (Haute Couture Fitting Rooms, Paris, 2003-2010) She investigates centers of female power (Female Power Stations: Queen Bees, 1996-2000, Arab Domains, 2005/06) and compares so-called car girls from all around the world, demonstrating that these women, who present the same products at automobile fairs around the world, reflect the ideals of beauty and notions of femininity in their own national cultures (Car Girls, 2002-2008).
With her camera Hassink gives the viewer access to places that are usually strictly guarded and off-limits to outsiders. She explores the boundaries between the public and the private, while capturing the psychology of the spaces. Her pictures are scientifically aloof and austere, and supplemented by facts, notes, and sketches. This research photographer measures and maps places, spaces, and objects in the global economies and interlocked world markets, producing a visible topography of economic power through artistic aesthetics.
March 7, 2012 Monika Wolz