Friday, 20 June 2014

Manifesto #2 by Jane Lawson

To mark the closing of the recent AirSpace exhibition, PIGDOGANDMONKEYFESTOS, we held an event in the Gallery's green space - the Bird Yarden. The event - YARDENFEST - celebrated outdoor activism, and as part of a packed day, we put out a call for artworks that responded to both the Yarden and the manifesto format that had been so eclectically covered in PIGDOG.

One of those was Manifesto #2 - the work of Manchester-based artist, Jane Lawson ( The work sees a copy of Friedrich Hayek's key neoliberal text The Road to Serfdom inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn, where the fungus is used to to signify a detoxification of the global financial system;

Jane says,
"oyster mushrooms can detoxify a wide range of substances including hydrocarbons, making them an ideal candidate for tackling an economic system built on the cheap energy provided by fossil fuels."
On delivery and installation, the work looked simply like a well thumbed paperback, as Jane slightly sank it into the soft earth of one of the Yarden's plant beds.  Over the last 2 weeks, however, these little pink caps started to splurge from the pages offering a sense of growth and optimism from the midsts of an ideology which many believe to be the root of the modern world's ills.

Jane describes the the impact of Hayek -
The Road to Serfdom was written in the early 1940s and warned that government control of economic decision-making through central planning would lead inevitably to tyranny. In 1947 Hayek and Milton Friedman, among others, set up the Mont Pelerin Society  which played a significant part in developing and promoting the neoliberal economic orthodoxy that has given us our current highly unequal and exploitative financial system. Hayek and Friedman's ideas played a critical part in Margaret Thatcher's determination to “roll back the state" and in the deregulation of the financial markets that paved the way for the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent bank bailout.

It's interesting that the Oyster Mushroom was cultivated in Germany as a subsistence measure during World War I and today is a recognisable global foodstuff, lending a certain resonance to the work when considering the recent statistics from the US and UK - two countries in the top 5 richest in the world,  both of whom have a significant neoliberal economic past - regarding poverty levels and emergence of social welfare food banks.

Finally, for Jane,

Manifesto #2 embodies the unpredictability of trying to harness natural processes to human agendas;  whether the book actually goes on to produce a tasty crop of mushrooms will be dependent on the weather and on competing organisms such as green mould. It also represents the longevity of natural processes versus human systems; capitalism, although currently culturally presented to us as the only feasible economic system, is historically recent and globally anomalous, while fungi have been around for at least 1,000 million years and will almost certainly outlast us.
So, as well as looking forward to harvesting these pink mushrooms for dinner one night, it's really comforting to think that that in our busy lives, while we're otherwise concerned and thinking elsewhere, there's a patch of the AirSpace Bird Yarden which is tackling this divisive economic ideology.

Thanks Jane!

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