Life Jacket for an Economic Crisis
‘Life Jacket for an Economic Crisis’ (2013), is a solo performance lecture devised as part of performance event 'I hate America, I Love America', with Chicago based performance collective Lucky Pierre and supported by the Live Art Development Agency. The work seeks to explore money as a point of intervention, exposing it as the creation of an idea, which has been superimposed and interwoven into our everyday existence, by exploring the narrative of various financial crises in conjunction with global disasters and my own personal history.
By the time I have finished talking to you in twenty minutes time…
…Approximately five hundred and twenty-seven thousand, seven hundred and seventy-seven US bank notes will have been printed, with a face value of seven million, five hundred and thirteen thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight dollars and ninety cence…
In addition to this…
…An estimated forty-nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty-five UK bank notes will have been printed, to the value of five hundred and twenty-two thousand, eight hundred and ninety-three pounds, and seventy-seven pence…
…My body will have circulated 5.6 litres litres of blood sixty times…
…My heart will have made approximately one thousand, four hundred and forty beats, although maybe a little more considering that I am slightly nervous today…
…And the earth will have rotated a total of five degrees.
President Richard Nixon cancels the direct convertibility of the United States dollar to gold, ending the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, and thus ushering in the era of freely floating currencies that remains to the present day.
The same year Tropical Storm Doria moves through Florida, Morehead city, North Carolina, new England and Maine causing flooding, downing hundreds of trees and killing 7 people.
My mother is aged 17, living in a flat in Battersea, London with her boyfriend who she doesn’t like very much. She wants to go to university but can’t afford it without the support of her parents. Instead, she completes a secretarial course and works as a temp for various corporations around the city such as ‘the British Sugar Corporation, Stowells of Chelsea, Whitbreads and Hyde Park Hotel.’ Her wages are £11 per week and her rent £8 per week. She is so broke that she walks everywhere, and in doing so learns London like the back of her hand.
April 13th: The Chicago loop is flooded with 250 million US gallons of water causing the lower levels of shopping facilities and office blocks to be submerged. Trading at both the Chicago Board Of Trade Building and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is suspended, having a global economic effect, as fish swim around the building’s basements.
5 months later…16th September, Black Wednesday: The British Conservative government are forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European exchange rate mechanism after they are unable to keep it above its agreed lower limit.
I am four years old and living in Streatham, London with my Mum, Dad and little sister Anna, who is one year old. My favourite film is the Wizard of OZ. My dad works in an office in London for a company called Trident and has a boss called Jim. Sometimes we go to visit him at work and to my delight we drive past the ‘Emerald City’, otherwise known as the MI5 headquarters near Lambeth bridge.
My mum doesn’t work but stays at home to look after my sister and I. Everyday she takes me to the local nursery at Lonesome Primary School where the other mothers won’t talk to her because of her boarding school accent.
April 1st: It is unimaginably hot for April and I am sweating amongst the 5,000 other people stuck in a police kettle outside the Bank of England, London. Having not planned to get fully involved in the protest I am wearing brightly coloured clothing which I am now regretting, but I am so angered by the police presence and empowered by the sheer enormity of the demonstration that I can not help but be drawn in. Everything is seriously out of hand and it’s exciting. There’s a feeling in the air that suggests that all rules have been abandoned. Bankers in suits stand at safety from the tops of the buildings, looking down at the carnage and mocking the trapped protesters by waving bank notes in the air and grinning. The police are beating people up left, right and centre and I am standing watching a group of protesters smash the windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s London offices. Part of me feels that this is senseless violence, but a larger part of me believes it to be incredible and my stomach flips with excitement at this genuine expression of disdain for the system that we are all slaves to.
April 2nd: The G-20 heads of state meet in the Excel exhibition Centre, London, to discuss financial markets and the World economy.
An agreement is reached which provides $1.1 trillion US Dollars to various programs designed to improve international finance, credit, trade, and overall economic stability and recovery.
There is some dispute as to how best to move forward. On one hand, the UK and the US want a large financial stimulus and on the other hand, France and Germany want stricter financial regulations. Programs include:
-US$500 billion increase in the resources pledged by members to the New Arrangements to Borrow, a facility for the IMF to lend money to struggling economies,
·US$250 billion in pledges to increase trade finance,
·US$250 billion allocation of special drawing rights (SDR) which give IMF members the right to drawn down foreign currency in a crisis,
·US$100 billion in commitments for the multilateral development banks to lend to poor countries.
Two months later, Cyclone Aila hits India and Bangladesh. 330 people are killed, 8208 people are reported missing and over 1 million people are left homeless. Mass flooding contaminates drinking water and over 7,000 people become infected with diarrhoea. Imagery from the wreckage fills western television screens, requesting financial assistance to help manage the disaster.
The dramatic crash in Great Britain’s property prices causes dozens of secondary lending banks to be threatened with bankruptcy. The Bank of England bails out thirty of these banks losing an estimated £100 million pounds.
On July 12th : A fire breaks out a the United States National Personal Records Centre in Overland striking a severe blow to the United States archives and records administration, and losing approximately 16-18 million official military personnel records.
My Father is aged 16 and living with his parents Patrick and Rosemary Murphy and his two sisters, in a small bungalow on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. My grandfather Patrick works as a civil servant and my Grandmother Rosemary is a classroom assistant. Money is tight but they are not poor, although Patrick never allows the children to eat Jam and butter together…its always one or the other. My Father has a scholarship to the local public boys school and comes home every day to eat his lunch. Every Thursday evening he works for Tenovus charity collecting money and delivering leaflets, a job he hates. He takes up smoking, a packet of Gold Leaf tobacco costs ten and a half pence.
1987: A fall on Wall Street in the United States of America reaches record levels on Friday 16th October. The same evening a hurricane sweeps over southern England causing hundreds of trees to fall leaving many of the population without power and killing at least 22 people in both England and France.
Three days later the London Stock exchange suffers a similar fall to the one on Wall Street. Fearing the crash might cause a slump like the like the Wall Street crash of 1929, the world’s monetary authorities increase the money supply.
Eight days later, on Tuesday the 27th October, my Mother Nicola Joanna Donaldson Murphy, gives birth to her first child, Laura Rosemary Murphy, the first human being to show her unconditional love.
10 ACTIVE employee Barnaby Jack, demonstrates to an audience in America, what he calls ‘Jackpotting’ an ATM machine, by dragging two ATM machines on stage during a talk and forcing them to spew out cash.
On the 20th April of 2010, there is a massive explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, south east of the Louisiana coast, killing eleven workers and injuring sixteen. The explosion causes the rig to burn and sink, resulting in a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world, and the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. (dribble treacle on balloon?)
I am aged 22, studying and living in Brighton with my girlfriend. I owe the bank £2000 and I owe the student loans company £18,000 plus interest at a rate of 1.5%. I am extremely happy. I spend my days making art, making love and making plans. Life is beautiful and I feel brave and fearless. There is no place like home.
11th March: An earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku , Japan, kills 18,000 people and damages Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant causing nuclear meltdowns and releasing radioactive materials into the air, soil and sea. All people living within 310 square miles of the Power Plant are evacuated and the area declared non habitable for humans.
October: Activists in both London and New York set up occupations at St.Pauls Cathedral, The London Stock Exchange and Wall Street in reaction to government’s failure to protect their citizens’ interests against those of corporations and the financial markets.
November 5th: I am aged 24 and attending a ‘March on Parliament’ protest in London as part of the “Occupy” movement. As we leave St. Pauls Cathedral the police are already trying to kettle us and everyone tries to stay fluid so that we are not trapped behind a wall of shields and fluorescent yellow jackets. I feel intimidated by the Police presence and also feel simultaneously irritated with myself for being intimidated. As we approach Trafalgar square the Police are waiting for us and the road is blocked with riot vans. The protest tries to push through the police lines and fails. Police 1, protesters nil. Suddenly, the protest makes a run in the other direction towards Buckingham Palace and St.James Park. The Police make a desperate attempt to catch us, as we run rings around them in the park. I am hot and, making sure there are no FIT team cameras, take off the scarf that has been covering my face.
I look around to see what’s behind me and survey the hundreds of people running away from Buckingham Palace in the autumn leaves. It is a totally beautiful, iconic and inspiring image. But nothing has changed. Nothing is different. I feel deflated.
November 30th: I am standing in front of a room full of people reading out my own testimony that reflects some of my history, personal experiences and thoughts in relation to the social and economic status quo.
To tell you the truth, I am a little lost and overwhelmed. Money is a big thing and today it underpins everything that happens around us. I believe that we forget that economy is a human relationship and I wish I knew exactly how that relationship should be played out. But for now what I do know, is that money is an idea, and ideas are powerful, so lets spend them wisely.