A trail of opened letters spills across the floor indicating their recipient’s sudden departure, hurried in a state of fear or panic. The debris left in his wake tells the story of a man’s demise through the reckless allocation of credit and the savagery of debt. Amongst the ruins shattered ‘plastic’ and scattered ephemera glints madly with the illusion of capital.
A Rake’s Progress is a contemporary adaptation of William Hogarth’s 18th century satirical work of the same name, retold in light of the recent financial crisis.
A ‘Rake’, short for ‘Rakehell’, is a historic term applied to a man who is habituated to immoral conduct. Often a Rake was someone who wasted his (usually inherited) fortune on gambling, wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress shows in eight prints the reckless life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant, who wastes all his inheritance on luxurious living, whoring, and gambling, and ultimately finishes his life in Bedlam (mental asylum) – a story with particular relevance today in light of the excesses in lending and borrowing by both individuals and institutions.
Produced as etchings referencing Hogarth’s original medium, each print in this adaptation contains wider references to popular culture, psychoanalytic and economic theories. Together they illustrate how our excessive consumption and the obsessive pursuit of wealth is bankrupting us not only financially but emotionally, morally and environmentally.
As an extension of this fact and fiction, a public notice will appear over the course of the exhibition. Details to be announced.
‘The danger is that the predominant narrative of the meltdown will be the pen which instead of awakening us from the dream, will enable us to continue dreaming’ Slavoj Zizek, First As Tragedy, Then As Farce, 2009, p.20