A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) (2018), by Vermeir & Heiremans

Join us for a conversation between curator Bassam El Baroni and the artist duo Vermeir & Heiremans around their expansive practice that investigates the dynamics between economy, law, and governing, deploying the arts and the socio-economic conditions of artists as their preferred case studies.

The conversation follows the screening of A Modest Proposal (in a Black Box) (2018), in which Vermeir & Heiremans, who are also the film’s protagonists, discuss a new financial model with a lawyer. Their dialogue, witnessed by the lawyers assistant, focuses on the question if financialisation can be re-purposed towards generating a more equitable arts ecology. Considering the financialisation of public art collections, museum real estate and symbolic capital (goodwill), the financial model should benefit not only investors and art institutions, but also its stakeholders, the creators of the art assets’ value, the artists and art workers.

In the film the artists propose to financialise a specific building as their first case study: Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park in London. The gallery is located in the vicinity of the Battersea Power Station, a 20th century former coal-fired power station, currently under re-development. The refurbished power station will house Apple’s London headquarters and offer luxury apartments for sale, designed by Foster and Partners, Frank Gehry… All in all an excellent momentum to leverage the rising values that surround the gallery, ‘pumping’ up the building’s value as an asset and generate a return on investment for the wider art community.

The conversation between the artists and the lawyer takes place in Vermeir & Heiremans’ house, which in their practice they define as an art work. The seemingly absent-minded assistant often slips away from the discussions. She appears to be able to materialise and dematerialise at will the lofty space by caressing the walls, playing with the miniature furniture inside a scale model of the artists’ house or using the latter as a framing device, manipulating the window views. When the artists and the lawyer go on to discuss and celebrate the proposal on the loft’s rooftop garden, glass of champagne in hand, she takes full control…

Cast: Vermeir & Heiremans as the artists, Luke Mason as the legal consultant, Heike Langsdorf as the assistant. Directors: Vermeir & Heiremans. Camera: Amir Borenstein. Editors: Katleen vermeir/Amir Borenstein. Sound: Justin Bennett. Organ Player: Cindy Castillo. Voice-over: Emily Rosamond. Script: Vermeir & Heiremans/Luke Mason. Graphic design: Salome Schmuki. Animation: Amir Borenstein. Production: Jubilee vzw. With the support of: The Flemish Community, Art et Recherche asbl (Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles), Pump House Gallery, Wandsworth Council, Enable Leisure and Culture, Arts Council England, Cockayne-Grants for the Arts, The London Community Foundation