James Beckett’s new work Voodoo Justice for People of Finance (2013) revolves around the biographies of major players in global finance: chairpersons and executives of institutions including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and the International Monetary Fund. Protagonists of reckless financial manoeuvres and often key figures in inducing the crisis of 2008, they are the main subjects of Beckett’s paintings. Guided by a logic halfway between evidence and imagination, Beckett investigates the details of their early lives – from the hospitals in which they were born to the places of their childhood and adolescence – to shed light on the social context in which they grew up. The portraits are presented in ritualistic arrangements together with rocks supposedly taken from the individuals’ places of birth. These form modest, but at the same time potentially harmful, instruments that convey a sense of unease to the installation.
Beckett is interested in highlighting neglected sides of the managers’ biographies, tracing a line between their current social role and their upbringing. Rendered in an almost folk art style that is at once voyeuristic and sinister, Beckett’s drawings and objects delves the viewer into a world of provincial tranquillity. The leaders of the financial world, engaged in crucial and complicated operations that determine the lives of millions of people (as in the case of the restructuring of the Greek sovereign debt), are thus deprived of their almighty aura and presented as fallen idols or cultic fetishes. Beckett offers the audience ambiguous narrative threads to unravel, thus opening up a space for reflection and judgement.
Luigi Fassi 2013