That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen

performance, 2012

 

That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen is a performance in which a hired security guard sits idly by a lump of cash, during the gallery’s opening hours for the whole length of the show. The guard’s task is to survey the money, yet the sum he is guarding is his own wage, which he will collect at the end of the assignment. That is, whereas the guard’s function is to watch over the money, the money’s function is to pay the guard for watching it. Reminiscent of Beckett’s literary compactness, guard and money are locked together in an absurd play, whilst in a Dadaist abstraction of the business cycle capital and labour cancel each other out. “That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen” is a title borrowed from Frédéric Bastiat’s 1850 text “Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas”, in which Bastiat lays out yet another parable, the “parable of the broken window”. Positioning himself against Mandeville’s notion that destruction brings net-benefits, Bastiat states that, “In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.”