Pedro Reyes - Artist
PEDRO REYES
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Wooden puppets, library set, video production
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Forty or fifty years ago most people defined themselves as advocates of either socialism or capitalism. Today, despite the increasing movements against the financial sector, governments and corporations, it seems that we have come to accept capitalism as the final model for the way the world functions. Baby Marx is an inquiry into this general assumption. Upon reading Karl Marx's critique of capitalism, I could not help but agree. Upon reading Adam Smith, I found he, too, has compelling arguments. In my head I continued to hear these voices debating, so I thought it would be interesting to stage a meeting between them.

A device known as counterfactual logic, which is nothing more than asking 'what if?' help me to set-up this encounter and bring together two characters that never met each other in real life and host a hypothetical debate. The main protagonists are Smith and Marx, who incarnated as puppets explain the world according to opposing ideologies. They also embody two conflicting sides of human nature. Smith believes that by pursuing one's self-interest, one makes the whole world richer, whereas Marx believes that people should share all resources in common and reject exploitation. I believe no one is totally devoid of both greed and generosity, so it only makes sense that these two voices resonate with our everyday moral decisions.

Of course, I am oversimplifying the subject, but I also believe that the complexity of history and the world economy should not dissuade people from overcoming their fear to deal with the subject. The project is therefore thought of as a means to provide economic and political literacy, using dialogues with excerpts or paraphrases of the historical figures main ideas. This is how puppets can be useful; puppeteering has historically been the equivalent to political cartoons in the performing arts. Early ventriloquists, such as court jesters, were the only ones who could make jokes in front of the king - the puppet would spit truths that were unacceptable from the mouth of a person.

Ludwig Wittgenstein said that a serious philosophy book can only be written through jokes. I think jokes are highly efficient mechanisms to deliver content, they present a thesis and its antithesis in such an abrupt way that we can only handle the shock with laughter. Jokes are a sort of airbag that cushions the collision of reality with your expectation of reality, the collision of ideology and realpolitik.
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