“Go for Broke: Cataloguing failure, one bank at a time”
By Juliet Helmke | September 15, 2016
“527 is the correct number, a few more failed since info about the project came out,” says artist Michael Mandiberg, counting the number of books that make up his upcoming, site-specific installation “FDIC Insured.” All are cast off investment guidebooks that the artist has repurposed, laser printing their covers with the logo of a US bank that has officially “failed”—meaning it was forced to undergo the process of takeover by the FDIC and subsequent receivership by another bank. In the space of a weekend, the financial books are autopsied and transferred, the website redirects, and the letterhead is shredded. “It happens for business reasons, but also from a symbolic and semiotic point of view, everything gets erased.”
He began the project in 2008, “walking around NYC and noticing the growing number of books I was seeing left out on the street,” he says. “I’d often pick them up, and spent a lot of time thinking about what a book meant. It was a particular time where books were losing their use value, their exchange value and some of their sentimental value, too.” At the same time, another kind of depreciation was well underway: “Simultaneously, I was watching the economic crisis unfold, watching banks implode.” Mandiberg’s resulting library of the devalued, numbering over 500 volumes (“If a couple more fail I might include them,” he tells me in June, while still finishing off fabrication) will be presented on the 15th floor of 40 Rector Street, in Art-in-Buildings’ Financial District Project Space. It opens on September 15, the eighth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy filing.