neil cummings


18 Dec 2009

Capital card

"We have to discuss speculation, because the ultimate test is not the probable, but the possible. The possible implies creation, and obliges us to move beyond the probable."


Isabelle Stengers, Cosmopolitiques review



Capital was screened as part of Backsourcing: a film program Video Lounge selected by Vincent Meessen, at the Chinese European Art Center (CEAC), Xiamen University, China, Dec 18-Jan 17, 2010.

In the world of enterprise, outsourcing delegates tasks that are no longer seen as profitable, or no longer core to a company's business, to an exterior contractor. Outsourcing enables a company to concentrate elsewhere, by diffusing risks, investments and costs to others.  The  recent economic collapse has necessitated ‘backsourcing’, when previously outsourced processes have had to be reappropriated.

Backsourcing: invites us to view artistic activity as a space of outsourced political, social, aesthetic and economic experimentation, a space where values have been developed and now need to be reappropriated.

Backsourcing: is one of the two screening programs in Video Lounge, an exhibition organized by Ronny Heiremans & Katleen in CEAC, Xiamen.


Other filmworks are  by Sven Augustijnen (Belgium) , Andrea Fraser and Jeff Preiss (USA), Christian Jankowski (Germany) & Potential Estate (Belgium/USA).



1 May - 28 Sep 2001
Tate Modern and the Bank of England Museum; London

Capital was a series of encounters between two iconic institutions - the Tate and the Bank of England - and the economies of debt and gift that they animate.

In the Reading Point on Level 5 West at Tate Modern and in the Bank of England Museum, at unspecified times during the day a visitor was approached by a gallery or museum official. "This is for you" accompanied the presentation of a beautifull artwork - a limited edition print.

The Bank of England is the banker to the whole British financial system, and also plays a major role in structuring global monetary relations. It regulates the financial economy by managing the availability and price of debt. As the lender of last resort the Bank guarantees and distributes the necessary trust, to secure the various interlocking domestic and foreign financial markets.

On the other side of the same coin, is it possible to situate the Tate as the principle institution in a parallel symbolic economy. Like the Bank, Tate connects with a vast network of institutions both nationally and internationally, making-up the global economy of art. Does the Tate guarantee the integrity and value of the artworks and images it distributes within this economy?

Perhaps the traditional miss-recognition of the similarities between both places has its origin in historical accident. The Bank of England was founded upon a debt - a loan to the King in 1674 - while Tate was founded by a gift - from Henry Tate in 1897.

Amid enormous speculation about the function of the gift in the social sciences, anthropology agrees on one thing; receiving a gift triggers the obligation to reciprocate, the counter gift necessitates a return and so on. An endless economy without apparent origin. If the gift and its subsequent debt, or a debt and a subsequent gift animate networks of social obligation, how are these forces structured and regulated?

Is the role of the Bank and the Tate to make these economies, and to make these economies visible?



Related projects include Generosity, a text about Bouvard and Pecuchet and research into art auctions; Circulation.


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Chinese European Art Center (CEAC)
3rd Floor
Siming South Road
Xiamen Shi
Fujian Sheng,

Submitted by neil on 9 December, 2009 - 14:36