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Helicopter Money

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: May 11, 2020

Artist Description: Take the crumbs, feed the system, die. Again

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Artist Prometheus’ name befits someone who, by all appearances, believes themselves to be as tortured their mythological namesake: the titan Prometheus who made the mistake of giving humanity fire —previously an invention reserved for the Gods— and was punished for his transgression by being tied eternally to a rock, and every day a seagull would descend from the heavens, peck at Prometheus’ abdomen, eat at his liver and internal organs, and fly off. During the night, Prometheus’ painful wounds would heal, the gull would reignite its appetite, and the cycle would begin again, at least until Heracles, voyaging hither or thither, freed the Titan from his torture. One definitely gets the impression, moving through Prometheus’ oeuvre, that the artist believes themselves to be as much a giver of fire —life, ingenuity, creativity, truth— as the Prometheus of legend. Many of the artist’s pieces are politically charged, bordering on the conspiratorial, with aim taken at governments, financial institutions, the rich, communists, capitalists, social media; the list goes on, and Prometheus never displays sympathy for anyone, target or otherwise. Not for anything but Bitcoin that is. Perhaps sympathy is the wrong word. More like reverence. Like a lot of OG artists, Prometheus has much respect for Bitcoin, its disruptive capabilities, its position as a legitimate challenge to the hegemony of global, centralized banking institutions. And though Helicopter Money does not feature Bitcoin in any prominent or obtuse way, one can feel that cryptocurrency’s influence pulsing underneath its surface. 

Helicopter Money is, it seems, a commentary on both the callous, inhumane financial systems which leech money from the average person, providing them only scraps to live off of, and also those average people, who are here represented as mere chickens, eating crumbs from the hand that feeds it. Presumably Prometheus, who is obviously super smart and cool, is not one of those chickens themselves. “Take the crumbs, feed the system, die. Again,” reads the Artist Description. Indeed, that’s what we see here. A robotic hand extends from the left edge of the image towards a large orange and brown chicken, one bedecked in a color pattern almost reminiscent of stained glass windows. The chicken bends its little neck, pecks the single morsel of food the robot hand holds, and the robot hand retreats, returning with another morsel in an endless loop of offer, feed, retract. Behind these two central images, a repetitious background slides by with conveyor belt consistency. On it, the dead corpses of killed chickens hanging on industrial racks, appearing here like hieroglyphics, contrasting with the live chicken’s more cathedral-esque color construction. Yes, thanks to Prometheus, it’s now clear that we are all mere farm animals in the eyes of the big banks or BIG business or biBIGg government —something BIG which obviously exploits us— and we are slowly plumped up on the crumbs we are provided, until, of course, we are killed, hung up to dry on an industrial rack, and shipped off to, who knows? Prometheus has another artwork that prominently features a swastika decked out in vaccine needles (so fucking tacky and insulting, I can’t even begin. This bitch-ass, “artist” piece of garbage), so we can’t discount the possibility that the underlying message of this piece entails some pizzagate-propelled dialogue about the Illuminati or New World Order or the Denver Airport, or some long-winded conspiracy to leave us poor, all dead, and the rich plump. 

When I see a piece like this, that’s so overtly political but has so very little to say, I really want to be magnanimous. I want to be understanding and find things to appreciate. I believe it’s gauche to criticize art, because art, at its core, is about the expression of one’s mentality to others. And that is beyond anyone’s ability to criticize. At its very least form, art is is a reflection of the artist’s mind presented in such a way that an outsider, with their own mind, can understand it.

And all art, it can be argued, is political. But there comes a point at which political art denigrates itself with too simplistic a political view, presented too haphazardly, without anything really to say. Art can express rage. It can express grief. It can express being tired of a system that one feels has abandoned them. And Helicopter Money is certainly art. I’m sure someone could even argue that it’s good art. The influences inherent in the foreground figures, in the background, and the juxtaposition between them, that’s really interesting, to take this eternal tension between rich institutions and worse-off individuals and emphasize its universality with the inclusion of historically-significant art forms. I love that. It’s really creative! 

But there’s such a pandering, pretentious, off-putting way about this piece, one present in a lot of Prometheus’ work. We are not seemingly meant to feel that the artist is showing us anything or connecting to us, but rather shaking their head at us, poor lemmings, that we cannot see what the artist sees. Haughtily, Prometheus deigns to show us that we, our experiences, all that we are, are pointless, for we are cogs in a larger machine only the almighty artist is apparently intelligent enough to recognize. 

And that’s hard. It’s hard when it comes to appreciating the art. It’s hard when it comes to connecting with it. It’s hard when it comes to writing about it, because it leaves an observer to feel condescended to and repulsed. Prometheus has good ideas, and a solid artistic vision —all demonstrated in Helicopter Money. But by implicating everyone in this criticism, everyone except the artist, the piece is needlessly alienating. 

Art has such a wonderful, unique ability to foment connection between souls. Why use it to emphasize a divide? 

(Also, dude, like, wow, you’re sooooo edgy with your fucking swastika and your vaccine needles. Honestly, so clever. Big claps! Everyone look at the smart guy! Nobody’s ever put those two things together before! *barf* How about you let that disgusting symbol die, or mayb you should just put it down, kiddo, because you’re clearly not creative or sensitive or mature enough to use it in any productive way. It just makes you seem like an asshole.)

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