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Premiere: Stock footage of a moping drunk CEO

Video artist Andrew Norman Wilson works in the medium of stock footage. Why is his new film about sad CEOs?

Andrew Norman Wilson grew up in a town in which youth activity was orientated around maths, science and athletics. “But my friends and I milked the dark plastic suburban underbelly of hi-8 video production, mountain bike gang development and Pepsi overdose as best we could,” he reflects. Nowadays, the artist is focusing his idiosyncratic concerns on a new project named Stock Fantasy Ventures, which opens up alternative views on the culture of stock media with a pervasive sense of uncertainty and discontent. 

After his early exploits into analogue video, Wilson went on to study television, radio and film at university, where he began questioning the conventions of commercial media. This critical probing of accepted notions continued as he delved into curating for Artists Television Access, engaging in activism, working as a video producer for Google and taking an MFA in Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “This constellation of experience informs Stock Fantasy Ventures’ approach to stock imagery, the art market and cinema. We are becoming what we say we are. We are a caffeinated mountain bike gang armed with six-pack abs, a contact list full of powerful cultural wizards and nimble track-pad fingers ready to click for six months more of deferment on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of student loans debt.” 

As he presents for Dazed the latest video from Stock Fantasy Ventures under the candid title, Moping drunk CEO on a thick fur rug wearing unbuttoned Theory dress slacks and wrapped in a KLM airplane blanket receives a call from HSBC Bank and gradually begins to sob while taking their automated customer satisfaction survey, Wilson discusses Rainer Weiner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and the timely merging of artistic and commercial practice. 

Talk us through the multi-channel video that you are presenting here. 

For many years I had this image in my head of a person taking an automated phone survey and gradually beginning to sob. It represents a common feeling for me in relation to automated customer service. When I started Stock Fantasy Ventures I began by drawing connections between my list of unrealised video ideas, our brand and works that have had a significant impact on me as a moving image-maker. We analysed a particular scene from The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, a 1972 film by Rainer Weiner Fassbinder. The film has an all-female cast and is set in the lavish home of the protagonist, a prominent fashion designer named Petra von Kant. It follows the changing dynamics in her relationships with the other women.

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant from Andrew Norman Wilson on Vimeo.

In the original scene we find Petra in her bedroom - a great wilderness of white shag carpet in which she flounders in an alcohol-pickled rage, hopelessly awaiting a call from Karin, a model of hers that she recently fell in love with. 

In our product, a well-bred woman in designer clothing anxiously awaits a call, and receives one, but from a female automaton - requesting her to engage in a customer satisfaction survey. Themes of manipulation, physical and emotional alienation and materialism remain, but the failed relationship in Fassbinder’s film is shifted through our video from a love interest to a retail bank, from fantasy in the flesh to an abstract electronic voice representing a corporation. The protagonist is surrounded by and clothed in new materials, machined surfaces and abstraction in the service of pure design. 

The video was shot in Berlin at Import Projects and was invested in by Impakt in the Netherlands. Actress Lena Taege and Director of Photography Mikko Gaestel brought a LOT to the scene, and we look forward to working with them again in the future. 

Can you reveal more about the premise of Stock Fantasy Ventures, the on-going project that this video forms a part of? 

Stock Fantasy Ventures will serve global markets of cutting edge communicators in advertising, business, art and journalism with high quality, pre-trend stock photo and video clips that represent growing feelings of widespread financial uncertainty and discontent. We are looking for investors to fund the production of each image concept, which initially exist as descriptions of images on abstract PowerPoint slides. Once an image concept is produced, it is released as stock photographs and video clips on stock media marketplaces such as Getty Images, alongside its release as historically relevant artwork through galleries, museums, live presentations and arts journalism. Returns from any sales are split between the investor, the platform the images are offered through and Stock Fantasy Ventures. 

Why and when did you decide to initiate the project? 

We launched in early 2013 through the support of our partners at DIS Images/DIS Magazine. Most of the individuals involved with Stock Fantasy Ventures have inconsistent forms of income. I have set myself adrift through honorariums, artist fees, stipends, sales and freelance gigs. The freedom and precariousness this presents me with became interesting as a condition to both inhabit and present through an art project. We hire interns and engage in contractual relationships with both investors and production crews. Our products are strategically positioned for sales on both stock imagery markets and art markets. The imagery is often oriented around freelancing subjects and will be used by freelance journalists, advertisers, designers, curators and so on. So the project becomes a sort of machine that produces itself, and part of the work is to make visible the functions of a start-up that are typically kept private. 

Second, since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, I noticed that businesses in the financial sector were shifting their messages and visual language to reflect an emerging downturn. Financial services began to recognise that they could no longer credibly sell daydreams. They feel they need to be in touch with the challenging reality their customers face. Gone are the depictions of aspiration and conspicuous wealth, as financial services brands try to re-establish trust with their customers. 

But ‘money’ and ‘finance’ aren’t actually making sense to people. Just a few years ago, people thought banks had plenty of it, and we’re now discovering that they didn’t, and don’t. And so we like to say that Stock Fantasy Ventures isn’t just launching a start-up; we’re launching a movement. There aren’t only gaps in the stock media market for imagery representing financial discontent, alternative gender/racial identities, and disgruntled workers and consumers; there’s also a need to rethink current economic arrangements. Stock Fantasy Ventures is poised to change the whole conversation about consumer financial services by these themes out of the realm of fringe critical discussion of the economy and placing them squarely into the mainstream, institutional discussion of what our financial lives look and feel like. We need different ways of understanding our world, which cannot be abstracted from price information analysed by computers. It will take more than critical insights to gain anything concrete. We are engaged in an existential struggle for the quality of our dreams.

What do you hope will come out of it?

In 1993 the Wu Tang Clan unleashed the phrase, ‘cash moves everything around me’ into the airwaves. Recently, Groupon founder and former CEO Andrew Mason released a motivational business blues rock album called Hardly Workin, and the track It's Up To Us (And No One Else) offers a valuable insight into how we as business people are responsible for the success of the world. The radical editorial collective Tiqqun offers an assessment of the economic colonisation of the body - creating ubiquitous ‘living currency’ - in their text Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young Girl. These varied perspectives - from the streets of Staten Island, to ‘Silicon Prairie’ in Chicago, to European activist networks - offer the same message: we are constantly enmeshed in flows of capital. The financialisation of daily life means daily life is full of potential. 

Consultancy courtesy of Nick Lalla of rhei