The Great Privatization: PSYCHE 16
6x color print on paper, tripods, plexiglass frames, 2021
Our world is currently operating on plundering and exploitation. All the alternatives that have attempted to establish relationships between people and other entities on principles other than the satisfaction of our individualist demands have failed. Financial capitalism gone wild is executing the vector of unbridled accumulation without reproach and often, of course, legally. The inhabitants of Eastern Europe experienced the return of this monster as an unavoidable complement to the establishment of democratic principles. Democracy and the free market merged into a single indistinguishable amalgam. The free market was supposed to satisfy all needs and desires – all that was required was to participate or be included. The media was flooded by mass marketing campaigns aiming to convince the inhabitants that plundering is the natural right of every one of us, that everything shared in common or seemingly not utilized can be divided up and sold off. Privatization became a synonym for justice. Privatization is not merely the neoliberal symptom of Thatcherism or the post-Communist block – private ownership is a prerequisite of capitalism. The ‘privatization’ of the land, the prairie, and transformations of everything – even people – into marketable communities is the foundation of the wealth of the world’s largest empire, the USA, to say nothing of the rest of the ‘developed’ world. Healthcare is privatized, as are social services or even prison services. This conception of the world is supported by permanent propaganda whose efficacy is reflected in the conviction of ordinary people about the naturalness of such an order and its lack of internal contradictions. Or, better: the contradictions are all the more apparent, but private ownership is not seen as one of the roots of the problem.
Recently, social media featured advertisements for an application called Earth 2, a digital copy of the Earth: “If you share our dream and our vision then we invite you to partake and become part of history. By purchasing your own piece of virtual land in Earth 2 you’re not only supporting the virtual future of our world but also creating an amazing opportunity for yourself to make profit by becoming involved early!” Capital just won’t stop – as long as there is somewhere to expand, it will expand, regardless of whether this is on Earth or in virtual space. Those speculating with the greatest amounts of capital are, of course, looking beyond Earth. The prevailing conviction that private interests can stand in for collective interests is also reflected in the outsourcing of services such as space flights, until now a state monopoly. Billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Richard Branson are preparing for the greatest privatization in history. This modern cosmic colonialism based on private ownership begins with ‘small-scale’ PR events. One of them, for instance, involved sending a passenger car beyond the orbit of Earth or the financial support of extraterrestrial exploration by state organizations such as NASA. Or the support of non-profit organizations (New World Institute, Earthlight Foundation) that lobby for free ownership in space under the guise of humanist ideals. First, property is identified as property, the next step being its privatization as a logical step to making its administration more efficient.
What riches and opportunities does the PSYCHE 16 asteroid offer, for instance? In 2020, it was reported around the world that the Earth is made from iron and nickel! The entrepreneurial imagination began working at full throttle. Asteroid belts are today’s infinite prairies full of promise and resources, waiting to be identified and mined. Various possibilities for making use of it began appearing in the media. That is the image of the extent of the human imagination based on propaganda brainwashing: conquering space, colonizing planets, extracting resources that lie dormant, and effecting research aiming to multiply income. Apart from the fact that it can be mined and therefore make one rich, we know very little about the universe and its operations. How can it be that such a limited imagination predominates? It must be clear to us where this type of thinking will lead. The Earth is proof that this is destructive behavior that gives no chances to anything or anyone. How does this intoxication based on false convictions operate?
In the early 1990s, post-Communist Czechoslovakia saw the appearance of private financial funds on the basis of the privatization process, convincing fresh minor shareholders – through a massive advertising campaign – that they should entrust their coupons (future shares) to these funds with the promise of enormous profit margins. All that was needed was making use of a lack of knowledge and a facade of credibility. This was why one of the most successful investment groups was named after a world-famous university (Harvard Capital & Consulting). The fund helped extract capital from common property into private hands, later making use of insufficient control to move it offshore to tax havens or into a variety of multinational corporations.
The language of the printed advertising of the time is primitive bordering on the idiotic. Today’s marketing voices are the same, similarly effective in their deception. The Eastern Europeans of the 1990s were not more naive than today’s population anywhere in the world. Not even the western world of today is better informed – marketing is a firm part of the body of society and few perceive it as a negative moving force leading us towards destruction.
If we transplant the rhetoric of the Harvard investment funds of the 1990s to the present, to the pages of the American Time Magazine, for instance, we can exchange the Czechoslovak “coupon privatization” for the privatization of space, perhaps specifically of the PSYCHE 16 asteroid, and transform the name of the investment group – what we arrive at is still partial information and half-lies that construct castles in the air out of questionable investments. The language is identical, as are the motivation and aim. The great privatization of space has just began, and it makes absolutely no difference whether this is an artistic experiment or a business plan.
Photo by Tomáš Hrůza