Installations, videos and projects in public space

by Oliver Ressler

Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies


A series of billboards, posters and banners by Oliver Ressler

The central idea behind the billboard series “Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies” is to present different suggestions, which might be of interest when considering the principles on which an alternative to the existing capitalist system could be based. Such a society should in my opinion be less hierarchical, based on ideas of direct democracy and involve as many people as possible in decision-making processes. In the field of economy this would lead towards a variety of different models of workers self-management.

The billboard series, which has been carried out in public inner-city spaces in Europe and South America so far, might provide some ideas for people who are interested in thinking about a future society. The billboards can work as food for thought, as the basis for discussions, which are so necessary today when strategies for alternatives are not clear. But it also has to be clear that a desirable society should be realized and created by the people who live in it. A model, which prescribes and determines every aspect of this future society, cannot lead towards an ideal society.

The poster and billboard texts, with their large and highly visible fonts, are in the form of appeals, questioning existing dominant power relationships and indicating alternatives that share the rejection of the capitalist system of rule. Some of the ideas presented in this project have been elaborated upon in concepts such as “Participatory Economy” by Michael Albert, “Inclusive Democracy” by Takis Fotopoulos, are suggestions for an anarchist consensual democracy by Ralf Burnicki, or are based on considerations by the theorist John Holloway, especially in his book “Change the World Without Taking Power”. This project uses the format of posters and billboards as arenas for the imagination. “Imagination is a very powerful liberating tool. If you cannot imagine something different you cannot work towards it”, explains Marge Piercy in a video interview conducted for the ongoing exhibition project “Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies” by Oliver Ressler, to which this project is related.

The first presentation of this poster series took place in the framework of the project “Quicksand in De Pijp” by SKOR and Combiwel, curated by Amiel Grumberg, which was a program of artistic interventions taking place in the De Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam in 2004. Since then, the posters, billboards or banners have been displayed in several cities, invited and funded by art institutions, and always carried out in the local language. Sometimes the presentations in public inner-city spaces were linked with the ongoing exhibitions project “”, which was the case with the poster presentations in Rijeka, Karlsruhe and Lima. Sometimes the billboards were realized on their own (as in Bratislava and Copenhagen). While in Amsterdam around 2000 posters were placarded more or less illegal throughout several months, in Bratislava the large-scale billboards were displayed on city-owned commercial billboard sites, which were left for free to the Billboartgallery Europe, which makes them available for artists. In several of the other presentations, the house facades of art institutions, which invited me to realize works, were used for the public interventions.