Money to Burn


Burning money as a protest against capitalism is like genuinely trying to decipher whether the chicken or the egg came first:

1) It’s baffling.

2) It’s fruitless.

But doing it anyway, I welcome to the stage Brooke Purvis.

A student of Central St Martins, who’ve helped produce the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Alexander McQueen, and M.I.A., Purvis will burn the entirety of his student loan to highlight the fact that money ‘holds absolutely no value whatsoever.’ The sheer anger at the arrogance and hypocrisy of Purvis’ little art project have left the nation dumbfounded.

‘And he thinks people should part with their taxes to fund his university course in pointless activities presumably?’ (@adrian_ting)

I do get it, powerful protests like this can attract huge and important attention and support, and it is the shock that comes from this that produces change. The self-immolation of a monk in 1960s Saigon to protest against the persecution of Buddhists (we’ve all seen that harrowing image); the two week Lennon and Yoko Ono ‘Ben-in’, against the Vietnam War. These are lasting legacies forever captured in our popular imagination. Not this douchebag’s ‘statement’.

For one, whatever it is Brooke Purvis aims to promote – the fakeness and control money has over us, overthrowing capitalism – is futile. How can you stop capitalism: such a deeply ingrained ideology, and arguably, inevitable social and economic system; a necessity to many?

On some level I do agree with most of what Purvis says, especially in his efforts to encourage people to actually think about money as a concept; where it comes from and what it actually is. For example: ‘We rarely see money now; credit cards and debit cards, and now Apple pay.’

But the reality for many is that money is not simply a ‘fiction’ or state of mind, and to assume every human being is unappreciative and naïve with money is ludicrous.   

Despite his bold statement, fundamentally Purvis is still partaking in the capitalist system, living in London (ironically), and is still liable to pay for his expensive university education, as well as rent payments, among other things.

My feeling is that if you really feel that strongly about opposing capitalism and making a statement, you should abandon the capitalist lifetstyle altogether, and go and live up in a tree in the mountains of Nepal or something.

Okay – admittedly, burning your entire student loan is indeed a statement. But in the name of art? Surely this is what makes this idiotic and thoughtless act even worse? It will have no lasting legacy and is already being forgotten about by the media, so essentially it will amount to nothing. It will achieve nothing. Sure, a shocked and intrigued response, for all of five minutes, from those who care not to boycott this self-proclaimed ‘pretentious little shit’ (as he says on Twitter).

Also, just as an aside, what a COLOSSAL waste of money! Many students (myself included) across Britain, and the world, could really do with that money. I struggle to see Brooke’s art project optimistically. Namely because the thought of someone burning thousands of pounds in the name of art just makes me want to cry. Secondly, students have a tough enough time already and are often met with scepticism and disapproval, particularly in the anti-Corbyn, Conservative wave dominating the political scene at the moment, that we don’t need this added on to the list.

As I receive exactly £0 from the university and will soon lose my maintenance grant – the only free financial help I’ll ever receive – I can truly sympathise with the students wracked with guilt and worry over finances. As a full-time student with a part-time term-time job and a full time job back home over the holidays, I still feel the strain. As young adults, on top everything else you stress about at uni, including grades, relationships, friendships, and wellbeing, financial issues and the materialism of money can sometimes take over. So from this viewpoint, I can appreciate Brooke’s motives, and admire his bravery.

As a student of the arts myself, I love the daring and creative aspects to his Everything Burns campaign/project. But to actually go ahead and burn money and to show people, is just another kick in the teeth for students alike. (And above all, its not even original!) It has been done before by ‘artists’, namely Bill Drummond, who with Jimmy Cauty, famously set alight £1 million. He since regrets that decision, particularly when he has to explain it to his children, unsurprisingly.

The question of whether this is truly art, an important statement, or a stunt to get some much-needed quick publicity should also be addressed. It will be interesting to see where Brooke is in a few years time. Either broke and forlorn (hopefully), or reaping the benefits of the capitalist system in full, with the support from an army of self-important obnoxious art-dealer morons. What Purvis and others like him need to understand is people are not upset through greed, but through the sheer, utter, waste, and the benefits this could have had to someone else’s life, someone who wouldn’t simply burn it.

[Serena Ruberto – @shrpixie]

 

And he thinks people should part with their taxes to fund his university course in pointless activities presumabl

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