September 8, 2015 / 3:12pm
Ben Hall’s massive sculpture, The Drill (2015), includes a lot of mash-ups. One side is covered by a quilt the artist made, with patches dedicated to the Monopoly FREE PARKING square, a Situationist riff on the Adidas slogan, and the merger-in-name of two entities: Radical anarchist and political activist Emma Goldman (1869–1940) and Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. This unlikely combination prompted an imagined meeting between the two, written by Rachel Krislov, MOCA Cleveland’s summer 2015 Curatorial Intern.
Somewhere in the metaphorical world, Emma Goldman and Goldman Sachs walk into a bar.
Emma orders a vodka – the real deal, made from actual potatoes, not that Smirnoff bullshit. Why do capitalists insist on making the best things in life terrible just so that they sell better?
Sachs orders a craft beer. He lifts it for inspection in a manicured, Rolex-adorned hand. It’s got a really long name, and according the proud label at the back, the organic, non-GMO wheat it’s made from is imported from Belgium, where each granule was kissed by a virgin wearing white silk, which was, in turn, imported from Japan. It’s raspberry flavored. The raspberries were grown in California (where the dwindling groundwater will imminently bankrupt hundreds of farmers, creating a succulent opportunity for bailout profits). That makes this beer 100% American, from the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Sachs is proud to be a patriot.
He casts a superior glance around the bar as though he owns it (which he does, for now), taking in the patrons, the laughter and the clinking of glasses. His gaze rolls to a halt on Emma’s form, unsettlingly masculine in the hard line of the jaw and the austere style of the hair and clothes. While she doesn’t look like someone he’d normally associate himself with, her antique clothes and proud, straight back might be indicators of some hidden wealth.
She’s only a couple of stools down the bar, and, after a moment of consideration, he leans toward her.
“Good evening, ma’am. What brings you to this fine establishment?”
She glances back at him balefully, utterly unimpressed. “Vodka,” she explains succinctly, and turns away again.
Sachs, ever vigilant in his pursuit of new wealth to plunder, is undeterred. “And how do you find the drinks? As new proprietor here, I’d be charmed to know your thoughts.”
Her eyes narrow. “The vodka, while unexceptional, is passable. I have many more thoughts on your title of proprietor, on property and its ownership. I am deeply convinced that in modern capitalism, economic exploitation rather than political oppression is the real enemy of the people.”
Sachs’ eyebrows, bushy and greying, shoot upwards, face pinching in offense. “Have you no respect for your country?! Capitalism is the very foundation of the United States.”
Emma is incensed and impassioned. “Were you truly the ‘patriot’ that I suspect you think yourself to be, you would know that this nation’s true foundation is liberty, religious and otherwise. Corporate entities and government alike perpetrate economic exploitation rather than political oppression.”
“I’M a corporate entity!” Sachs growls, lurching to Italian leather shoe-clad feet. He knocks away his barstool in self-important outrage. “My name is Goldman Sachs, and we don’t EXPLOIT anyone! We consistently win awards for excellence as an employer. Legal and profitable business practice is as American as apple pie!”
Emma jumps up too. Her pince-nez move down her face as it twists in righteous passion. “You! You have badly broken the lives of countless Americans whose money you pilfered and misused to create wealth for only yourself. Worse yet, Americans are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of an industrial magnate.”
Sachs puffs, “It’s true that we’re wealthy and successful, but we are no villains. In fact, we are philanthropists! We have contributed to many great humanitarian causes.”
“And governmental campaigns,” Emma amends. “Corporations like you have usurped any power the government system might once have touted. Your pour money into the pockets of your financial allies, and they in turn mold the very law to their greedy will. The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue. I will always choose the latter.”
“We ARE changing the world,” Sachs assures. “We’re changing it for the better. Our choice, our actions give American people the lives they’ve always dreamed of.”
“You are a LEECH. But no matter how large you grow from gorging on the blood and sweat of others, there will always be those who revolt. Revolution is but thought carried into action, and you cannot erase anything so enduring as a righteous idea!”
Sachs has had enough. “I assure you: even if your allegations were truthful, we would never allow them to impugn our image as a philanthropic American success story. There is nowhere in this nation you would be safe from our financial grasp. There would be no escape, no dancing around the consequences.”
Emma is also long past her tolerance. She motions to the bartender for another drink and her tab. Slamming an appropriate sum down on the counter, she raises the full glass in her hand. She stands before Sachs, straight-backed and unyielding.
"If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution." And with that, she tosses the drink in Sachs’ face and marches from the bar.
To view Goldman Sachs’ official website, click here. For a former employee’s take on Goldman Sachs, click here. For basic info on the feminist anarchist Emma Goldman, click here. To read works written by Emma Goldman, click here.