Artist Shreds A Million Euros and 13,000 Greek Votes In Protest of Greek Elections
If democracy cannot survive in its birthplace, can it survive anywhere? On September 15, 2015, artist Alberto Echegaray addresses this question in his latest work featuring a glass sphere filled with thousands of shredded authentic, paper ballots from Greece’s June referendum alongside an identical sphere filled with one million shredded euros. In 2014, Echegaray, who goes by the name Cayman, emerged as a new media artist and shocked the world with Moneyball, an installation that featured a million dollars-worth of shredded bills in hand-blown, Murano glass spheres surrounded by 11 smaller, identical spheres, each filled with a million Argentine pesos.
The exhibit made waves around the world in the midst of Argentina’s debt crisis as spiraling inflation gripped the nation. Now Cayman is back, and this time, his piece places the ultimate symbol of wealth in direct contrast with that that of democracy. And as always, he poses a question: which is more powerful – money, or the voice of the people? In July 2015, 61 percent of Greek citizens voted against austerity demands and in favor of abandoning the euro, rejecting bailout terms in a strong demonstration of unity against international creditors. Tspiras became a symbol of rejecting the capitalist establishment as leaders like Fidel Castro called to congratulate him on his bold move. Celebrations filled the streets of Athens, the city that spawned democracy, but were cut short as the people’s voice went unheard: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ended up accepting austerity demands in exchange for a European bailout.
Few crises provide a better representation of the vulnerability of democracy in a world increasingly ruled by greed. In his typical, unconventional approach to art and social commentary, Cayman jumped on the opportunity to turn this political disaster into art. Cayman’s first move was to get his hands on as many of the actual referendum votes as he could. With luck, he found Greek activists from the province of Thessaloniki who were willing to dig through election offices. They came up with 13,000 ballots and shipped them overseas to Argentina, Cayman’s home country. The ballots were placed in a Murano blown-glass sphere, opposite another sphere containing a million euros, obtained from the Central Bank of Europe. The two spheres, equal in size, create the present the perfect visualization of our world’s constant struggle between power and the people, and the threat that big money and self-interested politicians pose to democracy in the very territory that created it.
The best art comes from personal experience, and as Argentina was the last country that was forced to consider austerity after a crisis similar to that of Greece, this piece is particularly personal to Cayman. Although the country managed to recover somewhat since 2001, the economy remains traumatized and weakened, and politicians are easily bought. Regardless of their economic leanings, Argentines – and anyone forced to choose between dignity and economic salvation – commiserate with the Greeks today. With his newest piece, Cayman asks us to reflect on the real forces that move our world, and how far we have strayed from the ancient Athenian concept of democracy. The installation will be exhibited in Latin America and in Europe.
Artist Cayman with One MIllion Euros destroyed and 13,000 Greek Ballots from last referendum shredded
Video of the Greek Tragedy Moneyball