PRINT November 2011


BRETTON WOODS: It’s a phrase that has the ring of a fairy tale, but of course it’s simply the name of the New Hampshire town where, in 1944, delegates from the Allied nations came together to decide how the world economy should work. Nevertheless, for most of us, the global monetary system that evolved from the Bretton Woods agreements is as darkly mysterious as anything imagined by the Brothers Grimm. In Wert (the term is German for “value”) a special project for Artforum related to his new film, untitled at press time, Glasgow-based artist DUNCAN CAMPBELL relates the tale of one of this system’s most influential adepts: Hans (born Johannes) Tietmeyer, renowned German economist and bureaucrat nonpareil. As in his films Bernadette, 2008, which looks at the career of Irish activist and politician Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, and Make It New John, 2009, which traces the near-Homeric rise and fall of car manufacturer John DeLorean, Campbell here finds a quasi-fictional register commensurate with the strangeness of the true-life stories he explores. In his narrative, the global economy’s abstruse policies and arcane protocols, obscure institutions and unseen machinations, become the stuff of fable.

Photo: Jack Delano.

AS A WESTPHALIAN OAK I think of you, dear Johannes, specimen of the orientations of truth and strength that that far-famed tree is said to signify. Above even these stout qualities, the oak is said to be the embodiment of perseverance, or perhaps, in your case, some might use the expression stubbornness; but that too is part of the Westphalian heritage you cherish so dearly, a hidden connection and correspondence you would not deny! In Münsterland earth you have your roots, but even the most promising sapling would remain stunted without suitable soil. These last prerequisites, in the case of your upbringing, have not been wanting—the modest, orderly home environment provided by your father, a municipal treasury inspector; the sensitive guidance of spiritual counselor Alfonso; the upright community to which you deferred—all have combined to supply you with the nourishment

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