Capitalism Will Eat Itself

The Feast of Trimalchio, 2009

It takes many minds to create an artwork on the scale of AES+F’s panoramic video works. Four, to be precise.

AES+F is the collective of Tatiana Arzamasova (1955-), Lev Evzovich (1958-), Evgeny Svyatsky (1957-) and Vladimir Fridkes (1956-), who have been practising together since 1987. They have produced multi-channel video installations since 2007, when their work Last Riot was presented in the Russian Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Two years later, they exhibited the Feast of Trimalchio at the 2009 Biennale, followed two years later again by a third instalment in this trio of works, Allegoria Sacra (2011).

The Feast of Trimalchio (2009) is a nine-channel video animation of a series of staged photographs depicting an allegorical fantasy world of luxury and wealth. Over 75,000 photographs were composited through a kind of stop-motion animation for the work, disrupting the smooth narrative progression of film and introducing a glitchiness that hints at bugs in the system. A symphonic score adds another layer of dramatic depth to the work, which is already operatic in scale and execution.

The title refers to a chapter of The Satyricon, a 1st century AD Roman fictional work by Petronius. In it, Trimalchio, a former slave who has become very wealthy, throws lavish and ostentatious dinner parties, where delicacies are served to guests by his own slaves. Trimalchio represents the worst excesses of the nouveau riche, perpetuating the inequities of an unjust system.

Influenced by architecture and cultural imagery from around the world, AES + F probe the fault lines of today’s capitalist society. The artwork begins by depicting a corrupt and hedonistic world underpinned by the exploitation of other cultures. However, over the course of the video the relationship between master and servant becomes ambiguous, if not entirely reversed. Ultimately, the artwork makes you feel as if we might be living through an end times of our own – the end of an empire of greed and indulgence.