Bahar Noorizadeh, Rudá Babau and Waste Paper Opera
Free To Choose
Single-channel video (colour, sound), 35:58
Free to Choose is an operatic financial sci-fi (fi-fi), narrated by Milton Friedman, in which we encounter the credit banking system as a time travelling machine.
In 1997, in post economic crash Hong Kong, Philip Tose, ex-race car driver and CEO of an insolvent company travels to the future to borrow a lump sum from his older self to rescue his business. Hong Kong in 2047 turns out not to be very different from the Hong Kong of “One Country, Two systems”: centralisation has not eradicated nepotism, and activism has become rating activism: young people advocating for free time travel for everyone, including the untrustworthy and the discredited of a corrupt credit system.
In the background is superstar economist and real-life evangelist Milton Friedman’s myth of neoliberalism as represented by Hong Kong: In his long career as a market ideologue and advisor to the conservative governments of the US and the UK, Friedman hailed the city as the modern exemplar of free markets, needless of heavy-handed government planning and control. “If you want to see Capitalism in action, you should go to Hong Kong.”
Much like the economic worlds built in metaverse and gaming platforms today, Hong Kong was the testing ground for the parable of neoliberalism. Once certified in its advanced colony, neoliberalism would return to shape the economic policies of Western powers in the decades to come. In 2023, despite once claiming the highest rate of public housing in the world, Hong Kong now holds one of the deepest wealth gaps and one of the most lucrative real estate markets on the planet.
Bahar Noorizadeh looks at the relationship between art and capitalism. In her practice as an artist, writer and filmmaker, she examines the conflictual and contradictory notions of imagination and speculation as they suffuse one another. Her research investigates the histories of economics, cybernetic socialism, and activist strategies against the financialization of life and the living space, asking what redistributive historical justice might look like for the present. Noorizadeh is the founder of Weird Economies, a co-authored and socially-connected project that traces economic imaginaries extraordinary to financial arrangements of our time.
Rudá Babau is a filmmaker and artist based in Brasilia and São Paulo, Brazil. They work with the virtuality of reality and the fuzziness between digital and material as code.
Waste Paper Opera is an experimental music theatre collective, comprising artists, makers, performers, writers and researchers, run by composer and performer James Oldham and artist and writer Klara Kofen. Their recent collaboration with writer and artist Gary Zhexi Zhang, Dead Cat Bounce, presented as an installation at Medialab Matadero and premiered at Somerset House in 2022, is a modularly expanding oratorio, a sacred work of choral music telling stories of money, time, and catastrophe. For this first extension of the work, they are joined by sound artist and performer Anna Palmer, composer and artist Cameron Graham, violinist and sound artist Chihiro Ono and the Waste Paper Opera Chorus.