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THE VILE MAXIM  (2016/17)

The Vile Maxim

The Vile Maxim (seit 2016)

A Portrait of Capitalism


Text by Laurence Cornet 

“Money is fetish. Growth of economy is fetish. Business is fetish. It is not about usefulness or even sense, it is about doing it for itself.” Building upon Karl Marx’s theory, Mario Brand explores how actual it is today.


Mario Brand’s latest series, The Vile Maxim, is inspired by a quote from 18th century Scottish economist, Adam Smith, who wrote, “all for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

 With a cold, futuristic language, Brand portrays our present capitalistic society in which, as he puts it, “the growth of economy has become a value for itself”. Strolling around mega trade fairs in various cities of his native Germany, he compiled an inventory of waste. “Everything there is built within one or two weeks and quickly thrown away, which is a symbol to me - these fairs are some kind of equivalent for consumption by themselves”, he explains.

 Symbols function as a red threat for the series - a train station column covered with sparkling silver tiles; a ceiling covered with dangling cables; half-3D globes representing how much Earth isn’t made available equally to 100% of its population; or the mechanic arm of a robot seen on a screen. These are metaphors for the distance between the making of a product and the place where it’s sold and consumed. “We don’t know about the circumstances in which things are produced anymore - the producer is not visible”, Brand explains.

 In addition to shots from the commercial fairs, Brand took a few photographs in a studio, playing around the expression “born with a silver spoon in one's mouth”, whose equivalent in German replaces silver with gold. “I wanted to create this kind of spoon, but one that would be painful if you imagine putting it in your mouth”, he describes.

 Not surprisingly, the main theme that shines through his series, beyond immoderation, is artificiality. As an introduction, one faces a pristine fake white wall of strictly geometrical patterns. Inside, inviting as it can be, one gets a glimpse of a heavenly countryside landscape at sunrise - that is, if it were not made of synthetic grass and wallpaper. “This plastic grass and wallpaper have nothing to do with real values”, Brand comments. “It goes back to what Karl Marx explained. The value of society is put into goods, which can easily be taken away, as we saw during the financial crisis in 2007-08.”

„die besten Tools kennen und Zählerplätze planen und per App konfigurieren und für Energieeffizienz sorgen und die Zukunft installieren und engagiert arbeiten und dabei entspannt sein und im Team mehr erreichen und harte Fortbildungen durchlaufen und stolz auf sich sein und auf Licht und satte Strahlkraft stehen und selbst glänzen“ (Spruch auf der Außenwand eines Messestandes, unbekannter Autor)

Ein Fetisch ist das Benutzen von Dingen, Menschen, Handlungen oder Räumen für einen Lustgewinn. Unabhängig von Nutzen oder Sinn geht es um das Benutzen an sich.

 Karl Marx sprach von einem Fetischcharakter in der Warenordnung. Arbeitsprodukte bekamen, sobald mit ihnen gehandelt wurde, einen Wert zugeschrieben. Der Wert wurde als den Produkten innewohnend begriffen, obwohl er nur eine gesellschaftliche Zuschreibung war und ist.

 Diese Gedanken stammen bereits aus dem Kapital von 1867, dennoch kommen sie mir unverändert aktuell vor. Heute wird dem Gedanken des vermeintlich nötigen Wirtschaftswachstums nicht nur ein Sinn zugeschrieben. Vielmehr soll das Wachstum selbst der Sinn sein. Es scheint nicht zu zählen was verkauft wird, die Hauptsache ist, es wird konsumiert. Wert und Nutzen haben die Bedeutung getauscht.

 Da ich Handelsmessen als Kulminationspunkte von Konsum verstehe, sind viele Bilder dieser Serie dort entstanden. Der Besuch dieser Messen ist ein Dauerfeuer für die Sinne. Alles ist bunt, laut und will gesehen werden. In den hochgradig inszenierten und doch provisorischen Ständen auf den riesigen Messegeländen dominieren Firmenlogos und Werbung.

 Der Mensch kommt in den Fotografien nur am Rande vor. Für das Funktionieren von, durch Marketing gesteuerten, Konsum sind die Verbraucher zwar die Voraussetzung, aber sie sind auch austauschbar. Denn Konsum ist Selbstzweck. Oder eben: Fetisch.

„know the best tools and plan meter panels and configure via app and care about energy efficiency and install future and work engaged and be relaxed in doing so and achieve more in the team and pass through professional development and be proud on oneself and love light and bright charisma and shine for yourself“

(qoute on the outside of a trade fair booth, unknown author)


Fetishism is the use of things, humans, actions or rooms for a gain of pleasure. Despite of usefulness or even sense, it is about using for itself.

Karl Marx spoke about Commodity Fetishism. As soon as the goods were traded, a countable value was attributed to manufactured products. This value was supposed to be inherent in the products, although it was, and still is, an attribution made by society. Although this was already written in 1867, it remains actual. Nowadays the allegedly necessary growth of economy through consumption is not only attributed senseful. The growth should rather be the sense. Selling is essential for itself, no matter what is sold. Value and utility seem to have switched their meaning.

Visiting the points of culmination for consumption, many of the pictures were made on trade fairs. These fairs are really colourful, they are loud and every single exhibition booth is built to gain attraction. These highly staged, yet provisional, booths on the huge fairgrounds are dominated by advertisement and company logos.

In the photographs, humans only play a marginal role. For proper working, marketing driven consumption, the human is a premise. But when humans become consumers, they are interchangable. Because consumption is self purpose. Or: fetishism.

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