Teresa Estapé
Teresa Estapé

Oro, papel, diamante

Space

One of the most memorable scenes in Cameron Crowe’s film, Jerry Maguire(1996), is the phone conversation between Rob and Jerry (played by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise). In it, Rob demands that Jerry repeat the phrase “Show me the money!” louder and louder, and Jerry, desperate not to lose him as a client, obeys. The artist Teresa Estapé has appropriated this phrase, as we will later see, due to the significance of the cry. The plot of the film is not particularly interesting, but in a way it shows the heyday of financial capitalism in the nineties, in which society is increasingly prey to the dictatorship of capital. Although the transformation from industrial capitalism to financial capitalism came earlier, this decade is characterized by the reaffirmation of an economic system that, while failed, was nevertheless reinforced by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, among other international crises.

Teresa Estapé (Barcelona, 1972) practices in two distinct disciplines: jewelry and the visual arts. In both, there is an ongoing interest in questioning the meaning of value based on the logic of the market. In Oro, papel, diamante she composed a narrative in which the three materials become different goods to those which the market has accustomed us to. Gold, paper and diamonds have the unique quality of being elements with an inflated value – an economic value that is always fluctuating. The use of gold and diamonds in jewellery has taken on a dimension that goes beyond the symbolic and ancestral, becoming objects of desire, or rather consumption, due above all to that which theorist Yannis Stavrakakis describes as the “democracy of consumption”. However, paper is not a natural element – it is a created product, that has no use in jewelry but acquires an excessive value when turned into currency or security paper.

Estapé takes these three overvalued elements and subjects them to an inverse process – devaluation. To do so, she minimizes their most attractive or seductive properties. In doing so, she places her own status as a jeweler into crisis, because what matters here is to challenge the public. Her intentions are actually already discernible in her Unjewelry range, in which the pieces are the result of a process that reduces them to their minimum expression, returning the jewelry to its atavistic, symbolic and emotional essence. The idea of not- jewel manifests itself in the creative process, in which, with minimal violence, the piece is left moments away from disappearance or breaking. As such, the people who own them are in a different position than those who buy them to satisfy their need to consume or feed their vanity.

In Oro, papel, diamante these actions are accentuated using an artistic language. In the pieces Diamond (2019) and No commercial value (2019), we can see the artist’s willingness to subvert certain rules in the treatment of materials considered valuable. Using high temperature and airflow, she has managed to “freeze” a “precious” stone to strip its brightness and return it to its original stone state. In Safe Haven II (2019), previously presented at the Goethe Institut and at the Kunst Haus (Vienna), she operates with the same purpose, camouflaging an 18-carat gold plate and turning it into a DIN A4 sheet. A number of other sheets of paper and the gold plate cover the space, and on them is written without ink the aforementioned phrase: “Show me the money”. This unsurpassed slogan still resonates today, though it does not manifest itself in the same way. Its presence continues under mechanisms that are more difficult to identify, more perverse and silenced.

In a filing cabinet next to the Safe Haven II installation, the artist has filed the proforma invoices that she requests from a business selling gold, every week for the duration of the exhibition, in order to know the price of the quantity of that metal needed to make the DIN A4 plate and its manufacture. In this way, it is possible to check the oscillation of the price and also confirm the fragility of safe havens. Once more reaffirming the fact that value is measured by what is quantifiable, not the qualifiable. As philosopher Brian Massumi says, it is time to reclaim value: it is too valuable to leave it in the hands of capital.

Zaida Trallero