“Power of Gold” for CNN’s digital election gallery



(CNN) — In 2011, as the world marked 10 years since 9/11, we asked artists around the globe to illustrate the ripple effects of the terrorist attacks. The result was “9/11 Ripple,” CNN’s first digital art gallery.With the 2012 elections approaching, we again wanted to include artists in our coverage of a major news event. Artists provide unique insight and provoke thought, conversation and community in a critical way and are especially vital during such important times for our country and our world.

This time we chose the theme of “Power” for our digital art gallery. The theme represents not just the obvious power that’s at stake in the election but the more subtle forces that power us as a people and drive our debate over money, health, race and gender — often to the point of protest and gridlock.

Explore the “Power” digital election art gallery

We then reached out to a broad yet select group of artists representing different, influential perspectives in the art world and the broader community and asked them to submit work and participate in building the gallery with us…..

Noah Fischer, who took part in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York and initiated Occupy Subways and Occupy Museums, created “The Power of Gold.” The video juxtaposes images of the Statue of Liberty with a rotating gold coin, and his statement explains his intentions: “The fear instinct tells us to grab what we need to survive … yet we live in a nation that once took the goddess of freed slaves as its muse.”…

We hope it will be thought provoking, and we invite you to join the conversation by posting your comments on the gallery.

Artist’s statement: I remember the day I became particularly interested in the view through my studio window. Far in the distance, yet dead-on, stands the Statue of Liberty. She appears to be growing out of the trees of Red Hook, Brooklyn, an angle never seen on postcards or in the movies. It had been a rocky few years for me in my art practice; after the economy crashed in 2008 my projects were fewer than before, and without commissions, I could no longer afford the sprawling motorized installations I was making at the time. At that transitional moment I needed a muse that would remind me about the most important things in life, guaranteeing artistic freedom no matter what. On that day Lady Liberty became my muse.

It is incredible to me that the most famous symbol of the U.S. is a pagan goddess. Consider whether, if today France tried to gift the USA with a giant statue of a goddess derived from Libertas (the Roman goddess of freed slaves), it might send up a red flag or two with the Bible-focused community. Yet I did some research and found that from the time of our Founding Fathers to the late 19th century, before all of our coinage and bills were inscribed with “In God We Trust,” Lady Liberty appeared on nearly all American money — usually with flowing hair and robes looking like Botticelli’s Venus. Sometimes she appeared as a Native American princess or with rays of light emanating from her head.

Just to the right of Lady Liberty through my window, you can see the skyscrapers of Wall Street, among them the Freedom Tower slowly rising into the sky. After my experience with the 2008 economic crash, I contemplated the troubled zone through which more electronic money than anywhere in the world passes daily and where most of the world’s gold is stored. The thing about this crisis, and in some respects the reason for it, is that money is increasingly abstract and removed from daily life. To the executives in Wall Street offices, it’s flashing numbers with lots of zeros on electronic screens. To most of us, it’s the stuff that allows you to get groceries. A struggle with money is at the core of most American lives.

The 2008 financial crisis was totally disorienting. Is the economy real? How can you trust the powerful voices of the financial system that seem to hold all the cards? Many went looking for answers. There was a perception that yellow metal mined from rock and cast into ingots or minted into bullion coins was the real thing, and this archaic turn was a fascinating contradiction. A return to the gold standard seems quite impossible given the scale of today’s modern global economy, but certainly reveals something about our need to understand what is valuable. Gold coins became an important metaphor in my work. Gold has ancient roots representing the sun and truth. Coins are miniature sculptures full of symbolic meaning and beauty and always presenting two sides. (The Double Eagle high-relief gold bullion coin was designed by famed 19th century sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens, who was invited late in life by Teddy Roosevelt to create America’s most famous gold coin.) You can hold coins in your hand, feel their weight, and know they are there. They make clinking sounds. When you hand them to someone at a store, an actual thing is changing hands.

Lately it seems that the cohesion of our society is having a hard time keeping pace with mathematical advances in global investing. Most Americans have less than before. As money becomes ever more abstract, and commerce goes online, financial markets are influencing our daily lives more than ever in unseen ways. This presidential contest will reveal a far greater influence of money on elections than we have ever known, a process which seems impossible to stop. The fear instinct tells us to grab what we need to survive — to hoard gold, security, even political influence. Yet we live in a nation that once took the goddess of freed slaves as its muse, and she is still there, reminding us of what’s really important.