Following in the tradition of ‘épater le bourgeois,’ that includes abject works of art such as Maurizio Cattelan’s America, an 18-karat gold urinal, or Piero Manzoni’s seminal work Artist’s Shit, made in 1961, The Last Illusion continues this line of inquiry questioning how the value of art is derived, highlighting the juxtaposition between the symbolic and the tangible, the abstract and the real.
Like currency, the commercial value of art is based on collective intentionality. By referencing The Nixon Shock, which broke the interrelation between state-issued currency and gold in 1971, when the president of the United States unilaterally cancelled the international convertibility of the US dollar to gold, Darya von Berner highlights this break with social convention and our collective belief in the intrinsic value of money itself.
In his book ‘Sapiens,’ the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari contends that money is not a material reality, but rather a psychological construct. Harari suggests that “people are willing to trust the figments of their collective imagination. Trust is the raw material from which all types of money are minted.” The Last Illusion encapsulates this collective imagination and our belief in laws, money, gods and nations, all of which work as collective narratives evolved to support symbolic realities of convenience.
The Last Illusion lays bare the fundamental tension between the tangible and the disembodied, alluding to the abstract reality of currency and juxtaposing this with the very real value of Earth’s ecosystems and the reckoning of nonpecuniary ecological processes that sustain natural abundance and life on earth as we know it.