The gift of gifting

The German conceptualist artist Thomas Locher juggles critically with the ambiguous meanings of certain English words – such as gift, debt, credit, value, exchange and capital. These words can take on different meanings in everyday language, and therefore blur their ready-made meaning from its origin.

For example, let’s take the words gift and donation. The word gift is an informal word used to express that a person voluntarily gives something to a person, in order to please her. The word donation derives from the Latin verb donare, which is based on the noun donum, meaning gift. Hence, originally there was just the word gift. But using money to do someone a favour demands a more explicit word: Donation. “It is madness the economic circulation annulling the gift in equivalence,“ wrote Jacques Derrida in his work Donner le temps in 1991. Has anything changed since then?

Locher created the animations Homo Oeconomicus and the fifteen-part series SMALL GIFT. TO GIVE. GIVING. GIVEN. GIFT, IF THERE IS ANY … (J.D.) to raise awareness of the absurdity lying behind everyday and financial language.

It was on the basement of the Vienna Secession (5/7 – 1/09/2013) where the contemporary artist conveyed a clear message based on Marx’s theory of Entfremdung: Through work, capital, consumption and money, humans are distancing themselves from the embodiment of being human.


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