Greed Game was an altered book project based on ‘Money Rush’ by Andrew Duncan and published in 1979 by The Anchor Press Ltd. about the impact of discovery of oil in the Middle East in 1970s. My plan was to produce a thought-provoking game based on information from the book, but linking the events and motivations of both Western powers and Middle Eastern players to current events in the Middle East and the growth of terrorism. The issues raised by the book are relevant not only for the Middle East, but the links between money and global power more generally. For full details of the project and links see:
The topic proved too complex to adequately cover and the resources rather too outdated for a real game, and the final outcome too rushed to be effective. Nevertheless my work explored some of the issues involved in producing documentary art work – to produce contrasting materials in relevant styles, colour, shapes and different media.
The book covered a period in Iran which I had personally witnessed – a period when our self-interested promotion of the Shah and his SAVAK secret police fuelled support for the rise of the Ayatollahs and stifling of any democratic resistance in Iran. A fact that journalists in Pakistan and Afghanistan later mentioned to me as a reason why they felt support for Osama Bin Laden.
- deep-rooted ‘spiritual’, sufi and also progressive art ‘feminine’ side (even lorry drivers I met in the 70s could recite poetry and the Shah and his father implemented social reforms eg in position of women) which became linked to corruption of the elite class
- the very conservative male domination of the mullahs that took over with a promise to address poverty, stamp out corruption and provide a strong moral government
- schizophrenia of the shah living in a fairy world of the past and imposing it with torture and repression that is intensified now under the Islamic Revolution (though currently – temporarily?? – relaxing somewhat after the nuclear deal)
- Colours: like Isfahan and other mosques: deep blue, turquoise, gold and light purple
- Shape dynamics: wavy, swirly Arabesques overlaid by vertical bars and shadowy figures in the dark
- Materials: juxtaposing gouache, photos and transparency slides as whitewash/overlay hiding what is underneath
Oman is a relatively peaceful country, proud of its cultural past and developing a tourist industry. Before the current Sultan Qaboos, the British controlled Oman and supported very cruel tyrants in their concern to protect their access to India and the Persian Gulf. Although lots of money was wasted by Sultan Qaboos who is lambasted in the book, there seems to be little political repression and Omani women have a lot of freedom. The main concern is what will happen when Qaboos dies – he has no heir, nor has he groomed a clear successor, or set up a strong democratic system.
- Colours:browns, reds, oranges
- Shape dynamics:texture, curved like mosque and sea waves
- Materials: woodcut, gouache and ink blobs including gold and copper acrylic inks
Saudi Arabia is really barbaric and propped up by US interests. There seems to be little in the way of more progressive culture like the protest movements in Iran, or the opening up in UAE and Oman. The elite family is corrupt and hypocritical with millionaire lifestyles. There are though currently some glimmerings of change – though the most recent King has committed human rights abuses.
- Colours: Black, white and green of Wahabi Islam. Some red as ‘forbidden’ colour.
- Shape dynamics: Angular, calligraphic, abstract.
- Materials: Foil cutouts from my contact lens cases and ends of orange nets manipulated on iPad to produce mechanical rows of people conforming, or forced to conform.
UAE has been cobbled together by colonial powers from 7 emirates that find it quite problematic to work together, because of historic rivalries. Much of what has been built has risen out of the desert because of a wish for self-aggrandisement by sheikhs like Sheikh Zayed. Sheikh Rashid of Dubai is however more progressive and visionary. Nevertheless there has been considerable and development and progress that is likely to continue and gradually democratise. The situation for women is quite conservative, but there are women airplane pilots and entrepreneurs coming up. The main issue seems to be the human rights of immigrant workers and an almost apartheid system.
- Colours: Red, Green, Black and White from the flag.
- Shape dynamics: Horizontals of the desert and verticals of sky-scrapers.
- Materials: Collage, tissue (the sheikhs seem to always have coloured tissues at hand), wallpaper textures.