Jamie Dimon: Before The Nation Went Bankrupt
On Friday September 12, 2008 the CEOs of America's largest banks were summoned to the Federal Reserve in Lower Manhattan to prevent the unwinding of the economy. Little is known about what happened that weekend at the Fed. Until now.
Jamie Dimon: Before The Nation Went Bankrupt is in part a history of the current financial crisis, a conflation of romantic love, lust and financial abstraction, and an exploration of the impulse of powerful white men to dominate. The letters are based in truth, many of the details are facts, but they expand into conjecture to tell a deeper truth about capitalism and the tenuous myths that hold it together. The letters are an account of the impending collapse of neoliberalism, (true) and a look inside the minds of the cynical bunch who pulled it back from the precipice (mostly true). The story lays bare the flimsiness of neoliberalism, composed of libidinal impulses disguised as rational processes. Not quite fiction and not quite satire, the letters are a cry in the dark from an insular world that brought us all to the brink of financial, physical and moral ruin.
The performance itself blurs the line between subject and performer. As the Jamie Dimon onstage wrestles with the abstractions in his life, the composed tone of the performance unhinges. The abstractions of the economy have begun to unravel and are having disastrous effects in real life. At the same time, the abstracted distance in which Dimon has lived his personal life and formed his opinions of the world are also collapsing. As his world implodes, a white man in a suit, confidently assured of his place as the center of attention, begins to confront his mortality
Video Excerpt: Introduction
Video Excerpt: Letter To Julia
Live Performance excerpt: Letter to Daughter Julia
Live Performance (Full) Dixon Place, NYC August 2015
Performer: Nathaniel Sullivan, single performer
Running Time: 40 minutes
Visuals: projector and wall or screen. Video feed run from Quicktime on laptop.
Sound: One microphone (either handheld or clip on), PA system running sound from laptop and mixing with vocals.
Room: Dimensions very adaptable; I have performed this piece in theatrical settings for 125 people and in smaller gallery spaces with folding chairs set up for 20. Either set up works.
Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA
Kresge Theatre, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Dixon Place, New York, NY
Prelude Festival, CUNY, New York, NY
Sunview Luncheonette, Brooklyn, NY
Spark!, Syracuse, NY
Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, Brooklyn NY
Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn, NY
Detailed Performance Summary
While being held at the Federal Reserve, Jamie Dimon writes letters to lovers, family and colleagues. He gives a blow by blow account of a seminal weekend in the financial crisis, a precipice for the neoliberal order.
On Saturday morning, Dimon writes a much younger lover and compares the CEOs of America's largest banks to high school archetypes. Next, he writes to his daughter expressing his concern that the neoliberal order might be over. The market has become machine run. He feels his world slipping away, his loss self engineered.
On Saturday evening, Dimon writes a co-worker / lover and tries to come up with a metaphor to describe capitalism. Is it the skyscraper? Evolution? He concludes that the enduring metaphor for capital in the 21st century is masturbation. Willing to face his fears, Jamie writes a love letter to an algorithm. He tries to relate to a money making machine that he loves, but ultimately one who doesn't have a body and operates outside of perceptible time. In the middle of the night, Dimon gives in to an onanistic impulse. He descends into madness, a personal hell that is being actualized in the futures markets.
After a wretched night, Jamie Dimon wants to come home. In a bid for a second chance, he runs his love for his wife through a risk pricing model. He insists that he did not have sex with their maid. In the next instant, Dimon writes the maid, lusting after her. He wonders about the notion of privilege that all the college kids are talking about. What the hell is white privilege supposed to be? He's Greek. He compares their love to his newly acquired Gauguin paintings.
Early Monday morning, the dust settles. There is a bailout in the works. Everything is going to be fine for Jamie Dimon and men like him. The bailout means that risk has been socialized, yet profit remains private. Writing to his Co-Head of Investment Banking, Dimon imagines that the economy is like a garden, a perfect cultivation meant to serve him and designed to suit his desires and passions.
"Bill, isn't this the kind of risk climate we have been dreaming about for centuries?"
Nathaniel Sullivan is a “creative non-fiction” artist. His research into the lives of real people and events combine documentary realism and rational processes with conjecture and desire. He makes videos and multimedia lecture performances that blur the line between subject and performer. He has created performances about former French president Francois Mitterrand's last meal, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain's sex life, and the love letters of banker Jamie Dimon.
He has received a special mention prize at the Montreal Film Festival in 2006, a festival prize at the FilmWinter in Stuttgart, Germany and an audience award at The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most recently, his performance work has been written about on Hyperallergic. and he has been performing regularly in New York at alternative art and theatre venues like Galapagos Art Space and Glasshouses in Brooklyn and at the Prelude Festival at The Graduate Center CUNY. An 11 page spread of his latest work, Before the Nation Went Bankrupt about JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was featured in Vice. He has been an artist in residence at Contemporary Arts Center in Troy, New York, at I-Park in East Haddam, Connecticut and the Bemis Center in Omaha, Nebraska.