Jamie Dimon: Before The Nation Went Bankrupt

"You are Jamie Dimon and your perfect wife has left you. Your perfect daughter won't return your phone calls. Your economy is collapsing."

"You are Jamie Dimon and your perfect wife has left you. Your perfect daughter won't return your phone calls. Your economy is collapsing."

Live Performance Description

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 at the center of attention, begins to confront his mortality.

"I fear that my actions have started an inevitable downfall; financial, moral and physical"

"I fear that my actions have started an inevitable downfall; financial, moral and physical"


Video Excerpt: Introduction

Video Excerpt: Letter To Lover #1

Live Performance excerpt: Letter to Daughter Julia

Jamie Dimon: Before The Nation Went Bankrupt, Excerpt of live performance at Kresge Theatre, CMU, Pittsburgh, PA, November 10, 2016.

Live Performance (Full) Dixon Place, NYC August 2015



Performance Details

Technical Details:

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.

Performance History:

SLA307, New York, NY

IPPE Conference, Berlin, Germany

Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA

Kresge Theatre, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Performancy Forum, Brooklyn, NY

Dixon Place, New York, NY

Prelude Festival, New York, NY

Sunview Luncheonette, Brooklyn, NY

Spark!, Syracuse, NY

Brooklyn International Performance Art Festival, Brooklyn NY

Galapagos Art Space, Brooklyn, NY

Performance flyer, November 2016

Performance flyer, November 2016


Detailed Performance Summary

Jamie Dimon Market Moves

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.

"The Stoner", John Thain from Merrill Lynch

"The Stoner", John Thain from Merrill Lynch

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.

"What about evolution? We speak of markets as rational, self correcting."

"What about evolution? We speak of markets as rational, self correcting."

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.

"You are terrifying. You are 24/7 capitalism. You are capitalism in its purest form...without humans"

"You are terrifying. You are 24/7 capitalism. You are capitalism in its purest form...without humans"

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.

"I fear that my action will begin the inevitable downfall; financial, moral, physical."

"I fear that my action will begin the inevitable downfall; financial, moral, physical."

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.

"The paintings make me think of our love, the way I look at you like a foreign creature in my bed"

"The paintings make me think of our love, the way I look at you like a foreign creature in my bed"

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?"

"Bill, isn't this the kind of risk climate we have been dreaming about for centuries?"

"Bill, isn't this the kind of risk climate we have been dreaming about for centuries?"
-Jamie Dimon

Artist Biography

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 and videos about former French president Francois Mitterrand’s last meal, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain’s sex life, and the love letters of JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Sometimes, he takes this practice out into the streets; he has led a guided walking tour of an abandoned housing project re-imagined as a Richard Serra sculpture, conducted a seminar on desire from the back of a limousine and performed for one person at at Brooklyn Nets game.

Sullivan has screened and performed his works at festivals, conferences, and in art galleries and museums in the US and in Europe. Most recently he has shown work at American Medium in Brooklyn, The San Diego Art Institute and in a program of short videos at Documenta 14.  He has received a special mention prize at the Montreal Film Festival, a festival prize at the FilmWinter in Stuttgart, Germany and an audience award at The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His performance work has been written about on Hyperallergic, and 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.

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