Maybe it looks like I’ve gone mad, so some context:
I’m an independent designer and film-maker. I was invited to Davos by the head of the Arts and Culture programme. He came to my studio, and told me about World Economic Forum’s mission to improve the state of the world, by getting business and political leaders to collaborate on tackling the multiple crises that humanity is facing. I thought this sounded like a good idea, and he’s a nice guy, so I agreed to exhibit my short film Hyper-Reality and make a presentation.
The Arts and Culture programme invites artists, musicians, actors and celebrity chefs to “speak truth to power.” But after spending a day attending sessions and talking to people, I felt sick and depressed, and decided I couldn’t stay. I found a lot of things upsetting; the CEO of Wal-Mart talking about his commitment to ethics (NEWS: they are releasing a responsibly sourced t-shirt). The biggest mall operator in the middle east talking about his commitment to sustainability (he built a ski slope with real snow in Dubai). The audience nodding and applauding this brazen hypocrisy. Snipers on the rooftops, decadent private parties, massive gender imbalance (although to be fair, most of the service staff were young women). I did meet a few kind and well-intentioned people, suffering humiliation in order to do something good; my apologies go out to them. I was recommended to try the ‘refugee simulator’. Apparently its great, but I found the idea in this context too dystopian. There are many good intentions paving the road to Davos.
I started to feel that the Arts and Culture programme, and the humanitarian and environmental themes of the event as a whole, were serving to legitimise the massively unjust system that the forum celebrates. To make it seem that we were doing something good, while in fact under the surface it’s the same old money, power and callous greed. These people are not stupid. The staff the participants, the delegates, everyone there knows that it’s not real, that its just theatre. Many people I spoke to confirmed this, with a kind of ‘it is what it is’ attitude. I found myself becoming complicit, lending my own work to support and validate the whole thing.
I went to Davos with an open mind, and didn’t intend to make any kind of protest, but in the end destroying my own work was the only way I could see to leave cleanly. I’m glad I have the freedom to stand up to bullshit. Anyway, thanks for reading. Back to work.