Chosen Memories: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift and Beyond

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*The Fountain of Prosperity (Answers to Some Questions About Bananas)*

Michael Stevenson. The Fountain of Prosperity (Answers to Some Questions About Bananas). 2006

Plexiglass, steel, brass, aluminium, rubber, cork, string, concrete, water, pumps and fluorescent lamps, 96 7/16 × 61 13/16 × 43 11/16" (245 × 157 × 111 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Gonzalo Parodi. © 2024 Michael Stevenson
Digital image: © 2024 Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest

Artist, Michael Stevenson: I heard whispers that there was a physical model of the national economy. And I thought, “well, what could that possibly be?” So that's when I found this thing.

It is based on a real existing object built by, probably New Zealand's most famous economist, Bill Phillips. He got some kind of scholarship to study at London's School of Economics and wanted to visualize some of this economic theory. He built this prototype and used a liquid medium as a measure of money flowing through in a singular national economy. It became quite famous and he built them to order and sold them.

In the 1980s this particular version of the machine was sent to the Central Bank of Guatemala, during the time of the Arbenz administration. And Arbenz was really trying to imagine what a fully functioning independent Guatemalan economy might look like. So Arbenz might need an object like that to imagine it. But that object could do nothing for him. It couldn't fix anything. It couldn't tell him anything. It couldn’t predict anything. And it arrived broken.

After spending some time in Guatemala and visiting both the central Bank and then this public university where the machine was given, I thought about this idea to somehow refabricate one of these objects. And it's an object that attempts to somehow describe or even be this thing which is completely without form. So this thing is not the economy. It’s simply a flow of water.