Dow Jones Dow Jones

Mark Poysden

I will tell you the secret to getting rich on Wall Street. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.
― Warren Buffett

In this monumental projection, various familiar classic animation characters all run frantically in the same direction at different speeds, although somehow none of them overtake each other. Some appear to be running away from something we cannot see while others hurtle towards yet another unknown. None of them get anywhere despite their desperate efforts. Perhaps it’s the voices in their heads or the overture to the daily financial news that spurs them on: “The Dow Jones is up by 158 points”, “The Dow Jones has lost another 770 points”. Yet, despite the veneration it receives and the panic or joy the Dow Jones can sow it is not an accurate representation of the US market; it drives and is an indicator of greed and fear. [1]

This is DOW JONES, a work that Rotterdam-based artist Han Hoogerbrugge conceived in 2012 as a two-screen installation and which has seen several iterations since. This is an ever-expanding piece: in future iterations more characters will be added to this frenzied pell-mell in what is an interesting counterpoint to reality. Midway through 2013, Dow Jones III was exhibited at Museum Boymans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, now as a three-screen installation.

Amused, confused and agitated by the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour, Han Hoogerbrugge trawls contemporary culture like a filter feeder (not always consciously) scooping up and assimilating the morsels that titillate him and then disgorging them partially dissolved in the digestive juices of his signature style and humour. DOW JONES is no exception and epitomises much of his output: brief, succinct statements without any introductions.

In view of the rapidity with which the world seems to have been turned on its head since the Great Recession that began in December 2007, perhaps a cursory analysis of the scum that Hoogerbrugge filtered to extract this particular work is not out of place here. Welcome, once again, to the ever-expanding swamp of the real…

My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.
– Barack Obama (US president 2009–2017), 27 March 2009 [2]

In just seven months’ time, 4.1 million people in the US lost their jobs and the US stock market plummeted by 40%. The banks stopped issuing loans and the global economy was shrinking for the first time since the Second World War, resulting in an outcry from leading economists who clamoured for the reformation and nationalisation of some of the megabanks. The CEOs of thirteen of the country’s largest financial institutions had gathered at the White House to meet with President Obama. The outcome of the discussions was summarised as: “Everybody has to pitch in. We’re all in this together.” But what did “we’re all in this together” actually mean? Taxpayers would soon find out.

The stock market is fluctuating wildly. I haven’t seen this much bouncing up and down since Clinton was in the White House.
– Craig Ferguson, television host, comedian, author and actor

Ronald Reagan started it all when he deregulated the banks in 1982, leading to the so-called Savings & Loans scandal.[3] Next, in 1999, Bill “It’s the economy, stupid!” Clinton’s government repealed the Glass-Seagall Act (1933), removing the protections that ringfenced people’s savings from the predatory investment banks, and approved other bank-friendly legislation that midwifed the subprime mortgage carbuncle that ruptured in 2006: for nearly a decade interest- only housing loans had been granted to many of the lowest wage-earners without any background checks (job, financial status, credit history, whether they could actually read – some lenders signed with an ‘X’, etc.).[4] These loans were then repackaged as “derivatives” (contracts whose value is derived from another asset) that were sold and resold in financial markets around the world, turning this American-made crisis into a global catastrophe. As with the financial crises that preceded it, this one reiterated the mind-numbingly familiar cycle of crude overindulgence ending in collapse. The term “too big too fail” was introduced to provide cover to the megabanks and to excuse governments for what they did next.

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy, they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

Instead of punishing the rapacious oligarchs running the banks, governments around the world did their utmost to save them, often betraying their ideologies and political bases to do so.[5] Naturally, the US government’s finance goblins – all of them having reaped millions and millions working for the megabanks before they were appointed legislators – urged bailing out the banks. What followed – and not only in the US – was the greatest transfer of public wealth[6] into private hands that the world had ever seen: once again, it was socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.[7] This large-scale asset purchasing by governments continues today under the arcane term “quantitative easing”, although nobody talks about it anymore. It’s better to pretend. Despite what we’re told, we are all living in socialist societies that are bankrupting the future. Happy days are here again.

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind.
– Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street

From an evolutionary perspective, Gordon Gekko is correct, of course (although only the wealthy preach that greed is right), but attitudes have changed since Oliver Stone made this film: the new law of evolution seems to be the survival of the unfittest. Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony are no longer considered immoral, but have instead become marketing tools that are wielded to instil an irrational desire in people to join the stampede towards owning more than they need of the stuff they don’t need, without ever being content. [8]

Our unstoppable advance is an ongoing celebration of growth, development and progress. But as befits any good party, a hangover always follows. When we look back on a successful party, we also see the mess. We clean up and make plans for the next party. With great courage. Every time. And the next party is always going to be better. For a good party, you have to be naive. Forget the hangover of the last party.
– Han Hoogerbrugge

Having been twerked into believing that they survived the Great Recession, people have crawled back under their pixellated security blankets, entranced by plastic people and the disaster pornography that now form the mainstays of the parasitical media froth that surrounds us. In an interesting counterpoint to this reality, Hoogerbrugge’s posse of virtual characters in DOW JONES reminds us that we in the real world still have plenty of reasons to panic.

Human beings will line up for miles to buy a bucket of catastrophes, but don’t try selling sunshine and light – you’ll go broke.
– Chuck Jones[9]


1 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a stock market index that indicates the value of 30 large, publicly owned companies based in the United States, and how they have traded in the stock market during various periods. It is named after Charles Dow, who compiled his first stock average in 1884.
2 – Quoted in Eamon Javers, ‘Inside Obama’s Bank CEOs Meeting’, Politico, 3 April 2009, available at:, accessed 3 September 2019. During this meeting, the CEOs of the world’s most powerful financial institutions defended their employee’s high salaries, and, by extension, the amounts (and multi-million dollar bonuses) they paid themselves. Obama brusquely cautioned them about how the public would react to such explanations, ending with this quote. The CEOs were served a single glass of water, with no ice and no refills. ‘The only way they could have sent a more Spartan message is if they had served bread along with the water’, said one of the attendees.
3 – In 1996, the US General Accounting Office estimated the total cost of the Savings & Loans scandal to be $160 billion, including $132.1 billion taken from taxpayers.
4 – But after a set period lenders had to repay the money they had borrowed as well. Unfortunately, the increase in instalments coincided with a drastic fall in house prices, and mortgage holders, soon owing more than they could sell their house for, defaulted. By 2015, 5 million homes had slipped into foreclosure since the onset of the crisis in 2008, echoing the bank’s land-grab during the Great Depression (1929–39).
5 – Much as I despise bailouts, if it hadn’t happened the consequences would have been worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. But what irked me, and most other people around the world, was that the Barons of High Finance went unpunished. There were a few token sacrifices who were made examples of because their ineptness at concealing their misdemeanours exposed too much of the corruption that is the lifeblood of the finance industry. Many of the same villains who engineered the crisis remain in their gilded turrets today, and continue to commit economic murder and gamble recklessly with taxpayers’ money while bribing Washington to look the other way.
6 – The taxes that the wealthy 1% dodge but the 99% pay.
7 – American banks were rescued with what eventually became a bailout of $426.4 billion dollars under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The funds were used to purchase toxic assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen the financial sector.
8 -What if rich people invented morals and ethics to deceive poor people into staying poor while they themselves continue to get obscenely wealthy?
9 – American animator Chuck Jones (1912–2002) is best known for writing, producing, and/or directing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, Pepé Le Pew, Porky Pig, Michigan J. Frog, the Three Bears, and many other Warner Bros. characters.

Publicatiedatum: 17/01/2020