Above: A selection of shots from the installation at the Project Arts Centre.
Huge sums are paid to consultancies to manage and advise on tax avoidance. What if these strategies were made available to non-corporate individuals and organisations? Her project, the Troika Fiscal Disobedience Consultancy does just that, and offers actual tax avoidance strategies borrowed from international finance services to non-corporate organisations. Caitriona Devery caught up with Nuria Gueill to see what it was all about.
Did you engage with any local Irish artists, activists or other organisations in order to make the project relevant to Ireland? Was that necessary?
Yes, it is necessary. To do a project like this in other country which is not mine, it’s of basic importance to listen to the feedback of local persons. In Ireland I engaged with people who have been involved in campaigns like Anglo Not Our Debt, Attac (tax justice and debt issues), the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland, as well as social centres and grassroots networks.
How much time did you spend studying financial capitalism – this is deliberately opaque, was this difficult? Yes, its opaque. They use this opacity in order that the population cannot properly understand what they are doing, so they prefer to delegate these issues to “the experts”. It’s a perverse strategy, and it’s all about the use of language. In the past I did projects about how to expropriate money from the banks so I had to study a lot about the financial system.
In 2008, Enric Duran a Catalan activist, who I worked on with the Troika Fiscal Disobedience Consultancy expropriated 500,000 euros from the banks and gave all the money to anticapitalist movements. Now more than 20 European activists related with FairCoop are taking care of the Consultancy. So, together we have a lot of knowledge.
What gave you the idea to use these esoteric strategies, normally used by large corporations, in order to empower everyday citizens?
In many of my projects I use an operational method that I call Replica analítica crítica (Critical analytical replica), which consists of replicating within the artistic space – the quintessential space for reflection – a phenomenon already present within the social and the political sphere. This framework acts as an augmenting lens allowing us to analyse from a critical perspective the nuances of what has been normalized in our day-to-day and through the activity of the media.
In this case we use similar strategies to those used by the tax advisors of big neoliberal corporations in order to avoid taxes for their clients, but in this case we have the objective of reverting them to the common good.
What has the update been like in Ireland/across Europe – have many organisations been using the TFDC services?
Yes, many European citizen and organisations are contacting our rebel consultancy. In fact, we have been open for a month and have had more interest than we could have imagined.
Is it legal? Has there been any comeback or engagement from any of the Troika parties or the European Commission, or local governments?
The only people who run a real risk are the activists who put in their names to form the company, but they are insolvent and that protects them. For the clients it is legal. As far as we know, to forgive a debt is not a crime.
Do you think economics is being put before democracy in European countries at the moment? Do the Troika have too much power?
In relation to the Troika (as was seen in this year’s referendum in Greece), neither the people nor the individual states of the European Union are sovereign. Economic rescue is being exchanged for popular sovereignty. The exchange currency of these alleged ‘rescues’ comes in the form of neoliberal control, wage cuts, pension cuts, tax increases, layoffs, and all kinds of privatisation.
It is the citizens of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus who are paying for the systemic problems of the economy and the mistakes that were made by financial institutions. The treaties of the European Union have fuelled the rise of the extreme right, and have become a means to override democratic control over production and distribution of wealth.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, stated clearly: “There can’t be any democratic decision against the European treaties”. The situation in Greece has also shown that the European Central Bank is neither independent nor apolitical. At the service of the bankers and their political agents, it is ready to kill any democracy at the push of a button.
Governments, rather than give in to demands for democracy from citizens, use brutality to end their resistance. These are policies that sacrifice the interests of the majority to benefit the interests of a tiny minority.
The project continues over at disobedience.eu