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Populus Tremula

by Benj Gerdes & Jennifer Hayashida

9-minute laser subtitled 16mm film, 2010

Populus Tremula is a 16mm film loop originating from artistic research into Swedish “Match King” Ivar Kreuger (1880 – 1932), whom The Economist in 2007 called “the world’s greatest financial swindler” and who was the founder of Svenska Tändsticksaktiebolaget (the Swedish Matchstick Corporation), today called Swedish Match. Between 1917 and 1932, Kreuger capitalized on shifts in global financial markets to control over 200 companies and establish matchstick monopolies in at least 34 countries; he borrowed money at low rates on U.S. markets and in turn loaned these funds to countries that granted him market monopolies, thereby initiating, according to some scholars, practices currently enacted by the IMF and WTO. Populus Tremula consists of contemporary footage shot in two extant Swedish Match factories in Vetlanda and Tidaholm, Sweden. Both factory locations have been active since the 19th century, and while the manufacturing process is now almost fully automated, beyond the removal of human labor, it has changed little since the early 20th century.

While the film follows the linear progression of match manufacture from timber to shrink-wrapped package ready for export, a series of superimposed textual interventions point to the ability of both capital and the nation-state to legislate and assert the monopoly capitalist’s desire, as in the case of Kreuger, to not only exploit natural resources but to appear to surpass the power of nature through myth. The conjoining of text and image is here intended to posit conflicting historical and ideological conjectures in an effort to indicate ideological fissures which in turn may spark, or tremble, present-day possibilities for contestation.

Populus Tremula & Strike Anywhere are part of an ongoing series of projects by Benj Gerdes & Jennifer Hayashida entitled “Room of the Sun.”

Populus Tremula is a 16mm film projection. Below you can watch a digital transfer of the piece in heavily-compressed HD (click fullscreen button in lower right for best image, allow to preload a little if video stutters). This file is for online viewing only and not for public presentation:


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Populus Tremula | 2010 | projects