As the 20th century began drawing to a close, I created Gyro Worldwide as an art installation in the form of an ad agency. The sixth installment of the Arcadia project, Gyro Worldwide consisted of two offices and more than sixty employees who I hired over the course of twenty years. I instructed them to solicit advertising business from top U.S. corporations, and then use that platform to transmit a reckless new American creed of consumption, free living, and hedonistic disregard for any consequences. I wished to erase the old order and leave something weirder and wilder in its place.
Today, we know of the exploits of Bernard Madoff and the trillions of dollars in phantom wealth whipped up by the financial industry. At the heart of these cons is American greed and American appetites, our desire for instant pleasure, wealth without work, and fun without limit. This free-living Gyro ethic took hold beyond my most optimistic expectations. It brought about a second Gilded Age and transformed the stuffy auditorium of American popular culture into a freewheeling pleasure-dome of infinite delight. The party raged for the better half of the last twenty years. It now threatens to topple the entire global economy.
Part public sculpture, part continuous theatrical performance, and part factory for the production of images, Gyro was a machine designed to accelerate the culture-wide move towards hedonistic consumerism. I took the American iconography of rebellion--fast cars, automatic weapons, sexy girls--and wove them into mainstream advertising, thus holding a mirror up to the hollow velocity of postmodern desire. I gazed deeply into that mirror, and what I saw was awesome. But it couldn't go on forever.
By the millennial years, it was clear that the Gyro project had succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. The American consumer was devoting himself nearly full-time to leisure, consumption, and the accumulation of debt. The high-velocity spending culture of the 90's had metastasized into a culture of luxury over labor. Low-income workers were taking out home equity loans to subsidize 22-inch rims for their new SUVs. Patrons at VIP lounges paid thousands of dollars for tableside delivery of a bottle of champagne lit up by a few sparklers. Illusions, all, but never again will illusions be so beautiful, or so available. This orgy of unfulfilled desire and unchecked spending formed the basis for the new global economy. By absorbing the Gyro ethic of excess, America made itself over into a nation of more/now/faster. The country's original Puritan ethic of privation and hard work had been erased. Desire reigned unchecked over the land.
Gyro wasn't the only firm feeding these phenomena, but we were the most honest about it, and latent in our work were the next set of solutions. In other words, we wanted to feed and feed and feed this nationwide kegger until it exploded into some new, strange beast never before seen. We embraced the contradictions of swaggering commercialism head-on. At times, we even dared to rub the consumer's face in the fact that the joke was on them. By making the mindless bliss of commodity culture apparent and readily available to all, we sought to transcend it.
Now that the limitless appetite of the American consumer has ruined the global economy, there is nothing left for Gyro to do. It is time to move forwards (and also backwards) to a new epoch, one of where America creates real wealth through simple living and hard work. The party was a blast, but now the party is over. The work, meanwhile, goes on.