Angela Ferraiolo’s “The End of Capitalism” is an interactive Flash movie compiled from a variety of sources—archival films, animated educational materials, televised interviews, and passages of text—all of which pertain to ideas and attitudes about capitalism, ranging from pro-capitalist propaganda reels from the American post-war period to the artist’s own provocative statements on the nature of life in a capitalistic society. Enhanced by an eerie sonic backdrop, the sequence of words and images are arranged through a movie engine which allows for viewers to end and initiate new segments as they click on the multi-colored buttons that appear as a recurring motif throughout the piece.
Beyond the 2008 economic meltdown which provides context for the piece, “The End of Capitalism” also appears to draw inspiration from the works of visual artist Barbara Kruger, who combines nostalgic black and white photos with simple, bold text to provide ironic commentary on many fundamental assumptions of American society. Like Kruger’s work, Ferraiolo’s montage, in its more aphoristic moments, mimics the language of the advertising slogan while making provocative points about the promises of capitalism, opening up semiotic spaces between words and images. For instance, the brief statement, “A DOLLAR IS A SYMBOL,” overlays an archival clip of a middle-aged businessman speaking about the importance of maintaining a stable currency. The plainness of the statement coupled with the speaker’s lecture provides opportunities to contemplate the dual life of cash under the ideology of capitalism—both as the foundation, the source, of a “free” society and as a fetish for goods and services, a mere representation of “real” value. Interspersed between the video segments are lengthy stream-of-consciousness textual passages on capitalism. Here, the author’s voice provides insights from within the framework of the contemporary corporate workplace, revealing a strong sense of frustration, resentment, and, even, rage.
“The End of Capitalism” might easily be considered in the context of the larger body of literary projects on American capitalism, from early works like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby to more recent projects like Philip K. Dick’s Ubik and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, posing human questions to the impersonal forces that shape our society.