The banking crisis, financial crisis and euro crisis that shook the European and international markets in the past years have made it more necessary than ever to address the relationship between humans and capital. A special exhibition on this theme has been put on by the contemporary arts museum Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin under the title “Das Kapital. Schuld – Territorium – Utopie”, for which we provide a comprehensive catalogue.
Displaying works by some 40 contemporary international artists in addition to selected artworks and artefacts from antiquity to the present, the show illustrates people’s ideas of value throughout the ages. Joseph Beuys’ key work Das Kapital Raum 1970–1977, created in 1980 for the Venice Biennale, occupies a central place in the exhibition as it perfectly captures Beuys’ redefinition of capital. For Beuys, it is not money but rather the creative potential of people that constitutes value: “art = capital”.
The book investigates the changing definition of capital in three chapters. The first chapter entitled “Schuld” (meaning both “debt” and “guilt” in English) argues that debt (especially the inherited debt of the original sin in a religious sense) predates money and is more elementary than the latter. The second chapter is headed “Territorium” (“territory”) and explores the connections between capital and the discovery and conquest of global space beginning in the early modern period. The third and final chapter entitled “Utopie” (“utopia”) questions Beuys’ positive idea of capital that is based on creativity.