Hannah Black: Wheel of Fortune

Organizer: gta Exhibitions
Date: Saturday, 18 September 2021 to Friday, 29 October 2021
Time: 10.00 to 18.00
Location: ETH Zurich, Hönggerberg

Photos: Nelly Rodriguez


18 September – 29 October 2021
Opening: 17 September 2021, 12–6 p.m., COVID certificate required
gta Exhibitions, ETH Zurich

Hannah Black: Wheel of Fortune

What happens to me is for me / what happens to me is form.

This exhibition takes as its basis the trope of the wheel of fortune, popular in the ancient world and developed in medieval Europe as an ambivalent image of both class rule and the impassive working of chance/fate. The primary wheel here reads REDIVIDER, a palindrome chosen for its evocation of how capital powers social divisions and redivisions: class, race, etc. The atmosphere of the present has the feeling of a wildly spinning wheel of fortune. Chance is the closest we get to god. But here, the wheel’s movements are limited by its situation.

Each revolution of the wheel activates a different object in the room. A sculpture made from local construction materials (based on a 2018 installation at the Sharjah Biennial created in collaboration with Ebba Fransén Waldhör) gains a face/is subjectivated; a printer births a randomly generated image; a GameStop ad refers to finance’s valorization of chance; and three wooden wheels of fortune based on traditional imagery are installed in a recently rediscovered pavilion by the architect Berta Rahm (a permanent feature of this gallery). The light from behind the wheel falls through police accident reports dated on the artist’s birthday, in different years. Though the works in the exhibition suggest a tightly wound fate mediated by power, the sand on the floor, shifted by visitors' feet, suggests an uncontrollable element. And your presence here, through whatever chance events brought you, is an element beyond the artist's control.

The predominance of astrology as a social and political tool in the ancient world converted chance (birth) into fate (destiny) and was eventually superseded by Christianity’s focus on agency in the form of sin and salvation. Taking Cedric Robinson’s observation that capitalism arose non-contingently in a racially striated Europe, we can imagine the wheel of fortune as suggesting an individuated and classed approach to the question of fate, preparing the ground for later forms of domination. Or we can imagine it as offering up the constant possibility of social transformation. Today, capitalism mobilizes chance in the algorithmic movements of financial markets and through extracting value from even the wildest happenstance, such as climate disaster. And yet our actions transform the context we find ourselves in.

In collaboration with schwarzescafé, Luma Westbau the artist presents the exhibition taking place at the same time Clemens, Jack, Ramey, Raymond, Sam.