Corporations are neither physical nor metaphysical phenomena. They are socioeconomic ploys—legally enacted game-playing—agreed upon only between overwhelmingly powerful socioeconomic individuals and by them imposed upon human society and its all unwitting members.
- Buckminster Fuller, The Grunch of Giants
Artifical Person is an installation that addresses the nature of corporations through the use of game-like elements and holograms created with smoke and mirrors.
'Artificial person' was the legal term for corporations until 1886, the same year corporate personhood was established by the US Supreme Court. One of the functions of corporations is to create an entity that can assume legal and financial responsibility for a collective group’s actions. This creates a game-like environment for business; there are rules, but the risk for individuals is minimized, if not completely mitigated. A corporation cannot be arrested or placed in jail, and as long as the officers of the institution operate within the boundaries of the corporation, they are not liable either. A corporation can be fined and sued, but the personal assets and liberty of the company’s executives are not subject to seizure.
The elements of the installation were designed to embody this ‘smoke and mirrors’ effect of corporations. A projection into a Plexiglas box filled with smoke creates the illusion of a body spinning in three-dimensional space while overhead speakers play the mission statements of the world’s largest corporations. Visitors are invited to play a whack-a-mole style game using a gavel and a small judge’s desk with six tiny mirages of businessmen created using parabolic mirrors. No mater how hard the viewer tries, the gavel will pass right through the mirage. Finally, viewers are given legal forms needed to create their own corporation, or artificial person.