Foundation Deposit – the books

C U R A T O R ‘ S   N O T E

Shortly after the Bankrupts’ Institute was first conceived in 2006, I was given the task of compiling and curating a ‘foundation deposit’ for the institute. In ancient Egyptian tradition, the purpose of a foundation was to ‘prevent the building from falling into ruin’.

I felt immediately burdened by what seemed an onerous task. For one thing, the institute’s foundations are built on the ‘ruins’ of its residents. Unlike the ancient Egyptians who heaped  offerings of ‘mulets, scarabs, food, or ritual miniature tools’ into mudbrick-lined pits under their temples and tombs, the new residents at the Bankrupts’ Institute (BI) arrive in Venice with nothing. As freshly bankrupt individuals, this is a legal requirement. The very idea of creating a sealed foundation deposit seemed to run at odds with the founding premise of the institute, in which a continual exchange of ‘gifts’ was encouraged. The first items to enter the Bankrupts’ Institute’s foundation deposit were two texts, both written and compiled in 2006. The first text, Rake’s Regress, Bankrupts’ Progress (2006), acknowledged the institute’s debt to William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (1733–1734) and invited a reading-between the spaces of Hogarth’s drawings and the drawings of the institute. The second text, Bankrupts’ Institute (2006), provided an introduction to the institute and its promotion of a ‘gift economy’, containing drawings that describe a series of rooms within the building…

The institute was founded on the idea that bankruptcy is a gift. That gift, in the form of the cancellation of unpaid debts, is one that creditors are forced, by law, to give to their debitors. The debitors are, in turn, obliged by law to accept the gift with all the binding conditions that it entails.

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