Dizzying Photo Collages of Economies in Flux

Mortgage backed securities and CDOs inform Mike Schuwerk's pinwheeling humanless images of post industrial architecture and abandoned suburbs.

It's not everyday you hear artists citing collaterized debt obligations and other Wall Street enigmas as inspiration, but Mike Schuwerk's photo montages aim to reflect the disorientation of our economic times. Schuwerk's work will be featured in the upcoming exhibition season of the Baang + Burn Contemporary Gallery in New York City. We caught up with Schuwerk to hear about how mortgage backed securities inform his pinwheeling humanless images of post industrial architecture and abandoned suburbs.

GOOD: We found the collaged images of Derivatives sometimes disorienting, producing almost a feeling of vertigo. Was this intentional?

MIKE SCHUWERK: It's an outgrowth of the subject matter. Derivatives began with a desire to portray a peculiar sort of commons using cut up, collaged photographs of real places. It was inspired by the novelty of complex financial tools–like CDOs and mortgage-backed securities–and by how these tools ultimately transform the places we inhabit and lives we live.

I think disorientation and vertigo—I'd add fragmentation to that list—are appropriate metaphors for the times we live in. To what are we anchored? In these works the eye recognizes elements of buildings and the built environment, but struggles to locate the foundation.

That said, my intention is not to dizzy the viewer, and there is something beautiful about putting the pieces back together. That is also happening.

GOOD: How do you choose the sort of buildings and urban locations that you are reimagining in this work?

SCHUWERK: I look at local and regional economies to determine the places I'll visit. I'm interested in which places are being activated by the global economy and which are being left fallow: manicured landscapes of high finance, technology, service or consumption on the one hand versus decadent post-industrial landscapes or aging and abandoned suburbs on the other. Both represent extremes of human existence.

Once I am on the ground taking pictures I really let the terrain take over. Beauty is always a factor. Occasionally I need a specific element for a given piece and go out to find and photograph just that.

GOOD: Though your locations are urban, this work is completely devoid of people. What is the significance of the fact that your re-imagined landscapes are unpopulated?

SCHUWERK: This work is about systems and social processes that prioritize quantitative principles. So people, at least as individuals with unique qualities, don't fit well into the work. I'd posit that housing more people wasn't the primary concern of mortgage-backed securities either. I am not entirely opposed to populating these landscapes, but it remains to be seen how.

GOOD: There's an Escheresque quality to these images. What were some of your influences when you conceived of this body of work?

SCHUWERK: I know relatively little about Escher's work. Jorge Luis Borges' On Exactitude in Science and the writings of Paul Virilio were big influences early on. Gordon Matta Clark's sliced up buildings and Teddy Cruz's studies of migrant laborers repurposing American refuse to build communities south of the border were critical. The Situationist International's theory of the dérive and study of psychogeography informed my working process. Chris Marker's approach to studying society in his films has a broad influence on my work more generally. But I'd say more than anything that I work from life.

GOOD: What social or economic forces are informing this body of work?

SCHUWERK: The privatization of public space, emergence of enormous virtual markets, growing wealth disparity, upswing in DIY culture, mutual aid, and focus on self-sufficiency.

GOOD: What are you working on now?

SCHUWERK: I am continuing to work on Derivatives and will be traveling to Spain in August to gather material there. I also have a series of animations underway, the first of which, Happiness is the Right Choice, was the springboard for this project.


For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less