Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home The juggernaut of capital renovation
First Union04-99
First Union04-99

First Union depicts "creative destruction" on a scale more monumental than that which mere mortals engage. The taskmaster (corporate manager) who drives the process of renovation rides a juggernaut, a massive machine pulled by Olympian-scale horses and machines, while the background music signifies the dawning of a heroic new epoch. The images of labor are exaggerated representations of dynamic purpose in action -- larger-than-life labor as metaphors for the energy of capital as it restructures and builds anew. The first such image of labor is of a man who takes off his bowler hat (an identity) and replaces it, the head attached, with a hardhat. He becomes the "taskmaster" - wielding a giant bullwhip to drive a colossal team of tractors (not horses) that are pulling and towing a skyscraper. Symbolically, he is portrayed from a low angle, so that the power, command and direction exercised by his figure is visually extended into the imagery of the corporate tower and icon of First Union -- the new "Financial Mountain" of Capital. The commanding presence of these hybrid characters -- bankers turned men-of-action -- is dramatically played out in the monumental restructuring of capital that they direct. This is the stuff of legend, titanic figures in their sweeping waist coats whose purposiveness suggests a vision (a plan) that they intend to enact.

These images reunify the conceptualization of production with its execution in the same symbolic body -- a figure confident of itself and its action; a figure capable of enacting heroic feats. Here then is the 'labor of capital' refashioning the skyline/landscape of the capitalist city.

First Union04-99
The new men of Capital with their Bunyanesque machines
First Union04-99

The helicopters offer another pivotal piece of technology in this fairy tale about restructuring the material cityscape of finance capital. The helicopters suggest a technology that is flexible, mobile and still capable of doing the heavy lifting necessary to put into place the new "architectural face" of capital.

As the new building locks into place, the camera identifies the powerful helicopter that has accomplished this feat of setting in place the new architectural face of Capital -- it is named "
First Union." First Union is named as the moving force of this transformation, symbolically representing the fusion of capital and technology to remake our world.

First Union's ad gives all this a faintly Hegelian twist. The imagery suggests that First Union sublates the old (the corporate bank of the 1920s-1940s), negating it, yet retaining it sufficiently that it now fits into a new pastiche style that better suits First Union's contemporary presentation of itself. The pastiche is an imitative appropriation of postmodern architectural styles that works by recombining allusions to previous historical styles and traditions. Here then is a heavily symbolized self-representation of the new center of consolidated Capital. More concentrated and more powerful than ever before, First Union still remains a financial institution anchored atop the classic of Western civilization.

Sublate
from the Latin tollere -- to take away, lift up

a) to take away; remove
b) negate, deny
cancel, eliminate
c) to carry
d) to cancel, but also preserve

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© Copyright 1998-2003
Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey