Rooms in Alibi: How Akasegawa Genpei Framed Capitalist Reality

In 1963 and 1964, Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei was working on two related series of objects he called “model” 1,000 Yen-notes and “model” wrapped objects. As he established in his 1964 “Thesis of ‘Capitalist Realism,’” he made these “models” as a method of exposing the contingent legitimacy that mass-produced currency and commodities had as “real things.” This article focuses its analysis on Akasegawa’s wrapped furniture installation for Room in Alibi (1963) as a complex demonstration of the ways in which the model could “frame” capitalism’s emerging consumer lifestyle object systems. As such, his models can be seen as part of a larger discursive engagement with questions about domestic reality emerging at the conjunction of Neo-Dada, Pop, Nouveau Réalisme, happenings, and Fluxus in 1963–64. They ran parallel to other experimental models, scores, games, instructions, and demonstrations, which often, and surprisingly consistently, also used domestic furniture and objects (such as Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg’s use of model living room sets in Living with Pop—A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism).

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