Femke Herregraven: The Privilege of Disappearing

By Anissa Jousset & Anastasia Kubrak

Femke Herregraven’s work draws its inspiration from the domains of geopolitics and global finance. During her time as an artist in residence in the Amsterdam financial district, she discovered that her neighbors were mainly ghost mailbox companies, registered in Netherlands as a part of tax evasion mechanism. Carrying abstract names such as “Alfa-1” or “Omega-14”, they became an inspiration and a basis for Femke’s project “Geographies of Avoidance”: a book of thousand pages, listing all the invisible companies that can be found in the Zuidas financial district.

Herregraven believes that today we often see finance as an intangible, ‘ungraspable’ matter, “distributed through space and time.” Wondering where the material side of offshore mechanisms begins, she decided to dive into the tax law and begin her own investigation into invisible structures, routes and pathways. To communicate her findings to a broader audience, she created “a tool for herself and other to see and understand how these structures work’”. One of her projects, an online game Taxodus:Mapping Assets Offshore, allows users to act within the sphere of offshore accounts and dodge paying taxes on behalf on multinational companies. The game is based on real data on international capital flows, such as national tax treaties. Users can understand the dynamics of tax law through an aesthetically pleasing gaming interface and direct interaction, instead of having to go through volumes of tax law documentation.

Herregraven interprets finance as a construct; she seeks to materialize it and bring it back to general public in a more accessible way. In order to demystify the immaterial state of finance, Femke often tracks the physical backbone of technology, that makes high-frequency trading and stock market possible to operate. As a part of her ongoing project “The All Infrared Line”, artist actually follows the spaghetti of submarine data cables, looking for places where this global infrastructure can be traced and documented.

Her work aims to propose tools to navigate, deconstruct and reflect on modern economical structures, linking immaterial flows of capital back to geographies, jurisdictions, nationhood and material objects. She designed the MoneyLab#2: Economies of Dissent visual identity.