V P L N (No. 4)
Commissioned with support from Creative New Zealand
Mark Schroder has long been fascinated by market economics and the prevalence of fraudulent business schemes. Of particular interest is the fine line between the ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ nature of pyramid schemes. A seemingly innocuous multi-level marketing scheme, these schemes sell hollow products to mask their true nature. The scheme-scam ruse typically follows this progression: the scheme creators recruit distributor‑members with the promise of amazing returns. Returns are premised on the basis of selling ‘product’ but in reality, come from the recruitment of more unsuspecting distributor‑members buying in. As the scheme progresses the number of victims increases; the need for exponential growth to sustain the scheme-scam ultimately proves unsustainable.
In Schroder’s fictional fraudulent scheme, V P L N No.4 (2020), the installation serves as a “front” that sells lifestyle supplements in a multi‑level marketing scheme. However, the front exists to hide a fictitious pyramid scheme. Within the installation, Schroder has included empty ceramic protein powders, gleaming fridges of branded supplements and energy drinks, along with highly polished advertisements and posters that refer to the bizarre and secretive strategies these schemes use to attract their victims. This fictionalised store front — intended for installation at the entrance to the Fair — offers participants a harsh introduction to market economies, while also serving as an eerie reminder of the economic, personal and social costs of unchecked criminality.
In an ironic gesture, Schroder’s installation also alludes to the underside of commercial art, which is often used to launder money or assist in tax avoidance. The art world, which is based on relationships, private agreements and trust, provides a climate ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous — asking fair visitors to re-examine the context of their surrounds further.
– Micheal Do
FROM THE ARTIST
VPLN offers unique opportunities that can lead to higher levels of success and achievement. Tested and proven, VPLN is designed to maximise rewards for effort and provide substantial and ongoing income. You have the opportunity to control your future.
The install plan for V P L N (No. 4) featured a lot of black and greys—black corflute walls, grey carpet squares, black shrink-wrapped boxes and pallets, and dark grey chairs. Promotional material featured pops of deco colour, yellow-pink-teal gradients, to create an enticing, aspirational (unattainable) pre-crash 80s vibe. The empty shells of the product are presented in the form of sleek black ceramic containers.
In the context of the curatorial provocation of ‘space as substance’ for the 2020 Projects, V P L N (No. 4) was to feature three zones. Zone one, the shop ‘front’, would feature empty ceramic protein powder containers and a buzzing fridge full of branded energy supplement drinks. Flat screen TVs and posters, glimmering in hi-glo Miami deco colours, would hype the VPLN scheme-scam brand and ‘rewards’ enjoyed by the successful few at the top of the chain. ‘Rewards’ everyone has the opportunity to obtain (well that’s what the marketing says). Zone two was to be a mass of pallets stacked high with boxes wrapped in black shrink wrap. Presumably more merch and products to be sold to the ‘unsuspecting’. Zone three was to be a circle of chairs focused on a pull-up screen with a flickering VPLN introductory PowerPoint presentation. Here the recruitment initiation played out with cult like undertones. VPLN is revealed to be a space that lacks substance. All smoke and mirrors.
Images: Mark Schroder, V P L N brand and marketing collateral (in development), 2020, digital render, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.