Colby Stephens – Daedalus Fashioning His Wings

Daedalus Fashioning His Wings. Kinetic sculpture. Air pump, motor, speed determined by a live-feed of gold data. From American Pantheon. This sculpture is based the story of Daedalus, who was hired with his son Icarus to go to an island and build a labyrinth to protect a king’s castle. Unfortunately, Daedalus and Icarus build such a complex labyrinth that they cannot find their way out. So, Daedalus makes wax wings with which he and his son can short cut the labyrinth fly away from it. But the wings are made of an unreliable material, and when misused the wings fall apart (such as when Icarus, in his arrogance, flies too close to the sun which melts his wings and causes him to fall to his death). The larger context of the myth and its associated artwork help viewers to see that Daedalus is an allegorical character for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve who is building a complex economy designed to protect the Federal Reserve. Through the processes of Quantitative Easing, Daedalus builds up the walls of the labyrinth with Federal Reserve currency, creating an ever larger and problematic system. He gives up on trying to print his way out of the problematic labyrinth, and uses the currency he has left to fashion wings of dollar bills. But, this is ultimately a dangerous and ineffective solution.

This sculpture consists of an old air pump atop a pedestal, which is driven by a motor whose speed is determined by a live feed of the price of gold (a commodity often used to determine the value of the dollar, and thereby a way of measuring the inflationary consequences of Quantitative Easing policies). As the air pump spins, it loudly huffs, puffs, and wheezes while accomplishing nothing at all. Daedalus’ task is futile, and the fruits of his labor are ineffective.

Colby Stephens Reno, NV.

About the Artist.

Dissatisfied with the current divisive discourse present in American politics, Colby Stephens makes work that seeks to reframe the conversations that surround political topics. Stephens intends to foster a more thoughtful engagement with political issues ranging from economic policy to the use of military drones than what is currently present in popular media outlets. To do this, Stephens situates his critiques of political structures in historical and constitutional contexts rather than relying on ever prevalent “bumper sticker doctrine.” Rooted in extensive research, Stephens takes large concepts and breaks them down into units a process he refers to as the stratification of information. To this end, every aesthetic decision serves to communicate an idea, and intends to foster a discussion. Frequent use of allegory and mythology allows Stephens to address complex issues in ways that allow viewers to engage with the work, and enterit at myriad levels.

Stephens’ first large body of work, Normalcy, Not Nostrums, critiques Federal Reserve policy on issues ranging from the non-market-based approach to manipulating the federal funds rate, to fiat currency, to the very principle of central banking. His second large body of work, American Pantheon, a project based on a myth Stephens designed, situates the Nostrums critique in the larger theater of American politics today.

Stephens expects to receive his MFA degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2014. He lives in Reno, Nevada with his wife and fellow artist Claire Stephens. Together, the pair share a passion for the outdoors and backcountry adventure.

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