‘In need of a miracle, but a dollar will do.’
‘Pregnant, hungry, cold, please help!’
‘Down on luck, spare a buck.’
Cardboard signs with texts like these are held by homeless panhandlers to get attention and shake loose some small change in New York. Andres Serrano uses these signs to give visibility to society’s underclass. He did not give money to the homeless people, but instead paid money for their signs to make video stills of them. In Sign of the Times these stills follow each other in rapid succession, accompanied by a fast beat and the voice of Martin Luther King: “I have a dream”.
The film is a confrontation with the rawness of poverty, which is in stark contrast to the exhibition spaces where the work is usually displayed. That creates a feeling of uneasiness. How is it possible that these dingy signs have been elevated to art? Whose profits from this?