Pernicious Root: Dan Tague's Chapel

Rachel Gorman pays a visit to Dan Tague's outdoor installation.

Installation view of Dan Tague's The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans.

Dan Tague
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (Offsite Location)
3919 St. Claude Avenue
October 25, 2014 - January 25, 2015

Dan Tague’s The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar is best seen on a clear, sunny day when its pyramidal edges are sharpest against New Orleans’ cerulean sky and its four golden sides glint in the sun. Depending on your interpretation, Tague’s Chapel is either a fairly predictable extension of or a radical departure from his ubiquitous dollar bill photographs that distort the language of currency to highlight the disastrous consequences of unchecked capitalism. The Chapel’s size and, more significantly, its overtly religious themes expand Tague’s usual critique, positioning viewers as literal “money-worshipers” as they interact with the strange structure. To drive home the evangelism, Tague has created handouts for visitors—small, photocopied black-and-white booklets that include a hymn entitled Money is All the World to Me and advertisements for Tague’s noontime “weekly sermons” on Saturdays.

Willing participants can walk through a small square door to enter the pyramid’s dark but roomy interior. A plush rug and floor pillows invite meditation under a hanging chandelier’s low light. Chanting plays on a loop and photos from Tague’s folded bills series stretch the length of each wall bearing phrases like PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, THE END IS NEAR, THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL, and THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR. Tague’s artworks are so large and prominent that they dwarf participants sitting inside of the pyramid and introduce the unsettling idea that the artist has not only invited people to worship their most insidious cultural priority, but him as well.

As with many participatory artworks of the last five years, Chapel feels conveniently social-media friendly— tailor-made to be incorporated into ultra-likeable, bite-sized snapshots on Instagram. A cursory hashtag search reveals that the work hasn’t exactly gone viral; nevertheless to attend during peak weekend hours is to risk having one’s experience marred by camera phones. Go at a slower time of day and the golden structure pulsates in the quiet; a glittering, magnetic, and surreal monument to money on a little plot of grass in New Orleans’ most rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.