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23 July 2015

The Hevens. Annual report, Rencontres d’Arles 2015

Paolo Woods and Gabriel Galimberti

 

Tax havens have quietly taken the world by storm. More than half of world trade now passes through these places. They are in the news every day, and are fast becoming a constant fixture of political debate. The growing flow of articles and reports on this poorly understood subject are usually illustrated with images of palm‐fringed tropical beaches. Is that what tax havens really look like? From Delaware to Jersey; from Singapore to Panama; from the british virgin Islands to the City of London, Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti take us on a tour into a rarely seen, secretive world that is quite different from what we imagine.

For over two years they have travelled to the offshore centres that embody tax avoidance, secrecy, offshore banking, and extreme wealth, driven by a constant obsession with translating this rather immaterial subject into images. They have produced a body of work that shows what these places look like, but, even more importantly, what they mean.

It has been estimated that as much as $32 trillion are sheltered in tax havens worldwide, largely out of sight. This money is stashed offshore by very wealthy individuals and by companies that use tax havens, often legally, to escape financial regulations or reduce their taxes, draining the resources countries can spend on education, healthcare, and security.

Tax havens are not an exotic tropical eccentricity, but have become a structural instrument of the globalised economy. They confront us with fundamental moral issues, involving the relationships between public and private; between companies and states; and between the haves and the have‐nots.

Woods and Galimberti have borrowed the photographic tropes and language of the world they have investigated. They have actually created a company, aptly named ‘The Heavens’, incorporated in delaware, where for a small fee— with no documents required or questions asked—an LLC can be formed in less than 20 minutes. ‘The heavens’ is now based in the same nondescript delaware office as Apple, Bank of America, Coca‐Cola, General Electric, Google, Walmart, and 285,000 other businesses.

 

 

With support from Olympus and the participation of illy.
The exhibition furniture is created by Cathedrae.

Publication: Les Paradis, Delpire, 2015;
The Heavens, Dewi Lewis, 2015.
Design by Ramon Pez.
Prints and framing by Center Chrome.

Exhibition venue: palais de l’Archevêché.