Does capitalism work for you? Vote in Times Square



By Zach Brown

Steve Lambert talks with a "voter" at his Capitalism Works For Me! True/False art exhibit in Times Square. Photo: Zach Brown

Steve Lambert talks with a “voter” at his Capitalism Works For Me! True/False art exhibit in Times Square. Photo: Zach Brown.

NEW YORK — The ongoing tally of true-false votes displayed on Steve Lambert’s art exhibit might imply that the numbers mean something to the artist.

His Capitalism Works For Me! True/False project has toured the country for more than two years now, allowing people to vote whether or not they believe capitalism benefits them. Lambert said about 200 people vote per day during the showings.

But when someone asks him what the overall results are after two years of voting, Lambert cannot provide an answer.

He hasn’t added them up in a year.

“The numbers are like one of the least interesting parts,” Lambert said. “It really is just a trick to get people to think. We call it bait for their imagination. I have (the results) all written down somewhere, but it’s not really important.”

Lambert’s exhibit is on display in Times Square as part of the French Institute’s Crossing the Line Festival. It made its first brief appearance in Times Square on Sept. 20 and returned again Sunday. The 20 feet long, 9 feet high red, white and blue sign adorned with flashing light bulbs appeared dwarfed among the massive electronic billboards surrounding it. By 3 p.m. Monday, more than 500 people had voted over the span of three days at the Capitalism Works For Me! True/False exhibit — 290 for false, 252 for true.

But Lambert, who sports a shaved head, rimmed glasses with thick lenses and a scraggly, chestnut brown beard that extends down to his chest, explained the goal is not to count votes.

“Short-term goal is to start to get people to evaluate something that they take as a given, which is capitalism,” Lambert said. “Long-term goal is reimagining how the economic system could work. That’s what I really want to talk about.”

The line to step up and press either the green true button or the blinking red false button never reached more than six people from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. As people waited in line, volunteer workers engaged them in conversation about how they would vote and challenged why they thought that way, asking them to delve into their personal experience with capitalism.

“It’s really how much we can put this question into the public domain is how we judge it’s success,” said Simon Dove, co-curator of the Crossing the Line Festival. “If you look at the kind of radio, TV and press coverage, then I think we’re doing pretty well here.”

Randy Fromm, 49, works as a mortgage lender at a major bank he could not disclose the name of due to the bank’s interview policy. He voted true and enjoyed his interaction with the volunteers.

“The conversation was fine,” he said. “I love having the conversation. I think people need to have more of these conversations these days.”

Lambert agreed with that sentiment but unlike Fromm, would vote false in his own exhibit.

He said he feels capitalism is outdated. When asked about an alternative, he compared the process of moving on from capitalism to finding a new job.

“If we have a bad job, you don’t have to have a new job and be on payroll before you think about quitting the job you have,” Lambert said. “You have to think about quitting the job you have and then you have to quit and start applying for other places.

“You expect me to have an answer to this new economic system? It’s insane. But the beginning is the conversation.”

Capitalism Works For Me! True/False will be on display in Times Square through Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m.