Maslow Board of Trade – Human Commodities

“The Human Commodities project is a reflection on the influence exerted by financial markets on raw materials (also known as Commodities).

The commodities market was born from the initial desire to have supply and market demand for raw materials converge in a single place called the exchange market. These are classified by categories such as: grains, metals, fuel, etc. Commodities have become, over time, a financial asset like any other; whether its purpose lies in investment or speculation. A significant proportion of trading volume is no longer for commercial or industrial purposes but rather financial ones (hedging, investment, speculation etc.).

This financialization of commodity exchanges has led to unusual phenomena where the price of some commodities is no longer directly determined by the physical market supply and demand and they experience inflate because they become regarded as a safe haven in times of financial crisis. As such, in recent years we have witnessed hunger crises in some countries because the prices of some commodities (wheat and corn) became too high for the standard of living for these populations, whose basic food needs depend essentially on grains. A year of unfavorable production due to poor weather conditions faced with increasing demand, combined with the leverage of financial speculation, can therefore give rise to chaos.

This project is a reflection on the excessive monetization of commodities and its extension into more and more “products” (electricity, pollution rights, weather, etc.), potentially endangering the population dependent on certain commodities for their daily lives.

The project has been created according to the works of psychologist Abraham Maslow who in the 1940s defined a hierarchy of five human needs shaped as a pyramid.

According to Maslow, we should first seek to satisfy every need of a given level before considering the needs located at the next level of the pyramid. For example, it is preferable to seek to satisfy physiological needs before safety needs: that’s why in a situation where our survival is at stake, we would be willing to take risks. It’s a matter of priority and hierarchy of needs. In other words, how to develop oneself if one’s primary safety needs are not guaranteed?

Here, we are facing a fictional totalitarian world where our needs, prioritized according to the levels defined by Maslow, would become tradable commodities and where everything would have a price.

Might a political and financial totalitarianism entity rise up one day and create the illusion of free-trade? Must everything have a price? Will we ever have to purchase the air we breathe? Our freedom of expression? Our sexual, political, or religious choices? Where will this all lead?”