Issue 25: Money
I should begin by thanking the organisers of Runway magazine for inviting me to guest edit its 25th issue and to express a profound hope that there are no regrets on account of the editorial you are presently reading which is far too long and in fact continues on in much the same way for a distance that is almost embarrassing. The bulk of text itself disappears below the border of the container you are looking at now and extends at least another metre or so (depending on your preferred size of type) down and across the floor on which you sit or stand. There are many reasons why it grew to such a length but the most important one to mention here is the fact that the number of words I can add to it no longer represent a material expenditure of ink and paper (both of which would have been accountable against Runway’s meagre budget) but rather an evaporation of time (mine and possibly that of a sub-editor).
Common-sense might claim that time equals money which is a deceptively simple equation, crudely phrased and understood as meaning “my time is valuable and you are wasting it” or “my time will valuable and this is how much it will cost you…” but when it really counts, the value of one’s time prove to be more than a little elastic, expanding or contracting to accommodate unforeseen contingencies, and any statement that confidently declares a fixed relation of labour to money is bound to discover that in times of crisis, its increments will disassemble into arbitrarily defined and worthless rhetorical units.
One ‘spends’ time, just as one ‘spends’ money and it is amusing to think of the word as it was applied euphemistically in late 19th century pornographic literature, so that ‘spending’ also defines a climax (the moment of evacuation) when the pendulum rests on the point of nothing but what is imminent and then the exhaustion of having needed it or wanted it and finally the expenditure of the desire to do anything more than collapse onto something soft, uttering the words: “I’m spent”, “stuffed”, “fucked” or “done”.
How fitting then, that these are the same kind of words we exclaim upon arriving home after a particularly hard day at the workplace where we have been spending time in order to get around to spending money.
Artistic labour is notoriously difficult to fit into the otherwise easy equation of time-equals-money and one cannot help returning to this difficulty as a defining disjunction. When there was a move in the late 1970s and early 80s to “professionalise” the arts it moved in two directions: the first sought to establish a minimum wage for arts workers and to “socialise” artists as a cohort of free-lancers who were in service to the public good: and indeed, it was a time when the skills of the artist – and especially the printer, contributed real value to community arts projects and public education. This idea of professionalism did much to improve the poisonous confines of the printing workshops, where arts workers were exposed to the cancerous effects of toxic inks and solvents. Health and safety standards were improved and acetone and petroleum derivatives replaced by water-based systems.
The other direction was toward promoting the artist as a kind of self-managed commercial enterprise who owed it to themselves to smarten up and get savvy about their potential to make serious money in a market that was bullish for art. This approach was no doubt due to the rise of the art bubble in London and New York at the time and it was the period in which CVs and slides became paramount avatars for artistic practice. It seems cruel now that the poverty of the artist was thus doubly stigmatised: not only did it represent a failure to capitalise on one’s potential in a free market, but it was also the case that socially conscientious artists looked down their noses at the notion of artistic poverty as being a construction – a romantic fiction that embellished and compromised the more serious work of art as an agent for social change.
These days I can’t think of anything more unlikely than a minimum wage for artistic work and anyway, at some point in the 1990s the money seemed to run out, or to be more precise, accounting and investment practices became more efficient and greater returns were seen to come from the establishment of huge art prizes and awards that served to promote a single artist together with the commercial or state host organisation. This is the way it has been ever since.
As lengthy as it is, this editorial addresses the artworks rather than the essays that found their way into the magazine and it is not just because the contributing writers should, by definition, already be in the business of making their work speak for itself, but also because I happen to be an artist myself and in the thirty-odd years since making my first sale (a drawing of a typewriter for the price of $20 at a local unemployment activity centre to a man who is now a lawyer) I have had to grapple with the vagaries and sometimes absurd contradictions in a vocation that, for me at least, has offered no proper remuneration. It’s actually not as pathetic as it sounds to say so, but a long time ago I relinquished any serious fantasy that my art would ever pay the rent.
That was an admission (of failure?) made despite knowing that it’s not good manners to open a conversation by giving away even a little of one’s personal relationship to money. In a recent issue of the Australian Financial Review (the “Wealth Issue”, no less) an illustrated list was published of the 200 richest people in Australia, each accompanied by their net worth in millions of dollars. The list itself was only briefly interesting but it made me wonder how social relations would be effected if everyone were made to wear a sign revealing their net monetary worth. An indiscretion on such a ludicrous scale is like wondering how life could go on if we were suddenly denied clothing and obliged to appear to one another naked: a childish curiosity to be sure, but one that is not impertinent to the topic of this issue. Money is a social medium and can be a source of embarrassment for rich and poor alike. It is a class marker that is usually obvious although rarely unproblematic enough to discuss frankly. Our private fortunes demarcate us in ways that will never be an accepted part of friendly conversation. One’s net worth (or private entanglement with money) is like the naked body that can be only ever partially revealed in the calculations of social intercourse: it shows itself in the clothes and accessories we wear, in the cars we drive, in the dishes we can or can’t afford to order at restaurants.
Money as a private possession (or madness) can be spoken of freely here in the editorial because doing so helps to point out the variety of magnitudes that this theme can assume. It can be possessed of enormity (in both senses of the word) as easily as it can be painted as a helpful charity. Its range as a subject of conversation stretches from the great currents and machinations of debt and war, down to tight-fisted speculations on whether the small change placed in a paper cup will be spent by the beggar on heroin or a hamburger.
The callout for submissions to this issue of Runway alluded to a confrontation between some artists and the financiers of the 2014 Sydney Biennale—a stoush politely described as ‘recent events’ which, it was suggested, might provide a starting point for a broader discussion about the relationship between art, politics and protest.
There was a liberal use of the word ‘art’ here (as distinct from ‘the arts’) that swept together artists (themselves a diverse and often dissonant range of individuals and transient collectives) and the bodies and organisations that represent the work they produce. It is risky to assume that artists are a collegial mass—the ‘recent events’ give ample proof of that—but the misunderstandings are compounded when it is phrased rhetorically. ‘Art’s association with power and wealth’, for instance is a preconception that imagines an opposition between an art that is in complicity with the powerful and a status quo, and one that is radical and in constant agitation for equity and betterment.
I would suggest that it is only in short historical moments that the prevailing forces are as easily or clearly definable as this. Avant-garde art, which was cited in the callout as an alternative to art’s association with power and wealth, is primarily engaged in a hermetic contest within its own aesthetic or formal boundaries. Most of the examples of protest and revolutionary art that I can think of are specific to temporal or geographic conditions, and all the more effective for being so concentrated, focused and limited. Any larger or more extensive socio-political movements (Russia 1914, Germany and France 1968, England 1975…?) have propagated art that is sharp, incisive, and incendiary but which also burns with a light that is ultimately unsustained and thus folds back into mannerism or self-pastiche—at any rate, into an epigone of stylistic currency.
From a distance it seems like the enthusiasm that fuelled the ‘recent events’ in Sydney had anticipated something that exceeded its local aims: a groundswell that would bring individuals together into an imagined collective body committed to self critique and a purging of associations that might compromise what was (ideally) an honest motivation toward just and egalitarian cultural practices. It might be sad to suggest that this is exactly what the ambitions, vanities and theatrical pretensions of artists themselves are hardwired to obstruct. The Runway call-out, which tacitly invited a final word on the subject, exacerbated a confusion between effect and affectation that was evinced by the prevalence of submissions declaring their allegiance (over and above anything original or aesthetic) to the ongoing struggle against capitalism’s investment in art. Some of these were written in the manner of a manifesto that admits no middle ground between activism and complicity and I can’t help comparing these to the position taken by Theodore Adorno after the horrors and dislocations caused by war that his generation survived, when artists were urged to ‘commit’ their work to action under the banner of Adorno’s own declaration that there can be no poetry after Auschwitz. In that context, and against the popular trend, Adorno argued for art’s autonomy—not from commercial interests (these had not yet reached the bubbling point of infection that gave everyone in the 1980s a touch of gold fever)—but against being anchored to any prevailing current of ideology that he saw could just as easily impose totalitarian limits on thought and expression as could the systems against which they were committed.
For the most part art is someone’s private property and is traded like cars or cattle although it is a more efficient means of storing value than either of these. What has changed in the last fifty years is that the value of art has both appreciated and been democratised due to its ability to circulate as a reproduction. This means that the communicative potency of the individual artwork has come to seem a great deal more than it was when the majority of them were reproduced in black and white art journals.
There was a time when the predominant art form to attract censure from state or religious authorities was the print: engravings, lithographs and woodcuts (not to mention printed literature). Paintings and sculptures certainly had the power to scandalise, but their existence as singular objects ensured them a certain kind of tact. The first prosecution by the Catholic Church of an image reproduced in print occurred in the late 1400s and it was directed at an instance of pornography coupled with licentious satire (in the form of bawdy poetry) rather than any overtly political statement. It says something about the relations between art and power that it was the engraver/printer, Marcantonio Raimondi, rather than the artist or the publisher, who was brought to account and imprisoned for this particular transgression. From the fifteenth century until the late nineteenth, the incomes of painters and sculptors were serviced by the industry of printed reproduction in order to create something like money in the form of engravings and mezzotints bought and collected by an ascendant middle-class who couldn’t afford the real thing.
Any piece of contemporary art, no matter how complicated its existence as a painting, a projection, an installation or a written concept, can attain currency in graphic reproduction. If one extends the analogy with money then it could be argued that this currency is prone to both inflationary and devaluative tendencies. As the general value of artwork becomes mediated by its appearance in reproduction, then so too does the individual artwork become more self-consciously photogenic. Its facile message, that is to say, its easiest and most uncomplicated reading, substitutes for any other intrinsic or less obvious value and this photogenic legibility (still thinking of an inflationary principle at work here) declares a virtual ‘denomination’ that assigns itself more and more zeros to maintain buoyancy with other artworks: even to the extent that its assigned value is far in excess of any real power to make a substantial purchase. This is the principle by which money’s nominal value can come to be worth less than the paper it’s printed on.
This is one way that art might be configured as a reproducible currency, but does it make sense then to speak of it being enticed, seduced or corrupted by money? These are terms associated with economies of libidinal appetite and promulgated by the moral codes that attempt to regulate them.
There is the idea that printed money in a modern economy like blood circulates throughout the human body (deathly if it slows into stagnation and lethal if it pumps too quickly) If money is considered as a liquid, then it can assume the shape of its container and thus shift from one place to another in an elusive transformation that resists any attempt to pin it down or to mark it and say: “here it is – here is the bad money!” One does not step into the same river twice, as the saying goes, and yet the idea of ‘dirty money’ (or bad blood) has been part of collective imagination since biblical times. It is exemplified in Abrahamic codes by the various proscriptions against usury, but it is also true that money’s fluidity enables these prohibitions to be circumvented by technicalities and so the very people who are bound to them are enabled to deal, in a pragmatic fashion, with the moral implications of the money they handle in the everyday. This is the calculated generosity of money. To take and to pass it along with the idea that it is a material that absorbs the harm it does while maintaining face value.
The relations that exist between art and institutional power—and specifically those that connect commercial interests with artistic ones—are present in the background of at least two written essays included in this issue of Runway that speak of ‘recent events’ around the Sydney Biennale. After reading these, and others that do not appear here, one cannot help feeling that if there was any contamination by ‘bad blood’ it wrought a greater damage to the social relations existing on the surface of whatever art is construed to be, rather than to the subterranean currents and structures that continue to operate beneath it.
The artwork that appears in this issue of RUNWAY seems to naturally fall into categories that each speak of money in its more humble and intimate forms. It is understandable that the most conspicuous of these should be the object of the banknote, not least because, for anyone dealing with the business of making images it represents a mysterious portal between the flat plane of illustration and the spatial and kinetic dimension of power and effect. The latent energy of the banknote – its seemingly magical authority as a picture (reproduced in print no less!), has fascinated many artists who have given in to the temptation (sometimes to the degree of obsession) to test its residual power in imitation.
The clearest examples of these are by 19th century American trompe l’oeil painters such as John Haberle and Victor Dubreuil, both of whom traced the geometric intricacies of banknotes, fastened to a painted wall in a sudden and spooky arrest from circulation as if they were so many decorated butterflies pinned into the velvet of a collectors case.
The painted $100 bill by Sarah Goffman is a half-earnest continuation of this traditional form. In its original incarnation One Hundred 2014 was painted on the concrete floor of an artist-run gallery where it provoked the automatic response that usually comes from seeing money discarded in the street – a kind of unbidden joy at one’s good fortune. On closer inspection the sense of monetary value is replaced by a kind of charm for what the wobbly lines and brushed colours achieve with a measured economy of means. This is the seductive charm of harmless money. Of an obligation which in its natural habitat would rarely be seen both exposed and unclaimed, is presented here prettily and denied to everyone equally. The effect is surprisingly reassuring and points to a strange feature of the banknote, not shared by other objects, which is that, strictly speaking, it is no-one’s private property. Cash has the autonomy of a bearer security, that is to say, whoever holds it in their hands is its lawful owner and if one is lucky enough to discover money discarded in the street, it brings the message (whether this is consciously admitted or not) that good fortune of this kind is the profit from someone else’s loss.
It was said of Rembrandt (unkindly and perhaps spuriously) that his students could fool him by painting coins onto the floor of the studio and then watch as their myopic and frugal master bent down to try and pick them up. The curator and writer William Ivins Jr. spoke of Rembrandt’s disregard for the commercial value of reproduction, contrasting him in this respect with the professionalism of Peter Paul Rubens who invented new techniques for deep engraving that enabled him to maximise the number of impressions and profits made from reproducing his paintings. Rembrandt, on the other hand, had been brought to bankruptcy earlier in his career and afterward given up any ambition of becoming rich from his art. As a consequence he could produce the most delicate and ephemeral effects in drypoint on his printing plates without worrying about them lasting more than ten or fifteen impressions.
Artists who live and work long enough will often come to deal with the subject of money in the same matter-of-fact way that they will deal with the subjects of death and sex. It seems to be the undercurrent in which images and fiction propagate and to which everyone with a body to maintain is subject. Moneyed securities feature in the work of Andy Warhol and also Marcel Duchamp. Warhol’s dollar paraded as a universal pop logo and Duchamp’s Monte Carlo bonds functioned as a genuine attempt by the artist to turn his formidable intellect toward a profitable business venture. Neither artist attracted the sort of persecution of the kind directed at lesser-knowns such as the German-born American painter, Otis Kaye or the Japanese conceptual artist Genpei Akasegawa, both of whom made images in imitation of state-issued currencies. Kaye was of a later generation than Haberle and began painting realist pictures of money after losing his inheritance and business in the stock market crash of 1929. Prevented from selling his work by the prohibition against depicting anything resembling Federal currency, he gave most of it away to family or friends and suffered the posthumous irony of his drawings, which had rapidly escalated in value after his death, being purchased for the art collection of the United States Federal Reserve.
Genpei Akasegawa was a member of the Japanese avant-garde Hi Red Centre who used a single-sided imitation of a 1000 Yen banknote as an invitation to an exhibition and thus gave Japanese state prosecutors the opportunity to charge the artist under a 19th century Imperial law forbidding the manufacture of “objects that may be confused with currency”. In the ensuing trial, a greater confusion was revealed to be the semantic one: between the words that relate to mimetic representation. To replicate an object is not the same thing as to imitate it, and what is at stake in the difference between these terms is, as William Marotti has observed, the credibility of genuine currency itself. Counterfeit money (gizōhai) depends entirely on observing the authority of the State to issue money whereas simulated money (mōzo) on the other hand challenges it by presenting a sloppily dressed version of the banknote’s official uniform that is far too revealing. Not of a naked body, as it were, but rather of the fact that the uniform is all there is.
The clumsiness of Sarah’s banknote constitutes no serious threat to the credibility of Australian currency but it is nonetheless a comic interpretation of what gives money its sense of formal grandeur. The banknote takes itself seriously and much of the security design which embellishes it is intended to add to this apparent status as the ultimate certificate of value. In embodiment the banknote imitates itself – it creates the guarantee of its own value and this is a kind of deception we willingly accept.
Even when applied to the illicit status of the act of imitation, the words denoting imitation are ambivalent: to counterfeit means to make in opposition to something genuine, but not a thing that is necessarily inferior. To forge is simply to craft or contrive; however its moral inflection has come to bear upon the written word or signature. The ‘craftiness’ that sits at the root of this ability to imitate appearances is, of course, what brings artists so close to the edge of a line that for most other people is a cut and dry boundary between right (or genuine) and wrong (fake). But doesn’t the infinitely reproducible ornament of printed money itself undermine its own claims to be original? Who hasn’t offered a Fijian coin at the supermarket, holding it Queen’s face up and hoping to be spared the embarrassment of being challenged by the cashier? Who hasn’t wondered exactly how much of a torn banknote it would take for it to be accepted at face value? These questions turn on the differential between the assigned value of money and its physical appearance.
Oliver Van der Lugt’s Untitled (Clippings) entertains the absurd notion that the fiat value of printed money could survive being divided into incremental fractions. The artist’s snipping a small corner from the banknotes could stand for a number of things: a pedant’s testing the limits of certified worth, a private tariff or a turnpike of sorts for money’s passage through the hands. It could also be a provocative poke at the law that says that an individual shall not deface or destroy currency (which might contradict most people’s belief that the money in their pocket is their own private property: it is more accurate to say that they own the rights assigned by the banknote, the most important of which is the legal right to tender it for debt).
So much for the clipped note, but what remains is interesting: a granular apparition of value that recalls the old practice of ‘sweating’ in which gold coins were placed in a cloth sack and shaken until they left a thin but profitable residue of precious dust that could be retrieved from the fabric. It took patience but, like shaving and clipping from the coin’s edge, the process created profits that didn’t subtract from the exchange-value of the money. When done in quantity these increments could add up to a substantial amount and unlike ink on polymer, gold is a solid that can slip into a liquid form when the heat is turned up and thereby fuse its incremental partitions.
Each of these methods of capitalising on money’s physical incarnation worked by using the difference between the molten value of the coin and the legible value given by its stamped impression. And it was by no means the province of the petty crook. Kings and Emperors of all ages have profited in this manner— by reducing the size or purity of the very same coinage that bears their dignified portraits guaranteeing its assigned value. The fact is that any kind of money based on a printed impression ‘cheats’ as long as it represents a contractual understanding of value that is not absolutely regulated.
The power of the individual to make a symbolic register against the surface of the monetary object is a defining characteristic of Chris Bowes collection of annotated banknotes. Having worked as a bank-teller for some years, the artist was in a special position to observe how money is personalised and individuated by marking it and anchoring its uniformity to a singular event or relation between individuals. This tendency of people to put some colour back into money (to borrow Georg Simmel’s term) is also the subject of research by the social anthropologist Viviana Zelizer who looked at how people manage money by ‘earmarking’ it, by which she means differentiating a material that is otherwise fluid and neutral. This became the responsibility of women in domestic economies, says Zelizer who had to allocate a single allowance into heterogeneous monies that were earmarked for gifts, for essentials, for savings and in short used to nourish a complex network of social relations.
If money circulates as a kind of public property in transit then it might be appropriate to speak of personalised marking as a form of graffiti that anticipates not a fixed or settled territorial extent but something like its opposite: the nomadic trajectory of the banknote away from the body into a promiscuous relation with strangers which, not unlike those notes stuffed into bottles that create the pleasurable possibility of some future reconciliation, gives them the exotic allure of adventure in foreign parts. A more elaborate version of annotated banknotes were the coins known as “hobo nickels” in America which bore portraits that had been altered by the handiwork of transient unemployed men during the years of the Great Depression – a kind of scrimshaw for the landlocked sailor.
The ambiguity of graffiti described by Erin Wilson in her essay on “street art” in Melbourne functions as a transgressive sign that can variously enhance or devalue private property, depending on how it is mediated by the terminology of art. The fact that artistic discourse provides the means by which signifying values might fluctuate so markedly is testament to art’s enduring integration with class and institutionalised power.
The voice as a bottled inscription might also describe the tonal word clouds organised by Megan Garret-Jones whose circulatory formations give a broad indication of the values relating to art practice. Derived from interviews with artists and arts workers they resemble fragmented talk bubbles that graph the anxieties and concerns of the people that speak to her. This is part of Meagan’s interest in humanising statistical data that otherwise, she says, is directed against the unmeasurable value of the individual.
The individual is also abstracted as a structure of graphic signs in a series of works by Andrew Harper but in this case as an accumulation of pricing labels. The more one thinks about these tags, the more difficult they are to define. Not quite receipts, they indicate the purchase of a commodity and an intimate kind of expenditure. I have a notion they are legally binding to some degree (most stores will honour the lower price of a labelled item over a contrary register price). The funny thing about price labels however is that they accompany the purchase back home, like some animal that hasn’t anywhere better to go. The perforations that resist being peeled off by shoplifters make them stubbornly devoted to the product – even to the extent of leaving a sticky residue that refuses to be washed away, remaining as a residual adhesive to the store.
Why remove the price tag because the object is a gift? Why should it be a vulgar oversight to leave an indication of what a gift cost? Because gifts demand reciprocation and their exchange would become complicated if the amount paid for them were made an explicitly calculable part of the exchange. Besides, everyone knows that the relation between the manufacture and the purchase price of whatever junk one buys is variable and its cost has no fixed relationship to its worth: which is why prices are often expressed as a cascade of diminishing numbers, each stamped on a label that doesn’t quite eclipse the one below it. Such a diminutive accumulation betrays the fact that the price of any manufactured commodity is more and more a superficial abstraction – a sign within a currency of signs. These little signs are collected into small crowds in Andrew’s work to provide a progressive index of value – not only of the individual pieces themselves (his postcards sell for the totalled price of the labels) but also of the body that lives and sustains itself on these luxuries or necessities such as books, oranges and underwear.
It is possible (I would suggest) that arts practitioners are separated by social and monetary differences to a greater degree than is usual in other professions, where regulated incomes within established tiers tend to level out socio-economic contrasts (at least as far as income is concerned). Most artists still practicing by the age of 30 are well aware of the inequities that plague their profession. Who hasn’t been tormented by the undeserved acclaim given to another artist, or been made painfully aware of the advantages provided by a generous family allowance, a home or a studio to work in as often as one wishes? It is hardly any wonder then that artists have first sought the support of patrons and find themselves adrift in the capitalist environment where the free enterprise of turning opportunity to one’s advantage is just as, if not more, valuable than simply slogging it out in the studio and working hard. In a sense the trick is to be both lazy and vigilant. That, and to be lucky.
It’s impossible to speak about money and art without returning to the schedules of employment and production. The Croatian painter Mladen Stilinović, who works with the object of the banknote in a distinctly povera fashion tells of his resistance to the glorification of labour that prevailed under the regime of socialism during his time as a young artist in Tito’s Yugoslavia:
” … laziness was in total opposition to Socialist proclamations on work, which at the time was completely inefficient. In socialism notoriously no one knew how to properly organise a factory or the work in a factory. And in contrast to that I stressed laziness as a phenomenon. Much was written about “Oblomovka”, laziness in Russian literature and history, in Bakunin … This interested me and I practiced and learned laziness in a way. Production doesn’t matter. You must give priority to some things and not to some others.”
Socialist ideology heroised hard work and portrayed it as directly analogous to the collective good. Stilinović was obstinate to this exhortation and in his explanation he makes reference to the son-in-law of Karl Marx, Paul Lafargue, whose seminal thesis was titled “The Right To Be Lazy”, described in its own preface as a refutation of “The Right to Work”. In it the author advocates the constructive pursuit of leisure as a dreamy kind of ambition toward a utopia he compares to classical Greece.
His critics were quick to point out that Lafargue’s hopeless idealism aspired to economic models that had been dependent on the labour of slaves – an observation that he acknowledged and countered with his expectation that technology would eventually take up the physical burden of service and manufacture. And yet, more than a hundred and thirty years into Lafargue’s future, people want to have nothing better to do with their time than to work and be rewarded with paying off the comforts they have obtained on credit and they still do so with a great fear of the stigma of unemployment. “I’m a slave to my credit card!” is the boastful phrase that has all the ironic confidence of a bumper-sticker.
Many artists have become used to working for little money and living with the possibility of the sudden fortune of a prize or a successful grant application. For every winner in this market there are a hundred losers who are urged to keep starting again in a cyclical race. It’s common to be consoled with the wise opinion that government funding is based more on luck than merit, or that it is hopelessly nepotistic. These are the superstitions that follow disappointment but in any case, they describe a disillusionment with an establishment and discourse that places great emphasis on subjectivity and the value of personal taste, there are no clear bearings, simply self-proclaimed experts.
In the workplace the lottery promotes itself as a ticket out of drudgery. Those who have been plucked up and separated from the losers form the subject of Emily Hunt’s series of “Winners”. In representation, these portraits of the newly-certified aristocrats express a sort of pleasurable bewilderment that Emily dignifies with fantastic embellishments that swarm over the face in unrestrained fecundity. This is the effect of new money as an imaginative intoxicant – before the complications set in and neighbours and relatives begin banging on the door – a state of hallucinogenic stupefaction that confirms the fantasies of everyone else who purchases a ticket and thus a temporary license to dream of such things. Elevated from a working-class ordinariness to a life of probable leisure (despite their insistent allegiance to the life they have already left behind) these are faces caught at the climax of their wealth’s unrealised potential.
Matthew Hopkins also works with the signs of fortune and chance. In a series of audio works he elongates the spin of a coin and elicits from it a slowly articulated voice that is variously a groan of pleasure or one of pain at the suspense of the disc’s motion. Like the pendulum at the nadir of its swing or the tennis ball’s perch on the net that provides a metaphorical fulcrum for the narrative of chance and opportunity in Woody Allen’s film Match Point.
As Matthew Hopkins declares with a light turn of phrase: when the punter tickles Lady Luck’s armpits, he or she can expect nothing more than to stir the appetite of a mouth that consumes money without prejudice or favour. And this is what makes horse and dog tracks the great transit lounges for all types and social classes. Whether money is flung at jockeys or even spent on heroin makes little difference in the end. Neither is a waste. Both keep money in circulation and business running as usual.
Andrew Hurle is the Guest Editor for Runway Issue#25 [MONEY].
Andrew is known for his art works dealing with hard currency, exchange systems and the ambiguous role of the counterfeit. He recently completed a PhD on the topic of monetary ornament, counterfeit and imitation at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. He lectures on various aspects of the history and theories of printed reproduction, and he is represented in Australia by Darren Knight Gallery.
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