I will spend October 2019 – January 2020 travelling around Europe meeting with and interviewing other artists who explore monetary phenomena through their work. The aim being to: get a better sense of what’s out there in terms of art practice; learn more about the historical development of banking across the continent; and gain understanding of how a countries monetary history shapes the artists working within that country.
I wanted to start this trip in Amsterdam because of it’s historic significance as home to the earliest central bank, as well as it’s current importance as the centre of the Moneylab network of artists, activists, and geeks experimenting with forms of financial democratisation.
I was fortunate to start the trip with a visit to the Kunst Reserve Bank’s mint in Bergen, north of Amsterdam, where I helped Ron Peperkamp edition a handful of coins. The Kunst Reserve Bank is an excellent example of a temporary public art work which has engaged a broad audience in debate about the monetary system. The bank was located in Amsterdam’s financial district for a year starting in the summer of 2012. Each month a set of 4 limited edition coins designed by Dutch artists and coined by the Kunst Reserve Bank were made available for purchase at 100euro each.
Each coin could then be exchanged back for euros. “In that case, not only the purchase price was refunded, but the bank also gave an annual interest of 10%… So one started to weigh: do I trust the art value of this new reserve currency, or do I stick to ordinary euros?” explains Peperkamp (2018). This experimental currency was grated approval by the Dutch central Bank on the basis that it was limited to 5 years. The bank was originally intended to spend the next 4 years in Frankfurt, London, New York and Hong Kong working with artists local to those financial centres.
But the press proved impossible to tour and so the project remained based near Amsterdam, where over the 5 year period, a total of 60 sets of 4 coins were created in.
As it turned out, “Just before the announced end of the experiment, many people suddenly remembered that they had something valuable laying about in a drawer. A few hours before the official end on May 1st, 2017, the vault was empty and the Art Reserve Bank went
bankrupt.” (Peperkamp, 2018). But the coins can still be purchased as art pieces and there is even a secondary coin market on the Kunst Reserve Banks official website.
Next stop on the trip was Kopenhagen, where I met with Asmus Laudridsen and Johanne Aarup Hansen from Penge Spekulation, a design-anthropology collective, combining a critical, artistic and innovative design approach, with anthropological perspectives and ethnographic research methods. Asmus and Johanne have both been inspired by the work of Ole Bjerg, who has been advocating Positive Money’s idea, that the central bank should issue debt-free money as a way to deal with the overwhelming amount of debt in the system.
But Penge Spekulation’s work to date – which includes an exhibition titled Pengefiktioner at the ‘Huset for Kunst og Design’ in early 2019 – is not pushing this agenda but creating “space for space for conversation, for different approaches, for disagreement” as Johanne explained. They approach the monetary system from a design perspective, though they are working as artist in a process/research led way.
Pengefiktioner led to this publication, pictured above, which documents some of the speculative currencies proposed by those who attended the exhibition, as well as two science fiction stories inspired two of the currencies proposed. It also includes a handful of other text by economists and monetary reform advocates. In this age in which social media has fractured and polarised debate, I like the idea of creating ‘spaces for disagreement’.
Peperkamp,R (2018) TIME IS MONEY – BUT SPACE IS A LONG LONG TIME…, Tegenkratchen, Ars Aequi Libri.