Exhibition showcases alternative currency systems from across the world

Jun 22, 2017, 11:20 IST | Krutika Behrawala

A new exhibition by a Greek artist sheds light on alternative currency systems from across the globe that might throw up a new set of ideas in post-demonetisation Mumbai

A video still featuring an art collector with flowers made using Euro banknotes
A video still featuring an art collector with flowers made using Euro banknotes

In the first part of a 34-minute video, an elderly art collector is shown living alone in a home surrounded by art. She suffers from dementia, a fall-out of Alzheimer's. Her favourite activity is making origami flowers, using Euro notes. When dissatisfied with her creation, she throws the flowers in a trash bag and starts afresh.

In the second part, a young African immigrant wanders on the streets of Athens with a supermarket trolley, looking for scrap metal. Accidentally, he finds a trash bag that contains flowers shaped from Euro notes.

In the third part, an artist, seeking inspiration for a new work, observes and records street scenes in Athens with his iPad. A snapshot attracts his attention: an abandoned trolley full of scrap metal.

It's easy to guess the common thread that runs through the beautifully interwoven three-part video — the idea of money and the generation of value.

Curator Abhijan Gupta sets up the exhibition at Mumbai Art Room. Pics/Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Prometeo gallery di Ida Pisani, Suresh Karkera
Curator Abhijan Gupta sets up the exhibition at Mumbai Art Room. Pics/Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Prometeo gallery di Ida Pisani, Suresh Karkera

Value of zero
The video, along with a rich archive of texts, images and objects, which revolve around the idea of alternative currency systems, is part of History Zero, an installation by Greek artist Stefanos Tsivopoulos, who lives and works between Amsterdam and New York. The exhibition, which made its debut at the Greek Pavilion in the 2013 Venice Biennale, comes to Mumbai for the first time.

In the late '80s, cans of Heineken beer were used as currency by foreign companies for Angolans when they faced difficulty paying them
In the late '80s, cans of Heineken beer were used as currency by foreign companies for Angolans when they faced difficulty paying them

"The decision to bring it down was tied to demonetisation. Produced in the larger context of the ongoing Greek economic crisis, in Mumbai, it brings together these two moments of collapse, both arising out of crises of currency. The show uses the immediate context to speculate on what is fundamentally wrong with the economic space we create and inhabit, and how we may think beyond them. It doesn't see them as isolated incidents but crucial failures of the currency form as such," shares Abhijan Gupta, curator of the exhibition, who works with the Dhaka Art Summit.

English Trade Tokens used in the 1600s
English Trade Tokens used in the 1600s. Pic/Stefanos Tsivopoulos, History Zero, 2013. Archive objects in Batikuling wood, produced by and courtesy of the Bellas Artes Projects, the Philippines

Open the archive
The archive offers an insight into the alternative currency systems across historical periods. These include communities that invent their own money. For instance, the system of cash transfer using pre-paid mobile phone minutes, something that is evolving as a form of currency in parts of Africa. Or an anti-corruption campaign by a Chennai non-profit, where fake currency actually contained anti-bribery messages.

Cowrie Shells
Cowrie shells. Pic/Stefanos Tsivopoulos, History Zero, 2013. Archive objects in Batikuling wood, produced by and courtesy of the Bellas Artes Projects, the Philippines

The exhibition also includes The Inter-Species Token Game developed by members of the Economic Space Agency collective (ECSA), a California-based start-up. Gupta elaborates, "The game creates a space for viewers to speculate over new modes of economic functioning, which are structured not around debt or accumulation, but around increasing, and taking stock of our entanglements with each other."

FROM: Today (preview: 6 pm to 9 pm) to September 2, 11 am to 7 pm
AT: Mumbai Art Room, Pipewala Building, Fourth Pasta Lane, Apollo Bunder, Colaba.
CALL: 9702898591

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